Lamar Jackson

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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)

Davey O’Brien Award watch list highlighted by former finalists, semifinalists and SEC

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The Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback) took the spotlight in the ongoing college football watch list tour on Wednesday morning. A total of 30 quarterbacks were named to the initial watch list for the award, including six from the SEC along with a few potential Heisman Trophy candidates and a Heisman Trophy winner.

Highlighting the watch list are two finalists from last season; Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has been a two-time finalist for the award. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Washington State’s Luke Falk are also on the watch list and are each two-time semifinalists for the award. Joining them on the watch list are former semifinalists Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)m and Wilton Speight (Michigan).

While the SEC led the way with six watch list players, the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 each had four players named to the watch list. The Big Ten had three, with Penn State’s Trace McSorley joining Barrett and Speight.

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson won the Davey O’Brien Award each of the past two seasons, becoming the second two-time winner of the award (Oklahoma’s Jason White in 2003-04). A player does not need to be included on the watch list in order to win the award, but only quarterbacks from the 130 FBS programs are eligible.

2017 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List

Austin Allen, Arkansas
Josh Allen, Wyoming
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Jake Browning, Washington
Shane Buechele, Texas
Sam Darnold, USC
Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Jacob Eason, Georgia
Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Luke Falk, Washington State
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Quinton Flowers, USF
Deondre Francois, Florida State
Jalen Hurts, Alabama
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Daniel Jones, Duke
Tanner Mangum, BYU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Trace McSorley, Penn State
Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Wilton Speight, Michigan
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
Mike White, WKU
Logan Woodside, Toledo

The Davey O’Brien Award will be trim its watch list down to a handful of semifinalists on November 7. Finalists for the award will be unveiled two weeks later on November 21, and the winner will be announced on December 7 at the annual Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.

ACC preseason poll predicts FSU will beat Miami for ACC title

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The Miami Hurricanes are set to embark on their 14th season as a member of the ACC since moving over from the old Big East. The Hurricanes were brought in to the ACC to help give the football product a boost, but Miami has yet to play for an ACC championship. Could that drought end this season?

Miami was chosen as the ACC’s Coastal Division favorite by the preseason poll at ACC media days. The Hurricanes edged out defending Coastal Division champion Virginia Tech for the top preseason spot in the division. With Mark Richt gearing up for his second season on the job at Miami, the expectations continue to rise as he tries to emulate some of the success he had at Georgia in the SEC. Considering the ACC’s Coastal Division tends to be a division up for grabs the last few years, why not Miami this season?

In the Atlantic Division, the preseason poll is heavy on Florida State, with defending ACC and national champion Clemson coming in second place behind the Seminoles. Florida State is being hyped as a top playoff contender for the 2017 season, and the preseason poll out of the ACC seems to support that thought pretty well. Florida State will open the season with a bang against Alabama in Atlanta. If all goes according to plan, it could end up being a preview of a future playoff or national championship game this season.

Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson was chosen as the preseason ACC player of the year, easily outpacing the next man in line, Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois.

ACC Championship
  1. Florida State – 118
  2. Clemson – 35
  3. Louisville – 7
  4. (tie) Virginia Tech – 3
    (tie)Miami – 3
  5. Duke – 1
Atlantic Division  
(First place votes in parenthesis)                  
  1. Florida State (121) – 1,108
  2. Clemson (37) – 1,007
  3. Louisville (9) – 843
  4. NC State – 658
  5. Wake Forest – 415
  6. Syracuse  – 362
  7. Boston College – 283
Coastal Division
(First place votes in parenthesis)                  
  1. Miami (103) – 1,065
  2. Virginia Tech (40) – 932
  3. Georgia Tech (9) – 708
  4. Pitt (7) – 673
  5. North Carolina (4) – 606
  6. Duke (4) -473
  7. Virginia -219
ACC Player of the Year
  1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville – 113
  2. Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State – 23
  3. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson – 11
  4. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College – 8
  5. Jaylen Samuels, AP, NC State – 7
  6. Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse – 2
  7. (tie) Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami – 1
    (tie) Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami – 1
    (tie) Daniel Jones, QB, Duke – 1

Clemson’s championship team leads to multiple ESPY nominations

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The ESPYS are coming. ESPN’s annual summer tradition of showering star athletes with Hollywood praise is coming in July, and fans now have a chance to vote for their picks in multiple categories. As is typically the case, the reigning national champions tend to be well-represented.

The Clemson Tigers appear multiple times among the finalists for various ESPY awards. Former quarterback Deshaun Watson, now with the NFL’s Houston Texans, is one of four finalists for the Best Championship Performance award. Despite passing for 420 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and running for 43 yards and a score against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game last January, Watson is up against some stiff competition in the category. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, and Los Angeles Sparks player Candace Parker are the other finalists. Topping Brady or Durant may prove difficult for Watson considering the pedigree each of those two have. A player competing in the NBA Finals has won the award each of the past four seasons (three of them won by LeBron James). The only college football player to win the award was former Texas quarterback Vince Young in 2006 following his performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. Watson’s performance against Alabama was about as close to Young’s Rose Bowl as you can get, so maybe there is a chance.

Watson may stand a better chance of being named the Best Male College Athlete. He is the only college football player in the running and may have the most well-known name recognition across the nation compared to the others in contention, although Kansas basketball player Frank Mason could stand a chance.

Clemson’s victory over Alabama is also one of three finalists for Best Upset. The only other finalists for the award are the Mississippi State women’s basketball team upsetting the UConn women in the women’s Final Four and Denis Istomin toppling Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open. Clemson has a chance here, although the UConn women losing was a stunner. No college football game is up for Best Game despite a thrilling national championship game and a Rose Bowl for the ages. But then again, it’s hard to argue against Game 7 of the World Series and the Super Bowl, with a Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal Australian Open Final coming out as the three finalists.

Clemson is also up for Best Team, but against the Chicago Cubs, Warriors, Pittsburgh Penguins, Patriots, South Carolina women’s basketball and the United States women’s gymnastics team. It’s a loaded field.

Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is in the hunt for an ESPY though. His hurdle of a defender is in a tournament-style bracket of 16 plays for the Best Play ESPY. Given the No. 14 seed, Jackson is up against a pass by Aaron Rogers to Jared Cook that led to a playoff victory against the Dallas Cowboys, so once again it looks like a tough draw. Here’s the Jackson hurdle against Syracuse…

The ESPYS will air on Wednesday, July 12.

Louisville WR Jaylen Smith out for spring, and what Petrino wants Lamar Jackson to improve

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One of Louisville’s top returning wide receivers will be out for the spring. Jaylen Smith was one of two wide receivers ruled out for the spring by head coach Bobby Petrino on Monday.

Smith underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot. The timetable for his return to the team is unknown at this time, but it does not appear to be something Petrino is concerned about at this time with so much time before the start of the new season. It is not as though Smith had much to prove this spring anyway.

Smith caught 27 passes last season for 599 yards and six touchdowns. With seniors James Quick and Jamari Staples moving on, it is expected Smith will see a more significant role in the offense in 2017. The absence of Smith for the spring will leave room for other receivers to have some more passes thrown their way this spring, which is always a benefit to having a key player injured.

As for the man throwing those footballs to receivers, 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is not without some things to work on this spring either according to Petrino. One area Petrino wants Jackson to focus on is taking negative yardage. Jackson did run for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, so it is not as though things will not balance out in Louisville’s favor in 2017, but Jackson was limited to 33 rushing yards in two of his final three games against Houston and LSU. Houston sacked Jackson 11 times and LSU brought him down eight times in the Citrus Bowl.

Just think how dangerous Jackson will be if he does improve on what he did last season.