Skip to content

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

Washington v Arizona State Getty Images

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Pac-12. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 11-2; beat Texas at Alamo Bowl)
The Ducks have been on the cusp of elite status as a program for the past four seasons. It’s time for the program to get over the hump and win a national title. This year’s squad may have the best chance to capture the school’s first national championship. It all starts with the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota is the best signal caller currently playing collegiate football. Yes, that includes Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston. Mariota may have hoisted the trophy last year if he didn’t suffer a knee injury late in the season which hampered his style of play. Mariota is extremely efficient as a passer, highly intelligent with his decision-making and a deadly athlete when he decides to run with the football. The Ducks also return key starters at vital positions. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and center Hroniss Grasu may have been the top players selected at their position in May’s NFL draft. Yet, they decided to return to Eugene.  The team’s leading rusher (Byron Marshall), tackler (Derrick Malone) and sack artist (Tony Washington) return as well. As Mark Helfrich enters his second year as head coach, there aren’t any excuses for the Ducks this season. It’s a national championship or bust. This is the year for Oregon to prove its more than a flashy offense and uniform trendsetters.

2. Stanford (Last year: 11-3; lost to Michigan State in Rose Bowl)
Cardinal faithful will almost certainly remind anyone who will listen that their team beat Oregon the past two seasons and claimed Pac-12 conference titles. However, the Cardinal simply aren’t as talented from top to bottom as the Ducks. The key players Oregon retained; the Cardinal lost. The team lost it’s leading rusher, tackler, sack artist and four of its starting offensive linemen. While Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan may be entering his second full season as the team’s starter, he’s a notch below the elite quarterbacks in the Pac-12 conference.David Shaw is one of the best coaches in college football. This team will continue it’s winning ways. But Stanford will likely take a slight step backwards as the Ducks reclaim the honor as the best team in the Pac-12 Conference.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 7-6; beat Boise State in Hawai’i Bowl)
College football’s leading-returning passer resides in Corvallis, Oregon. Quarterback Sean Mannion returns for his senior campaign after throwing for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns. But Mannion won’t have Biletnikoff Trophy winner Brandin Cooks to throw to anymore. And that ‘s a good thing. Mannion’s experience behind center is a major positive for the Beavers, but Oregon State head coach Mike Riley admitted the coaching staff became enamored with throwing the football due to their dynamic duo at quarterback and wide receiver. This season, the Beavers will be more balanced on offense and more closely resemble the team that went 9-4 in 2012 instead of the one that was 7-6 last season. Senior Terran Ward and junior Storm Woods combined for 1,060 rushing yards last season. They should receive bigger workloads. With a more balanced attack, the Beavers hope to avoid another five-game losing streak in Pac-12 play. The team seen during its 38-23 victory over Boise State in the Hawai’i Bowl is the one Pac-12 opponents should expect to face Saturdays this fall.

4. Washington (Last year: 9-4; beat BYU in Fight Hunger Bowl)
The University of Washington did the impossible; they pried Chris Petersen out of Boise and made him their new head coach. Petersen inherits a talented roster built slowly over time by previous head coach Steve Sarkisian. After three straight 7-6 seasons, the Huskies finally broke through with an 9-4 campaign in 2013. The team then lost it’s head coach, quarterback and workhorse running back. Change of that degree will likely cause the Huskies to take a small step back during the upcoming season. While Peterson was ultra-successful during his eight seasons at Boise State, his team stumbled last year and lost four games for the first time in eight years. The last coach to have that type of success at Boise then finish with a four-loss team before moving to the Pac-12 was Dan Hawkins. Furthermore, there are still questions at quarterback for the Huskies. Cyler Miles hasn’t shown he’s ready to take over the team. Until one of the quarterbacks does, the Huskies will have to rely on a talented defense, particularly a defensive line that features nose tackle Danny Shelton and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha.

5. Washington State (Last year: 6-7; lost to Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl)
This will be Mike Leach‘s third year in Pullman, Washington. It was in Leach’s third year at Texas Tech he was able to lead the Red Raiders to a nine-win season. He won’t be as lucky with the Cougars. It’s taken Leach some time to implement the “Air Raid” offense that far north. This should be the first season in which it’s fully functional with senior Connor Halliday as the trigger-man behind center. However, the team’s defense struggled mightily in 2013 and finished 102nd overall. Leach’s run at Texas Tech was special, because he could out-scheme nearly everyone in the Big 12. But he could always rely on the talent he recruited in the state of Texas. The state of Washington doesn’t present the same level of talent. In three recruiting classes, only one former four-star recruit, wide receiver Gabe Marks, is expected to contribute for the Cougars this season. And that talent disparity will keep Wazzu toward the bottom of the Pac-12.

6. Cal (Last year: 1-11)
The hiring of Sonny Dykes as Cal’s head coach was an absolute disaster. The Golden Bears finished 1-11. They didn’t play any defense whatsoever. Players were leaving the program as soon as possible once the season ended. The only expectation for the team this season is to improve on last year’s record and actually win a conference game. Cal should be able to move the ball in Dykes’ version of the “Air Raid” offense. Quarterback Jared Goff enters his second season as starter after he put together a solid season as a true freshman. Plus, four of Goff’s top five receivers return. The Golden Bears will be able to throw the football, but the question is whether or not the defense will be able to stop anyone. History says no. Art Kaufman was hired as the team’s defensive coordinator this off season, and he has an uphill battle in front of him. Even when Dykes led Louisiana Tech to a 9-3 record, a national ranking and nearly defeated a Texas A&M team led by Johnny Manzielthe Bulldogs were the worst defensive team in college football. Dykes’ emphasis falls on the offensive side of the ball, and that is not going to change. It’s only a matter of time before Cal is looking for another head coach once the school’s new athletic director is named.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. UCLA (Last year: 10-3; beat Virginia Tech in Sun Bowl)
Expectations are sky high at UCLA. And they should be. In two short years, Jim Mora has completely rebuilt the culture in Westwood. Plus, the Bruins are fortunate to have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Brett Hundley. If Hundley declared for the NFL draft this year, he would have been a first-round selection. He’s projected to be a Top 10 pick for next May. The quarterback is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talent on this roster. Senior Jordan James and sophomore Paul Perkins return in the backfield after combining for 1,107 rushing yards in 2013. Devin Fuller is a dynamic play maker out of the slot. And the defense may be even more talented. The two-way superstar Myles Jacks is one of college football’s top linebackers and a pretty good running back too. Erik Kendricks is highly instinctive and a tackling machine. Sophomores Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes will be one year better and impossible to move along the defensive interior. And the secondary is experienced with Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams returning. The No. 1 one goal for the Bruins will be to claim a Pac-12 championship, but this team has legitimate national championship potential. They simply have to get past Oregon and Stanford to prove they’re worthy of a berth in the College Football Playoff.

2. USC (Last year: 10-4; beat Fresno State in Las Vegas Bowl)
It’s hard to maintain momentum from one season to another. Although, USC appeared to regain its confidence and swagger as a program when it won six of its last seven games under the direction of interim head coach Ed Oregeron. Despite the team’s late season success, Oregeron wasn’t hired to become the team’s permanent head coach. Enter Steve Sarkisian, a former co-offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll. Despite sub-par seasons by USC’s standards in recent years, the team has two things in its favor. First, the talent from the top of the roster to the bottom is always among the best in college football. Second, the team’s depth will continue to improve as the bottom of the roster is rebuilt after being previously hamstrung by NCAA sanctions. The Trojans will be led by a strong defense which features the potential No. 1 overall pick in May’s NFL draft, defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The unit finished 13th overall in total defense last season. The offense, meanwhile, will continue to grow under the direction of offensive coordinator Clay Helton and junior quarterback Cody Kessler. The offense played at a much higher level once Lane Kiffin was fired and Helton became the primary play-caller. It was a smart decision by Sarkisian to retain Helton on his staff.  All the pieces are in place for the Trojans to become a factor in the Pac-12 again. USC faithful has to hope Sarkisian was the right hire to keep them in the national conversation.

3. Arizona State (Last year: 10-4; lost to Texas Tech in Holiday Bowl)
Since the Pac-12 South is generally considered the weaker division in the conference, it’s been somewhat overlooked that the Sun Devils played in the league’s championship game last year. Head coach Todd Graham has built a team that is known for its fast-pace offense and aggressive defense. In fact, Arizona State features the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the Pac-12 with Taylor Kelly behind center and Jaelen Strong creating mismatches for defenses. Kelly, in particular, has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Pac-12 the past two seasons. And running back D.J. Foster is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Arizona State may even be able to challenge UCLA and USC atop the Pac-12 South, but the team’s previously devastating defensive front is being completely rebuilt. The team lost it’s top tackler, sack artist and two-time Pac-12 Defense Player of the Year Will Sutton to the NFL. Graham will continue to blitz every chance he gets, but he no longer has the talent to win individual match-ups on a regular basis. The offense will score points, but the defense will have trouble stopping anyone. 

4.  Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Boston College in AdvoCare V100 Bowl)
Is the year the Wildcats are ready to take the next step under head coach Rich Rodriguez? During his first two seasons with the program, Arizona finished with an 8-5 record. The problem with Rodriguez is the passing game and defense suffer from the coach’s insistence to implement his offensive scheme, which is a zone-read heavy. The x-factor this season will be whomever Rodriguez’s names as his starting quarterback. Last season, B.J. Denker didn’t provide any consistency throwing the football. It will either be redshirt freshman Anu Solomon or senior transfer Jesse Scroggins which takes over the offense. Solomon reportedly has a slight lead in the competition during fall camp. These two will have to be better dual-threats out of the backfield than Denker was. And the defense has to be better after surrendering 401.1 yards per game last season. If these two things happen, the Wildcats will finish higher in the standings than CFT currently projects. But, it’s unlikely.

5. Colorado (Last year: 4-8)
A 4-8 record for any other program would be a disappointment. Colorado, however, isn’t just any program. It’s a school that went through an ugly divorce with previous head coach Jon Embree. Four wins by first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre was actually a three-game improvement. MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding a program in a similar fashion. He took San Jose State from a one-win team to 10 wins in three seasons. While the growth at Colorado should be far more incremental, the Buffaloes will continue to improve under the current coaching staff. The team returns 16 starters, including quarterback Sefo Liufau, and has a manageable non-conference schedule. There are at least five games the Buffaloes could be considered the favorites to win. It will be up to the coaching staff and players to steal one or two more wins from Pac-12 opponents.

6.  Utah (Last year: 5-7)
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 10th season with the program, and it could be his last if the Utes fall to the basement of the Pac-12 South. The problems start on the offensive side of the football. Whittingham used numerous different play-callers in recent years, but the Utes’ offense continued to sputter. Utah finished 76th overall in total offense during the 2013 campaign. Last season the defense wasn’t the team’s saving grace either. The Utes finished 60th overall in total defense. Whittingham will need key players to step up this season if the team has any hope of consistently competing in the Pac-12. Quarterback Travis Wilson has to improve after throwing 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions as a sophomore. Another 5-7 season or worse will likely signal change within the program.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Oregon over UCLA

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Articles, Cal Golden Bears, Colorado Buffaloes, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Pac-12 Conference, Rumor Mill, Stanford Cardinal, Top Posts, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Utah Utes, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars
yo

USC’s Adoree Jackson working on offense and defense this spring

Adoree' Jackson

First it was Stanford’s Owen Marecic. Then UCLA’s Myles Jack and Washington’s Shaq Thompson. Now it may be USC sophomore Adoree Jackson‘s turn to become the Pac-12’s next two-way star.

To be clear, working on both sides of the ball isn’t new to Jackson. He did it in his first game, in fact. In all, Jackson saw action as a cornerback, wide receiver and return man in eight games last season, catching 10 passes for 138 yards with three touchdowns to go with two kickoff return touchdowns and 49 tackles.

But the Trojans are being more intentional about splitting Jackson’s time this spring.

If that’s not enough, take it from Jackson’s 2015 bio on USC’s official site:

Jackson, the most exciting player in college football who is a candidate for major national awards and All-American honors, returns as a starting cornerback and a dangerous kickoff returner, plus he figures to again see significant action at wide receiver. USC’s first 3-way player in nearly 20 years, he has drawn comparisons with former Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson (they posted comparable statistics).

Well, at least they’re subtle about it.

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

Oklahoma LB Dominique Alexander to miss spring ball following wrist surgery

Desmond Roland, Ahman Thomas, Steven Parker, Jordan Thomas, Dominique Alexander

The Oklahoma defense that takes the field in next month’s spring game will look much different than the one that was torn apart by Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery is gone for the NFL, replaced by Stanford’s Diron Reynolds. Kerry Cooks now coaches the defensive backs, and Mike Stoops may coach from the box.

But the changes don’t stop there. Head coach Bob Stoops revealed that Second Team All-Big 12 linebacker Dominique Alexander will miss spring ball after undergoing wrist surgery last week.

“It had healed up, looked like it was going to be ok,” Stoops told The Oklahoman. “Through the winter with all the different working out, the different everything they have to do with their wrist, it wore down. Doctors didn’t anticipate that. It happened.”

Frank Shannon still has not returned from a year-long suspension, which means a pair of redshirt freshmen (Tay Evans and Curtis Bolton) will get an increased workload this spring.

Alexander, a junior, notched 107 tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2014.

Stoops also revealed Thursday that redshirt freshman defensive tackle Courtney Garnett will miss spring ball after suffering a torn ACL in winter workouts, guard Nila Kasitati will miss the first half of the spring with an unspecified injury and wide receiver Sterling Shepard will ease back into action after playing with a groin injury for the latter half of last season.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Report: Pac-12 could soon be way behind SEC, Big Ten TV money again

Larry Scott

Remember back in 2011 when the Pac-12 announced new TV deals with ESPN and Fox along with the creation of Pac-12 Enterprises and it seemed like the balance of power was going to shift out West?

In the world of television contracts, four years is a lifetime.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News, the man who would know this stuff better than anyone, has taken a peek behind the curtain of the Pac-12’s and found a picture that’s not so rosy as the conference would’ve had you believe back in 2011.

According to Wilner’s projections, the Pac-12 stands to distribute close to $23 million per school in 2017-18 – a figure that, to be fair, would’ve placed the conference at or near the top of the heap in 2011. Problem is, it’s not 2011 anymore and a lot has happened since then. SEC Network launched in August, and the Big Ten will take its first-tier rights to market soon. By 2017-18, Wilner writes the Big Ten could clear $33 million per school and the SEC should top $35 million. Sitting eight figures behind the Big Ten and SEC was why the conference hired Larry Scott in the first place.

The problem is the Pac-12 Networks. Where the SEC (quite successfully) partnered with ESPN and the Big Ten went in with Fox, the Pac-12 has financed its networks completely on its own. This would leave the conference to strike it rich if Pac-12 Networks somehow discovered the college sports version of The Walking Dead, but for now it’s only the first side of the risk/reward quandary.

For example, by 2017-18 Wilner projects the Pac-12 Networks to distribute $1 million a year, but the conference’s 12 schools will still have to cut a $750,000 check to buy back the content that the conference needed to start a network in the first place. All told, that leaves $250,000 per school on average, or the going rate for your typical linebackers coach these days.

Now you know why Scott has fought so bitterly with DirecTV these past few years.

“It could impact the competitive balance, the ability to hire top-notch coaches and manage the looming increase in expenses due to legislative changes and the O’Bannon lawsuit,” Wilner writes.

Anyone know if Keeping Up with the Kardashians is looking for a new home? I know a fledgling cable sports network that would like to talk.

Permalink 8 Comments Back to top

Watch: Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein as a 7-foot wide receiver

Willie Cauley-Stein, Devin Robinson

Willie Cauley-Stein may be the best player in college basketball this year. The anchor of Kentucky’s asphyxiation-inducing defense, Cauley-Stein is a semifinalist for the Naismith Award as the nation’s top player and ranked No. 7 in the latest DraftExpress mock draft.

But there was a time when college basketball’s most fearsome rim protector was the most imposing figure on the gridiron. Hailing from Olathe, Kan., Cauley-Stein turned one year of varsity football into a scholarship offer from Kansas.

His highlights make Cauley-Stein look like a deer running through a field of rabbits.

“If Willie wanted to play in the NFL, I think there’s no doubt he could play in the NFL,” Cauley-Stein’s high school head coach Jay Novacek told The Sporting News. “That’s the kind of unique talent he is.”

NFL or no NFL, choosing Kentucky basketball over Kansas football qualifies as the best – and perhaps easiest – decision Cauley-Stein will ever make.

(Highlights courtesy The Sporting News)

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

Surgery will KO favorite to start at QB for Army this spring

A.J. Schurr AP

Army headed into the offseason with just one quarterback who had any experience at the collegiate level.  Entering spring practice, that number is now down to zero.

Head coach Jeff Monken confirmed Thursday that A.J. Schurr will not participate in any of the service academy’s 15 spring practice sessions. Schurr underwent shoulder surgery shortly after the end of the 2014 season and still hasn’t sufficiently recovered.

As for a timeline for a return, Schurr should be available for the start of summer camp in August.

With Schurr sidelined, that leaves just three quarterbacks on the roster — sophomore Matt Kaufmann and freshmen Ahmad Bradshaw and Seth Gonzales — none of whom have played a down collegiately. HudsonValley.com’s Sal Interdonato explains the rather skimpy resumes of each player.

Kaufmann was the star of last year’s spring game. He left the team during the 2014 season but returned late to be a scout-team quarterback. Bradshaw missed a good portion of the 2014 season due to an administrative matter. Gonzalez was the jayvee quarterback in 2014.

That said, although it’s not like he has any other choice, Monken is looking forward to seeing how the trio handles the opportunity afforded them.

“We got a chance to see Matt be the scout-team quarterback and he’s such a great competitor and I don’t have any doubt that he will know what to do and he will compete,” Monken said. “Seth Gonzales got to play in jayvee games so he’s going to have a basis of the offense. I hope all three of those guys will compete and it will be interesting to see who comes out of that pack and then going into fall, we have a couple of guys coming in from the prep school and see how they will compete for the starting job.”

If experience means anything, though, Schurr will be the overwhelming favorite to win the job when he’s healthy.

Last season as a junior, Schurr started a pair of games for the Black Knights. He finished fourth on the team in rushing yards with 320 while his three rushing touchdowns were tied for third. In the passing game, such as it is with Army’s style of offense, Schurr passed for 242 yards and a touchdown on his 12 completions.

He entered summer camp last year as the favorite to win the starting job, but hamstring issues in large part derailed those aspirations.

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

Buckeyes debut title game highlight video

It’s been days since Ohio State romped over Oregon to claim its first national title in more than a decade, but the Buckeye Nation can continue to revel in the unexpected run to the first-ever College Football Playoff championship.

Thursday, OSU debuted a video titled “Ohio State Football: National Championship Highlights.”  In the four-minute salute — which is really well done, incidentally — there are not only highlights of the decisive 42-20 win over the Ducks, but there are also some unique behind-the-scenes clips of the run-up to the game contained in the piece as well.

 

(I don’t know about you, but, after watching that video, I’m ready for the 2015 season to start now.  Right.  Now.)

Not so coincidentally, the CFP’s official Twitter account got in on the title remembrance fun as well, reminding everyone who follows them that the 2014 Buckeyes were the “undisputed” national champs.

http://collegefootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/01/13/buckeyes-survive-turnover-storm-claim-first-crown-in-over-a-decade/

Permalink 8 Comments Back to top

REWIND: 18 years ago, Peyton Manning announced return to Vols

Peyton Manning

In somewhat of an odd coincidence, March 5 has been a pivotal date and the No. 18 a key number in the football career of Peyton Manning.

Earlier today the Denver Broncos announced that Manning had passed his required physical, which means the future NFL Hall of Famer will be returning for an 18th season at the professional level.  As noted by the football program’s official website, it was 18 years ago today that Manning, the wearer of the No. 18 jersey in the NFL, announced that he would be returning to the Tennessee Volunteers for his senior season.

There would be no storybook ending for Manning in Knoxville in 1997, though, as he finished runnerup to Charles Woodson in the Heisman voting and the Vols, thanks in large part to yet another loss to Manning nemesis Steve Spurrier of Florida — “I know why Peyton came back for his senior year: he wanted to be a three-time Citrus Bowl MVP” and “You can’t spell Citrus without UT” — failed to win a national championship for the third straight year with Manning as the season-long starter. To add insult to his title injury, the Vols, quarterbacked by Tee Martin, won the first-ever BCS championship the season after Manning left UT and was selected No. 1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts.

On a completely unrelated note, yes, it’s a slow news day. And this post  shouldn’t have been your first clue, either.

(Photo credit: Tennessee athletics)

Permalink 4 Comments Back to top

Temple officially adds NFL experience to coaching staff

Glenn Thomas AP

An assistant who would be very familiar to Atlanta Falcons fans over the past half decade or so is one of two additions that have been made to the Temple coaching staff.

In a press release earlier this week, and as had been previously reported as a likelihood, head coach Matt Rhule announced that Glenn Thomas as well as Frisman Jackson have been hired as Owl assistants.  The former will serve as quarterbacks coach, the latter as wide receivers coach.

Adam DiMichele, the receivers coach last season, has been reassigned to director of player development, the school added

“I’m very excited to add such talent and diversity to our coaching staff,” Rhule said in a statement. “Frisman and Glenn have worked at the highest level and can lead our student-athletes to greater heights. I’m also excited about what each man brings to the table as a recruiter.”

Thomas had been on Mike Smith‘s Atlanta staff since 2008, the last three of which were as quarterbacks coach. Midwestern State (2001-07) was his last stop at the collegiate level, while he began his coaching career as a grad assistant at his alma mater Texas Tech (1998-2001).

Jackson was the receivers coach at North Carolina State the past two seasons. Last month, Jackson was let go by NCSU head coach Dave Doeren and replaced by George McDonald.

Following a six-year playing career, Jackson coached receivers at Northern Illinois (2012), Akron (2010-11), and Western Illinois (2008-09).

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

LSU DB Jamal Adams takes Tiger hoops fans to task on Twitter

Kentucky v LSU

Memo to LSU basketball fans: step your game up and get with the program.

At least, that’s the message a member of the football team sent on social media Wednesday night after a double-digit home loss to Tennessee by the men’s hoops squad.  The Tigers and Vols were actually tied at halftime before the latter, which came into the game losers of five straight and nine of its last 11, stretched the lead to as many as 18 points in the second half.

Because of the deficit, LSU fans began leaving the Pete Maravich Assembly Center en masse before the final horn sounded on the 78-63 loss.  And because of that, LSU defensive back Jamal Adams took to Twitter to vent his frustration over the exodus.

Adams may take some heat from the LSU faithful, but he can take solace in knowing that, more than likely, Nick Saban has got his back on this front.

Permalink 7 Comments Back to top

Former BYU QB Christian Stewart rejoins team for spring ball

Christian Stewart

Christian Stewart played in 11 games in 2014, starting the final eight after Taysom Hill was lost for the season in October. The senior completed 199-of-348 passes for 2,621 yards with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. After throwing only two passes in 2013, Stewart stepped up and shined when needed, throwing for 408 yards and four touchdowns against Nevada and 433 yards with five touchdowns in a shootout win over California to close the regular season.

He had a rough day in the Miami Beach Bowl loss to Memphis, hitting only 23-of-48 passes for 348 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, and that, supposedly, was that.

But Hill is not yet ready to return from injury and sophomore McCoy Hill injured his foot to open spring drills on Monday. Tanner Mangum is still on his church mission, and signee Beau Hoge has yet arrive on campus. Sophomore Hunter Moore is also on the roster, but not capable of properly testing the Cougars’ defense in an 11-on-11 setting, so BYU brought Stewart back for spring ball.

“I said, ‘You’re like gum on my shoe,'” head coach Bronco Mendenhall told the Associated Press. “‘I can’t get rid of you. No matter if I pull it, I stretch it, it just snaps back.’ So we laughed. Talk about a loyal alumni. I think he was maybe more excited than I was that he gets to play football again. Our team, they already loved him before, now he’s like idol status.”

BYU compliance cleared Stewart to practice in the spring, the AP noted, without penalizing the club. And it didn’t take much convincing to give Stewart one last shot at college football.

“I don’t necessarily feel any pressure, especially because what are the coaches going to do? Yell at me?” Stewart said. “They can’t really get on me because I’m the one doing them a favor. But myself, I demand a lot out of myself.”

Permalink 2 Comments Back to top

Michigan State WR Macgarrett Kings Jr. arrested over the weekend

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Michigan State v Baylor Getty Images

Nearly 11 months to the day after his first arrest, Michigan State wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. was again in handcuffs. The rising senior was arrested over the weekend for drunken and disorderly conduct and obstructing, resisting, hindering or assaulting a police officer, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press.

He was taken into custody at 2:36 on Saturday morning and released on $200 bail.

Kings missed spring ball last year for a violation of team rules. It was later revealed that a DUI arrest was the cause for the suspension.

A similar punishment could be in line here.

“We’re aware of the incident,” head coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. “All of our student-athletes are held to a high standard, and individuals will be held accountable for their actions. We will manage this situation internally.”

The Free Press notes that Kings was sentenced to 13 months of probation last summer, but it was cut short in December. Part of that suspension he would still otherwise be subject to included avoiding alcohol and establishments where alcohol is served.

In 35 games, Kings has caught 76 career passes for 942 yards. With Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery lost for graduation, Kings’ 29 grabs for 404 yards and a touchdown qualifies him as the Spartans’ leading returning receiver. He was also the team’s punt returner in 2014.

Permalink 6 Comments Back to top

Gus Malzahn on downfield rule: “That’s part of the creativity of the game.”

Gus Malzahn

If you can’t beat ‘em, legislate ‘em.

That’s the way Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn sees it. One year after conference foes Nick Saban and Bret Bielema led the charge to institute a 10-second delay before snapping the ball, the NCAA is now considering reducing the space offensive linemen are permitted to roam downfield on pass plays from three yards to one.

“That’s part of the creativity of the game,” Malzahn told AL.com on Wednesday. “I’m not into anything that takes the creativity out of the game. You know, you see a lot of coaches around the country, specifically high school coaches that are coaching in college, that’s very important to them.”

Malzahn, like many of his offensive-minded peers, would rather see the existing rule enforced before creating a new one.

“You know, that’s been a rule that’s been in place for a while, and you see a lot of offenses utilizing that,” Malzahn said. “My whole deal is just make it a point of emphasis to start calling it if guys are downfield.”

The NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel is slated to meet Thursday and decide on whether or not to implement the change.

The good news for Malzahn, though: if the rule does pass, there’s no one in college football better suited to find a new, creative way to drive his peers crazy.

Permalink 17 Comments Back to top

‘Incidents’ lead Syracuse DT Ryan Sloan to leave team

Ryan Sloan, L.J. Scott, Robert Welsh, Durell Eskridge AP

A player who would’ve been competing for playing time along Syracuse’s defensive line has instead decided to call it quits.

The Syracuse Post-Standard reported Tuesday that Ryan Sloan (pictured, top right) has decided to take his leave of the Orange football team.  The fifth-year senior lineman will not transfer, rather finish out his academic career at the ‘Cuse and earn his degree in child and family studies in May.

Sloan’s decision to quit the team came against the advice of his family.

“After multiple long conversations with my step parents (who strongly suggested that I stay a fifth year), I came to the decision that I didn’t want to come back,” Sloan said. “I didn’t feel like it was the right place for me anymore. There were a couple of incidents that happened over the past two years that made me realize ‘Cuse wasn’t the right place for me.”

The Post-Standard described those incidents, as relayed by the player it should be noted, thusly:

Sloan said he felt pressured to transfer by the Syracuse staff in 2013, was held out of summer workouts due to a weight requirement the following offseason and wasn’t guaranteed a fifth year of eligibility until late in his redshirt junior year.

Sloan played 14 games the past two seasons, including a career-high 10 in 2014.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Ruptured Achilles sidelines UK QB Reese Phillips

Tennessee v. Kentucky AP

It hasn’t been a very good last couple of months for Kentucky at the quarterback position.

In early January, Maxwell Smith announced he was transferring from UK, ultimately ending up at San Diego State.  Three weeks later, Drew Barker, along with two Wildcat teammates, was allegedly involved in a bar dispute that ended with an Eastern Kentucky football player suffering from multiple facial fractures.

Now the football program has an injury at the position with which to deal.  The mother of Reese Phillips announced on Facebook Wednesday that her son had ruptured his Achilles tendon and she was on her way to Lexington to be with him.  The university subsequently confirmed that Phillips sustained the injury during team workouts earlier today.

Phillips will undergo surgery Thursday and won’t participate in spring practice, although there’s a chance he could be back for summer camp.

The injury and Smith’s transfer leaves the Wildcats painfully thin at quarterback, with just two scholarship players available this spring: Barker and last year’s starter, Patrick Towles.  As for Barker’s potential legal predicament that could potentially sideline him for at least part of the spring?

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

410-pound Baylor lineman getting spring looks at TE

LaQuan McGowan, Bryce Petty AP

Somewhat lost amidst Baylor’s come-from-ahead loss to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl was, literally, the largest of all fat guy touchdowns.

Late in the third quarter of that postseason matchup, Laquan McGowan caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Petty to extend the Bears’ lead to 41-21 in what would ultimately be a 42-41 loss to the Spartans.  What made the play utterly unique and positively fabulous and spectacularly breathtaking is the fact that McGowan was — the key word there being “was” — a 390-pound offensive lineman who shifted from his normal guard position and was lined up as an eligible receiver on the play.

Fast-forward two months, and the 6-7 McGowan is now listed as 410 pounds on the team’s official website.  He’s also getting significant and meaningful looks at the tight end position during spring practice, with Art Briles stating that the experiment, such as it is, will likely continue through the non-conference portion of BU’s 2015 slate before the staff decides whether to use him at that position during Big 12 play.

“We’re looking at him as kind of a slot and tight end type of guy,” the head coach said according to the Waco Tribune. “He can certainly help us in the run game in those situations. The way we’re looking at it is we’ve got three games in nonconference to kind of feel it out and see what he can do and teach him what to do in live action.”

The pass-catching ability of McGowan, who is currently sporting a very receiver-ish No. 80 on his spring jersey, has certainly caught the attention of the man who will likely be the Bears’ new starting quarterback.

“His hands are about as big as my leg, so I can pretty much put it wherever, and he can snag it out of the air,” Seth Russell said.

Permalink 13 Comments Back to top