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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)

Pat Narduzzi dismisses starting DE, suspends three other Pitt starters

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Preseason camps are opening across the country in the next week or so but one ACC team will do so without several key contributors.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi announced on Friday afternoon a slew of player-related discipline decisions and all four significantly alter the outlook for the Panthers during their upcoming non-conference slate to begin the season. Senior defensive end Rori Blair received the harshest punishment as he was dismissed from the program for “conduct detrimental to the program.”

As big of a loss as Blair is along the defensive line though, the team will also be without junior safety (and perhaps best defender on the team) Jordan Whitehead and starting middle linebacker Quintin Wirginis for the first three games of the year after unspecified violations of team policy. Starting offensive lineman Alex Bookser is also suspended for the season opener for “his involvement in an offseason legal situation involving a motor vehicle.”

“Our program’s foundation will always be built on discipline and personal responsibility,” Narduzzi said in a release. “These are highly disappointing situations but I am hopeful that each of these young men will be better, stronger and wiser after taking accountability for their actions.

“In addition to sitting out multiple games, Quintin and Jordan will continue to be held accountable to internal standards of conduct.”

The Panthers open against Bo Pelini’s Youngstown State squad before facing in-state rival and defending Big 10 champion Penn State in State College. Whitehead and Wirginis will also miss out on the team’s other non-conference game in Week 3 as Oklahoma State comes to Pittsburgh.

Narduzzi’s defense wasn’t all that good last season and the loss of so many key contributors for the opening three games will make life even tougher given the high-powered offenses they’ll see from the Nittany Lions and Cowboys.

2015 winner Desmond King of Iowa headlines Thorpe Award watch list

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Watch list season continues to roll along, with defensive backs getting their turn in the spotlight.

Monday, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame released the annual preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award.  Given annually to the nation’s top defensive back, this year’s watch list includes 39 players from all 10 FBS conferences.  No players from football independents were included.

Included in the group is Iowa’s Desmond King, the 2015 winner of the Thorpe Award.

The Pac-12 paces all conferences with six selections, followed by five each from the MAC and SEC.  The AAC, ACC, Big Ten and Mountain West all have four apiece, while the Sun Belt has three.  Along with Conference USA, the Big 12 brings up the rear with two.

Air Force (two), LSU (two) and Washington (two) are the only teams with more than one player on the list.

Most of the watch listers are juniors (13) or seniors (23), with the lone exceptions being a trio of sophomores — Florida State’s Derwin James, Pittsburgh’s Jordan Whitehead and Wyoming’s Andrew Wingard.

Below is the complete 2016 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list:

Jamal Adams, LSU, Jr.
Tony Annese, Central Michigan, Sr.
Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado, Sr.
Budda Baker, Washington, Jr.
Bobby Baker, Georgia State, Sr.
Quin Blanding, Virginia, Jr.
Cody Brown, Arkansas State, Sr.
Sean Chandler, Temple, Jr.
Jeremy Cutrer, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
Zach Edwards, Cincinnati, Sr.
Nate Gerry, Nebraska, Sr.
Adoree’ Jackson, USC, Jr.
Eddie Jackson, Alabama, Sr.
Derwin James, Florida St., So.
Sidney Jones, Washington, Jr.
Damontae Kazee, San Diego State, Sr.
Desmond King, Iowa, Sr.
Roland Ladipo, Air Force, Sr.
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan , Sr.
William Likely, Maryland, Sr.
Shawun Lurry, Northern Illinois, Jr.
Marcus Maye, Florida, Sr.
Demetrius Monday, Kent State, Jr.
Deatrick Nichols, USF, Jr.
Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama, Jr.
DeJuan Rogers, Toledo, Sr.
Boise Ross, Buffalo, Sr.
Weston Steelhammer, Air Force, Sr.
Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State, Sr.
Jamar Summers, UConn, Jr.
Cameron Sutton, Tennessee, Sr.
Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson, Sr.
Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma, Sr.
Jaleel Wadood, UCLA, Jr.
Tre’Davious White, LSU, Sr.
Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh, So.
Marcus Williams, Utah, Jr.
Andrew Wingard, Wyoming, So.
Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech, Sr.

Alabama, Clemson each land two on FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive back Marlon Humphrey and Clemson offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins will be playing a rather important game in just a number of hours, but they each received one more honor for the 2015 season. Each was named to the Freshman All-America Team on Monday by the Football Writers Association of America.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers were among some of the more household names appearing on the Freshman All-America team from the FWAA on Monday. The FWAA also included first-year Houston head coach Tom Herman as its First Year Coach of the Year. Herman beat out finalists Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh. The Freshman All-American team featured 10 redshirt freshmen this season and included 12 players for both offense and defense, with five more specifically for special teams.

2015 FWAA Freshman All-America Team

OFFENSE

  • QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
  • RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
  • RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
  • RB Mike Warren, Iowa State
  • WR Penny Hart, Georgia State
  • WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee
  • WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
  • OL William Clapp, LSU
  • OL Will Noble, Houston
  • OL Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
  • OL Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
  • OL Connor Williams, Texas

DEFENSE

  • DE Walter Brady, Missouri
  • DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
  • DT Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri
  • DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
  • LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
  • LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
  • DB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  • DB Kareem Orr, Arizona State
  • DB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
  • DB Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
  • DB Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

SPECIAL TEAMS

HEAD COACH

  • Tom Herman, Houston

Keenan Reynolds reclaims Div. 1 TD record as Navy drops anchor on Pitt

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Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds played his final college football game on his home field needing three touchdowns to reclaim the Division 1 career touchdown record he set earlier this month. In the fourth quarter, Reynolds ran for his third rushing touchdown of the game, his 88th career touchdown, to do just that. Reynolds rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another as No. 21 Navy (11-2) defeated Pittsburgh (8-5) in the Military Bowl, 44-28.

Pitt got off to a good start when Quadree Henderson returned the game’s opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, but Navy scored the next 31 points by the midway point of the third quarter. To their credit, the Panthers battled back after falling behind 31-7. Pitt’s first offensive touchdown came on a Nathan Peterman touchdown pass to Qadree Ollison to cut into the Navy lead late in the third quarter. Two plays later, Pitt forced Chris Swain to fumble and Jordan Whitehead scooped the loose ball up and returned it for a 22-yard touchdown. All of a sudden, Pitt was only down by 10 points. A 15-yard touchdown run by Toneo Gulley early in the fourth quarter put Navy back up by 17 and the two teams exchanged touchdowns from there. It was somewhat fitting the final score of the game was the record-setting touchdown run by Reynolds, with 4:19 to play.

Navy’s record-setting quarterback led all players with 144 rushing yards, and he also took to the air more frequently than he is accustomed to doing. Reynolds completed nine of his 17 pass attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown. Just for good measure, Reynolds added a 47-yard reception, thrown by Swain, that seemed to catch Pittsburgh’s defense off guard. He just did not have the speed to keep from getting caught from behind. Reynolds will go down in history as one of the best players to play for the Navy football program, and he could very well go on to do so much more for this country.

Navy’s bowl win was the first of the bowl season for the American Athletic Conference. Before Navy’s victory, the AAC had gone a dreadful 0-5 this postseason. One of those losses came against the ACC, with Tulsa falling just shy against Virginia Tech in an offensive outburst. Navy’s 11 wins this season is a new program high. Year one in the AAC may have lacked a division or conference championship, but the Midshipmen left their mark on their new conference and ended the year with a solid bowl victory and some history. All things considered, this was a huge success for Navy this season.

You can argue Pittsburgh also had a successful year under new head coach Pat Narduzzi. Though the Panthers fizzled out down the stretch, the Panthers won eight games for the first time since joining the ACC and first time since 2010.

Navy will open the 2016 season right back in Annapolis, the site of the Military Bowl, on September 3 against FCS power Fordham. Pittsburgh will also open the season at home that same day against another FCS power, Villanova.