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)

Texas Tech gets commitment from ex-Arkansas WR Jojo Robinson

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JoJo Robinson‘s winding college football road will apparently take him next to Lubbock.

Using his Twitter account as a microphone, Robinson announced that, “with a lot of prayer and support,” he has decided to continue his playing career at Texas Tech.  The wide receiver had spent the 2016 season at a junior college, thus making him eligible to play immediately in 2017.

Including this season, Robinson will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Originally a Florida State verbal, Robinson ultimately flipped to Arkansas to become a four-star member of the Razorbacks’ 2014 recruiting class. He was suspended for one game his first season in Fayetteville after he was arrested for armed robbery after signing with UA; that charge was ultimately dropped.

In 2015, Robinson was dismissed by head coach Bret Bielema, reportedly for not going to class. Prior to that dismissal, he caught six passes for 53 yards as a redshirt freshman.

The Red Raiders had lost at least two wide receivers to transfer this offseason, including their top pass-catcher, Jonathan Giles, in late April.  Tech’s leader in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,158), receiving touchdowns (13) and yards per catch (16.8) last season ultimately opted for LSU a month later.

In early May, Tony Brown announced his decision to transfer as well.  Earlier this month, he revealed that he would be moving on to Colorado.

Two Vanderbilt players shot in incident involving stolen phone

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While that’s a serious-sounding headline, it could’ve been a lot worse for a pair of Vanderbilt football players.

According to WSMV-TV, O’montae “Tae” Daley and Frank Coppet were shot outside of a Nashville Target store Monday night.  The former, a true freshman defensive back, was shot in the leg while the latter, a redshirt freshman defensive back, was shot in the arm.  Both of the injuries are considered non-critical.

The shooting occurred after a third Commodore football player, wide receiver Donaven Tennyson (pictured), had his phone stolen in an earlier incident and, along with the other two, concocted what was described by police as “an ill-conceived plan to recover a stolen cellphone.”

From the television station’s report:

Police said the incident leading up to the shooting happened on Monday when… Tennyson met up with someone to try to sell his cellphone. Tennyson’s cellphone was stolen during the meeting in the parking lot of the Chili’s on West End.

Tennyson told police he noticed his stolen phone was listed online, which is when he reportedly made a fake profile and arranged a meeting with the seller at Target.

The 19-year-old brought two friends with him, 18-year-olds O’montae Daley and Frank Coppet. The trio brought a pellet pistol with them.

Coppet reportedly got out of their car with the pellet gun, which is when two people in a gray Buick sedan opened fire.

In addition to getting shot, one of the victim’s had his car stolen by the alleged shooters for good measure.  Police are still searching for the alleged assailants, and haven’t yet released a description.

The school has yet to publicly comment on the shooting.

Last season as a true freshman, Tennyson played in eight games for the Commodores, while Coppet took a redshirt his first season with the program.  Daley was a three-star member of Vandy’s 2017 recruiting class coming out of high school in Georgia.  He signed early and participated in spring practice this year.

Committee launched to formulate plans for college football’s 150th birthday

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On Nov. 6, 1869, Princeton and Rutgers squared off in the first-ever college football game.  Nearly 148 years later, the powers-that-be in the sport are in the beginning stages of commemorating the momentous event.

The National Football Foundation announced in a press release that “[a] group of college football leaders announced plans today to launch a nationwide celebration to commemorate the game’s 150th anniversary.” The group will be headed by Kevin Weiberg, longtime college athletics administrator and former Big 12 Conference commissioner.

There are a baker’s dozen other individuals who will be involved in planning the festivities as part of the committee, including the two current athletic directors of the teams involved in the sport’s first game.

  • Todd Berry, executive director, American Football Coaches Association
  • Ari Fleischer, president, Ari Fleischer Communications
  • Bill Hancock, executive director, College Football Playoff
  • Steve Hatchell, president & chief executive officer, National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame
  • Pat Hobbs, director of athletics, Rutgers University
  • Chris Howard, president, Robert Morris University
  • Mike Kern, associate commissioner, Missouri Valley Football Conference/FCS Managing Director
  • Oliver Luck, executive vice president of regulatory affairs and strategic partnerships, NCAA
  • Mollie Marcoux Samaan, athletics director, Princeton University
  • Larry Scott, commissioner, Pac-12 Conference
  • Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner, Mid-American Conference
  • Bob Vecchione, executive director, National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics
  • Wright Waters, executive director, Football Bowl Association

“This is a very exciting moment for fans of college football,” Weiberg said in a statement. “Across the country, college football is a deeply ingrained part of life for millions and millions of people. While it’s too soon to know our exact plans, we want to put something together that is big and special, something fans can be proud of. We will work closely with leaders from all divisions of college football to build a national celebration for fans to enjoy.

“No one could have imagined that since the first football game was played on November 6, 1869 that college football would grow to become one of America’s greatest traditions, beloved by tens of millions of fans every year,” said Scott. “At all divisions of play, college football is special and we intend to launch a nationwide celebration to mark the anniversary.”

Ex-Alabama WR T. Simmons officially a WVU Mountaineer, too

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In the post below this, we noted that Jovani Haskins is officially a member of the West Virginia football program.  T.J. Simmons can say the same as well.

After Simmons announced it via social media over this past weekend, WVU has confirmed that the wide receiver has signed a grant-in-aid for the 2017-18 academic year and will continue his collegiate playing career with the Mountaineers.  That continuation won’t happen immediately as, after sitting out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws, Simmons will have three years of eligibility remaining with the Mountaineers.

Simmons had decided last week to transfer out of the Alabama football program.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2016 recruiting class, Simmons was rated as the No. 58 receiver in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Alabama.

As a true freshman, Simmons played in 12 games, mainly on special teams.  In this year’s annual spring game, the 6-2, 201-pound receiver caught six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown for the Crimson Tide.