Jake McGee

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Key transfers

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The lifeblood of a college football program comes through recruiting, but there are times when recruiting requires making sales pitches to experienced college football players as well. Seniors looking for a chance to compete for a starting job in the final year or years of eligibility can turn into great stories at any school, and this season is no exception.

We already took a look at some of the impact freshmen and the top Heisman Trophy candidates this season, but here is a look at some of the names you may already be familiar with looking to take advantage of a clean slate with a new program.

MICHAEL BREWER, VIRGINIA TECH, QB
With Virginia Tech looking for a new starting quarterback to replace Logan Thomas, the Hokies could be hoping Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer emerges as the best available option. The spring game failed to answer the question under center so the addition of Brewer figured to spice things up a bit. By all accounts it appears Brewer is making his case for playing time this fall as well, taking over the top spot in the depth chart during fall camp. Brewer appeared in just four games last season for Texas Tech, completing seven of his 10 pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown. He graduated this spring, making him eligible to play this fall for the Hokies.

JACOBY BRISSETT, NC STATE, QB
A change of scenery could be just what Jacoby Brissett needed after a disastrous 2012 season at Florida. With Jeff Driskel taking on the starter role for the Gators, Brissett made the decision to transfer to NC State, where head coach Dave Doeren will finally get a chance to coach him after attempting to recruit the quarterback to Wisconsin out of high school. Fortunately for NC State, Brissett’s desire to transfer to Miami was blocked due to a lack of room on the roster at the position in January 2013. Little did Miami know at the time the potential need for a transfer option  in 2014 (more on that later). Brissett played in five games in 2012 for Florida, completing 65.7 percent of his pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown. Brissett will be the starting quarterback for NC State, and he will have a stable of healthy receivers and good running back depth surrounding him on the field.

JACOB COKER, ALABAMA, QB
Looking to find his third starting quarterback in six seasons, Alabama head coach Nick Saban may not have been able to find a more suitable option through a transfer than Jacob Coker. Coker came to Alabama from Florida State, looking to get out from under the tremendous shadow cast by Jameis Winston. He does so with the personal endorsement of Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. Coker could likely be a starter on just about any team in the country, but it is not a guarantee just yet Coker will be the Tide’s starter just yet. Coker will have to beat Blake Sims for the job and Saban is known to let these competitions play out as long as he needs before coming to a final decision, even if it means a week or two into the season.

BRANDON CONNETTE, FRESNO STATE QB
An opportunity to play his final year of eligibility closer to home and his ailing mother landed Brandon Connette at Fresno State. Leaving a promising and developing Duke program was surely a tough decision, but as far as football is concerned Connette appears to be landing in another good position as well. Connette is competing for the starting job at Fresno State, offering a bit of a different style than the Bulldogs had grown accustomed to under Derek Carr the last few years, but it is what Connette offers with his feet that could be beneficial for the Bulldogs in their quest to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions. Connette rushed for 14 touchdowns for Duke last season, a big reason why Duke was able to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and play for the conference championship. He may not wing it like Carr, but he did throw for 1,212 yards on 145 pass attempts last season, including 13 touchdowns.

DEE HART, COLORADO STATE RB
Colorado State has some big shoes to fill at running back after Kapri Bibbs rushed for 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. It is clear the Rams like to run the football, so bringing in a running back from Alabama is certainly a good way to go for head coach Jim McElwain, the former Alabama assistant who secured a new contract recently. Dee Hart, who is looking for a more prominent role in an offense rather than part-time work in the crowded and deep Alabama backfield, arrives at Colorado State and should slide right into the starting role right away. Hart, who has battled through various knee injuries already, had just 22 carries in 2013 and with T.J. Yeldon leading the way for the Crimson Tide it looked as though getting many snaps was out of the question for Hart in Tuscaloosa this season. That should not be the case at Colorado State.

JAKE HEAPS, MIAMI QB
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Jake Heaps. The former BYU and Kansas quarterback has arrived at Miami and may have done so at just the right time. With an injury to projected starting quarterback Ryan Williams in the spring, Al Golden left the door open for all possibilities to plug the hole, including transfer options. That left an option on the table for Heaps to find a better situation for the remainder of his eligibility. He was once a highly rated recruit but has struggled to match that expected potential. With the right pieces around him, like running back Duke Johnson, Heaps could finally be ready to enjoy some stable success on the football field this fall. Heaps is currently one of the top two candidates for the starting job at Miami.

MATT JOECKEL, TCU, QB
The former back-up to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M decided it was best to try and compete for a starting job at another program rather than go through another round at Texas A&M. That led senior Matt Joeckel to TCU, where he is eligible to play right away this fall and making his case for the starting job. Joeckel is in the thick of the competition at TCU with Trevone Boykin, who has started 15 games for the Horned Frogs. TCU head coach Gary Patterson could have some options though, with the possibility of moving Boykin to receiver and allowing more time under center for Joeckel addressing two areas of need with one decision.

GUNNER KIEL, CINCINNATI QB
Despite Cincinnati working incumbent starter Munchie Legaux back from injury, it looks like the new guy may be the number one option to lead the American Athletic Conference favorites. Gunner Kiel, who transferred to Cincinnati from Notre Dame, put on quite the show in Cincinnati’s spring game and brings plenty of potential to the passing game for the Bearcats. Kiel sat out the 2013 season due to transfer rules and is now poised to take on the role of starting quarterback for a contender in the AAC as well as for a spot in a big revenue bowl.

WES LUNT, ILLINOIS QB
Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit thinks the Illini can have the best offense in the Big Ten this season. That may not be totally unrealistic with the addition of quarterback Wes Lunt, from Oklahoma State. Lunt arrived at Oklahoma State with loads of hype and potential as an early enrollee looking to succeed Brandon Weeden in 2012, but injuries quickly erased those plans in Stillwater. As he struggled to regain a footing on the depth chart, it became necessary to look for other options to compete for a starting job. Illinois had the need to improve at the position, and Lunt has become the top candidate for the starting job this summer.

JAKE MCGEE, FLORIDA TE
This one came as a bit of a surprise, and is a pretty significant blow to Virginia. Jake McGee was Virginia’s leading receiver last season, and after transferring to Florida he fills a position in need of a major upgrade at Florida. Tight ends at Florida combined for four receptions for 42 yards last season. McGee had a little over 10 times as many catches for the Cavaliers in 2013 and should immediately give Jeff Driskel a competent target in the field. The two have already been developing some chemistry in fall camp, with highlight plays apparently giving the offense a lift. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper intends to make McGee a significant part of the rejuvenated Florida offense.

RUSHEL SHELL, WEST VIRGINIA RB
Going from one end of the Backyard Brawl to the other, Rushel Shell transferred from Pittsburgh to West Virginia last summer. After sitting out the 2013 season, Shell is ready to go and make his case for playing time in a West Virginia offense in need of some physicality. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has said Shell has some of the best skills at the position this camp. In 2012, at Pittsburgh, Shell backed up Ray Graham but still accounted for 641 rushing yards and four touchdowns. West Virginia was seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense in 2013. Shell could help the Mountaineers improve on the ground as a key contributor.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

CFT Preseason Previews: Heisman Watch

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles runs for a 24-yard touchdown against the South Florida Bulls in the third quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida State defeated South Florida 34-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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The 2015 season was the Year of the Running Back in college football. Alabama’s Derrick Henry became just the second ball-carrier to claim the Stiffarm Trophy since the turn of the century, and running backs accounted for the top two and five of the top eight voting slots. Three of those five are back this season. With that in mind, will running backs continue their forward momentum and claim back-to-back Heismans, and the first non-Alabama running back Heisman, since 1998-99? Or will quarterbacks wrestle it back? Or how about a wide receiver, an offensive lineman or a defensive…. okay, let’s keep this realistic.

Leonard Fournette, LSU RB: Undoubtedly the most talented player in college football. Problem is, he knows it. The talk of him sitting out the season to devote himself to a nine-month NFL Draft prep is an odd crusade for some in football, but it’ll never happen. Still, though, Fournette is already dealing with injuries this season. He knows the pot of gold awaiting him on the other side of that rainbow. Will he dig deep, put his head down and charge for those two extra yards, or will he opt for self-preservation and do his best to simply ride this season out?

Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB: He’s got the skills, and he’s got the tools around him. Better yet, Clemson’s defense will probably take a step back this season, meaning he could stay on the field for more fourth quarters as the Tigers pile on points to put people away. So, yeah, everything is here to make a Heisman run. On the other hand, how often does the preseason favorite actually win the Heisman these days? There was Marcus Mariota in 2014, yes. Before that you may have to go back to Troy Smith all the way back in 2006.

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB: The quarterback is new. The wide receiving corps and offensive line are re-tooling. Everyone in the stadium knows McCaffrey is getting the ball as often as possible, and in as many ways as the Cardinal can possibly get him the ball. Should his numbers remain anywhere close to his 2015 statistics, McCaffrey could benefit from voters’ desire to choose a “throw-back” candidate.

Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB: Cook’s numbers from a year ago — 229 carries, 1,691 yards, 19 touchdowns, a ridiculous 7.38 yards per carry, a full foot-and-a-half more than the next closest runner with at least 225 attempts — were Heisman-esque, yet only good enough to get him to seventh place in last year’s voting. Do that again on a team that should seriously contend for a national championship and Cook may jump all the way to first.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB: The knock against Mayfield is that he’s a system quarterback. But if you’re going to be a system quarterback, what better system to run than one with two All-America caliber running backs, playing in a conference where 40 points a game is a baseline, and with one of college football’s strongest brand names on your helmet?

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB: Barrett has been oddly overlooked this preseason. All he did two years ago was toss 34 touchdowns against 10 picks, hit nearly 65 percent of his throws for nine yards per attempt, finish second nationally in passing efficiency whilst rushing for nearly 1,000 yards — all as a redshirt freshman.

Quick hits on the rest of the field:

Josh Rosen, UCLA QB: Maybe the best pro-prospect in college football, but NFL scouts may like him more than Heisman voters.

Royce Freeman, Oregon RB: The overlooked running back of 2015 — 1,800 yards, 17 touchdowns. But will the Ducks’ defense hold his candidacy back?

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB: The most talented in the long line of prolific Red Raider quarterbacks. But can Texas Tech get enough stops to mount him a serious campaign?

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan ATH: Could he follow another Wolverine’s path to a do-it-all Heisman win?

Myles Garrett, Texas A&M DE: If the Heisman is going to a full-time defensive player, Garrett is it. But if Suh, Clowney, et. al., couldn’t break through that glass ceiling, why would Garrett?

ECU transfer Kurt Benkert wins Virginia’s starting QB job

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Four months ago, Kurt Benkert was one the losing end of a quarterback competition at East Carolina.  Fastforward to today, and he’s now the trigger man in a Power Five offense.

First-year Hoos head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Wednesday that Benkert will start the season opener against Richmond.  Benkert had been involved in a competition that included returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

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Benkert came to the Cavaliers as a graduate transfer, but is not a one-year stop-gap as he has two years of eligibility remaining.

Named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, Benkert sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  Blake Kemp took over and kept a stranglehold on the starting job through spring practice this year, triggering Benkert’s decision to move on.

Benkert has attempted 10 passes in his collegiate career, all in 2014.

In starting all 12 games for the Cavaliers last season, Johns’ 2,810 passing yards were third in school history while his 20 touchdowns were tied for fourth.  His 17 interceptions, though, were the most of any FBS quarterback in 2015.

Cassius Peat granted release by Mich. St., appears headed to JUCO

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 15:  A Michigan State Spartans helmet on the bench during a college football game against the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on November 15, 2014 in College Park, Maryland.  The Spartans won 37-15.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Earlier this month, Mark Dantonio stated that Michigan State was giving Cassius Peat “an opportunity to work on his academics and get himself in order” as his status with the program was “in flux.”

A week or so later?  He gone.

MSU confirmed Wednesday that Peat has been granted a release from his scholarship and will transfer from the Spartans.  And, in fact, the defensive lineman may have already found a new home, one at the junior college level.

Peat, initially a UCLA commit, was a three-star 2015 recruit who was rated as the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Arizona.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, and had been listed as the No. tackle heading into summer camp.

However, according to mlive.com, Peat did not report for camp amidst his academic issues.

Ex-Oregon St. DB goes home to LaTech as grad transfer

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Running back Justin Davis #22 of the USC Trojans is defended by safety Cyril Noland-Lewis #17 of the Oregon State Beavers in the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Oregon State 35-10.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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A week after transferring from Oregon State, Cyril Noland-Lewis has found a new home that happens to also double as his hometown.

The Ruston News Star, among others, has reported that Noland-Lewis is transferring into the Louisiana Tech football program.  As he is coming to Tech as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Bulldogs in 2016, his final season of eligibility.

The defensive back, who went to high school in Ruston, was at the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday as Tech continues preparations for the season opener Sept. 3 against Arkansas.

Noland-Lewis started 10 games for the Beavers last season.  Six of those starts came as a safety, the others as the nickel corner.  OSU moved Noland-Lewis to cornerback this offseason, where he ultimately found himself buried on the depth chart in summer camp.

The 6-0, 198-pound fifth-year senior, who began his OSU career as a linebacker, played in a total of 37 games during his time in Corvallis.