2015 could be the year of the running back in college football

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College football has been a game for quarterbacks over the last decade or so, but the 2015 college football season could be a big one for the running backs. The young running backs that have taken the big stage during the 2014 season have shown glimpses of what could be one of the finest seasons for fans of the running game in quite some time.

Just look at some of the names coming back to line up in the back field with authority in 2015.

Now a couple of years removed from the SEC’s best quarterback class in some time, the SEC should be heavy on the run in 2015. The SEC’s leading rusher returning in 2015 will be Georgia’s Nick Chubb for his sophomore season, and LSU freshman Leonard Fournette could also be worthy of striking his Heisman pose. Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards and an SEC-leading 14 touchdowns this season, and most of that came while backing up Todd Gurley until he went down to injury. Fournette also rushed for over 1,000 yards, including 143 yards in a bowl game loss against Notre Dame. If you need more running power from the SEC, look no further than Arkansas with sophomore Alex Collins. Collins is coming off a 1,100-yard season with 12 touchdowns and should be a big piece of the offense for Bret Bielema in 2015. If there is one thing Bielema knows how to do, it is run the football. With Collins on the field, Arkansas will do just that. Alabama will look for a big year from  too. Henry was 10 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season but he did rush for 11 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

Up north, the Big Ten should continue to see plenty of production on the ground. In 2014 the Big Ten running game was the story with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon earning a nod as Heisman finalist and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah a household name. But the Big Ten also saw great seasons from Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford. The Big Ten will lose all of these players to the draft, but there are some talented running backs ready to pick up the steam. Right now there is no hotter name among young running backs than Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, who turned in a postseason run worthy of Mr. January consideration. Wisconsin has Corey Clement ready to be the next running back in line in Madison. Two other sophomores to keep an eye on in the Big Ten will be Michigan’s Derrick Green, who could have a big impact if he bounces back healthy in 2015, and Penn State’s Akeel Lynch if the Nittany Lions firm up on offensive line.

Move just west of Penn State and you may find the best running back in the state with Pittsburgh’s James Conner. The sophomore led the ACC in rushing with 1,765 yards and his 26 touchdowns were twice more than the ACC’s next leading rushing touchdown leader, Boston College’s Jon Hilliman (a freshman). Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could have a huge role in 2015 as well.

Out west it is easy to get caught up in the quarterback action in the Pac-12. This year was certainly the case with players like Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, but next year could see some big years from running backs as well. Paul Perkins of UCLA led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,575 yards this season and will be back in 2015. So will Arizona’s Nick Wilson, the conference’s fourth-leading rusher as a freshman, and Oregon’s Royce Freeman. Freeman did not have a great championship game against Ohio State, but he should take on a heavy load without Mariota leading the offense in 2015.

The pass-happy Big 12 is not without some impact running backs in 2015 either. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine led the Big 12 with 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014. Baylor’s Shock Linwood was second in the Big 12  as a sophomore with 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns. West Virginia’s Rushel Shell is also capable of doing some major damage if the Mountaineers have more faith in him.

Quarterbacks will likely remain the face of many programs, but the 2015 season could be a huge season for the running backs.

Oklahoma won’t be allowing football players to come back for on-campus workouts until July 1

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Here’s to guessing the Oklahoma head football coach is completely on board with this approach.  Even as it’ll put him nearly a month behind other Power Five programs.

When word began to surface that some conferences/schools would possibly be allowing its player to return to campus June, Lincoln Riley blasted the notion.

“All the talk about these schools wanting to bring players back on June 1 is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard,” the coach said in mid-May. “We’ve got to be patient. We have one good shot at it. …

“It would be completely irresponsible to bring these guys in too early. We need to bring these guys in as late as we can. Every day they come in could be a day we could’ve gotten better, learned more about the virus, the [personal protection equipment] gets better, a day closer to a vaccine, the testing capabilities get better. It’s just not worth it.”

Two weeks later, Oklahoma has announced that it will reopen its facilities July 1 for voluntary football workouts.  That’s exactly one month beyond the date to which the NCAA gave the green light last week.

According to the program, returning Oklahoma football players will need to be evaluated and cleared by the OU medical staff before they can participate in the voluntary activities.  OU added that the players “will be continuously monitored and will be expected to adhere to a number of safety protocols and guidelines.”

“As I have stated before, we are going to approach this return with extreme care,” Riley said in a statement. “We have received tremendous guidance from highly respected medical professionals, and we will follow their recommendations. We understand that the well-being of our student-athletes is at the top of our responsibilities. That’s why we will be diligent in how we manage everything from the way we relate to each other to the cleaning of our facilities and beyond.

“Our medical personnel have told us that the safest thing we can do is keep our players off campus for as long as possible. We chose the latest point that we could bring them back and still have enough time to prepare.”

The SEC confirmed its players would be returning June 8.  Both Ohio State and Illinois from the Big Ten will be doing the same on the same date.  Ditto for Clemson and Louisville as well.

USC transfer Clayton Bradley tweets move to UNLV

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One former USC football player has found himself a new home.  Unofficially.

Clayton Bradley had entered the NCAA transfer database back in January.  Four months later, the offensive lineman took the next step in leaving USC football by committing to UNLV.

Bradley made the announcement of a move to the Rebels on Twitter.

“I would like to thank the Trojan family for the past five years at the [U]university of Southern California,” Bradley wrote. “My experience and the relationships I’ve made will last a lifetime.  I’d like to thank the coaches who have recruited meduring my time in the transfer portal for the opportunity to complete my final year of eligibility.

“After speaking with Coach Arroyo and Coach Norcross I am excited about the program that they and the staff are building.  I have decided to attend the University of Las Vegas for my final season.  Excited for the journey ahead!”

Bradley had been granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA earlier this offseason.

Bradley was a four-star member of the USC football Class of 2015.  The Anaheim, Calf., product was rated as the No. 33 tackle in the country.  He was also the No. 42 player regardless of position in the Golden State.

In five seasons with the Trojans, Bradley appeared in 17 games.  The lineman started three of those contests.  All three of the starts, and 14 of the appearances, came during the 2016 season.  Bradley didn’t see the field at all this past season for USC football.

In December, UNLV turned to Marcus Arroyo as its next head football coach.  The Oregon offensive coordinator replaced the dismissed Tony Sanchez.

Clemson announces football players can return to voluntary on-campus activities June 8

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Thanks to Clemson football, another return domino has fallen.

Last week, the NCAA announced that it would allow schools to bring its student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts starting June 1.  The SEC subsequently confirmed its players would be returning June 8.  Both Ohio State and Illinois from the Big Ten will be doing the same on the same date.

Monday afternoon, Clemson announced that some student-athletes, including football players, will be permitted to return to campus for voluntary activities starting June 8.  Clemson is the second ACC school to announce such a return, with Louisville being the first.

As will be the case with the Cardinals, the Tigers are doing a phased approach to the return.  From the school’s release:

Clemson Athletics has planned a three-phase approach to return, with oversight from the University, as well as guidance from local and national health officials and best practices. The first phase is expected to commence in conjunction with Clemson University’s previously-announced Phase I target date.

All phases include guidelines for social distancing, face coverings, enhanced sanitization, limited groups, modified use of space and other safety measures. In addition to the overarching plan, the department has worked at a granular level with coaching and support staffs, looking at each facility and developing guidelines for those individual spaces. The plans are subject to change based on guidance from the CDC, DHEC, State of South Carolina, Clemson University, the NCAA or the ACC or new medical information and research.

Phase I includes just those staff members directly responsible for the health and well-being of student-athletes, as well as those preparing facilities for Phase II. Sport coaches are expected to work remotely for Phase I, which will last no fewer than 14 days. Coaches may begin activity within facilities in limited numbers and employing recommended protocols with objective-based duties no sooner than Phase II.

Phase II and Phase III each further integrate staffs and student-athletes, and make adjustments to capacities and group settings, as well as facility access. Clemson will continue to evaluate policies and procedures on spacing, contact tracing, testing, and other safety measures as more is known from the CDC, DHEC, ACC, NCAA or other medical research or guidance. Details regarding fall competition are not available at this time.

“We are encouraged to begin the first step in the implementation of our Phase I planning, and appreciate the leadership of our University in helping us prepare for our student-athletes and staff to return in early June,” said athletic director Dan Radakovich in a statement. “We are confident in our ability to provide a safe environment and have put our energy into that goal. We’re encouraged by the progress and remain vigilant as we begin to welcome a limited number of student-athletes back to our facilities.”

Iowa State reveals it would limit Jack Trice Stadium to half-capacity this fall

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Thanks to Iowa State, we have yet another tangible sign that there will quite possibly be a 2020 college football season.  Maybe.  Possibly.

In a message to fans of the Cyclones, Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard stated that he and the university “fully anticipate playing football this fall.” In fact, “[a]s of today, we fully anticipate playing football in Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5.,” Pollard wrote.

That was in response to the question of whether football will be played this fall.  When it comes to fans in the stands?  Pollard revealed that Iowa State home football games would be played at about of the capacity at Jack Trice Stadium.  The home of the Cyclones officially holds 61,500.  Per Pollard, the university is “planning as though the capacity of our stadium would be limited to 30,000 spectators.”

And, just how will the university determine who gets in?  And who gets shut out?  From the letter:

As of today, approximately 22,000 season tickets have been renewed for this fall. That leaves us approximately 8,000 seats to be filled. Because we need to make plans to accommodate those fans who will be allowed into the stadium (based on state and local guidelines), we have decided to implement the following:

  1. Any fan who does not renew their season tickets and make their Cyclone Club donation by June 12, 2020, will not be provided the opportunity to attend any games this fall unless it is later decided that we can safely exceed the 50% capacity restriction.

  2. The only fans who will have the opportunity to be in the stadium this fall are those who renew their season tickets and their required Cyclone Club donation (if applicable) by June 12, 2020. If you have not done so already, please contact our staff ASAP to complete those processes. +Renew Now

  3. Because we expect to reach the 50% capacity limitation through season ticket sales, we do not anticipate selling single-game tickets unless the capacity limits are raised.

  4. Any season ticket holder who does not renew their season tickets for 2020 will continue to have first rights on their same seats for 2021. We believe it is very important to honor prior loyalty, as there may be some fans who are not comfortable attending games this fall or are experiencing financial challenges.

  5. Any season ticket holder who renews their season tickets but later decides they are not comfortable attending games this fall because of COVID-19 may request a refund of their season ticket purchase or defer the purchase of their season ticket to the 2021 season.

The university’s game-day mitigation strategies and measures that will be implemented will be unveiled at a later date.  Iowa State had previously confirmed that its coaches, including head football coach Matt Campbell, will take a one-year reduction in pay and eliminate all bonuses.

Iowa State is scheduled to open the 2020 college football season at home against FCS South Dakota Sept. 5.