CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Impact Freshmen

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Recruiting in college football is the lifeblood of a program’s success. While the majority of the Class of 2015 will see their time to lead and prove valuable on the field will come in the next few years, a select few special talents could end up playing a key role with their new programs starting this fall.

Unlike decades past, talented freshmen have a chance to become household names now. In recent years we have seen players like Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston dazzle from the start of their collegiate careers, each going on to win a Heisman Trophy as freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Last season may not have produced a young Heisman phenom, but it did have its share of young stars like LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Baylor wide receiver K.D. Cannon and Alabama defensive end Da’Shawn Hand.

So which freshmen could be names to watch this season? Here are a few.

JOSH ROSEN, QB, UCLA

Many suspect Josh Rosen will have a chance to step right into the starting job at UCLA as the Bruins look to replace Brett Hundley. And why wouldn’t he? One of the top quarterbacks in the Class of 2015, Rosen seems to be worthy of filling one of the few holes UCLA’s offense has this season. Rosen enrolled early to get a jump start on getting adjusted, and that should pay off.

KAHLIL MCKENZIE, DL, TENNESSEE

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has done a tremendous job in bringing in talent since he took over the Vols program, but the addition of Kahlil McKenzie may be his best recruiting victory yet. McKenzie brings good size to the middle of Tennessee’s defensive line and should be a monster for opposing offensive linemen to block.

DERWIN JAMES, DB, FLORIDA STATE

Florida State has plenty of holes to fill, except in the defensive secondary. There should be a spot for Derwin James somewhere in the mix though. James proved to be a playmaker in the spring game after enrolling early. Look for James to be worked into the defensive game plan in certain situations this fall.

MARTEZ IVEY, OL, FLORIDA

New Florida head coach Jim McElwain had a relatively short time to recruit for the Gators, so locking in offensive lineman Martez Ivey was significant. The premium offensive lineman should have an impact in the trenches in a spot that has been weak for Florida in recent years. He won’t be making big plays happen but adding stability up front is always good.

MALIK JEFFERSON, LB, TEXAS

If there is one thing Charlie Strong knows what to do with Texas, it is improve the defense. The Longhorns welcome new linebacker Malik Jefferson to the fold this fall, and Jefferson should quickly become the centerpiece of Strong’s improving Longhorns defense. It will not take long for him to leave an impact this fall in Austin after enrolling early to be there for spring practices.

SOLOMON THOMAS, DL, STANFORD

Stanford is in the unusual position of having to refuel the defensive line. Sitting out the 2014 season with a redshirt should pay dividends for Solomon Thomas at Stanford. Thomas should waste little time giving opposing offensive linemen trouble this season, as he has a chance to move right into a starting gig sooner rather than later if healthy.

BYRON COWART, DE, AUBURN

Auburn’s defense is expected to improve simply with the addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, but the Tigers need a body to bring some pressure up front on the defensive line. Byron Cowart could have an impact off the edge by the time the season is over. Look for Cowart to move up the depth chart quickly at Auburn and excel under the guidance of Muschamp.

Houston QB D’Eriq King considering leaving team to grad transfer elsewhere in 2020

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Houston quarterback D’Eriq King is considering leaving the team, counting this season as a redshirt and then graduate transferring elsewhere for the 2020 season. If such a move is completed, it’s believed to be a first in major college football.

King’s father, Eric King, told Mark Berman of the Fox affiliate in Houston that the move is a done deal.

However, King himself says the decision is not final.

Whether it happens or not, that such a move is being considered is a radical (and, depending on your perspective) cynical use of the new redshirt rule, passed in 2018, that allows players to compete in up to four games and still count the season as a redshirt.

Kelly Bryant did at Clemson, as did Jalen McCleskey at Oklahoma State. (Ironically, King played McCleskey, now at Tulane, on Thursday night.)

But neither of those players were starting quarterbacks. Bryant’s departure happened after he had just been demoted in favor of Trevor Lawrence.

King is Houston’s starter, and its best player. He has 36 games’ experience under his belt; only one other Cougar has thrown pass this season, freshman Logan Holgorsen. (He’s 1-of-1 for 5 yards.)

King threw for 2,982 yards and 36 touchdowns and rushed for 674 yards and 14 scores last season before missing the final portion to a knee injury. On Thursday he passed Tim Tebow to become the first player in FBS history to rush and throw for a touchdown in 15 consecutive games.

Houston is off to a 1-3 start under new head coach Dana Holgorsen, and it’s clear that the King camp doesn’t believe he’s clicking with the new coaching staff.

And while King’s decision would be treated in some corners of the college football world as a sky-is-falling scenario, it’s telling that King’s experience at Houston is chalked up as business as usual. A product of Manvel, Texas, King was recruited, signed and played his first season for Tom Herman. Herman left for Texas and was replaced by Major Applewhite, but he was fired after two seasons and replaced by Holgorsen.

It appears now that King would like a do-over on the end of his college career, and would like to do so for a coaching staff that he can actually choose to play for.

BYU loses grad transfer RB Ty’Son Williams for the year

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Ty’Son Williams‘s career has come to a premature end, as the running back revealed on Twitter on Sunday that he has suffered a torn ACL in his left knee.

A graduate transfer from South Carolina, Williams actually signed with North Carolina out of Sumter, S.C., but transferred to Columbia and spent three years with the Gamecocks. After totaling 165 carries in two seasons on South Carolina’s active roster. Williams was enjoying the usage he never got at his first two schools. He rushed a career-high 17 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns in BYU’s win at Tennessee, then bested that mark a week later, carrying 19 times for 99 yards in the Cougars’ 30-27 win over No. 21 USC on Sept. 14.

“Unfortunately my 2019 season has come to an end due to an ACL year in my left knee,” Williams wrote on social media. “Having no regrets as every time I gave it my all when I was out there. I appreciate all my family and friends reaching out as I always say “I love y’all.”

Williams carried six times for 28 yards in BYU’s loss to No. 17 Washington on Saturday.

For the year, Williams rushed 49 times for 264 yards and three touchdowns.

Williams used a redshirt in leaving North Carolina for South Carolina, so he would have to appeal to the NCAA for a medical hardship to return for a sixth season in 2020 — and he passed the 4-game threshold this season. As a graduate transfer, Williams owns a Bachelor’s degree from South Carolina and is pursuing a Master’s in communications at BYU.

Pac-12 says ending of Ole Miss-Cal could have been reviewed, but says call on field was correct

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Before we move on, let’s acknowledge two competing, equally true things. First, if your team lost a game like Ole Miss did, you’d be hopping mad, too. Second, much of Ole Miss’s anger is a thin veil obscuring the fact the replay they wanted would have been a de facto fourth timeout, as well as the fact their team could have hustled a heckuva lot quicker to the line of scrimmage to run that ill-fated final play.

All that said, the Pac-12 has now issued its review of the ending of No. 15 Cal’s controversial win over Ole Miss, and found that while the play “probably should” have been reviewed, the underlying call on the field was correct. Elijah Moore came down short of the goal line.

“Given the closeness of the call, and that it was an end-of-game scenario, it probably should have been stopped by instant replay for review,” Pac-12 VP of officiating David Coleman says. “However, as there was not irrefutable video evidence that the ruling … could be overturned to a touchdown, it was the correct call.”

A review in that situation would have been an undeniable advantage to Ole Miss, allowing the Rebels to regroup and snap the ball with a fresh play call from offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.

Instead, the correct call was not reviewed, and it’s hard to be angry at the replay official for not reviewing a correct call.

No. 11 Texas loses two starting DBs for a month, a third for longer, backup LB for the season

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Coming into this season, Texas really liked its depth in the secondary. Heading into the meat of the Big 12 schedule, that faith is about to be tested.

Tom Herman confirmed Monday that Texas will be without starting cornerback Jalen Green and starting safety Caden Sterns for the next month and safety Josh Thompson for even longer. All three were injured during the No. 11 Longhorns’ 36-30 win over Oklahoma State.

Those injuries were in addition to the injuries already sustained by starting nickelback BJ Foster and back-up safety DeMarvion Overshown, who both missed Saturday’s game.

Additionally, freshman linebacker Marcus Tillman, Jr., will miss the remainder of the season with an MCL sprain.

The Green injury is especially painful for Texas given the circumstances that led to it. The ‘Horns were set to take a 21-13 lead into halftime when, with 45 seconds left in the second quarter, punt returner Jake Smith muffed a punt at his own 15-yard line, which Oklahoma State recovered. Forced to defend an extra possession, Green dislocated his shoulder attempting to tackle Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and did not return to the game. Adding insult to injury, Oklahoma State scored on the possession. (Though Texas obviously won the game.)

Sterns led the Longhorns with 12 tackles on Saturday but left the field seated upright in a cart after spraining a ligament in his knee. Sterns also missed Texas’ win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl due to a knee injury and sat out spring practice recuperating the knee.

Texas is off this week, accounting for one of the weeks Sterns, Green and Thompson will miss. That’s the good news. The bad: all are certain to miss the ‘Horns Oct. 12 date with No. 6 Oklahoma.