Leonard Fournette

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Impact Freshmen

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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.

Hawaii, Vanderbilt schedule home-and-home series for 2022, 2023

Hawaii wide receiver Ammon Barker, left, runs with the football for a first down after catching a pass on a fake-punt play against Middle Tennessee during the third quarter of the Hawaii Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
AP Photo/Eugene Tanner
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Vanderbilt fans may want to start planning ahead to budget for a trip to Hawaii. In 2022, Vanderbilt’s football season will open in Honolulu against the Rainbow Warriors in the first game of a home-and-home series.

According to FBSchedules.com, Hawaii will host Vanderbilt on August 27, 2022 in “Week Zero.” The game played before Labor Day weekend is allowed under NCAA scheduling rules. By playing a road game at Hawaii, Vanderbilt will be eligible to add a 13th game during the 2022 season under The Hawaii Exemption. With the NCAA moving toward a 14-week calendar allowing for two bye weeks, it remains to be seen how Vanderbilt will approach their scheduling.

Vanderbilt will host Hawaii in the second game of the home-and-home arrangement on September 30, 2023. The two schools have never faced each other in football.

Vanderbilt is required by the SEC to schedule at least one game each year against another power conference opponent or an approved equivalent such as BYU. Hawaii, a member of the Mountain West Conference, does not satisfy that scheduling requirement for the Commodores, but Vanderbilt already meets the scheduling requirement in 2022 and 2023 with a home-and-home series with Wake Forest of the ACC. Vanderbilt satisfies the SEC non-conference scheduling requirement every season through 2029 except for 2018. Vanderbilt still has one vacancy to fill on its 2018 schedule with games against Middle Tennessee and Tennessee State currently lined up.

VIDEO: Kansas showed off inside look of updated football facility

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With signing day coming up quickly, now is as good a time as any for football programs to show off their latest football facility renovations and upgrades. Kansas got in on the fun with a brief video tour of their newly updated football facilities, complete with laser tag-like lighting.

The new football facility was actually revealed prior to the 2016 season, but the Jayhawks wanted to remind everyone following them on Twitter just how cool their new locker room looks, potentially in hopes of catching the eyes of a recruit still mulling their decision for signing day.

If this is what it takes to beat Texas, then what is it going to take to win the Big 12?

Reports: Cal expected to add Marques Tuiasosopo as QB coach

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 27:  Interim Head Coach Marques Tuiasosopo of the Washington Huskies looks on while his team warms up during pre-game warm ups prior to playing the BYU Cougars in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on December 27, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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It looks as though Marques Tuiasosopo is heading back to the Pac-12, again. The former Rose Bowl MVP and Washington quarterback has reportedly been added to the coaching staff at Cal under new head coach Justin Wilcox. The news was first reported by Bruin Sports Online and later followed up by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, via Twitter.

Tuiasosopo is no stranger to coaching in the Pac-12. After spending 12 seasons in the NFL, Tuiasosopo returned to his alma mater to take on a role as assistant strength coach for the Washington Huskies in 2009. After two years in that role, he joined the UCLA coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 2011 and took on a role as tight ends coach in 2012 under Jim Mora. The following year, in 2013, Tuiasosopo returned to Washington to be the quarterback coach to work for Steve Sarkisian. After Sarkisian accepted a head coaching offer from USC later that year, Tuiasosopo was named interim head coach for a bowl game, but he would follow Sarkisian to USC in 2014 to be the tight ends coach and was given the title of associate head coach. After two seasons with the Trojans, Tuiasosopo worked his way back across town to rejoin Mora at UCLA as a passing game coordinator and quarterback coach last season.

Cal will be Tuiasosopo’s fourth different Pac-12 school in his coaching background, and he will be a valuable asset to Wilcox’s staff given his knowledge and familiarity of the Pac-12 recruiting scene and work with previous quarterbacks like Josh Rosen and Cody Kessler.

Arkansas DE Tevin Beanum retires, LB Khalia Hackett to transfer

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Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema announced a pair of departures from the Razorback program for 2017. Defensive end Tevin Beanum has chosen to step away from football and linebacker Khalia Hackett has decided to transfer to a new school to continue playing football.

Bielema did not confirm the details for why Beanum has stepped away from the sport but did suggest the now former defensive end may qualify for an NCAA hardship waiver. If so, then Beanum can remain on scholarship at Arkansas and continue his education without being concerned about expenses.

Beanum missed summer camp at Arkansas for undisclosed reasons before returning to the team for the 2016 season. Beanum started seven of 12 games for the Razorbacks. In February 2015, Beanum was arrested for suspicion of DWI, which led to Bielema going so far as to take his car keys away.

It is currently unknown where Hackett will move next, but Bielema says he will provide assistance in finding a new football home for the linebacker.

“We had a conversation yesterday,” Bielema said. “He’s moved on. I’ll try to help him find a position or team of interest.”

Hackett is the second Arkansas player to decide to transfer out of Arkansas this offseason. Running back Duwop Mitchell previously made his decision to transfer in December as a graduate transfer. Mitchell announced, via Twitter, he will be transferring to Rutgers, where he will be eligible to play right away.