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.

RB Jaylin Bradley set to leave Nebraska via transfer portal

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For the fourth time in roughly a week, a Nebraska football player has left Scott Frost‘s program.

Multiple media outlets reported Tuesday morning Jaylin Bradley is set to leave the Cornhuskers.  A short time ago, a Nebraska football official confirmed that the redshirt sophomore running back is listed in the NCAA transfer database.

At this point, it’s unclear if Bradley will be leaving as a graduate transfer.  If Bradley has to sit out the 2020 season, he would then have one season of eligibility to use in 2021.

A three-star member of Nebraska’s 2017 recruiting class, Bradley was rated as the No. 3 player in the state of Nebraska regardless of position.  Showing promise as a true freshman, Bradley ran for 93 yards on 24 carries as well as catching four passes for another 38 yards in seven appearances.  He also returned six kicks for 124 yards.

The next two seasons, however, Bradley played in just one game.  He carried the ball twice for eight yards in his lone 2019 appearance.

In addition to Bradley, cornerback Tony Butler announced on Twitter late last week that he has entered the transfer database.  On top of that, linebacker Pernell Jefferson, a three-star 2016 signee, entered the portal last Wednesday.  Days before that, offensive lineman John Raridon decided to retire from football to pursue a career in architecture.

According to the Lincoln Journal-Star, all of the departures leave Nebraska football with 84 players on scholarship.  That’s one under the NCAA-mandated limit of 85 scholarship players.

In interview, Deion Sanders says he’ll be a head coach in college football ‘next year’

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If seeing Deion Sanders roaming the sidelines as a college football head coach is on your bucket list, the man himself says it’ll happen.  Soon.

Twitter in general and the college football world specifically was set ablaze in early November as a report emerged that Deion Sanders was a candidate for the Florida State head-coaching vacancy.  Subsequent reports stated that Sanders was not a candidate for the job at his alma mater, with the Hall of Famer himself stating that he had “not spoken to anyone from Florida State regarding” the job that ultimately went to Mike Norvell.

At the time, though, Sanders made it perfectly clear that coaching at the collegiate level is in his future.

“But let me assure you, I am 100 percent — 100 percent — desiring to coach at the next level. And I will.”

In that vein, Sanders appeared on the Dan Patrick Show earlier Tuesday.  During the interview, Sanders very emphatically stated that he will be a college football head coach “next year.” He also claimed that he had a second interview for a job this cycle with an unnamed school that wasn’t FSU.

Last January, it was reported that there was mutual interest between Sanders and the man Norvell replaced, Willie Taggart, in the former joining the latter’s first FSU staff as defensive backs coach, although that never came to fruition.

Sanders, whose NFL career ended in 2005, has never coached at the collegiate level.  He started his own ill-fated charter school in 2012 and coached the football team there — “[t]he school was plagued by ethical, legal, and financial issues, and closed on January 30, 2015, due to financial insolvency” — while he served as the offensive coordinator at a private school in Texas while his sons, now at the collegiate level, were players there.

Greg Schiano completes Rutgers coaching staff by hiring Adam Scheier as special teams coordinator

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Nearly two months after returning as the Rutgers football head coach, Greg Schiano has put the finishing touches on his second first staff.

Tuesday, the Scarlet Knights announced that Adam Scheier has been hired as Schiano’s special teams coordinator. Scheier has spent the past two decades working with special teams in various capacities.

“Adam is an accomplished, veteran special teams coach who will be a great asset to our coaching staff,” the Rutgers football head coach said in a statement. “In our time working together, I saw how passionate Adam is about teaching and mentoring young men. We look forward to welcoming Adam, his wife Erica and their children to our Rutgers family.”

Scheier has spent time as a special teams coordinator with three different FBS programs:

  • Texas Tech (2018)
  • Wake Forest (2014-16)
  • Bowling Green (2009-13)

Last season, Scheier served as a special teams consultant at Mississippi State.  In 2017, Scheier worked at Ohio State as a special teams quality control coach.

In Scheier’s lone season at OSU, Schiano was in the second of his three seasons as the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator.

“I am fired up to be back home,” the Bronx native stated. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Schiano and I look forward to working with him again. I appreciate the opportunity he has given me to coach at Rutgers in the great state of New Jersey.”

With this hiring, Schiano has now filled all 10 positions on his 10-man on-field coaching staff.  The others whose hirings have already been announced are:

  • Sean Gleeson — offensive coordinator (HERE)
  • Nunzio Campanile — offensive assistant (HERE)
  • Augie Hoffman, offensive assistant (HERE)
  • Tiquan Underwood — wide receivers (HERE)
  • Andrew Aurich — offensive line (HERE)
  • Robb Smith, defensive coordinator (HERE)
  • Jim Panagos — defensive line (HERE)
  • Bob Fraser — linebackers coach (HERE)
  • Fran Brown — co-defensive coordinator/secondary (HERE)

Exactly two dozen UConn football players have hit the transfer portal this cycle

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When it comes to the transfer tote board, there’s been another update for the UConn football program.

Last week, it was confirmed that three members of the UConn football team, redshirt junior offensive lineman Cam DeGeorge, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Garrison Burnett and junior defensive back Oneil Robinson, had entered their names in the NCAA transfer database.  That trio pushed the number UConn football players who had entered their names into the portal to 23.

Monday, that number officially reached an even two dozen.  According to 247Sports.com, running back Donevin O’Reilly has now made his way into the portal to kick the number of potential transfers up to 24.

O’Reilly originally walked on to the UConn football team just after the start of the 2017 season — he carried the ball once and returned a pair of kickoffs that year — before breaking out during spring practice the next offseason, not only earning a scholarship from the university but also claiming a majority of the reps with the No. 1 offense during summer camp. Unfortunately for the running back, however, his Cinderella story ended because of a torn ACL in his left knee.

In 2019, O’Reilley ran for 17 yards on five carries.

Among those who have entered the portal before this current quartet is Tyler Coyle. This past season, the starting safety led the Huskies in tackles (86), pass breakups (10) and forced fumbles (two).

In the third season of his second stint as the UConn football head coach, Randy Edsall went 2-10 in 2019. The Huskies have just six wins since Edsall returned in 2017; that’s the worst three-year stretch in the program’s FBS history.

In June of last year, it was confirmed that UConn football would be leaving the AAC following the 2019 season and playing as an independent in the sport.