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CFT 2017 Preseason Previews: College Football Players to Fall in Love With

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A new college football season is nearing, and it will feature some terrific playmakers you should be well aware of. Odds are you are familiar with some of the players you should know, but now is a good a time as any to introduce the experienced and the brand new fans of college football to some of the top players to keep you entertained in 2017. You will have a blast watching these players do their thing this season and you will want to watch every game they play for the chance to witness greatness.

Without any further adieu, here are the players that will keep you most entertained this fall.

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
In a season that has a number of good running backs around the country, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley may be the best there is. Penn State’s offense may be the best in the Big Ten, and Barkley is one of the reasons why. Barkley has shined in big games for the Nittany Lions the past two seasons, including in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin and Rose Bowl against USC, and he will have his opportunities to lead Penn State to some big wins this season with his moves.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Leonard Fournette
may have been the star attraction out of LSU’s backfield the past few years, but Derrius Guice made a name for himself last season as one of the top running backs in the SEC. Now, Guice steps into the leading role without any question and he should be the main cog in LSU’s offense this fall while the Tigers try to get a passing game figured out.

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Keeping with the running back theme (and there are a number of others that could have been mentioned), we stay in the SEC to remind you that Georgia still has Nick Chubb ready to carry the ball. Chubb should be a key player in Georgia’s season, even though he will be splitting running calls with Sony Michel. But Chubb’s ability to burst through the line and get downfield with authority will be an essential ingredient to Georgia’s offensive game plan.

Derwin James, S, Florida State
Some will argue Florida State’s best player may actually be the best player in the nation. Derwin James is ready to make plays on every snap, and after missing the bulk of the 2016 season due to a knee surgery, James is ready to make up for some lost time. Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles will have James lining up all over the field, and he will be a key player in the highly-anticipated Week 1 matchup with Alabama.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Ed Oliver’s recruiting to Houston took the recruiting world by storm, and he has had quite the impact in his young career at Houston. Expect more of the big man to destroy the line of scrimmage this fall. Oliver would be a beast to contain in any conference, but do not look past his performance in the AAC this fall. Oliver will continue to show just how much fun watching a defensive tackle can be this fall.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF
If there was one thing Charlie Strong really needed to be successful at Texas, it was his Longhorn version of Teddy Bridgewater. Now at USF, Strong has his quarterback in Quinton Flowers. Flowers is among the top players from the Group of Five and will give the Bulls as good a chance as any to not only win the AAC, but also guide the Bulls to a New Years Six bowl game.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Louisville’s quarterback may have won the Heisman Trophy last season, but a brutal finish to the season has left the reigning Heisman Trophy winner laying in the shadows this offseason it seems. Expect that love affair with the dynamic quarterback to be rekindled quickly as Jackson looks to pile up big numbers to start the season once more to remind us all why he captured the nation a year ago. History may be against Jackson’s chances of winning the Heisman Trophy again this season, but do not be surprised if he manages to return to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Honorable mentions: Sam Darnold (QB, USC), Justin Jackson (RB, Northwestern), Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma), Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State), Mike Weber (RB, Ohio State), J.T. Barrett (QB, Ohio State), Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA), Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon), Jordan Whitehead (S, Pittsburgh), Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama), Myles Gaskin (RB, Washington)

Missouri hires former Florida coach Brad Davis as Tigers new offensive line coach

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Missouri has their new offensive line coach and they didn’t even have to look outside their own division to find one.

The Tigers announced on Friday that they had hired Brad Davis to be the team’s new offensive line coach after he spent the past season at SEC East rival Florida coaching the same position group

“I’m very pleased to have Brad and his family join our program,” head coach Barry Odom said in a statement.  “He’s a tremendous teacher and mentor, and he’s been lights out on the recruiting trail with his approach to building true relationships with kids.  Brad has experience in the SEC and he has worked hard to earn a great amount of respect among his peers.  I’m excited to have him with us, and I know he is going to do a great job helping us move forward offensively and continue building,”

Davis was not retained by new Gators coach Dan Mullen but the former Oklahoma offensive lineman has experience from prior stops at East Carolina and North Carolina over the years. He replaces Glen Elarbee, who left as Missouri’s offensive line coach to follow Josh Heupel to UCF.

Texas booster Red McCombs tells paper he’s trying to convince Incarnate Word to hire disgraced Baylor coach Art Briles

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Texas megabooster Red McCombs getting involved in a coaching search is nothing new. McCombs pushing Art Briles as a candidate at a small Texas college however, well that’s a bit eye-opening.

The San Antonio Express-News caught up with the billionaire on Friday and he confirmed that he had spoken to the University of the Incarnate Word’s board of trustees and was lobbying them to hire the disgraced and scandal-plagued former Baylor coach to run the program.

“You not only will be getting the best football coach available but also the best man,” McCombs told the paper of what he said to the UIW trustees. “In two years’ time, he would leave them with an unbelievable program in place and then could go to the big time, because that’s where he should be in the first place.”

A source close to the search told the Express-News that Briles is not being considered for the job, which opened last month after a 1-10 season for the FCS program.

Briles was of course fired by Baylor in 2016 after numerous sexual assault allegations were brought against the school. Subsequent lawsuits over the past few years have rendered the former Bears coach as nearly un-hireable at the college level and the scandal has even cost him a job in the CFL after just a few hours of outrage.

That’s why it’s downright shocking, especially given the dozens upon dozens of reports and negative headlines about what went on in Waco under his tenure, that McCombs would call the evidence against Briles a “bunch of baloney…a bunch of garbage,” according to the paper.

Luckily it sounds like Incarnate Word isn’t even entertaining the idea of hiring him and this is just some rich guy trying to help a friend… but the whole scenario and comments outlined by the Express-News are not exactly what you want to have associated with a coaching search. Yikes.

Oregon OL Tyrell Crosby to wear No. 58 for Las Vegas Bowl to honor victims of mass shooting

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Oregon’s big No. 73 is changing jersey numbers for the Las Vegas Bowl and he’s doing so for a great cause.

Vegas native and Ducks offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby announced on Friday that he would not be playing his final game with the team in his normal jersey and would instead be donning No. 58 for Saturday’s bowl against Boise State. The reason is not to simply change numbers on the way out the door however, as the senior is pointedly making the move to honor the 58 victims of the horrific mass shooting that happened in the city in early October.

“This is so much more than a game to me,” Crosby told the school’s website. “I take a lot of pride in being from Vegas — especially being a football player from Vegas.”

Several college football teams, especially UNLV and Nevada, have done tributes to honor the victims of the attack and the first responders who heroically rushed to their aid in the wake of the deadly mass shooting just off the Strip. There figures to be several more tributes during Saturday’s game at Sam Boyd Stadium between the Ducks and Broncos but kudos to Crosby, one of the team’s best players, for going the extra mile and doing something special for the game in his hometown.

Pitt starting left tackle Brian O’Neill declares for NFL draft

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One of the individuals who put the fat guy in Fat Guy Touchdown has decided to move on to the next level.

Brian O’Neill announced in a statement sent out via the Pitt sports information department that he has decided to make himself available for the 2018 NFL draft. After discussing his option with his family and coaches, O’Neill stated “I believe this is the best course of action to achieve my ultimate goal.”

The offensive lineman took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2014, which left him one more season of eligibility he could’ve used.

The last three seasons, O’Neill started 37 games in a row for the Panthers.  After starting 24 games in a row at right tackle — his first start was on the opposite side — he started all 12 games at left tackle this past season.

O’Neill’s claim to national fame, though, was his 24-yard touchdown run on a backward pass (pictured) that helped earn him the second-annual Piesman Trophy Award in 2016.  That same season, he scored a five-yard touchdown on an end-around.

Below is O’Neill’s statement, in its entirety:

After careful consideration over the last few weeks, I have decided to enter the 2018 NFL draft. I do not take this decision lightly; therefore, I took an extensive amount of time discussing the situation with my family and coaches. Ultimately, I believe this is the best course of action to achieve my ultimate goal.

“Looking back on the past four years, I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in the world. As an incoming freshman, I was welcomed with open arms into this team, school and community. I am extremely proud to have earned my degree and will always call the University of Pittsburgh home.

“I am forever grateful to a number of individuals instrumental in my development as a player and person. Coach Narduzzi and Coach Peterson’s support and guidance has been incredible. I am truly appreciative for them and all my teammates and coaches. Additionally, I maintain a special appreciation for Coach Dave Andrews, Coach Dave Bucar and Mark Diethorn. I will never be able to thank all the people who have helped me throughout the past several years, but their support does not go unnoticed.

“Moving forward, there is nothing more important to me than representing my family, teammates, coaches, and this great University in a first-class manner. The entire Pittsburgh community has been great to me – thank you!

“As always, Hail to Pitt!!!