Marcus Mariota

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 2 Oregon

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2013 record: 11-2 overall, 7-2 in Pac-12 Conference (2nd in South division)
2013 postseason: Alamo Bowl vs. Texas (30-7 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 9/No. 9
Head coach: Mark Helfrich (11-2 overall; 11-2 in one year at Oregon)
Offensive coordinator: Scott Frost (5th year at Oregon)
2013 offensive rankings: 9th rushing offense (273.5 ypg); 21st passing offense (291.5 ypg); 2nd total offense (565 ypg); 4th scoring offense (45.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: eight
Defensive coordinator: Don Pellum (22nd year at Oregon)
2013 defensive rankings: 66th rushing defense (165.5 ypg); 21st passing defense (204.5 ypg);  37th total defense (370.1 ypg); 13th scoring defense (20.5 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: five
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Stadium: Autzen Stadium (58,000; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2011

THE GOOD
The most underrated aspect of Oregon’s football program is the commitment found within its coaching staff. It’s not to say there hasn’t been turnover in the program. Head coach Chip Kelly left the Ducks prior to last season. Defensive coordinator Nick Allioti retired during the offseason after spending 24 seasons with the program. Instead of rushing out to hire the hottest coach available on the market, the program simply promotes from within. Mark Helfrich is now entering his second season as the team’s head coach after serving as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator the previous four seasons. The team’s new defensive coordinator, Don Pellum, spent 22 years as a full-time assistant. During the last 16 years, Pellum was tasked with coaching the linebackers. While each promotion brings slight tweaks to the system, the influences of Rich Brooks and Mike Bellotti during their tenures as head coach remains a part of the program. The Ducks have continued to build from the day Brooks was hired as their head coach in 1977  to today. As a result of the continuity built within program, Oregon has developed into one of the premier programs in the nation. A program that has the talent to win a national championship this season.

THE BAD
The tempo at which the Ducks operate on offense is always a double-edged sword. While the offense can be impossible to stop at times, the defense can also be gashed by opponents. When the Ducks went to the BCS National Championship Game in Jan. 2011, they surrendered 346 yards per game and the offensive’s time of possession was 27:54 minutes per game. During each of the past three seasons, the Ducks have given up more yards per game and operated at a faster pace. It’s not a good combination. The Ducks have had talent on the defensive side of the football during those years, but they simply didn’t play to the same level that finally led them to the title game. This season isn’t any different. Senior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is arguably the best cornerback in college football. Defensive lineman Arik Armstead is a considered an early-round prospect for the 2015 NFL draft. Defensive end Tony Washington returns after leading the team with seven sacks last season. The team’s leading tackler, Derrick Malone, is also back in the middle of the defense. There is talent at all three levels of the Ducks defense. Oregon is more than just a flashy offense. The team’s defense has to play at a high level for the Ducks to be a part of the first College Football Playoff.

THE UNKNOWN
Kelly’s approach to offensive line play was there wasn’t much difference between playing guard and tackle in his system. The system hasn’t changed under Helfrich, but the importance of the tackle position is far more pertinent this season. The team’s senior left tackle, Tyler Johnstone, re-tore his ACL at the start of fall camp. It caused Helfrich to reshuffle his offensive line. Junior Andre Yruretagoyena will replace Johnstone on the blindside. There are two issues any time there are major changes along the offensive line. The first is building continuity within the unit to operate at a high level. Due to the team’s heavy zone-blocking scheme and its tempo on offense, this can be especially difficult to establish. The Ducks also lost the leadership and experience Johnstone brought to the lineup after starting 26 straight games. Furthermore, Yruretagoyena will be protecting the blindside of the one of the nations’ top quarterbacks, Marcus Mariota. The No. 1 goal for the Oregon’s offensive line this season is keep Mariota healthy. And that proposition may be a little more difficult with the veteran at left tackle.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Stanford
There is no other choice here. The Cardinal dashed the Ducks’ national championship aspirations the past two seasons. The two games were evenly matched with Stanford’s win margin at only nine points. But Stanford is as much a mental obstacle for Oregon as it is a physical one. Very few teams have slowed Oregon’s explosive offense in recent years. Yet, Stanford has seemed to find the secret recipe with their physical 3-4 defense. The Ducks simply haven’t been able to gash the Cardinal for big plays. And most of that has to do with a defensive front that consistently plays in the backfield. The Ducks averaged as least 537 yards per game the last two seasons. Stanford has held Oregon at least 120 yards below its average in each contest. Oregon simply hasn’t been able to get on track against Stanford. The Ducks can’t fail against Stanford again this year, or their season will be a major disappointment.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Marcus Mariota
Let’s compare Mariota’s resume last season to Jameis Winston‘s, shall we? Mariota threw for 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Mariota also ran for 715 yards and nine touchdowns. Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, threw for 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He added 219 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. While Winston was the clear favorite to win the Heisman last season, Mariota wasn’t far behind the redshirt freshman. When last year’s play is considered and  two factors are added into the equation, Mariota could be the favorite to win the trophy this season. There are two reasons why Mariota’s numbers weren’t quite as spectacular as Winston’s in 2013. The Oregon quarterback suffered a slight knee injury during the second half of the season which limited his play, and he played one less game than Winston. A fully healthy Mariota is arguably the best NFL prospect in the entire country. While professional potential doesn’t translate to college football awards, it does exclude Mariota from any excuses if he doesn’t make a national title run with the Ducks this season and capture the school’s first Heisman Trophy.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Car accident will sideline starting FAU lineman Reggie Bain for 2016

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On off-field incident late last week will cost FAU one of the top offensive linemen in Conference USA moving forward.

Over the weekend, FAU confirmed that Reggie Bain sustained injuries that were described as “not life threatening” in a car accident Friday. However, the non-specified injuries will likely sideline the true junior offensive tackle for the entire 2016 season.

“I have been in constant contact and have visited with both Reggie and his family,” a statement from head coach Charlie Partridge began. “His FAU football family has surrounded him with support and will continue to do so. Out of respect for Reggie, his family and our team, all questions should only be directed to me. I know that inquiries may be well-intentioned, under the HIPPA law, and per the request of Reggie and his family, there is very little I can disclose.”

No details surrounding the accident have been released.

Bain has started all 24 games in his two-year career with the Owls, earning second-team all-conference honors following the 2015 season. Coaches made Bain a preseason all-league selection last month.

Bryce Love ‘unlikely’ to play in Stanford’s opener vs. K-State

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal is tackled by Kyle Gibson #25 of the UCF Knights in the first quarter at Stanford Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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It appears someone else will have to ease the load for a newly-minted starter under center and a Heisman Trophy contender, at least in the very early portion of the season.

According to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, Stanford head coach David Shaw has deemed it “unlikely” running back Bryce Love will play in the season opener Friday against Kansas State.  Love sustained what was described as a lower-body injury at some point during summer camp.

The good news for the program and the player is, after the opener, the Cardinal goes on a bye before hosting 20th-ranked USC Sept. 17.

Wilner writes that “Love… is considered central to eighth-ranked Stanford’s efforts to take the pressure off new quarterback Ryan Burns and tailback Christian McCaffrey.”  Burns has thrown one career pass and will be making his starting debut against K-State.

Last season, Love averaged 7.8 yards on his 29 carries.  He added 15 receptions for 250 yards, and three total touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).

Rico McWilliams, 18-game starter at corner for Gamecocks, gives up football

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 10:  Malachi Dupre #15 of the LSU Tigers catches a pass in front of Rico McWilliams #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during the third quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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South Carolina has seen one of the most experienced members of its secondary not only leave the program but the sport as well.

Rico McWilliams has decided to leave the Gamecocks and give up football, first-year USC head coach Will Muschamp announced Monday.  No reason was given for the decision.

McWilliams had started 18 the past three seasons, but began to tumble down the depth chart in the spring and failed to gain much ground in summer camp.  He had left camp early on for what were described as personal reasons, but eventually returned.

I am back with the team and have to stay focused,” the cornerback said just three days ago.

As a redshirt junior last season, McWilliams started 10 of USC’s 12 games, the lone exceptions being the contests against Georgia and Texas A&M.  He was credited with 32 tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

Additionally, Muschamp announced that redshirt freshman wide receiver Christian Owens had left his team as well.  A three-star 2015 signee, Owens didn’t play as a true freshman.

Jim Harbaugh clarifies comments on Colin Kaepernick anthem controversy

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Via social media, Jim Harbaugh has attempted to walk back some of his strong talk.

Monday, the Michigan head coach was asked to comment on one of his former San Francisco 49er players, Colin Kaepernick, who kicked up quite the controversy this past week by sitting down during the playing of the national anthem to protest what he believes to be the mistreatment of African-Americans in this country. Not surprisingly, the outspoken Harbaugh didn’t mince many words.

“I acknowledge his right to do that, but I don’t respect the motivation or the action,” the coach said.

A short time later, Harbaugh took to Twitter to offer a clarification that he had no issue with Kaepernick’s motivation, merely his methods.