Quarterbacks rule, but running backs are still important

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For the second straight season, no running back was drafted by an NFL team in the first round. The emphasis on evolving passing offenses is one of the reasons fewer NFL teams seem to want to invest big money on a running back, but so is the expected lifespan of a running back’s career. This most recent NFL Draft saw the longest wait before a running back was taken off the board, with Washington’s Bishop Sankey being the first running back selected with the 54th overall pick by the Tennessee Titans. Given the trends in how the game is played and the most recent draft results, could we start to see less of an emphasis on the running back in the college game as a result?

Running backs are still important to any football team, college or pro. Some teams in the college game will rely very little on running the football but the ability to pound the football and pick up a few yards on the ground is something that helps separate the great teams from the good or average teams. Take a look at Florida State, the reigning national champions. The Seminoles ranked third in the ACC in rushing offense in 2013, trailing only a Georgia Tech team that operates almost entirely on the run and a Boston College team that featured a Heisman finalist in Andre Williams rushing for over 2,000 yards. Florida State had a Heisman Trophy quarterback in Jameis Winston, but the supporting cast in the running game was not to be overlooked. Would Florida State have been able to succeed at the level it did in 2013 if not for a dependable running game? Probably, but it may not have been as dominant.

And look at the team Florida State faced in the BCS National Championship Game, Auburn. The Tigers ran away with the SEC championship, somewhat figuratively and literally. The strength of the running game allowed Auburn to wear down opponents and make-up for an average passing attack.

And do not let the 2014 NFL Draft fool you. There were 19 running backs drafted. There were even three fullbacks picked up by NFL teams through the draft, leaving a glimmer of hope for some that the days of the fullback are not extinct just yet.

A successful football formula has always included having a star quarterback behind a dependable offensive line. A top-flight running back may not be the ultimate difference — see Barry Sanders and the Detroit Lions — but it can still be a vital part of an offense.

Georgia Tech’s No. 2 QB tweets he underwent surgery, very likely ending his season

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It appears Georgia Tech will have to turn to option No. 3 for its No. 2 quarterback.

Earlier this week, Paul Johnson indicated that Lucas Johnson would meet with the team’s medical staff to determine whether or not he would have to undergo season-ending surgery for an unspecified injury to his lower right leg. While there’s been no official word yet from the team, Johnson posted on Twitter Thursday afternoon that “[s]urgery went well!!”

The assumption now is that the redshirt sophomore quarterback will be sidelined for the entire 2018 season.

Johnson suffered the injury during a scrimmage this past Saturday.

“It’s frustrating,” head coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday. “That’s the second time in three years that we’ve lost a quarterback to a non-contact injury.”

A three-star 2016 signee, Johnson served as the primary backup to starter TaQuon Marshall in 2017, although he didn’t attempt a pass and ran the ball just once for one yard. Throughout spring practice and then on into summer camp, Johnson had been running with the Yellow Jackets’ second-team offense.

With Johnson’s injury, Tobias Oliver will now serve as Marshall’s backup. Oliver, a three-star 2017 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

Broken leg to sideline Mizzou WR Richaud Floyd for 4-6 weeks

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The injury bug has claimed yet another victim shortly before the start of the 2018 season.

According to Rivals.com, Richaud Floyd broke a bone in his right leg during Missouri’s practice Wednesday. As a result, the wide receiver is expected to be sidelined for a period of 4-6 weeks.

At the short end of that timeline, Floyd would miss the opener against FCS Tennessee-Martin Sept. 1 as well as the Wyoming game in Week 2. At the long end, he’d be sidelined for the first road game of the year (at Purdue Sept. 15) as well as the SEC opener against Georgia in Columbia Sept. 22. At least at the moment, it appears that, at the latest, Floyd would be able to return for the Oct. 6 game against South Carolina.

Last season as a redshirt sophomore, Floyd caught 14 passes for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns — on just 11 attempts — which tied him for second at the FBS level with seven other players. The punt return scores went for 74 and 85 yards, playing a huge role in his 19.8 yards per return that would’ve been second nationally if he had enough returns to qualify.

UCLA’s Octavius Spencer granted release to transfer from Bruins with no restrictions

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For roughly the dozenth time since Chip Kelly took over in Westwood, a player has left his UCLA football program.

Wednesday evening, 247Sports.com reported that Octavius Spencer “has been let go by the program due to a violation of team rules.” Wednesday night, Spencer wrote on his personal Twitter account that “it’s time to move on to another chapter and I will now be looking for a new place to call home.”

In the same tweet, the defensive back posted a letter, signed by athletic director Dan Guerrero, that indicates the university “hereby provides permission for you to discuss a possible transfer in the sport of football with any university.”

Spencer was a three-star member of the Bruins’ 2015 recruiting class. The fourth-year senior played in 35 games the past three years, including 13 last season. All three of his career starts came during what turned out to be his final go-around at UCLA.

The Los Angeles Daily News provided a rundown of all of the players, in addition to Spencer, who have left the team since Kelly took the reins:

… defensive linemen Greg Rogers and Ainuu Taua, defensive back Denzel Fisher, offensive linemen Alex Akingbulu, Paco Perez, Stephan Zabie and Sean Seawards, punter Austin Kent, and linebackers Brandon Burton and DeChaun Holiday. Additional players, including tight end Jimmy Jaggers and offensive lineman Jax Wacaser, announced medical retirements due to concussions.

Manning Award features 30 QBs on its preseason watch list

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Don’t quote me on it, but I do believe we have come to the final preseason watch list of the 2018 offseason. Maybe?

Thursday, the Manning Award released its initial list of the top 30 quarterbacks in the country to watch for the upcoming season, 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 latest watch list are four of the finalists for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield — Penn State’s Trace McSorely, UCF’s McKenzie Milton, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Arizona’s Khalil Tate.

All 10 FBS conferences are represented, led by the SEC’s five and four each from the ACC and Big Ten. The Pac-12 is next with three, while the remaining leagues — the AAC, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC Mountain West and Sun Belt — come in with two apiece. A pair of football independents, Notre Dame and UMass, are also represented.

Of the 30 watch listers, 17 are seniors and 12 are juniors. The lone sophomore is Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson.

Below is the complete 2018 Manning Award preseason watch list:

Jake Bentley, Jr., South Carolina
Jake Browning, Sr., Washington
A.J. Erdely, Sr., UAB
Caleb Evans, Jr. UL-Monroe
Mason Fine, Jr., North Texas
Ryan Finley, Sr., N.C. State
Nick Fitzgerald, Sr., Mississippi State
Andrew Ford, Sr., Massachusetts
Ty Gangi, Sr., Nevada
Will Grier, Sr., West Virginia
Justice Hansen, Sr., Arkansas State
Ben Hicks, Jr., SMU
Alex Hornibrook, Jr., Wisconsin
Josh Jackson, Soph., Virginia Tech
Daniel Jones, Jr., Duke
Kyle Kempt, Sr., Iowa State
Brian Lewerke, Jr., Michigan State
Drew Lock, Sr., Missouri
Trace McSorley, Sr., Penn State
McKenzie Milton, Jr., Central Florida
Gus Ragland, Sr., Miami (Ohio)
Malik Rosier, Sr., Miami
Nathan Rourke, Jr., Ohio
Brett Rypien, Sr., Boise State
Kyle Shurmur, Sr., Vanderbilt
Nathan Stanley, Jr., Iowa
Jarrett Stidham, Sr., Auburn
Khalil Tate, Jr., Arizona
Manny Wilkins, Sr., Arizona State
Brandon Wimbush, Jr., Notre Dame