CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 20 Texas

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2013 record: 8-5 overall, 7-2 in the Big 12 Conference (4th in the Big 12)
2013 postseason: Alamo Bowl vs. Oregon Ducks (30-7 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: Not ranked
Head coach: Charlie Strong (37-16 overall; 1st year at Texas)
Offensive coordinatorJoe Wickline (1st year at Texas)
2013 offensive rankings: 36th rushing offense (196.2 ypg); 79th passing offense (212.5 ypg); 64th total offense (408.7 ypg); 65th scoring offense (29.3 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Vance Bedford (1st year at Texas)
2013 defensive rankings: 83th rushing defense (183.1 ypg); 53rd passing defense (224.2 ypg);  68th total defense (407.2 ypg); 57th scoring defense (25.8 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: eight
Location: Austin, Texas
Stadium: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (100,119 capacity; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2009

THE GOOD
Texas is absolutely loaded with talent from the top of the roster to the bottom. It’s only been two years since the Longhorns were putting together Top 5 recruiting classes. And Texas should benefit from those top recruits becoming upperclassmen. Running back Malcolm Brown, linebacker Steve Edmond, cornerback Quandre Diggs and defensive tackle Malcom Brown were elite recruits now expected to be leaders of the team. The talent on the roster is there to mold. It simply comes down to finding the right scheme and place said talent in the position to succeed. That’s where a new coaching staff can come in, have instant success and win at a high level even with the same team that’s struggled to win more than eight games the past four seasons.

THE BAD
Last season, the Louisville Cardinals finished as the top defense in college football. The Cardinals staff is now taking over at Texas, and they inherit a Texas defense that played far below expectations in recent seasons. The argument can be made that Texas plays in the wide-open Big 12 conference, which features some of the most explosive offenses in college football and skews the stats. Yet, Texas’ defense last year was substandard even for the Big 12. The Longhorns didn’t finish better than fifth in the conference in any of the major defensive statistics. The one area on defense the team excelled in 2013 was getting to the quarterback. Unfortunately, the team’s top sack artist from a year ago, Jackson Jeffcoat, has departed for the NFL and will be replaced by junior Shiro Davis. Bookend Cedric Reed returns as does the ultra-talented Malcom Brown. The Longhorns’ new head coach, Charlie Strong, hangs his newly fashioned 10-gallon hat on playing tough and fundamentally sound defense. The talent is there for the new staff to exploit. The coaches must simply develop the available talent to play at a much higher level than they’ve grown to expect in recent years.

THE UNKNOWN
There is a new sheriff in town and his last name is Strong. A multitude of questions comes along with the departure of Mack Brown after 16 seasons as the Longhorns’ head coach. Strong has already begun to answer some of those questions. The new coach immediately displayed strong leadership when he either dismissed or suspended multiple players, which included four projected starters. Recruiting appears to be picking up in recent weeks. These moves, however, are merely the first indications of Strong’s performance. Strong and his staff will need to build off their current momentum and ride it into the season. Strong proved to be a highly successful head coach at Louisville. But can he improve the Longhorns’ stagnant offense? Can Texas’ defense play to Strong’s standards? Will the young talent on the roster develop and reach their potential? As Strong answers questions, more will continue to come until he quiets the rabble with strong team performances each and every Saturday.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Oklahoma
The Red River Rivalry is important every year, but it’s exponentially so this season. When the Longhorns meet the Oklahoma Sooners on Oct. 11, it’s a chance for Strong to make a statement. Mack Brown won his last game against the Sooners, and the team did so in an impressive fashion. If Strong falls short, the negative comparisons will automatically commence. While Brown’s Longhorns upset the 12th ranked Sooners a year ago, Oklahoma is regarded as Top 5 program this fall. Strong can set the tone during this game and prove he was the right choice for the job by taking out Texas’ bitter rival.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: RB Malcolm Brown
While Texas’ roster is supremely talented, potential Heisman candidates are limited (to put it kindly). None of the players currently on the roster have lived up to their lofty status coming into Austin as recruits. Malcolm Brown is the closest of the bunch. The running back has shown the ability to take over games for stretches and be a dynamic runner. Last season, Malcolm Brown led the team with 904 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He was at his best late in the season with three straight games of 128 yards or more. If quarterback David Ash can play at a higher level and consistently threaten defenses in the passing game, Brown could explode for massive rushing totals. And the University of Texas could have its first Heisman Trophy winner since Ricky Williams.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Jim McElwain hints at playing three quarterbacks vs. Michigan

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Considering his opponent won’t so much as release a simple roster, there’s no reason whatsoever for Florida head coach Jim McElwain to say anything of consequence.

Still, it sounds as if No. 17 Florida may play all three of its quarterbacks next Saturday against No. 11 Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

“You’re going to see a bunch of them in there playing. The three guys have done a really good job. Not naming a starter right now,” McElwain said. “I think that there’s some things that they all bring to the table that are really good. Now the key to us is putting them in those positions that play to their strengths.

“Will all of them play? I don’t know yet. Will a couple of them play? I don’t know yet. I know we will have somebody at the position. This is not — don’t read into this that we’re not happy where they’re at. It’s really more so the competition has really brought out some good things. It’s going to be … ultimately the guy the team moves with the best, the guys that create positive plays on third down and get the ball in the end zone [that we go with].”

The three of them, by the way, are graduate transfer Malik Zaire, junior Luke Del Rio and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. In a world governed by the truism of “If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any,” it’s not exactly a good sign that none of Zaire, Del Rio or Franks have separated themselves from the others.

Zaire showed flashes but was eventually benched at Notre Dame and just arrived on campus this summer. Del Rio, a 2-time transfer before arriving at Florida, was the Gators’ starter coming out of training camp last season but fought through injuries throughout the season. And Franks is a 6-foot-5 former 5-star recruit that many thought would have grabbed the job by the horns by now.

While every team turns over from one season to the next, Florida finished 105th nationally in yards per play last season while Michigan’s defense placed second. With top playmaker Antonio Callaway serving a suspension, Florida will look to put the ball in the hands of whomever can move it, even if three of them happen to play quarterback.

Tracy Claeys discusses protests that led to his firing from Minnesota

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Chances are you haven’t heard Tracy Claeys‘s name mentioned in a while. The former Minnesota interim-turned-full time head coach was let go in January and has not been picked up by a new staff in the months since.

But Minnesota released an outside report last week that defended the school’s decision to suspend 10 players amid a sexual assault investigation and pinned the subsequent team-wide threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl on “weak leadership” of the coaching staff. The Gophers played and won that Holiday Bowl, but it wasn’t enough to save Claeys’s job.

On Wednesday, Claeys penned an essay in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that both defended his tenure as the Golden Gophers’ head coach and admitted mistakes in a saga that would have swallowed many a head coach’s career.

Last September, I suspended five players for a reported sexual assault. When law enforcement authorities the following month declined to file any charges, the university reinstated those players. At the time, I was congratulated by our athletic director for my handling of this issue and promised that I would remain the head football coach in 2017.

But university officials soon conducted their own inquiry and in December resuspended the five players and suspended five more — again, even though prosecutors had determined there was no basis for formal charges.

Members of our Football Leadership Group and others on the team felt strongly that administration officials had overstepped their authority and that the accused players were treated unfairly and denied protection under due process. To amplify their argument and shine light on what players felt was a flawed and unjust process by the university, the team voted to boycott the Holiday Bowl.

It was a decision that moved us directly into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, some misunderstood or misinterpreted the players’ decision to boycott the Holiday Bowl. They felt that our team and coaches were condoning or downplaying sexual misconduct or assault. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In light of this new report, are there things I would have done differently? Certainly. First and foremost, I would have remained on campus with my team and coaches rather than attend a Holiday Bowl news conference in San Diego. I’m confident that my presence would have better directed the conversation with our players and that I could have steered them toward something other than a decision to boycott the game.

 I also would have refrained from using social media to state my support of the team’s decision. This was too complex and important an issue to address in a 140-character message. It generated more questions than it answered and likely created more problems than it solved.
Claeys was 11-8 in his one and a half seasons as Minnesota’s head coach, his first head coaching job. Assuming he does not get hired in the next week and a half, the 2017 season will be Claeys’s first out of the game since launching his career as a student trainer at Kansas in the early ’90’s.

Kirk Ferentz and wife donate $1 million to Iowa children’s hospital

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Kirk Ferentz may be the but of a bunch of contract-related jokes, but no one jokes about the man’s character.

And for good reason.

The University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday that Kirk and his wife Mary have donated $1 million to create the Savvy Ferentz Program in Neonatal Research, which will aim to improve the survival rate for premature babies. The Ferentzes made the donation in honor of their granddaughter Savvy, who was born in 2014 at 22 weeks gestation.

“We knew Savvy was born too early,” Mary said in a statement. “We also knew they do extraordinary things at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital that would give her a fighting chance. We were thankful we had that.”

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital claims higher survival rates for infants born at 24- and 25-weeks than the average U.S. hospital, and the Ferentzes hope their donation will further increase those rates.

“The University of Iowa has long been a leader in neonatal research and in providing high-level patient care, particularly to this most vulnerable population,” Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Jeffrey L. Segar said. “This gift from the Ferentzes will help us capitalize on our strengths, advance our research, and, most important, make an impact on the lives of many Iowa children and their families, now and far into the future. We are deeply grateful for their support.”

Kirk Ferentz will begin his 19th season as Iowa’s head coach next Saturday against Wyoming (noon ET, BTN).

Texas TE Andrew Beck now out for entire 2017 season

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As it turns out, it’s much worse than originally thought for one playing member of the Texas football program.

Nearly a week ago, Andrew Beck went down during practice with what was later diagnosed to be a broken foot.  At the time, it was thought that the tight end would miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks, which would’ve put him back, at the latest, early October.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, however, and the Longhorns announced that Beck will be sidelined for the entire 2017 season because of the injury.  The senior will undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage.  He’s already undergone two previous foot surgeries and sat out the spring because of issues in that area.

The good news is that Beck has yet to use his redshirt season, which means he could return in 2018 as a fifth-year senior.

Beck started 13 games the past two seasons, including three in 2016.  Last season, he caught four passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Entering summer camp, he had been expected to be the Longhorns’ starter.

With Beck out, that onus will likely fall on Kendall Moore, a graduate transfer from Syracuse.