CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 14 USC

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2013 record: 10-4 overall, 6-3 in the Pac-12 conference (tied for 2nd in South division)
2013 postseason: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Fresno State (45-25 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 19/No. 19
Head coach: Steve Sarkisian (34-29 overall; 1st year at USC)
Offensive coordinator: Clay Helton (5th year at USC)
2013 offensive rankings: 59th rushing offense (172.8 ypg); 70th passing offense (227.1 ypg); 72nd total offense (399.9 ypg); 60th scoring offense (29.7 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Justin Wilcox (1st year at USC)
2013 defensive rankings: 15th rushing defense (120.6 ypg); 32nd passing defense (214.6 ypg);  13th total defense (335.2 ypg); 16th scoring defense (21.2 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: seven
Location: Los Angeles
Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (93,607; grass)
Last conference title: 2008

THE GOOD
Once USC athletic director Pat Haden cut ties with head coach Lane Kiffin during the middle of season, the Trojans played very well down the stretch. The team won six of its last seven games to finish 10-4. The offense in particular played at a much higher level. In the team’s final seven games, junior quarterback Cody Kessler threw 12 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions. Kessler had to battle earlier in the season with fellow quarterback Max Wittek to earn the starting job, but once Kessler was handed the reins, the team’s offense played at a much higher level. They did so under the supervision of offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who was retained by new head coach Steve Sarkisian. An experienced quarterback and improved system should help the Trojans play at a more consistent level on offense during the upcoming season.

THE BAD
As the Trojans prepare for the season, the team’s situation at offensive line is tenuous at best. Max Tuerk may be one of the most versatile linemen in college football — he’ll start at center for the first time this fall — and Chad Wheeler improved throughout his freshmen campaign. But the rest of the projected starters along the offensive line lack experience. Aundrey Walker was expected to provide a veteran presence and potentially start, but he has yet to practice during camp due to a lingering leg injury. Zach Banner (right tackle), Khaliel Rodgers (right guard) and Toa Lobendahn (left guard) continue to practice with the first unit, yet Banner is the only one to even appear in a game as a member of the Trojans. In fact, Lobendahn is a true freshman. It’s a unit that will require time to gel and needs to gain experience throughout the season for USC to play to expectations this season.

THE UNKNOWN
Will the Trojans ever be able to recapture the magic that once surrounded the program during Pete Carroll‘s nine-year run as the team’s head coach? It already failed to do so when named Lane Kiffin, the team’s former co-offensive coordinator, was named as Carroll’s replacement. Yet, the school went back to the same well and named Kiffin’s former running mate as the program’s newest head coach. Sarkisian seems like an ideal fit due to his history with the team, but the coach was never able to get the Washington Huskies over the hump during his five seasons with the program. Granted, USC’s talent level compared to Washington’s at the time Sarkisian took over is night and day. It has to be a concern for USC faithful that Sarkisian never finished better than 8-4 as a head coach.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at UCLA
Last season, the Trojans got the proverbial monkey off their backs by beating the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal for the first time since 2008. The next obstacle for the Trojans is overcome their cross-town rival, the UCLA Bruins. As the Trojans dealt with NCAA sanctions, Bruins head coach Jim Mora rebuilt UCLA and made the Bruins into one of the top teams in the nation entering this season. While the Bruins haven’t been able to overcome the Trojans on the recruiting trail, UCLA still won the last two contests between the teams by a combined score of 73-42. It’s likely that when these two teams meet to play on Nov. 12 the Pac-12 South division and an appearance in the conference’s championship game will be on the line.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: DT Leonard Williams
Everyone knows that a only one player primarily from the defensive side of the football has ever won the Heisman Trophy, and Michigan’s Charles Woodson had the luxury of playing special teams and a little bit of offense too. However, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o have shown in recent years that dominant defenders in the midst of a special season can garner legitimate consideration for the sport’s most prestigious trophy. Williams is the most talented player on USC’s roster. He’s projected as a possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. In 13 games last season, Williams was second on the team with 74 tackles and added 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Williams will put together a season like Suh did in 2009 (85 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks) and establish himself as the most dominant defender in college football.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

NC State LB Brock Miller announces transfer to Boise State

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The Boise State football team is the latest to see the beneficial side of the portal.

Earlier this month, Brock Miller entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.  Two weeks later, the NC State linebacker announced on Twitter that he will be transferring into the Boise State football program.

As of yet, the Broncos have not announced Miller’s official addition to the roster.

Miller, a three-star 2016 signee, played in 31 games during his time with the Wolfpack. He started 13 of those appearances, including 11 in 2019.

This past season, his seven tackles for loss were tied for third on the team. He had 40 total tackles, which were good for eighth.

Miller is leaving the Wolfpack as a graduate transfer. Next season will be the Florida native’s final year of eligibility.

Four-star 2018 signee Kukea Emmsley of Boise State is in transfer portal

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In December of 2017, Kukea Emmsley posted on Twitter that he dreamt of being a Boise State football player.  A little over two years later, the dream is over.  Or, it’s on its way to being over.

According to 247Sports.com, Emmsley has entered himself into the NCAA transfer database.  The move to the portal by the redshirt defensive end would be the first step in leaving the Boise State football team.  Emmsley could, though, pull his name and remain with the Broncos.

Conversely, the Boise State football program could pull his scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered the portal.

A four-star 2018 signee, Emmsley was rated as the No. 4 player regardless of position in the state of Hawaii.  He was also the No. 25 outside linebacker in that class.  Of the 25 recruits signed by Boise State football that year, only one on the defensive side of the ball, Chris Mitchell, was rated higher than Emmsley.

Despite that pedigree, Emmsley failed to live up to the pre-career billing.

As a true freshman in 2019, Emmsley took a redshirt.  This past season, Emmsley made his Boise State debut in an Oct. 19 loss to BYU.  As it turns out, that was Emmsley’s lone appearance.

Emmsley will likely have to sit out the 2020 season if he follows through on a transfer and moves to another FBS school.  That would leave him with two years of eligibility beginning in 2021.

Virginia OC Robert Anae withdraws name from Hawaii coaching search

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We don’t know yet who will be the head coach of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football team.  We do, though, now who it won’t be.

In days after Nick Rolovich left to replace Mike Leach at Washington State, Robert Anae‘s name has been mentioned prominently as a potential successor.  Tuesday, however, the Virginia offensive coordinator announced in a statement that he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job as the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors head coach.

“After careful consideration, I am withdrawing my application for the University of Hawaii head football coach position,” the statement began. “I have been overwhelmed with the commitment by Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall and the leadership of [athletic director] Carla Williams. I am excited and energized to close out our recruiting class as we continue our quest for the conference championship.”

The 61-year-old Anae, who played his college football at BYU, was born in Hawaii and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football team.  Anae just completed his fourth season as Virginia’s coordinator.  He also coaches the team’s wide receivers.

With Anae out of the picture, Hawaii could stay in-house for its new head coach. Craig Stutzmann, UH’s quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator and Mark Banker, UH’s assistant head coach and linebackers coach, have been mentioned as possibilities.  The offensive line coach at Syracuse, Mike Cavanaugh, has been floated as a possibility as well.

Penn State DE Daniel Joseph hurtles into the portal

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Count the Penn State football program as the next FBS school facing a potential personnel loss.

First reported by the SEC Network‘s Cole Cubelic, defensive end Daniel Joseph has taken the first step in leaving the Penn State football team by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed the initial report.

A four-star 2016 signee, Joseph was rated as the No. 12 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 3 player regardless of position in the state of Illinois.

Joseph took a redshirt as a true freshman.  The next three seasons, Joseph appeared in 33 games.  A dozen of those appearances came during the 2019 campaign.

In those three seasons, the defensive lineman was credited with 29 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, five sacks, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

On the last depth chart of the 2019 season, Joseph was listed No. 3 behind starter Yetur Gross-Matos and backup Shane Simmons.  Gross-Matos confirmed in early December that he will be leaving the Nittany Lions early for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Joseph is the second Nittany Lion to hit the portal this offseason.  Earlier this month, offensive lineman Hunter Kelly entered his name into the transfer database.  Both Kelly and Joseph will be leaving the Penn State football team as graduate transfers.