David Cornwell

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: SEC Predictions

5 Comments

As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC), HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

SEC EAST

1. Georgia (10-3; beat Louisville in Belk Bowl)
There is one certainty when it comes to the East: UGA will not finish lower than third, a low-water benchmark for each of Mark Richt‘s 14 seasons in Athens that has included five division titles — none since 2012, though.  They return the most talent of any team in the division, although the fact that they opted for Grayson Lambert as the starting quarterback has me second-guessing my prediction.  It’s been a decade since UGA’s last SEC championship, and if they’re going to get back to that level they’ll have to do so with a schedule that includes both Alabama and Auburn as well as a road trip to Tennessee.  Still, anything less than an East title and a spot in the SEC championship game would be decidedly disappointing — and would lead to yet another offseason of “is it time to go in another direction?” speculation.

2. Tennessee (7-6; beat Iowa in Taxslayer Bowl)
Am I a year early with this lofty projection?  Possibly, especially given the team right below them.  Still, there’s no denying that Butch Jones has stuffed his talent cupboard after the barren years under his predecessor, Derek Dooley.  The Vols closed out last year on a positive note, going 4-1 down the stretch — the lone loss coming by eight to Mizzou — capping it off with an impressive 45-28 win over the Hawkeyes in the bowl game.  That final flourish coincided with Josh Dobbs‘ ascension as the starting quarterback.  With the scintillating playmaker poised to build off his first season at this level, the Vols could very well challenge both UGA and Mizzou for East supremacy.

3. Missouri (11-3; beat Minnesota in Citrus Bowl)
“Here we go again, denigrating the two-time defending East champion Tigers.” — the two Mizzou fans who frequent this site, probably.  And, actually, that’s an understandable reaction, given how the Tigers have been the class of the division the past two seasons.  They’re also one of the few teams in the conference that returns its starting quarterback.  Still, there are concerns along the defensive line — they return just five starters on that side of the ball, period — and their schedule doesn’t do them very many favors as they play at Georgia and Arkansas as well as play host to Mississippi State.  It wouldn’t shock me, though, if Mizzou made it three straight titles.  In fact, the only thing that would shock the system is if they finish outside the top three in the division.

(more…)

‘Bama, FSU not quite ready to pull trigger on naming starter at QB

6 Comments

Texas did it, Ohio State won’t, while two other big-name programs have decided to push it back.

The “it” in this case is publicly naming a starting quarterback, and both Alabama and Florida State were afforded the opportunity at press conferences Monday to go public with a decision. In both cases, the respective head coaches declined.

On the Tide’s depth chart that was released today, all five of their scholarship quarterbacks were included on the two-deep: Jake Coker, Cooper Bateman and Alex Morris — in that order — were listed as the co-starters, with Blake Barnett and David Cornwell separated by a slash; some, it should be noted, have speculated that all five were listed as co-starters. At various points throughout summer camp, Coker, the FSU transfer, has been viewed by the media as the front-runner… as has Bateman… as has Morris.

Lat year, Nick Saban waited until a couple of hours before the opener against West Virginia to anoint Blake Sims as the starter over Coker. If Saban decides to go public with the choice, expect a similar timeline prior to this year’s opener against Wisconsin Saturday.

Conversely, FSU could make its decision as early as today.

Jimbo Fisher, who said he’s already made a decision, will opt between a pair of experienced/familiar options, last year’s backup Sean Maguire and Notre Dame grad transfer Everett Golson. Because of his experience with the Irish, some (most?) have pegged Golson as the likely starter. Still others have stated that, due to his familiarity with the system, Maguire is the man to beat.

So, what’s Jimbo’s timeline for a decision to clear up the clutter?

Fisher added that, once the decision is made, he’s sticking with it.

FSU will open the 2015 season at home against Texas State Saturday.

Jake Coker returns to Alabama QB competition after injury ‘scare’

1 Comment

Seemingly, it really was much ado about nothing.

Monday, head coach Nick Saban stated that “Jake Coker has a minor foot injury that we think will keep him out of practice for several days.”  As it turns out, “several days” ended up being “a couple of days” as the quarterback returned to practice two days after sustaining the injury.

Below are a couple of local media accounts of how Coker looked in his return after the very brief sabbatical, first from al.com and then the Anniston Star:

The fifth-year quarterback was the first quarterback to go through drills, and looked good through most of them. At times Coker struggled on his follow-through and accuracy but he delivered multiple on-the-money passes including one longer pass to Chris Black. A trainer was in Coker’s ear a few times throughout the practice, but the Alabama quarterback seemed to be moving around fine during the drills.

After working with a trainer on Tuesday, Jake Coker (foot) was back with the quarterbacks today. Coker was at the front of the line, and looked fine when dropping back and throwing the ball.

Coker, who transferred to Alabama from Florida State in January of 2014, was expected by many to win UA’s starting job last year; instead, Blake Sims won it and ran with it in helping to lead the Tide to a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.  This year as part of a multi-man quarterback competition, Coker, the only one of the group to have thrown a pass at the collegiate level, has again failed (as of yet) to grab the starting job by the throat against the likes of true freshman Blake Barnett, redshirt sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell and junior Alec Morris.

Foot injury to sideline Alabama QB Coker for a few days

Leave a comment

The quarterback competition may still be ongoing at Alabama, but the defending SEC champions and College Football Playoff participants will see one player vying for the starting job miss some crucial practice time leading up to the start of the new college football season.

Jake Coker has a minor foot injury that we think will keep him out of practice for several days,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in a released statement Monday afternoon. “Our physicians anticipate a full recovery.”

Alabama is home to one of the more intriguing quarterback situations in the country, as most any key position battle at Alabama can be. With Blake Sims moving on, the Crimson Tide are looking to find the next starting quarterback to lead Lane Kiffin‘s offense in 2015. If Coker is ultimately not available for the season opener in Arlington against Wisconsin, it may be up to redshirt freshman David Cornwell to step right into the spotlight on the grand stage.

Saban said in the past couple of days he is unsettled on the quarterback position right now, still waiting for one of his options to emerge as the clear answer. There is still time to figure this out, but the month of August is evaporating quickly and it is just about crunch time to make some key decisions at Alabama and other programs as well.

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Six-Pack of Storylines

9 Comments

Finally, after (nearly) seven long, agonizing months filled with seemingly nothing but arrests, suspensions, transfers, lawsuits and yet another Sharknado, the dawn of a new season is nearly upon us.

In just 17 days, we’ll all be hunkered down in front of the television taking in the glory (?) that is the South Carolina Gamecocks and North Carolina Tar Heels throwing down at a neutral site in Charlotte, and chase that FBS opener down later that night with the return of a certain high-profile coach as Michigan travels to Utah for a significant early test of the new era in Ann Arbor.

In between now and then? Previews. Glorious, illuminating, voluminous previews as far as the eye can see.

We’ll kick off the look at the upcoming season the same way we have the past six years: storylines that you should pay attention to or could be in play in the coming months.

Proceed, and enjoy.

Ohio State Spring Game
The Contenders

WHO’LL ORCHESTRATE OSU’S BUCK-TO-BUCK BID?
The riches Ohio State possesses at the quarterback position borderlines on the embarrassing, so much so that two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller, still not fully recovered from a second shoulder surgery that knocked him out for all of 2014, has moved to another position as he looks to get on the field in some fashion his senior season.  That leaves regular-season hero J.T. Barrett and postseason whirlwind Cardale Jones to vie for the opportunity to line up under center and guide the Buckeyes’ offense in their attempt to go back-to-back in the College Football Playoff.

It seems that most view Jones, perhaps in part because of his outgoing personality vs. Barrett’s naturally reserved, quiet nature, as the favorite to win the job; the question is, should they?  Or better yet, have they forgotten?

After getting off to a rough start last season in place of Miller — three touchdowns and four interceptions in the first two games, which included the lone loss to Virginia Tech — Barrett bounced back to have a season for the OSU ages, finishing the last 10 games with 31 touchdowns and just six interceptions before going down with a season-ending leg injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan.  His 45 total touchdowns set a Big Ten record, breaking the standard previously held by Purdue’s Drew Brees, and he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards as a redshirt freshman.  And all of that production, people seem to forget as well, came after he beat out Jones in summer camp for the No. 2 spot behind Miller, just prior to the reemergence of the senior’s shoulder issue.

It’s not like Jones is chipped chopped ham, though; in his first three starts, all in the postseason, the rifle-armed 12-Gauge passed for 742 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions as OSU dropped Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game and topped No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon in the playoffs.  The fact that Ezekiel Elliott ran for nearly 700 hundreds in those starts certainly didn’t hurt… or was it Jones and his arm’s ability to stretch the field and add another element to the passing attack that Barrett — or most any other quarterback for that matter — couldn’t that opened things up for Eazy-E?

Decisions, decisions, decisions this OSU coaching staff will have to make, decisions that make them the envy of nearly every other coaching staff in the country.  Really, how can they go wrong with whomever they choose?

Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh

HOW MANY B1G CALLERS AHEAD OF US, JIMMY?
Even considering the once-in-a-lifetime quarterback situation for the defending national champions, there wasn’t a bigger storyline this college football offseason than Jim Harbaugh‘s self-imposed NFL exile ending and his return to this level of the sport — and at his stumbling, struggling alma mater Michigan no less.  The former Stanford head coach had made headlines on a seemingly daily basis since his hiring, from his Twitter posts to forays into baseball to shirts-and-skins to epically awkward interviews to satellite camps to “Attacking this day with Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind” to just about anything, really, that the coach did.

With the clock ticking down on the start of a new season, though, the attention shifts from Harbaugh, the off-field character, to Harbaugh, the on-field coach.  Or, more precisely, how fast can he get the Wolverines back to national prominence?  To be blunt, Harbaugh’s timing couldn’t have been “worse” divisionally, with hated rival Ohio State at the top of the college football world and poised to be there for years to come with a recruiting cupboard continually restocked on an annual basis with top-shelf talent, and hated in-state rival Michigan State playing — and recruiting — at a level unseen in East Lansing.  Harbaugh & Company are already playing from behind when it comes to those two East rivals, but Harbaugh’s not exactly coming to the fight empty-handed.

For all of the on-field angst that Brady Hoke inspired — after an initial 11-2 record with RichRod-recruited players, UM proceeded to go 8-5/7-6/5-7 — the fired head coach recruited well. In 2013 and 2012, UM’s recruiting classes were ranked fifth and seventh nationally and second in the Big Ten, respectively, according to Rivals.com. Even in 2014, amidst much speculation that Hoke was as good as done, he still pulled in a class that ranked 31st in the country and fourth in the conference.

(more…)