Brandon Weeden

Oklahoma State’s future is bright after Cactus Bowl victory

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Very few programs around the nation can be consistently dominant. Most programs experience peaks and valleys.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys peaked in 2011 with a 12-1 record and a victory in the Fiesta Bowl. They appear set to peak again in 2015.

A strong performance in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl built positive momentum for the Cowboys as the team enters the offseason. The 30-22 victory over the Washington Huskies (8-6) allowed the Cowboys to finish 7-6. It also highlighted some of the key players coming back for Oklahoma STate next season.

It starts at quarterback.

The program hasn’t had its answer behind center since Brandon Weeden left. After a few years of quarterback competitions, rotations and transfers, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy finally found his new gunslinger in freshman Mason Rudolph.

Rudolph was 17-of-26 passing for 299 yards and a pair touchdowns against the Huskies. During his three starts, the freshman completed 57 percent of his passes for 853 yards and six touchdowns.

The young quarterback’s top targets both return next season.

Junior Brandon Shepherd led the Cowboys with five receptions for 98 yards in the bowl game. Freshman James Washington added a spectacular touchdown catch.

One of the nation’s top pass-rushers will also return.

Emmanuel Ogbah was an First-Team All-Conference performer and led Oklahoma State in both sacks (11) and tackles for loss (17). Ogbah will likely enter next season as the favorite to claim the Big 12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

A quickly tally:

Quarterback. Check.

Dangerous wide receivers. Check.

Elite pass-rusher. Check.

The Cowboys are well positioned to compete in the Big 12 Conference next fall.

Oklahoma State will need to replace seven senior starters, though.

The team will miss one particular player the most, but the legend of James Castleman will live on forever in Stillwater, Oklahoma:

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Key transfers

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The lifeblood of a college football program comes through recruiting, but there are times when recruiting requires making sales pitches to experienced college football players as well. Seniors looking for a chance to compete for a starting job in the final year or years of eligibility can turn into great stories at any school, and this season is no exception.

We already took a look at some of the impact freshmen and the top Heisman Trophy candidates this season, but here is a look at some of the names you may already be familiar with looking to take advantage of a clean slate with a new program.

MICHAEL BREWER, VIRGINIA TECH, QB
With Virginia Tech looking for a new starting quarterback to replace Logan Thomas, the Hokies could be hoping Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer emerges as the best available option. The spring game failed to answer the question under center so the addition of Brewer figured to spice things up a bit. By all accounts it appears Brewer is making his case for playing time this fall as well, taking over the top spot in the depth chart during fall camp. Brewer appeared in just four games last season for Texas Tech, completing seven of his 10 pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown. He graduated this spring, making him eligible to play this fall for the Hokies.

JACOBY BRISSETT, NC STATE, QB
A change of scenery could be just what Jacoby Brissett needed after a disastrous 2012 season at Florida. With Jeff Driskel taking on the starter role for the Gators, Brissett made the decision to transfer to NC State, where head coach Dave Doeren will finally get a chance to coach him after attempting to recruit the quarterback to Wisconsin out of high school. Fortunately for NC State, Brissett’s desire to transfer to Miami was blocked due to a lack of room on the roster at the position in January 2013. Little did Miami know at the time the potential need for a transfer option  in 2014 (more on that later). Brissett played in five games in 2012 for Florida, completing 65.7 percent of his pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown. Brissett will be the starting quarterback for NC State, and he will have a stable of healthy receivers and good running back depth surrounding him on the field.

JACOB COKER, ALABAMA, QB
Looking to find his third starting quarterback in six seasons, Alabama head coach Nick Saban may not have been able to find a more suitable option through a transfer than Jacob Coker. Coker came to Alabama from Florida State, looking to get out from under the tremendous shadow cast by Jameis Winston. He does so with the personal endorsement of Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. Coker could likely be a starter on just about any team in the country, but it is not a guarantee just yet Coker will be the Tide’s starter just yet. Coker will have to beat Blake Sims for the job and Saban is known to let these competitions play out as long as he needs before coming to a final decision, even if it means a week or two into the season.

BRANDON CONNETTE, FRESNO STATE QB
An opportunity to play his final year of eligibility closer to home and his ailing mother landed Brandon Connette at Fresno State. Leaving a promising and developing Duke program was surely a tough decision, but as far as football is concerned Connette appears to be landing in another good position as well. Connette is competing for the starting job at Fresno State, offering a bit of a different style than the Bulldogs had grown accustomed to under Derek Carr the last few years, but it is what Connette offers with his feet that could be beneficial for the Bulldogs in their quest to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions. Connette rushed for 14 touchdowns for Duke last season, a big reason why Duke was able to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and play for the conference championship. He may not wing it like Carr, but he did throw for 1,212 yards on 145 pass attempts last season, including 13 touchdowns.

DEE HART, COLORADO STATE RB
Colorado State has some big shoes to fill at running back after Kapri Bibbs rushed for 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. It is clear the Rams like to run the football, so bringing in a running back from Alabama is certainly a good way to go for head coach Jim McElwain, the former Alabama assistant who secured a new contract recently. Dee Hart, who is looking for a more prominent role in an offense rather than part-time work in the crowded and deep Alabama backfield, arrives at Colorado State and should slide right into the starting role right away. Hart, who has battled through various knee injuries already, had just 22 carries in 2013 and with T.J. Yeldon leading the way for the Crimson Tide it looked as though getting many snaps was out of the question for Hart in Tuscaloosa this season. That should not be the case at Colorado State.

JAKE HEAPS, MIAMI QB
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Jake Heaps. The former BYU and Kansas quarterback has arrived at Miami and may have done so at just the right time. With an injury to projected starting quarterback Ryan Williams in the spring, Al Golden left the door open for all possibilities to plug the hole, including transfer options. That left an option on the table for Heaps to find a better situation for the remainder of his eligibility. He was once a highly rated recruit but has struggled to match that expected potential. With the right pieces around him, like running back Duke Johnson, Heaps could finally be ready to enjoy some stable success on the football field this fall. Heaps is currently one of the top two candidates for the starting job at Miami.

MATT JOECKEL, TCU, QB
The former back-up to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M decided it was best to try and compete for a starting job at another program rather than go through another round at Texas A&M. That led senior Matt Joeckel to TCU, where he is eligible to play right away this fall and making his case for the starting job. Joeckel is in the thick of the competition at TCU with Trevone Boykin, who has started 15 games for the Horned Frogs. TCU head coach Gary Patterson could have some options though, with the possibility of moving Boykin to receiver and allowing more time under center for Joeckel addressing two areas of need with one decision.

GUNNER KIEL, CINCINNATI QB
Despite Cincinnati working incumbent starter Munchie Legaux back from injury, it looks like the new guy may be the number one option to lead the American Athletic Conference favorites. Gunner Kiel, who transferred to Cincinnati from Notre Dame, put on quite the show in Cincinnati’s spring game and brings plenty of potential to the passing game for the Bearcats. Kiel sat out the 2013 season due to transfer rules and is now poised to take on the role of starting quarterback for a contender in the AAC as well as for a spot in a big revenue bowl.

WES LUNT, ILLINOIS QB
Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit thinks the Illini can have the best offense in the Big Ten this season. That may not be totally unrealistic with the addition of quarterback Wes Lunt, from Oklahoma State. Lunt arrived at Oklahoma State with loads of hype and potential as an early enrollee looking to succeed Brandon Weeden in 2012, but injuries quickly erased those plans in Stillwater. As he struggled to regain a footing on the depth chart, it became necessary to look for other options to compete for a starting job. Illinois had the need to improve at the position, and Lunt has become the top candidate for the starting job this summer.

JAKE MCGEE, FLORIDA TE
This one came as a bit of a surprise, and is a pretty significant blow to Virginia. Jake McGee was Virginia’s leading receiver last season, and after transferring to Florida he fills a position in need of a major upgrade at Florida. Tight ends at Florida combined for four receptions for 42 yards last season. McGee had a little over 10 times as many catches for the Cavaliers in 2013 and should immediately give Jeff Driskel a competent target in the field. The two have already been developing some chemistry in fall camp, with highlight plays apparently giving the offense a lift. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper intends to make McGee a significant part of the rejuvenated Florida offense.

RUSHEL SHELL, WEST VIRGINIA RB
Going from one end of the Backyard Brawl to the other, Rushel Shell transferred from Pittsburgh to West Virginia last summer. After sitting out the 2013 season, Shell is ready to go and make his case for playing time in a West Virginia offense in need of some physicality. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has said Shell has some of the best skills at the position this camp. In 2012, at Pittsburgh, Shell backed up Ray Graham but still accounted for 641 rushing yards and four touchdowns. West Virginia was seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense in 2013. Shell could help the Mountaineers improve on the ground as a key contributor.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

A-C-C! A-C-C! A-C-C!
Well would you look at what basketball conference has done a little bit of football growing up the first two weeks of the season.  And what football program grabbed a signature win by the throat after years of NCAA turmoil.  It was far from pretty offensively — most games involving the team from Gainesville are — but unranked (for now) Miami was able to punch its way to a 21-16 win over No. 12 Florida, the biggest win for The U since, what, Ohio State in 2011?  Florida State or Oklahoma in 2009?  Regardless, it was Al Golden‘s biggest win in his two-plus years with the Hurricanes, and a clear signal that, while they might not be there yet, The U is certainly pointed in the direction of the national stage.  It’s also a sign that, after Clemson’s win over then-No. 5 Georgia opening weekend, the ACC will no longer be a pushover at the top.  Or that the SEC East is vastly overrated.  One of the two.

Big OBC monkey, be gone!
For both No. 11 Georgia in general and Aaron Murray specifically, there has been a mountain-sized monkey on their respective backs, a South Carolina one for the former and a big-game one for the latter.  In one fell swoop, the simian has left the building thanks to the Bulldogs’ highly-entertaining 41-30 win over the No. 6 Gamecocks.  For UGA it snapped a three-game losing streak against the ‘Cocks, made even sweeter coming off the tough three-point loss to Clemson.  For Murray, it was just his second win — versus four losses — against a team ranked in the Top Ten.  With the Bulldogs defense (again) struggling, Murray turned in a career-like performance, throwing for 309 yards and four touchdowns.  Here’s to guessing Murray’s home won’t get TP’d and/or egged this year.

Teddy Heisman?
Tabbed as the gambling Heisman Trophy frontrunner earlier this week, Teddy Bridgewater did little to break that momentum this weekend.  In No. 8 Louisville’s thumping of  FCS-level Eastern Kentucky, the quarterback completed 23-of-32 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns.  On the season, Bridgewater has completed 77 percent of his passes for 752 yards, nine touchdowns and an interception.  Granted, the competition has been a MAC school and one from the FCS — and the schedule doesn’t get much tougher moving forward — but the junior is doing what he has to do: putting up big numbers when he’s supposed to, all the while hoping that some teams from the AAC step up their level of play.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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Meandering our way through the offseason, a single one-liner at a time…

— Michigan landing a verbal commitment from the nation’s No. 2 recruit could have a national impact for the Wolverines.

— The San Antonio Express-News writes that Everett Golson‘s departure from Notre Dame could help Oklahoma steal a late-September win over the Irish.

— During the Big 12’s annual spring meetings this week, it’s expected record revenue disbursement for conference members will be announced.

— In other conference spring meeting news, the football schedule, television and bowl tie-ins will be on the SEC’s agenda.

Johnny Manziel‘s Heisman and Cotton Bowl success makes SEC move sweet for Texas A&M.

Butch Jones talks of rebuilding the Tennessee Volunteers brick by brick.

— Auburn’s Big Cat Weekend has intrigued at least one four-star recruit.

— Oklahoma has self-reported some secondary violations. The horror! 

— The top-rated offensive tackle in the Class of 2014, West Monroe (La.) (Hey, jack) high schooler Cameron Robinson, says Alabama and LSU are the only two schools he’s considering.

— (Writer’s note: indulge me for a minute) Former Oklahoma State and current NFL quarterback Brandon Weeden significantly and consistently out drove former OSU and current pro golfer Rickie Fowler at a recent golf outing, which as a Cleveland Browns fan makes me feel very confident for our upcoming home games at Augusta.

WVU’s QB coach to replace Kingsbury at Texas A&M

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One of the up and comers in the coaching ranks is getting a promotion.

WVMetroNews’ Allan Taylor reported last night that West Virginia’s quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital will join Kevin Sumlin‘s coaching staff at Texas A&M. Spavital confirmed the news to CBSSports, adding that he will not only be the team’s QB coach, meaning he’ll be coaching up Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, but the team’s co-offensive coordinator.

A&M running backs coach Clarence McKinney will join Spavital in that role. McKinney handled play-calling duties for A&M in its win over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Former Aggies OC Kliff Kingsbury has become the head coach at Texas Tech.

Not unlike Kingsbury himself, Spavital is on the rise having been mentored by Dana Holgorsen, Kevin Sumlin, Gus Malzahn and Kingsbury.  Spavital, who is 27 and started coaching in 2008, began as an offensive graduate assistant at Tulsa before moving on to Houston, Oklahoma State and WVU. During that time, he’s worked with QBs Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden and Geno Smith.

While the move is a great one for Spavital, it does mean more shakeup for Holgorsen’s coaching staff. The second-year coach released cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts and longtime assistant Steve Dunlap after the 2012 season and is expected to bring in Tony Gibson from Rich Rodriguez‘s staff at Arizona and former East Carolina defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell.

(Photo: WVU athletics)