UCLA Bruins

Getty Images

CFT 2017 Season Previews: Heisman Watch List

8 Comments

While every college football player dreams of being on the last team standing at the end of a season and winning a national title, just about all of them have struck the stiff arm pose and imagined holding up the Heisman Trophy as well. It may be a team sport when all is said and done, but the most prestigious individual award around is the entry ticket to one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet.

Adding to the normal intrigue surrounding the race to be the most outstanding college football player, the 2017 campaign for the Heisman is shaping up to be the most exciting — and wide open — in a long time. To start with, there’s a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson who won the award last December and could be even better after an offseason developing as a passer. Add in veterans with plenty of name recognition like Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett, to go along with an eye-popping group of tailbacks, and the amount of players who have the potential to be holding up the bronze statue is both lengthy and impressive.

Who are the favorites? Here’s CFTalk’s look at all things Heisman and which players will be in the running for the most famous award in all of college football.

SAM DARNOLD, QB, USC
2016 Stats: 3,086 yards passing, 31 TD, 9 INT, 250 yards rushing, 2 TD
The golden boy of Troy is the prohibitive favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy this year and it’s hard not to figure out why. Playing the marquee position on the field for a powerhouse like USC helps but make no mistake, Darnold showed everybody what he could do in reeling off nine straight wins with the Trojans and capping it off with a thrilling five-score performance in the Rose Bowl. He’ll put up plenty of numbers through the air and on the ground and should be in thick of the race even if the Trojans take a loss.

BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
2016 Stats: 3,965 yards, 40 TD, 8 INT, 177 yards rushing, 6 TD
Mayfield has finished in the top five of voting for the Heisman… twice. Could the third time be the charm in 2017? Based only on the numbers, you would think so as the Sooners signal-caller is as efficient as he is insanely productive. The return of the Big 12 title game presents one additional opportunity for Oklahoma’s quarterback to leave a lasting impression on voters and that might just be enough for one of the best in the game to finally be recognized as such.

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
2016 Stats: 3,543 yards passing, 30 TD, 9 INT, 1,571 yards rushing, 21 TD
Could Archie Griffin have company? Jackson has a shot to repeat and win the Heisman again but the road will not be easy if history is any indication. That said, few possess  the kind of talent that the Cardinals’ QB does as a true dual threat who can find the end zone on any play. He’s expected to be even sharper throwing the ball going into his junior year and if he can stave off the losing streak like the one at the end of last year, he’ll be right back in New York again.

J.T. BARRETT, QB, OHIO STATE
2016 Stats: 2,555 yards passing, 24 TD, 7 INT, 845 yards rushing, 9 TD
Barrett became a household name when he helped lead the Buckeyes to a national title but the old man of this year’s Heisman frontrunners is hoping to go out with a bang by returning to that form he showed early on. While the OSU passing game hasn’t quite been explosive the past two years, the addition of offensive innovator Kevin Wilson as the new coordinator should provide a huge boost in terms of playcalling and developing Barrett as a passer. Playing for a marquee team that will once again be in playoff contention is a plus already and all the QB needs to do is follow through and deliver.

SAQUON BARKLEY, RB, PENN STATE
2016 Stats: 1,496 yards rushing, 18 TD, 402 yards receiving, 4 TD
Quarterbacks always have a leg up when it comes to the Heisman but it was just two years ago that running backs were the talk of the town when it came time to vote. That could be the case once again with freaky athletes like Barkley around. He was terrific in helping the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title and has a chance to rack up even more numbers in the team’s explosive offense.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
2016 Stats: 1,387 yards rushing, 15 TD, 106 yards receiving, 1 TD
Leonard Fournette received all the Heisman hype for the Tigers but his former backup may prove to be the one who can actually bring home the award to the bayou. Even splitting carries last year he managed to rack up over 1,300 yards and average nearly seven yards a touch. If LSU can threaten to win the SEC West behind Guice, he certainly could run all the way to the Big Apple to capture the trophy.

Chasing the Pack:

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama — Heisman buzz started late in the year after he led the Tide to the national title so it stands to reason the dual-threat QB on one of the top teams in the country will be in the mix as a sophomore.

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama — Tide tailbacks have fared well when it comes to the Heisman the past few years and Scarbrough looks to be next in line based on the way he finished 2016 up.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State — He’ll have a big time opportunity to state his case by knocking off Alabama in the opener and put up numbers the rest of the way in ACC play.

Derwin James, DB, Florida State — Defenders are almost an afterthought for the trophy but Jabrill Peppers was a finalist last year and James is just as versatile — and perhaps more dangerous.

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn — Gus Malzahn has already turned one transfer QB into a Heisman winner and one-year wonder, what’s another?

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — The Cowboys signal-caller has the best receiving corps in the country and will be able to pile up numbers every week against Big 12 defenses.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA — He drew plenty of attention this offseason for his mouth, now he’ll try to wow voters with his arm by sparking a turnaround in Los Angeles.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF — Group of Five candidates have a steep hill to climb but if anybody can emulate Lamar Jackson and overwhelm through the air and on the ground, it’s a dynamic player like Flowers.

Seven 2016 finalists headline Manning Award preseason watch list

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This is the last preseason watch list you’ll have to endure this year. I promise. I think.

Wednesday, the Manning Award released its list of the top 30 quarterbacks in the country, although a player not on this initial list is not necessarily precluded from winning the award. This is the only major award, it should be noted, that is handed out after the bowls, and is named in honor of the quarterbacking triumvirate of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.

Highlighting this year’s list are seven of the 10 finalists from a year ago: J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Luke Falk (Washington State), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Lamar Jackson (Louisville) and Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma).

All FBS conferences are represented, led by the ACC and SEC with five watch listers apiece. The Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12 and Sun Belt are next with three each, with two apiece for all of the AAC, Big 12, Conference USA and MAC. Class-wise, there are 13 seniors, 12 juniors and five sophomores.

 

“We once again have a great group of quarterbacks returning to college football this fall,” said Archie Manning said in a statement. “While this Watch List has many of the best returning players, we look forward to making midseason additions as teams settle on definite starters and as young players step up and make names for themselves. I’m really looking forward to getting the season rolling to see which guys will rise to the top and become Manning Award finalists.”

Deshaun Watson was the 2016 winner of the award.

Below is the complete 2017 Manning Award preseason watch list.

Albeit with a disclaimer, Jim Mora doesn’t see Josh Rosen leaving UCLA early for NFL

Getty Images
4 Comments

Most expect Josh Rosen to be one of the first quarterbacks selected when the next NFL draft rolls around.  Rosen’s coach, though, doesn’t see the outspoken junior being a part of the pool of available draftees.

“My firm belief is that he will not leave,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora told Yahoo SportsPete Thamel over the weekend. “I don’t think he’ll leave. …

“I want a disclaimer, I have an option to change my opinion. But as we sit here right now, I can really honestly say I don’t think he’s going to leave.”

Mora’s proclamation comes less than two weeks before the Bruins kick off the 2017 season and around five months before draft-eligible early entrants have to officially file their paperwork with the NFL.

Rosen flashed brilliance as a true freshman in 2015, passing for nearly 3,700 yards and 23 touchdowns.  His sophomore campaign was marred by a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder that sidelined him for the final six games of the season.  Rosen has resoundingly rebounded from that health issue, and will head into the 2017 season 100-percent healthy.

Whether he enters the 2018 season 100-percent Bruin remains, his head coach’s confidence notwithstanding, highly unlikely or even doubtful, especially given his recent comments that football and school don’t mix.

Nick Saban has his own thoughts on Josh Rosen’s football, academics not mixing comments

6 Comments

Josh Rosen created a bit of a stir, to say the least, in a Bleacher Report interview earlier this week in which he stated that “football and school don’t go together.” To buttress his point, he used Alabama as an example of what would happen to the talent level of a team if SAT requirements were raised.

Thursday, the Crimson Tide head coach addressed the UCLA quarterback’s contention that “[h]uman beings don’t belong in school with [football players’] schedules.”

That head coach, Nick Saban, fully understands the athletic and academic demands of a college football player as he played at Kent State in the early seventies. While some would say that there’s no comparing Saban’s time in the sport to the here and now — and at a football monolith like Alabama vs. a MAC school no less — the coach, when asked about Rosen’s comments, says he “[doesn’t] know it’s changed a whole lot” since his playing days.

From al.com:

I don’t know that it’s changed a whole lot,” Saban said. “We used to have two-a-days every day. We don’t have two-a-days anymore. We don’t spend any more time in fall camp than when I played as a player (at Kent State 1970-72). We don’t practice any longer through the course of the week.”

“[Earning a degree] means a lot of guys — even though football might be difficult, nobody is saying it isn’t. Nobody’s saying school is not very difficult. Nobody is saying that getting a college education isn’t very difficult — but for a lot of those guys, being good football players is what created the opportunity for them to make a tremendous investment in their future by graduating from school.

“Is it difficult? Probably,” he said. “Was it difficult for me? Absolutely. So, I don’t think it’s ever been more difficult. It’s just never been easy. But I do think the reward of it all — the lessons that are learned being part of a team, the lessons being a competitor in an environment like this or any college football program … the lessons that you learn in life. I mean, how valuable can those things be?

The key quote pulled from Saban’s sermon on the subject just might be “[i]t’s just never been easy,” which is likely a very valid point. And Saban’s thought on how rewarding it is to put in the hard work of earning a degree while playing football is certainly something that shouldn’t be mitigated either.

Given how the sport has evolved since Saban’s playing days and the millions and billions of dollars at stake, though, it’s fair to wonder, as Rosen did, whether the demands involved with today’s game make it even harder and in a very real way dilutes the education a football player receives. And it’s a discussion for which Rosen should be praised for advancing, not chastised– even if he is just a rich white kid who very likely will be a first-round NFL draft pick.

WATCH: Charles Barkley chastises Josh Rosen for comments on football, academics not mixing

12 Comments

Josh Rosen is kicking up quite the kerfuffle.  Again.  Still.

In a wide-ranging Bleacher Report interview, the outspoken UCLA quarterback outright questioned the current model of college football players also doubling as students, essentially calling it unsustainable.  From the interview:

Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.

It’s not that they shouldn’t be in school. Human beings don’t belong in school with our schedules. No one in their right mind should have a football player’s schedule, and go to school. It’s not that some players shouldn’t be in school; it’s just that universities should help them more—instead of just finding ways to keep them eligible.

Rosen was widely applauded for what some viewed as pointing out the hypocrisy of the NCAA model.  There was also some criticism of his stance, from one former Ohio State quarterback who once opined on Twitter that “classes are pointless”…

… to the equally outspoken Charles Barkley, who lashed out at Rosen during a Dan Patrick interview Wednesday, saying, in part, that he “hated that message” that black athletes are essentially being told by the junior quarterback they don’t need an education.

“I don’t want some rich white kid who’s gonna be a No. 1 draft pick talking about… we’re just wasting our time,” the former Auburn basketball player stated. “Well, most of those kids (are) not wasting those times.  Most of those kids need that free education to be successful at life.

“And he might be a nice kid, but lemme tell you something: I don’t want any rich white kid telling black kids, ‘no don’t worry about this stuff.  Just come here and play football.’ Those kids ain’t got no chance at going to the NFL.  Those kids need that education. … I hate that message.”