CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 7 South Carolina

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2013 record: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in SEC (2nd in SEC East)
2013 postseason: Capital One Bowl vs. Wisconsin (34-24 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 4/No. 4
Head coach: Steve Spurrier (219-79-2 overall; 77-39 in nine years at South Carolina)
Offensive coordinator: Steve Spurrier Jr. (third season as co-coordinator); Shawn Elliott (third season as co-coordinator)
2013 offensive rankings: 32nd rushing offense (198.5 ypg); 40th passing offense (253.8 ypg); 36th total offense (452.3 ypg); 32nd scoring offense (34.1 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: Eight
Defensive coordinator: Lorenzo Ward (third season)
2013 defensive rankings: 50th rushing defense (153.8 ypg); 12th passing defense (196.2 ypg); 19th total defense (350 ypg); 12th scoring defense (20.3 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: Six
Location: Columbia, SC
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250; Grass)
Last conference title: 1969 (ACC)

THE GOOD
Sure, there were a couple of key departures on one of the best defenses in the conference, and the starting quarterback, the winningest of all-time at the school, needs replaced.  That said, this should still be arguably the most talented and deepest squad Spurrier & Company have put on the field since the OBC came to Columbia a decade ago.    Returning are two of the best skill position players in the passing game in the SEC to go along with four starting offensive lineman.  The former will help the new starter under center, while the latter will greatly aid said starter as well as the underrated Mike Davis in the backfield.  The schedule also sets up nicely, with just a pair of what could even remotely be considered formidable road trips: at Auburn and at in-state rival Clemson.  The Gamecocks have owned the ACC Tigers — won five straight — of late, with CU needing to reload at several important positions, so calling that game formidable might be a stretch at this early juncture.

THE BAD
The cornerbacks.  And, actually, that’s way too harsh and not even remotely accurate; the corners aren’t “bad.”  Rather, they’re extremely raw and very inexperienced — only one player at the position has played in a game at the collegiate level.  The good news for the Gamecocks is that they have significant returning experience at both safety positions, which should help as at least two, possibly three, true freshmen will be needed to contribute immediately.  Another negative from the same unit that somewhat relates to the secondary?  USC’s top two pass rushers left for the NFL, meaning any help the young corners could get from a significant pass rush during their transition is somewhat mitigated.  Certainly there’s talent to replace what was lost, but it may take some time..

THE UNKNOWN
With Connor Shaw gone, USC will be breaking in a new first-time full-time starting quarterback.  Dylan Thompson‘s different than a lot of first-time starters, however, as he at least has some experience in that capacity — he’s 3-0 in his career as a starter replacing an injured Shaw and has thrown passes in 20 of the games in which he’s played the past three years.  Still, there’s additional pressure being the everyday, every-down man under center, although Thompson appears to have the kind of poise and personality where the stage won’t even remotely be too big for him.  He won’t have time to ease into that role, either, as USC’s first three games are against Texas A&M, East Carolina (a 10-3 team in 2013) and Georgia.  The good news is that all three of those games are in Columbia, with the first road test coming Sept. 20 against Vanderbilt.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs, Georgia, Sept. 13
As I stated in No. 12 Georgia’s preview, and as both Georgia and South Carolina are expected to be the cream of the crop in the SEC East, it would stand to reason that this game, played the third weekend of the season, could prove to be the SEC title game ticket-puncher for the winning side.  While UGA won last year’s game, USC has owned the series of late by winning the previous three by a combined 42 points.  The fact that the game is in Columbia bodes well for the Gamecocks.  Well, that and the fact that, at least on paper, they’ll be the more talented of the two teams.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: running back Mike Davis
One of the most underrated players in the country at any position, Davis will get the opportunity, especially early on, to carry more of the offensive workload as Thompson establishes his footing as the Gamecocks’ full-time starter for the first time.  While Davis — very quietly — rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last season, his work in the passing game (34-352) is an ofttimes overlooked facet that provides an extra dimension for his offense — and another consideration for voters.  If the Gamecocks can have the type of team success they had in 2013 and Davis can increase his production — especially in high-profile games — then come late November and early December he could very well be in the midst of the discussion.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Washington State officially taps Wyoming’s Jake Dickert as DC

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The raiding of the Wyoming staff by the new head coach for Washington State football has formally commenced.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Wazzu would be adding three Wyoming assistants to Nick Rolovich‘s first staff at the Pac-12 school.  Tuesday, the first of those came to fruition as Jake Dickert was officially confirmed as the Cougars’ defensive coordinator.

Dickert will also coach linebackers for Rolovich.

“I am so pumped about this hire, I’ve been following Jake and his coaching career for a long time. We have competed against him the past couple years and his defenses play tough, they play physical and they play as one,” the first-year Washington State football coach said in a statement. “Jake came highly recommended from a number of coaches around the country and he has been very successful in recruiting and developing players from this area of the country. I’ve seen Jake continue to develop as he worked his way up the coaching ladder and he proved himself as a defensive coordinator this past season. He takes pride in how his defense plays, stopping the run, forcing takeaways and pressuring the quarterback, and I think he will be a great fit for this program and the Pullman community.”

Dickert spent the past three seasons at Wyoming.  For the first two, he was safeties coach.  Prior to the 2019 season, he was promoted to defensive coordinator.

The Cowboys job was Dickert’s first at the FBS level.  During a 13-year coaching career, he also served time on football staffs at North Dakota State, South Dakota, Southeast Missouri State, Augustana, Minnesota State and South Dakota State.

Alabama QB signee Bryce Young leaps to top of 247’s Class of 2020 player rankings

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Not only does the Alabama Crimson Tide football team currently hold the nation’s top recruiting class, they now boast the nation’s top player. Well, at least according to one recruiting service they do.

During the Early Signing Period last month, Mater Dei quarterback Bryce Young signed with Alabama. At the time, Young was the No. 3 player in the country according to 247Sports.com.

Tuesday, ahead of National Signing Day next week, the recruiting website released its final player rankings for the Class of 2020. And, according to that service, Young is now the No. 1 recruit in this year’s class.

Quarterback and Clemson signee DJ Uiagalelei is the No. 2 prospect. Another Clemson signee, defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, is No. 3. The rest of the Top Five is rounded out by an Ohio State signee, wide receiver Julian Fleming, and another Alabama Crimson Tide football signee, weakside defensive end Will Anderson.

The recruiting website explained the process that went into making the decision on the top player in this class:

There were three worthy candidates but there’s a new No. 1. In almost any year, any one of DJ Uiagalelei, Bryce Young and Bryan Bresee would be a clear No. 1. This year, two had to settle for something less. We landed on Young as our top guy after extensive deliberation. Despite Bresee being one of the best defensive linemen we’ve scouted in years, he was up against two quarterbacks that finish with the same rating as Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, our highest grade ever given to a quarterback. When it’s close, and a true No. 1 candidate is there at quarterback, we felt that position had to get the nod. Here’s our roundtable discussion on how we sorted through these three elite talents.

Despite coming up short on some of the physical tools that Uiagalelei boasts, Young’s consistency, instincts, accuracy and body of work both during his career, senior season and all-star performances was just too much to pass up for us. As the game turns to the best player going No. 1, regardless of traits (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow), we felt like Young gives us our best shot at hitting on the No. 1 player.

As for the 247 composite, which takes into consideration other recruiting services such as Rivals and ESPN? Bresee is the No. 1 recruit in the country, followed by Young and Fleming. According to that same composite, Uiagalelei is the No. 10 prospect in the Class of 2020.

Ex-Duke WR Aaron Young lands at Florida Atlantic

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When Duke wide receiver Aaron Young first entered the transfer portal, nearly a year ago to the day, he wanted to head back west.“I’m looking for a graduate program that I can get into since I can’t get into one here, and also a chance to play closer to home,” the California native told 247Sports at the time.

Young later pulled his name from the portal and played the 2019 season for the Blue Devils. His 29 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns ranked him second among all Duke wide receivers.

Still unable to get into graduate school at Duke, Young re-entered the portal two days after Christmas, and now he’s found his next destination — which is very much not closer to his Murrieta, Calif., home.

Young later replied to the tweet, comically correcting FAU Owl’s Nest to let them know he’s actually 6’4″ and 210 pounds.

Immediately eligible to play his sixth season, Young will join a defending Conference USA champion team that nonetheless loses four of its top five pass catchers. In 37 career games, Young owns 63 grabs for 849 yards and seven touchdowns.

LSU now losing multiple support staffers to bigger jobs

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To the victor comes the spoils, they say. And the spoils are all leaving town.

LSU was already set to lose a lot on the field, with eight early entrants plus seniors like Joe BurrowKristian Fulton and both guards on their Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line. And though losing passing game coordinator Joe Brady to the Panthers and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to Baylor — damn you, Matt Rhule — wasn’t unexpected, it was still a blow.

But LSU is now losing third-level assistants, the type of guys only the most purple and gold of LSU fans knew but the guys who made the machine hum the way it did.

Jorge Munoz, an analyst and former Louisiana-Lafayette offensive coordinator widely speculated to slide into Brady’s role, left to join Aranda at Baylor. Offensive graduate assistant John Decoster took a job as the tight ends coach at Old Dominion. Defensive analyst Dennis Johnson, who would’ve coached LSU’s defensive line had he not injured both knees playing basketball in the offseason, also followed Aranda to Baylor.

And now longtime defensive analyst Ronnie Wheat is leaving to become the safeties coach at Nevada, according to multiple reports Tuesday.

Wheat had more than earned his promotion, spending the past seven seasons on LSU’s support staff while working under coordinators John ChavisKevin Steele and Aranda. According to Geaux247, who broke the story, Wheat was instrumental in developing linebackers such as Devin White and Kendell Beckwith, and helped reel in a pair of 4-star linebackers in LSU’s 2020 recruiting class.

To be clear, change is the nature of college football. The roster turns over completely every five years, and losing assistants to bigger and better jobs is the price of victory. On a personal level, you want to lose your guys to bigger jobs, because it makes the jobs you have all the more attractive. Alabama’s staff has almost completely turned over from its 2017 national championship, to say nothing of the now-ancient 2009 title, and yet Nick Saban keeps the Crimson Tide humming.

Now it’s Ed Orgeron‘s turn.