CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Key transfers

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The lifeblood of a college football program comes through recruiting, but there are times when recruiting requires making sales pitches to experienced college football players as well. Seniors looking for a chance to compete for a starting job in the final year or years of eligibility can turn into great stories at any school, and this season is no exception.

We already took a look at some of the impact freshmen and the top Heisman Trophy candidates this season, but here is a look at some of the names you may already be familiar with looking to take advantage of a clean slate with a new program.

MICHAEL BREWER, VIRGINIA TECH, QB
With Virginia Tech looking for a new starting quarterback to replace Logan Thomas, the Hokies could be hoping Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer emerges as the best available option. The spring game failed to answer the question under center so the addition of Brewer figured to spice things up a bit. By all accounts it appears Brewer is making his case for playing time this fall as well, taking over the top spot in the depth chart during fall camp. Brewer appeared in just four games last season for Texas Tech, completing seven of his 10 pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown. He graduated this spring, making him eligible to play this fall for the Hokies.

JACOBY BRISSETT, NC STATE, QB
A change of scenery could be just what Jacoby Brissett needed after a disastrous 2012 season at Florida. With Jeff Driskel taking on the starter role for the Gators, Brissett made the decision to transfer to NC State, where head coach Dave Doeren will finally get a chance to coach him after attempting to recruit the quarterback to Wisconsin out of high school. Fortunately for NC State, Brissett’s desire to transfer to Miami was blocked due to a lack of room on the roster at the position in January 2013. Little did Miami know at the time the potential need for a transfer option  in 2014 (more on that later). Brissett played in five games in 2012 for Florida, completing 65.7 percent of his pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown. Brissett will be the starting quarterback for NC State, and he will have a stable of healthy receivers and good running back depth surrounding him on the field.

JACOB COKER, ALABAMA, QB
Looking to find his third starting quarterback in six seasons, Alabama head coach Nick Saban may not have been able to find a more suitable option through a transfer than Jacob Coker. Coker came to Alabama from Florida State, looking to get out from under the tremendous shadow cast by Jameis Winston. He does so with the personal endorsement of Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. Coker could likely be a starter on just about any team in the country, but it is not a guarantee just yet Coker will be the Tide’s starter just yet. Coker will have to beat Blake Sims for the job and Saban is known to let these competitions play out as long as he needs before coming to a final decision, even if it means a week or two into the season.

BRANDON CONNETTE, FRESNO STATE QB
An opportunity to play his final year of eligibility closer to home and his ailing mother landed Brandon Connette at Fresno State. Leaving a promising and developing Duke program was surely a tough decision, but as far as football is concerned Connette appears to be landing in another good position as well. Connette is competing for the starting job at Fresno State, offering a bit of a different style than the Bulldogs had grown accustomed to under Derek Carr the last few years, but it is what Connette offers with his feet that could be beneficial for the Bulldogs in their quest to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions. Connette rushed for 14 touchdowns for Duke last season, a big reason why Duke was able to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and play for the conference championship. He may not wing it like Carr, but he did throw for 1,212 yards on 145 pass attempts last season, including 13 touchdowns.

DEE HART, COLORADO STATE RB
Colorado State has some big shoes to fill at running back after Kapri Bibbs rushed for 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. It is clear the Rams like to run the football, so bringing in a running back from Alabama is certainly a good way to go for head coach Jim McElwain, the former Alabama assistant who secured a new contract recently. Dee Hart, who is looking for a more prominent role in an offense rather than part-time work in the crowded and deep Alabama backfield, arrives at Colorado State and should slide right into the starting role right away. Hart, who has battled through various knee injuries already, had just 22 carries in 2013 and with T.J. Yeldon leading the way for the Crimson Tide it looked as though getting many snaps was out of the question for Hart in Tuscaloosa this season. That should not be the case at Colorado State.

JAKE HEAPS, MIAMI QB
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Jake Heaps. The former BYU and Kansas quarterback has arrived at Miami and may have done so at just the right time. With an injury to projected starting quarterback Ryan Williams in the spring, Al Golden left the door open for all possibilities to plug the hole, including transfer options. That left an option on the table for Heaps to find a better situation for the remainder of his eligibility. He was once a highly rated recruit but has struggled to match that expected potential. With the right pieces around him, like running back Duke Johnson, Heaps could finally be ready to enjoy some stable success on the football field this fall. Heaps is currently one of the top two candidates for the starting job at Miami.

MATT JOECKEL, TCU, QB
The former back-up to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M decided it was best to try and compete for a starting job at another program rather than go through another round at Texas A&M. That led senior Matt Joeckel to TCU, where he is eligible to play right away this fall and making his case for the starting job. Joeckel is in the thick of the competition at TCU with Trevone Boykin, who has started 15 games for the Horned Frogs. TCU head coach Gary Patterson could have some options though, with the possibility of moving Boykin to receiver and allowing more time under center for Joeckel addressing two areas of need with one decision.

GUNNER KIEL, CINCINNATI QB
Despite Cincinnati working incumbent starter Munchie Legaux back from injury, it looks like the new guy may be the number one option to lead the American Athletic Conference favorites. Gunner Kiel, who transferred to Cincinnati from Notre Dame, put on quite the show in Cincinnati’s spring game and brings plenty of potential to the passing game for the Bearcats. Kiel sat out the 2013 season due to transfer rules and is now poised to take on the role of starting quarterback for a contender in the AAC as well as for a spot in a big revenue bowl.

WES LUNT, ILLINOIS QB
Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit thinks the Illini can have the best offense in the Big Ten this season. That may not be totally unrealistic with the addition of quarterback Wes Lunt, from Oklahoma State. Lunt arrived at Oklahoma State with loads of hype and potential as an early enrollee looking to succeed Brandon Weeden in 2012, but injuries quickly erased those plans in Stillwater. As he struggled to regain a footing on the depth chart, it became necessary to look for other options to compete for a starting job. Illinois had the need to improve at the position, and Lunt has become the top candidate for the starting job this summer.

JAKE MCGEE, FLORIDA TE
This one came as a bit of a surprise, and is a pretty significant blow to Virginia. Jake McGee was Virginia’s leading receiver last season, and after transferring to Florida he fills a position in need of a major upgrade at Florida. Tight ends at Florida combined for four receptions for 42 yards last season. McGee had a little over 10 times as many catches for the Cavaliers in 2013 and should immediately give Jeff Driskel a competent target in the field. The two have already been developing some chemistry in fall camp, with highlight plays apparently giving the offense a lift. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper intends to make McGee a significant part of the rejuvenated Florida offense.

RUSHEL SHELL, WEST VIRGINIA RB
Going from one end of the Backyard Brawl to the other, Rushel Shell transferred from Pittsburgh to West Virginia last summer. After sitting out the 2013 season, Shell is ready to go and make his case for playing time in a West Virginia offense in need of some physicality. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has said Shell has some of the best skills at the position this camp. In 2012, at Pittsburgh, Shell backed up Ray Graham but still accounted for 641 rushing yards and four touchdowns. West Virginia was seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense in 2013. Shell could help the Mountaineers improve on the ground as a key contributor.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Texas Tech WR Antoine Wesley declares for NFL draft

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He didn’t win enough games at his alma mater, but Kliff Kingsbury did succeed at placing his skill players on NFL rosters. Patrick Mahomes is the MVP front-runner with three weeks left to play, and there are more Red Raider wide receivers in the League than any other college program.

And now we can go ahead and add one more.

Wide receiver Antoine Wesley declared for the NFL draft on Monday. He made the announcement through a Twitter post and a highlight video that paired with the post.

A Las Vegas native by way of Cibolo Steele High School in the San Antonio area, Wesley exploded on the scene as a junior. After catching 10 passes total in his first two seasons, Wesley recorded 88 receptions for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns this year. He ranked ninth nationally in catches and seconds in yards and yards per game.

A rangy target at 6-foot-5, Wesley hauled in 13 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-49 win over Houston on Sept. 15, and in back-to-back November games against Oklahoma and Texas he combined to catch 20 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns.

Wesley was named a Second Team All-Big 12 performer this fall.

Report: American considering Grant of Rights for new TV deal

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You ready for the next round of conference realignment rumors? Ready or not, they’re coming.

The American is the first conference to the table to re-up the television deals that blew up the college sports landscape at the early part of this decade, and AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is trying to stave off a raid on his conference roster before it can even start.

According to the Sports Business Journal, the conference is asking its member schools to sign a Grant of Rights agreement before signing its new TV deal(s). For those who did not take a crash course in media law during the Realignment Apocalypse of the 2010s, a Grant of Rights locks in a school’s media rights to that conference, essentially — just for the purse sake of argument — making UCF worthless to the Big 12, since the Knights’ media rights would remain property of the American for the length of the contract.

Such a deal would make the American’s TV much more valuable, since networks bidding on the league would know for a fact they’re getting UCF, Cincinnati and Houston and not — for the pure sake of argument — Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green and UTSA.

It’s no secret that UCF, Cincinnati, Memphis and Houston are the conference’s most valued members, and thus would have the least incentive to commit their media rights to the AAC. So, why then would they do it? The SBJ addresses this:

Part of the negotiations have explored the possibility of top AAC schools making more revenue than others, which is drastically different than the conference’s current deal in terms of revenue distribution. Currently, the conference splits revenue evenly among its members. It’s unclear how a new distribution system that pays more to certain schools would be received by the rest of the conference, but the presence of UCF is expected to lead to a bigger media rights deal for the conference.

So, Aresco will try to convince UCF and the like that the bird in the hand is worth more than a non-existent offer from the Big 12, while telling Tulsa, Temple and the rest that a tilted media deal is still better than what they’d get in a deal without UCF and company. It’s the same strategy Dan Beebe used to keep the Big 12 from complete implosion in the summer of 2010.

The AAC’s current deal is worth an average of $18 million per year — for the entire conference, which is less than half the Big Ten pays each school.

Obviously, the AAC’s new deal won’t approach the Big Ten’s current payouts, but the American’s current contract was put together as the conference was trying to piece together its survival, so the next deal is expected to shoot up significantly. How significant depends on if the conference’s more popular members are willing to commit to the league in the long term.

Ole Miss LT Greg Little declares for NFL draft

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It’s possible that the first offensive tackle off the board in the 2019 NFL Draft just joined the draft.

Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little announced Monday he will enter the draft early, declaring after his junior season.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the prestigious Ole Miss. However, after several in depth discussions with my family, I have chosen to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft,” Little wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account.

A consensus 5-star recruit and the No. 1 offensive tackle in the Class of 2016, Little played to his billing from the moment he arrived in Oxford. He was a First Team Freshman All-SEC honoree by the league’s coaches in 2016 after appearing in all 13 games and starting five as a true freshman, a Second Team All-SEC player as a sophomore after starting all 12 games at left tackle as a sophomore, and then a First Team All-SEC player this season.

The Allen, Texas, native was also a finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award as the top college football player with Texas ties.

Ole Miss names ex-Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre defensive coordinator

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Mike MacIntyre has a new coaching gig for 2019. The former Colorado head coach has been named the new defensive coordinator of Ole Miss, the Rebels football program announced today.

“I could not be more excited to add Mike’s leadership, values and high-level experience to our program,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said in a released statement. “Throughout our years together at Duke and Ole Miss, I have seen firsthand his ability to turn around a defense, and I look forward to seeing his veteran influence on that side of the ball. Mike is also a tremendous recruiter and should make an immediate impact as we assemble this important class.”

This will be the second time with the Ole Miss program for MacIntyre. MacIntyre previously coached at Ole Miss from 1999 through 2002 as a wide receivers coach and later a defensive backs coach. MacIntyre and Luke were on the same staff in 1999 when the current Rebels head coach was starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant. Luke moved on to be an offensive line coach the following season at Murray State but returned to Ole Miss in 2002 to fill the same role in addition to taking on coaching tight ends. MacIntyre took his coaching career to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys after the 2002 season.

MacIntyre was fired by Colorado as head coach on Nov. 18, prior to the end of the regular season.