Leonard Williams, RJ Morgan

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 14 USC

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2013 record: 10-4 overall, 6-3 in the Pac-12 conference (tied for 2nd in South division)
2013 postseason: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Fresno State (45-25 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 19/No. 19
Head coach: Steve Sarkisian (34-29 overall; 1st year at USC)
Offensive coordinator: Clay Helton (5th year at USC)
2013 offensive rankings: 59th rushing offense (172.8 ypg); 70th passing offense (227.1 ypg); 72nd total offense (399.9 ypg); 60th scoring offense (29.7 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Justin Wilcox (1st year at USC)
2013 defensive rankings: 15th rushing defense (120.6 ypg); 32nd passing defense (214.6 ypg);  13th total defense (335.2 ypg); 16th scoring defense (21.2 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: seven
Location: Los Angeles
Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (93,607; grass)
Last conference title: 2008

THE GOOD
Once USC athletic director Pat Haden cut ties with head coach Lane Kiffin during the middle of season, the Trojans played very well down the stretch. The team won six of its last seven games to finish 10-4. The offense in particular played at a much higher level. In the team’s final seven games, junior quarterback Cody Kessler threw 12 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions. Kessler had to battle earlier in the season with fellow quarterback Max Wittek to earn the starting job, but once Kessler was handed the reins, the team’s offense played at a much higher level. They did so under the supervision of offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who was retained by new head coach Steve Sarkisian. An experienced quarterback and improved system should help the Trojans play at a more consistent level on offense during the upcoming season.

THE BAD
As the Trojans prepare for the season, the team’s situation at offensive line is tenuous at best. Max Tuerk may be one of the most versatile linemen in college football — he’ll start at center for the first time this fall — and Chad Wheeler improved throughout his freshmen campaign. But the rest of the projected starters along the offensive line lack experience. Aundrey Walker was expected to provide a veteran presence and potentially start, but he has yet to practice during camp due to a lingering leg injury. Zach Banner (right tackle), Khaliel Rodgers (right guard) and Toa Lobendahn (left guard) continue to practice with the first unit, yet Banner is the only one to even appear in a game as a member of the Trojans. In fact, Lobendahn is a true freshman. It’s a unit that will require time to gel and needs to gain experience throughout the season for USC to play to expectations this season.

THE UNKNOWN
Will the Trojans ever be able to recapture the magic that once surrounded the program during Pete Carroll‘s nine-year run as the team’s head coach? It already failed to do so when named Lane Kiffin, the team’s former co-offensive coordinator, was named as Carroll’s replacement. Yet, the school went back to the same well and named Kiffin’s former running mate as the program’s newest head coach. Sarkisian seems like an ideal fit due to his history with the team, but the coach was never able to get the Washington Huskies over the hump during his five seasons with the program. Granted, USC’s talent level compared to Washington’s at the time Sarkisian took over is night and day. It has to be a concern for USC faithful that Sarkisian never finished better than 8-4 as a head coach.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at UCLA
Last season, the Trojans got the proverbial monkey off their backs by beating the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal for the first time since 2008. The next obstacle for the Trojans is overcome their cross-town rival, the UCLA Bruins. As the Trojans dealt with NCAA sanctions, Bruins head coach Jim Mora rebuilt UCLA and made the Bruins into one of the top teams in the nation entering this season. While the Bruins haven’t been able to overcome the Trojans on the recruiting trail, UCLA still won the last two contests between the teams by a combined score of 73-42. It’s likely that when these two teams meet to play on Nov. 12 the Pac-12 South division and an appearance in the conference’s championship game will be on the line.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: DT Leonard Williams
Everyone knows that a only one player primarily from the defensive side of the football has ever won the Heisman Trophy, and Michigan’s Charles Woodson had the luxury of playing special teams and a little bit of offense too. However, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o have shown in recent years that dominant defenders in the midst of a special season can garner legitimate consideration for the sport’s most prestigious trophy. Williams is the most talented player on USC’s roster. He’s projected as a possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. In 13 games last season, Williams was second on the team with 74 tackles and added 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Williams will put together a season like Suh did in 2009 (85 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks) and establish himself as the most dominant defender in college football.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Marshall DB Tiquan Lang arrested on DUI, weapons charges

HUNTINGTON, WV - SEPTEMBER 6: Tiquan Lang #21 of the Marshall Thundering Herd returns an interception for a touchdown late in the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on September 6, 2015 in Huntington, West Virginia. Marshall defeated Purdue 41-31. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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There’s a combination you don’t see very frequently.

According to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, Marshall defensive back Tiquan Lang was arrested on multiple charges early Saturday morning.  Those charges include driving under the influence, possession of a concealed deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance.  All three of those charges are misdemeanors.

The situation began when police officers observed Lang asleep/passed out in a running vehicle and went downhill from there.  From the Herald-Dispatch’s report:

Upon arrival, officers turned off the car and made multiple attempts to wake the man, who was asleep with the driver’s seat reclined, according to criminal complaints. Police state the man had trouble maintaining balance as he exited the vehicle once awake.

After he was out of the vehicle, police say they found a Glock 27 with an extended 30-round magazine partially concealed under the seat.

A police dog sniffed out one full and two partial Xanax bars in the center console. Reports state police could smell the odor of marijuana, but none was found. A plastic cup with a small amount of liquor was located in the console.

Lang told police he had a prescription for the medication, and his drowsiness was exacerbated by drinking the liquor, according to the complaint.

The football program is aware of the development and will handle the matter internally.

Over the past three seasons, Lang has started 23 gams the past three seasons.  Last season, Lang was second on the team with 91 tackles.  He returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns as well.

Even before Kenny Chesney concert trashed it, plan was to replace Jordan-Hare turf

performs onstage during the 4th ACM Party For A Cause Festival at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on April 3, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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On April 23, country music star Kenny Chesney performed at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium — and it’s fair to say that he tore the place up. Chesney and various guests performed at the “Music and Miracles Festival,” one of the first concerts ever at Jordan-Hare. The goal was to raise a million dollars to fight hunger and cancer. And it was a party. More than 50,000 people were there.

“Sometimes,” Chesney said after it was over, “you feel the energy long before you hit the stage.”

With all that energy, yeah, the field took a significant beating.

Jordan-Hare

The Auburn grounds crew then announced via Twitter that they would resod the field at the end of May and get things back to normal in plenty of time for football. The story could have died there.

But, of course, stories don’t really die too quickly these days. I mean: Look at that field. First came the comments and the talk about how the flooring was kept down the whole time. Then came the backlash toward Chesney. There’s no need to explain just how holy the Jordan-Hare Stadium field is to Auburn football fans. When people saw the after photos — even though it is months until the season opener against Clemson — well let’s just say things were said.

Chesney, a big football fan who wrote the song “The Boys of Fall” about high school football in his town, was pretty troubled by the whole thing. See, Auburn had always planned on resodding the field after the concert. That was obviously the strategy after inviting Chesney to perform in the first place.

“The plan to host Kenny Chesney at Jordan-Hare Stadium always included a full field replacement following the event,” Auburn associate AD for Operation Jeremy Roberts said. “And the field cover strategy we approved took this into consideration.”

“The plan the school had in place,” concert production manager Ed Wannebo says, “had nothing to do with this concert … the sod was being torn out regardless.”

Ah well, what is it that Chesney sings in “The Boys of Fall?”

It’s knockin’ heads and talkin’ trash
It’s slingin’ mud and dirt and grass

Utah State dismisses starting guard Tyshon Mosley

Tyshon Mosley
Utah State athletics
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Expected to compete for All-Mountain West honors this season, Tyshon Mosley will instead be searching for a new college football home.

In a press release, Utah State announced that Mosley has been dismissed from the Aggies football program.  The only reason given was the standard violation of unspecified team rules.

In early August of last year, USU announced that Mosley was one of three players who had been suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season.  He returned from that suspension to start nine games at left guard.  At the end of last season, he was named honorable mention All-MWC.

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2013, Mosley started 11 of 14 games at left guard in 2014.

Abner Logan, projected starting LB, announces departure from Terps

Abner Logan
Associated Press
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Not long after putting spring practice 2016 to bed, Maryland’s linebacking corps has taken a significant and unexpected hit.

On Instagram over the weekend, Abner Logan announced that he has decided to transfer out of the Terrapins football program.  As Logan will be leaving the Terps as a graduate transfer, he would be eligible to play immediately in 2016 if his next destination is at the FBS level.

After tearing his ACL in August of last year, Logan missed the entire 2015 season.  He was projected as a starter at linebacker under first-year head coach D.J. Durkin.

Logan was suspended for the first six games of the 2014 season by the university for unspecified reasons.  He came back to play the final seven games of the year.

In 2013 as a redshirt freshman, he started four of the 12 games in which he played.