CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Impact Freshmen

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College football recruiting can be a cutthroat business. Every coaching staff is looking for the one player that can change the fortunes of its program.

In recent years, college football fans have seen freshmen such as Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston take their programs to the next level.

Incoming players now hold leverage when teams are recruiting them due to the program’s willingness to do nearly anything — within NCAA guidelines, of course — to acquire these types of game-changing talent. The promise that is most often made revolves around early playing time. More freshmen than ever are given starting spots from the moment they step on campus.

There will undoubtedly be numerous freshmen CFT could have pegged to make an impact this season. There will certainly be plenty left off this list that will. But here are the Top 10 impact freshmen we’ve identified entering the season:

1. LEONARD FOURNETTE, LSU, RB
This is the easy choice. Fournette was considered, at least by one of the major recruiting services, as the No. 1 recruit in the country. At 6-1 and 226 pounds, Fournette is a tailor-made running back for the SEC and LSU’s offense. Fournette also benefits from the Tigers losing two of the team’s top three leading rushers to the NFL. Fournette will still surrender some carries to Kenny Hillard and Terrence Magee, but the freshman is expected to get the bulk of the work. Another benefit for Fournette is playing in LSU’s run-heavy offense. The Tigers ran the ball 62 percent of the time in 2013. They should be expected to do the same behind the team’s massive offensive line.

2. CAM ROBINSON, ALABAMA, OT
During spring practice, the Crimson Tide held a competition at left tackle to replace Cyrus Kouandjio. Robinson, an early enrollee, was able to step in and claim the top spot on the depth chart. Very few offensive linemen are physically ready to start from Day 1, particularly at left tackle. Robinson, however, has a combination of size (6-6, 323 pounds) and athleticism that makes him a rare exception to the rule. Alabama head coach Nick Saban already complimented Robinson by stating, “He’s a very good pass blocker.” Whichever quarterback starts behind center this year for the Crimson Tide will know they have one of the most talented freshmen blocking their blindside.

3. RAEKWON MCMILLAN, OHIO STATE, LB
Since Urban Meyer took over at Ohio State, the coach’s goal was to become faster and more athletic on both sides of the football. Linebacker, in particular, was a sore spot for the team. Depth and play-making ability were lacking sans Ryan Shazier. While McMillan has yet to earn a starting spot, Ohio State’s coaching staff clearly has high expectations for the freshman. At the start of fall camp, McMillan was practicing with the the team’s veterans instead of with the other freshmen. Meyer stated his reason behind doing so was because McMillan acts like a “grown man.” A grown man that will eventually be asked to fill the role vacated by Shazier.

4. JABRILL PEPPERS, MICHIGAN, CB
The Wolverines’ defense was far too prone to giving up big plays against the pass last season. Peppers has the potential to be a dynamic play maker in the secondary to combine with the experience returning  at cornerback in Blake Countess and Ramon Taylor. Peppers’ athleticism projects to multiple positions in the secondary. He’s a cornerback by trade, but the Wolverines could start him at free safety to let him roam the field. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison could use him as the team’s nickel corner. Or he can do all of the above. Where the Wolverines will use Peppers will be decided throughout fall camp.

5. K.D. CANNON, BAYLOR, WR
The Baylor Bears can never have too much talent at wide receiver. Four of the team’s top five targets from last season return this fall. Although, there is one key omission. The team will be without the services Tevin Reese, who was a dynamic deep threat. Cannon has the potential to fill the role Reese left behind and take the top off of defenses.

6. DA’SHAWN HAND, ALABAMA, DE
Hand, who was rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2014 class by Rivals.com, may have been a little higher on this list if not for the depth Alabama already has along its defensive line. Although, with A’Shawn Robinson’s status currently up in the air, Hand should benefit from extra repetitions in camp and may be asked to make a bigger impact in the fall than initially anticipated.

7. JALEN TABOR, FLORIDA, CB
A year ago, Florida fans wondered how Vernon Hargreaves III would assimilate into the Gators’ lineup. For Hargreaves, it was a seamless transition, and he quickly developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the country. Florida’s coaching staff hopes Tabor will have a similar learning curve. The freshman will have an opportunity to prove himself after Loucheiz Purifoy, Jaylen Watkins and Marcus Roberson left Florida for the NFL.

8. KYLE ALLEN, TEXAS A&M, QB
The last time Texas A&M had a freshman start at quarterback, he went on to win the Heisman Trophy. Granted, it was “Johnny Football” and he was a redshirt freshman, but these are the footsteps in which Allen will have to follow. Allen was considered the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation. Expectations will be very high for him to play this season, but he still has to beat out Kenny Hill for the starting spot.

9. QUIN BLANDING, VIRGINIA, S
Blanding has the potential to make a bigger impact on his particular program than anyone else on this list. Despite a 2-10 season last year, Blanding became the catalyst for a tremendous recruiting class for the Cavaliers. Blanding, a five-star recruit, has received first-team repetitions from the start of fall camp. If Blanding becomes the level of defender the Cavaliers expect, he can help push the entire program in the right direction.

10. ALLEN LAZARD, IOWA STATE, WR
When one is looking for impact freshmen, the first stop usually isn’t Ames, Iowa. Lazard is a completely different story. He chose Iowa State, because his brother was already on the roster. While the Cyclones are quite talented at wide receiver, there will be plenty of balls to go around in a passing offense under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, Lazard will be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Weather postpones Game 4 of Astros-Yankees, leaves airing of Ohio State-Northwestern in limbo

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This isn’t exactly optimal.

Due to the forecast of inclement weather, Major League Baseball announced that Game 4 of the American League Championship Series Wednesday night between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees has been moved to Thursday night.  That means Game 5 of the ALCS, originally scheduled for Thursday night, has been pushed to Friday night and will be televised on FS1, with first pitch set for 7:08 p.m. ET.

So, why is news on the postseason of a stick-and-ball sport appearing on a college football website?

Ohio State is scheduled to travel to Evanston to square off with Northwestern Friday.  On FS1. With kickoff set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

The ALCS is airing on FS1 because FOX is televising its newly-acquired WWE Friday Night Smackdown franchise, so a network broadcast won’t be possible for the Big Ten matchup.  More than likely, the game will air on either the Big Ten Network or FOX business.

As of this posting, neither the conference nor FOX has offered up exactly where the game will air.

Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, this will be a huge black eye for a league that shouldn’t be hijacking high school football’s night in the first place, regardless of how few games there are on Fridays (for now).

Wake QB Jamie Newman’s status for Week 8 to be determined

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The defense wasn’t the only side of the ball that ran into injury issues during Wake Forest’s first loss of the 2019 campaign.

An injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder knocked Jamie Newman out of the Week 7 loss to Louisville. An on-site X-ray, as well as other further testing, showed no significant structural damage to the joint.

As Wake looks to bounce back from that loss against Florida State Saturday, though, the sophomore’s status is officially to be determined.

“He’s kind of day-to-day,” head coach Dave Clawson said. “He got hurt at the end of the second quarter. We had X-Rays to try and eliminate the worst thing that could have happened to him and that was eliminated. He was able to return. He’s sore and we’ll just take it day-by-day and see how he feels later in the week. It’s been one practice and we’ll have a better feel later in the week.”

“And we won’t share that when we know it. I don’t have to,” Clawson added, presumably in a middle-school-boy-at-recess voice.

This season, Newman leads the ACC in passing yards (1,772), passing touchdowns (17) and passer rating (160.7).  He’s ninth, tied for sixth and 17th nationally in those respective categories.

Should Newman be unable to go against the Seminoles, Sam Hartman would get the nod.  In relief of Newman this past weekend, the sophomore threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as the Demon Deacons nearly pulled off a stunning comeback on the Cardinals.

Last season as a true freshman, Hartman started the first nine games before going down with an injury, opening the door for Newman to take over the job.

Big 12 admitted error in Texas Tech-Baylor game, fines AD Kirby Hocutt for publicly pointing it out

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An officiating error involving what was ruled an illegal snap but shouldn’t have been during the first possession in the first overtime of Saturday’s Texas Tech-Baylor game could very well have cost the Red Raiders a win.  In a statement Sunday night, Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt revealed that the university had “been in constant communication with the Big 12 Conference office from the immediate end of the game and throughout Sunday regarding the illegal snap call in the first overtime” and that it had “been confirmed that the ruling on the field of an illegal snap was incorrect.”

Instead of an illegal snap, it should’ve been ruled a fumble that was recovered by Tech, which would’ve given the Red Raiders possession of the ball and a golden opportunity to win the game during their first drive in the initial overtime.

Also, instead of allowing the blunder to die right there, the Big 12 has kept the officiating boner in the headlines by announcing Wednesday morning that the conference has, in accordance with the league’s sportsmanship policies, fined Hocutt $25,000.  Additionally, the AD was issued a public reprimand.

For publicly acknowledging that the conference had privately admitted its officials were wrong.

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby addressed the development in a statement.

The Big 12 Conference members have developed policies governing the officiating of our contests. It is vital that senior administration officials, especially the Directors of Athletics, adhere explicitly to these policies. It is very difficult to balance support for an institution’s teams while fully complying with the imperative created by schools acting together to manage athletics competition. On this occasion, the required discipline was not exercised. Kirby Hocutt is one of the very best athletics administrators in the nation, and I am grateful for his assistance and support in resolving this matter.

It should be noted that, in an email obtained by RedRaiderSports.com, Big 12 executive associate commissioner Ed Stewart reminds Hocutt that, “[c]onsistent with past practice, we typically do not publicly address judgment issues.”

Alabama student who allegedly phoned in bomb threat on LSU’s Tiger Stadium said ‘his friend was on the verge of losing a large bet’

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Well, as long as there was a valid reason.

Earlier this week, a freshman student at the University of Alabama, Connor Bruce Croll, 19, was accused of phoning in a bomb threat on Tiger Stadium during last Saturday’s Florida-LSU football game.  It was reported at the time that Croll “was booked into jail early Sunday, where records listed him as a ‘fugitive from justice.’” Croll, who remains jailed in Tuscaloosa without bond, could be facing a felony charge, at least initially, when the case moves to the state of Louisiana.

While no details were available initially, and based on a police affidavit, WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge has now reported that Croll, a native of Virginia, admitted to police that he phoned in the bomb threat because “his friend was on the verge of losing a large bet.”

Subsequent to that, LSU issued a statement that sheds some light on university’s and law enforcement’s actions in the aftermath of the threat being phoned in.

While LSU cannot discuss specific security measures, it is important for the general public to know that LSU Police and officials, along with federal and local law enforcement agencies on location, have protocol in place to respond immediately and appropriately to real and perceived threats at Tiger Stadium and all campus facilities. In this case, protocol was followed efficiently and effectively to quickly ascertain the source of the threat. That protocol including an immediate sweep of the stadium and a multi-agency investigation, which led to the suspect being identified within minutes and arrested soon thereafter. LSU appreciates the cooperation of all agencies and the University of Alabama and UAPD in this very serious matter. There is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of the public on campus.