Lache Seastrunk

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 9 Baylor

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2013 record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 in Big 12 (1st in conference)
2013 postseason: Fiesta Bowl vs. UCF (52-42 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 13/No. 13
Head coach: Art Briles (78-60 overall; 44-32 in six years at Baylor)
Offensive coordinator: Philip Montgomery (6th season at Baylor)
2013 offensive rankings: 13th rushing offense (259.7 ypg); 5th passing offense (359.1 ypg); 1st total offense (618.8 ypg); 1st scoring offense (52.4 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: six
Defensive coordinator: Phil Bennett (3rd season at Baylor)
2013 defensive rankings: 38th rushing defense (145.4 ypg); 34th passing defense (214.9 ypg);  28th total defense (360.3 ypg); 36th scoring defense (23.5 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: four
Location: Waco, Texas
Stadium: McLane Stadium (45,000; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2013

THE GOOD
The Baylor Bears are the Lamborghini of college football offenses. Last season, the Bears’ offense was ranked No. 1 overall and averaged 618.8 yards per game. To put that number in perspective, the Oregon Ducks finished 2nd overall in total offense and they averaged 53.8 less yards per contest. That is truly an astonishing number. It’s possible the Bears’ offense will be better in 2014. Quarterback Bryce Petty enters his second year as a starter. Five of the team’s top six receivers also return. Three offensive linemen are back, with a near 400-pound monster replacing one of the departing starters. And running back Shock Linwood was nearly as good as Lache Seastrunk when given the opportunity to carry the load. In the two games Linwood carried the ball more than 20 times, he rushed for at least 182 yards. To top it all off, the Bears added a pair of four-star recruits at wide receiver with K.D. Cannon and Davion Hall. The Bears’ offense is simply a well-oiled machine that will be nearly impossible to slow down this season.

THE BAD
When a team’s offense throws the ball all over the yard while operating at a breakneck pace, opponents will try to keep pace. Baylor took a big step in the right direction on defense last season, but the lasting impression of that unit will be sacrificing 556 yards to the UCF Knights during a 52-42 loss in the Fiesta Bowl. Each time Baylor made a comeback, the defense let them down. And the team now has to replace all but two starters from that game, four of which are currently on NFL rosters. Maybe a complete overhaul was needed. But there is always something to say about continuity within one unit of a football team. Baylor isn’t starting from scratch. They’re talented up front with both starting defensive tackles back for another season and the enigma known as Shawn Oakman at defensive end. Two key players, middle linebacker Bryce Hager and defensive end Jamal Palmer, will be asked to assume leadership roles as the rest of the defense continues to grow and improve around them.

THE UNKNOWN
With strength of schedule once again being an emphasis for determining the top teams in college football, the Bears fall short. Baylor suffers from a weak non-conference schedule. The Buffalo Bulls, which finished 8-5 and second in the MAC East last year, is the best non-conference opponent on the Bears’ schedule. Even when the Big 12 conference schedule is factored into the equation, the Bears only face two teams ranked in the preseason polls. A single loss could spell doom for the Bears. An undefeated run through conference play may be Baylor’s only chance to be named one of college football’s final four in the first College Football Playoff. Would that even be enough for the committee to vote the Bears into the tournament over a one-loss SEC or Pac-12 team?

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Oklahoma
Baylor is still the new kid on the block with the shiny new toys. Whereas Oklahoma remains the Big 12’s neighborhood bully. As the two teams enter the season, the Sooners are considered national title contenders, while the Bears are still scratching and clawing to prove they can be an elite program over the long haul. This particular game is crucial for Baylor. The Bears have beaten the Sooners two of the last three years. The Sooners, however, enter the season as the favorites to win the Big 12 and ranked in the Top 5 of both the AP and Coaches’ Polls. A victory in Norman will clearly establish Baylor as the team to beat in the Big 12 this year and moving forward.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Bryce Petty
The thought of Baylor ever truly replacing quarterback Robert Griffin III was unimaginable. Yet, Petty quickly escaped RG3’s shadow and continues to build a legacy of his own. When RG3 won the Heisman Trophy in 2011, he threw for 4,293 yards, 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. In 2013, Petty’s numbers were quite similar. The current Baylor quarterback passed for 4,200 yards, 32 and a microscopic three interceptions. While RG3 had decided advantages in overall accuracy and rushing yardage, Petty led Baylor to a better overall record (11-2) and a higher average per completion (16.8 yards). Due to the success of these two quarterbacks, Baylor is now considered a national contender. And in Briles’ explosive offense, the Bears’ starting quarterback has a chance to be in the Heisman conversation.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Tide’s Sunseri one of record 98 players declaring for draft

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A draft-eligible Alabama rumored to be headed to the NFL — or not — will indeed be a part of a record-breaking pool this May.

Tide defensive back Vinnie Sunseri was one of 98 players included on the NFL’s official list, released Sunday, of players “who have been granted special eligibility” for the upcoming draft.  It was reported a week ago that the safety was leaning toward making the early leap into the NFL, although there was some vacillation as the redshirt junior waited until right up until the Jan. 15 deadline — plus the three additional days allotted to reconsider, provided there’s no signing with an agent — before making his final decision.

Sunseri is still rehabbing a torn ACL, which he suffered in a mid-October win over Arkansas.

The 98 players granted special eligibility by the NFL is a record, shattering and/or obliterating the old mark of 73 set just last year.  That standard broke the record of 65 set the year before that.  In 2004, just 43 players with eligibility remaining left school early.

For the second consecutive year, LSU led all schools with seven early entrants.  In 2013, the Tigers saw 10 players leave early.  Sunseri gave the Tide five players leaving early, the same number as USC and one-win Cal (?).  Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and South Carolina each saw four players take the early jump into the NFL.

2014 marks the sixth consecutive year that the number of early entrants has increased.

The number could have actually topped the century mark as four players who have left school early but have already graduated were not included in the NFL’s official count: Southern California defensive back Dion Bailey, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard.

You can view the complete, official list of early entrants into the NFL draft:

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An unofficial list of underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft

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The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is upon us. It looks like we’ll have a record 92 (at minimum) declarations this year, easily topping last year’s record of 73. This draft should be among the most talent-laden in recent history.

Why the sudden exodus? Blame the new rookie wage scale, which rewards less money to first round draft picks and delays the big payout until a player’s second contract. That means the more time spent in the league, the better. A lot of these players want to get moving on proving themselves, even if they are a late round pick at the start.

Here’s the unofficial list of early entries as of the Jan. 15 deadline. The NFL will have an official list on Jan. 19:

Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
George Atkinson III, RB, Notre Dame
Dion Bailey, S, USC
Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State
Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
Carl Bradford, DE/OLB, Arizona State
Bashaud Breeland, DB, Clemson
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB, Alabama
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
Mike Flacco, TE, New Haven
Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford
Khairi Fortt, LB, California
Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State
Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
Xavier Grimble, TE, USC
Vic Hampton, CB, South Carolina
Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama
Kameron Jackson, CB, California
Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Marcus Martin, C, USC
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
Viliami Moala, DT, California
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State
Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Jeoffrey Pagan, DL, Alabama
Ronald Powell, LB, Florida
Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Kelcy Quarles, DL, South Carolina
Darrin Reaves, RB, UAB
Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Richard Rodgers, TE California
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse
Willie Snead, WR, Ball State
Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Trai Turner, OG, LSU
George Uko, DL, USC
Pierre Warren, FS, Jacksonville State
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Terrance West, RB, Towson
James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State
David Yankey, OL, Stanford

An early top 10 for 2014

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The sun has barely set on the BCS era and, as we speak, Florida State’s Chief Osceola is riding off toward the horizon with the last Crystal Ball tucked carefully under his arm.  But now it’s time to take a break from this glorious ending and ponder: What will next season look like?

Here’s an early top 10 for 2014:

1. Ohio State — The Buckeyes return the Heisman front runner in Braxton Miller and a ton of other playmakers on both sides of the ball. After going 24-2 in his first two years in Columbus, Urban Meyer finally has the roster in place to win the first national title under the new College Football Playoff system.

2. Oregon — If Miller is the Heisman favorite, Marcus Mariota isn’t too far behind. He returns to lead an explosive Duck offense that should once again wreak havoc on opposing defenses. On the other side of the ball is a unit led by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu that could be the best defense in school history.

3. Auburn — For all the magic and luck Auburn needed to get to the BCS title game, remember that it was only Year One of the Gus Malzahn Era on The Plains. Give the man another spring ball and add a stellar recruiting class to the mix and watch him mold a new juggernaut consisting of players who buy in completely with what he’s trying to accomplish. It helps that the ever-improving Nick Marshall and a bevy of talented young defenders are set to return for another go-around.

4. Oklahoma — No one should’ve been that surprised by OU’s upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. It’s Oklahama, after all. This is a program that is always loaded with talent. Quarterback Trevor Knight showed glimpses of a bright future against the Tide and could develop into one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in 2014. The Sooner defensive front seven is an elite group on par with those units from the early Bob Stoops era.

5. Florida State — What will the Seminoles do for an encore? Well, first they’ve got to figure out how many key players from this year’s squad will be heading to the NFL. Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Jr., Timmie Jernigan and Kelvin Benjamin could all leave early for the draft, while seniors Lamarcus Joyner, Telvin Smith and Bryan Stork will all be gone, too. Still, Jameis Winston returns and the treasure trove of talent on defense means FSU should once again be the team to beat in the ACC.

6. Alabama — Next year’s Crimson Tide could be the most talented team of Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa. Somewhere between 40 and 50 players will play in the NFL at some point. However, the Tide will need to find a quarterback to replace AJ McCarron and do a little rebuilding on defense, too. With a few minor tweaks, Alabama should have no trouble making the four-team playoff.

7. Baylor — Heisman candidate Bryce Petty returns to lead what could be the best offense in college football. Tailback Lache Seastrunk is heading to the pros, but his able backup, Shock Linwood, returns and could be even more productive. The Bears were one of the most improved defenses in the country this past season, but will have to find able replacements for Ahmad Dixon and Eddie Lackey if they want to remain in the upper echelon of the Big 12.

8. UCLA — Heisman candidate Brett Hundley bypassed millions of NFL dollars and should be in line for a huge junior season for the Bruins. He has a ton of offensive weapons at his disposal, including linebacker-turned-running back Myles Jack. The defense is deep and experienced. This should be the best UCLA team since the late 1990s.

9. Wisconsin — Stud running back Melvin Gordon returns as does quarterback Joel Stave. If the Badgers can rebuild their wide receiver and linebacker groups, they should once again challenge for the Big Ten title.

10. Stanford — The defense must replace a lot of NFL bodies, but there’s plenty of available talent ready to give it a shot. The offensive line will once again be among the nation’s best and quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is 10-1 as a starter against ranked teams, should be ready for a breakout season.

Big 12’s leading rusher, Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, running to the NFL

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One of Baylor’s top offensive players has declared for the 2014 NFL Draft. Running back Lache Seastrunk made his decision official to Yahoo! Sports Monday.

“Playing in the NFL has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I’m fully prepared to take the next step toward realizing that goal,” Seastrunk said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to compete in the NFL draft process. I look forward to giving teams every ounce of energy I’ve got and proving to them that I’m a good person, a relentless competitor, and a great player, too.”

Seastrunk led the Big 12 in rushing this past season with 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He was the only running back in the conference to average over 100 rushing yards per game with 1078.0 ypg and he led the conference with an average of 7.45 yards per rushing attempt.

With Seastrunk moving on, look for the Bears to start handing off the football to Shock Linwood more in 2014. Linwood was the team’s second leading rusher with 881 yards and eight touchdowns this season.