Getty Images

CFT 2017 Season Previews: Heisman Watch List

9 Comments

While every college football player dreams of being on the last team standing at the end of a season and winning a national title, just about all of them have struck the stiff arm pose and imagined holding up the Heisman Trophy as well. It may be a team sport when all is said and done, but the most prestigious individual award around is the entry ticket to one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet.

Adding to the normal intrigue surrounding the race to be the most outstanding college football player, the 2017 campaign for the Heisman is shaping up to be the most exciting — and wide open — in a long time. To start with, there’s a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson who won the award last December and could be even better after an offseason developing as a passer. Add in veterans with plenty of name recognition like Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett, to go along with an eye-popping group of tailbacks, and the amount of players who have the potential to be holding up the bronze statue is both lengthy and impressive.

Who are the favorites? Here’s CFTalk’s look at all things Heisman and which players will be in the running for the most famous award in all of college football.

SAM DARNOLD, QB, USC
2016 Stats: 3,086 yards passing, 31 TD, 9 INT, 250 yards rushing, 2 TD
The golden boy of Troy is the prohibitive favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy this year and it’s hard not to figure out why. Playing the marquee position on the field for a powerhouse like USC helps but make no mistake, Darnold showed everybody what he could do in reeling off nine straight wins with the Trojans and capping it off with a thrilling five-score performance in the Rose Bowl. He’ll put up plenty of numbers through the air and on the ground and should be in thick of the race even if the Trojans take a loss.

BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
2016 Stats: 3,965 yards, 40 TD, 8 INT, 177 yards rushing, 6 TD
Mayfield has finished in the top five of voting for the Heisman… twice. Could the third time be the charm in 2017? Based only on the numbers, you would think so as the Sooners signal-caller is as efficient as he is insanely productive. The return of the Big 12 title game presents one additional opportunity for Oklahoma’s quarterback to leave a lasting impression on voters and that might just be enough for one of the best in the game to finally be recognized as such.

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
2016 Stats: 3,543 yards passing, 30 TD, 9 INT, 1,571 yards rushing, 21 TD
Could Archie Griffin have company? Jackson has a shot to repeat and win the Heisman again but the road will not be easy if history is any indication. That said, few possess  the kind of talent that the Cardinals’ QB does as a true dual threat who can find the end zone on any play. He’s expected to be even sharper throwing the ball going into his junior year and if he can stave off the losing streak like the one at the end of last year, he’ll be right back in New York again.

J.T. BARRETT, QB, OHIO STATE
2016 Stats: 2,555 yards passing, 24 TD, 7 INT, 845 yards rushing, 9 TD
Barrett became a household name when he helped lead the Buckeyes to a national title but the old man of this year’s Heisman frontrunners is hoping to go out with a bang by returning to that form he showed early on. While the OSU passing game hasn’t quite been explosive the past two years, the addition of offensive innovator Kevin Wilson as the new coordinator should provide a huge boost in terms of playcalling and developing Barrett as a passer. Playing for a marquee team that will once again be in playoff contention is a plus already and all the QB needs to do is follow through and deliver.

SAQUON BARKLEY, RB, PENN STATE
2016 Stats: 1,496 yards rushing, 18 TD, 402 yards receiving, 4 TD
Quarterbacks always have a leg up when it comes to the Heisman but it was just two years ago that running backs were the talk of the town when it came time to vote. That could be the case once again with freaky athletes like Barkley around. He was terrific in helping the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title and has a chance to rack up even more numbers in the team’s explosive offense.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
2016 Stats: 1,387 yards rushing, 15 TD, 106 yards receiving, 1 TD
Leonard Fournette received all the Heisman hype for the Tigers but his former backup may prove to be the one who can actually bring home the award to the bayou. Even splitting carries last year he managed to rack up over 1,300 yards and average nearly seven yards a touch. If LSU can threaten to win the SEC West behind Guice, he certainly could run all the way to the Big Apple to capture the trophy.

Chasing the Pack:

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama — Heisman buzz started late in the year after he led the Tide to the national title so it stands to reason the dual-threat QB on one of the top teams in the country will be in the mix as a sophomore.

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama — Tide tailbacks have fared well when it comes to the Heisman the past few years and Scarbrough looks to be next in line based on the way he finished 2016 up.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State — He’ll have a big time opportunity to state his case by knocking off Alabama in the opener and put up numbers the rest of the way in ACC play.

Derwin James, DB, Florida State — Defenders are almost an afterthought for the trophy but Jabrill Peppers was a finalist last year and James is just as versatile — and perhaps more dangerous.

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn — Gus Malzahn has already turned one transfer QB into a Heisman winner and one-year wonder, what’s another?

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — The Cowboys signal-caller has the best receiving corps in the country and will be able to pile up numbers every week against Big 12 defenses.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA — He drew plenty of attention this offseason for his mouth, now he’ll try to wow voters with his arm by sparking a turnaround in Los Angeles.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF — Group of Five candidates have a steep hill to climb but if anybody can emulate Lamar Jackson and overwhelm through the air and on the ground, it’s a dynamic player like Flowers.

Nick Saban brings in Ray Rice to speak to Alabama players

Getty Images
1 Comment

If you’re trying to show your players how to avoid doing the wrong things, bringing in someone who did one of the most absolutely vile and abhorrent things — and is successfully turning his life around — is probably not the worst way to go about your business.

Already this offseason, Nick Saban has brought in Mike Tyson to speak to his Alabama football team.  On Thursday, Ray Rice was in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide head coach’s “Title IX speaker” to touch on subjects such as domestic violence.

Then a member of the Baltimore Ravens, the former Rutgers running back was suspended by the NFL in 2014 after videos surfaced of Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Palmer and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.  Initially suspended, Rice never played another down in the NFL because of an incident Kyle Flood, then the Scarlet Knights’ head coach and now an assistant coach at Alabama, described at the time as a sad day for RU football.

Rice, who is now married to Janay Palmer, has since turned into a motivational speaker of sorts, speaking in front of football players at programs such as Georgia (HERE) and Ohio State (HERE).

Prior to Rice’s latest appearance, Saban explained his reasoning for bringing Rice in.

Well, he’s obviously going to talk about how to treat the opposite sex and having the proper respect for other people,” Saban said when asked about Rice’s appearance. “And I think that’s important to relationships. It’s important as a person to be able to do those things in a very respectful manner.

I think a lot of the players can relate to (Rice’s) circumstance,” Saban said. “And it will be interesting to hear a guy that has had issues that now has turned a corner and has really done everything he can to help other people not have the same problem that he has. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him doing that and we’re certainly glad to have him here.

UTEP mourns passing of TE Luke Laufenberg, 21, after two-year battle with leukemia

Associated Press
2 Comments

For the second time this month, the insidiousness that is cancer has struck at the heart of college football.

Following a nearly two-year battle with leukemia, Luke Laufenberg passed away early Thursday morning, his father, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, heartbreakingly revealed on Twitter. ” The hole in our hearts will never be filled,” Laufenberg wrote. “You are my hero. RIP my sweet Luke. See you on the other side.”

The younger Laufenberg had just signed with UTEP this past February as a tight end and was expected by many to win a starting job before his health began to fail again later on in the offseason.

Laufenberg actually began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Texas A&M. On the day after Christmas 2017, Laufenberg was diagnosed with leukemia; in May of the following year, he was declared cancer-free and, after the 230-pound player had regained the 90-plus pounds he had lost during chemotherapy, began his trek back to college football, first at a junior college in 2018 before signing with UTEP earlier this year.

By the summer, sadly, the disease had returned with a fatal ferocity, with doctors telling his family in July that “his condition was terminal and that he had just a few weeks left.”

Below is a statement from UTEP head coach Dana Dimel:

Luke Laufenberg touched our hearts and souls forever. His spirit and fight are reminders of what it means to play and coach the game of football. He was a fighter, a champion and a wonderful person. He was a very talented young man that lived his life and left a huge mark on everyone he came in contact with. He was a wonderful individual and will not be forgotten on our football team. Our student-athletes learned from how he prepared himself and the way he handled adversity. I know Luke loved playing football for UTEP and he will forever be a MINER!

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those affected by the young man’s way-too-early passing.­

Syracuse no longer calling the Carrier Dome the, uh, Carrier Dome

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Stadium names change all the time in college football and we’ve seen some strange mash ups over the past few decades but there’s been an interesting twist in upstate New York.

Thanks in part to a growing spat with the company over the naming rights to the aptly named Carrier Dome, Syracuse has embarked on a bit of a rebranding for their longtime football and basketball home by shortening things to just ‘The Dome.’

As spotted by Syracuse.com, the school has removed some 64 mentions of the word Carrier in their annual football media guide and have even gone as far as to leave out any mentions of the company in their season ticket materials too.

“We will be contacting the university to discuss further,” Carrier Senior Director of Communications Ashley Barrie said in a statement to the site.

Orange officials have said they are not de-emphasizing the ‘Carrier’ part of the Carrier Dome to send any sort of message but rather reinforcing the ‘Dome’ part of the stadium’s name.

Something says that as much as that may be their public stance, this rebranding battle is something that figures to get some lawyers involved in soon enough. The football team’s home opener isn’t until Sept. 14 against defending champion Clemson so there’s certainly some time to work things out but it sure seems like a new name for the venerable venue is something we’ll all have to start getting used to.

Ex-Auburn, Miami RB Asa Martin lands at Memphis

Getty Images
1 Comment

After going from AU to the ACC, tailback Asa Martin is now ticketed for the AAC.

Got that?

Per 247Sports, Martin has apparently enrolled at Memphis for the 2019 season. Per transfer rules he’s sitting out the year either way unless there’s some sort of NCAA waiver involved but it’s still the sophomore’s third school in nine months.

Martin was originally a four-star recruit in the class of 2018 and saw action in five games for the SEC Tigers as a true freshman, rushing for 57 yards all told while catching two passes for 36 yards. He entered the transfer portal in late December though, just after Auburn’s season had concluded.

Eventually Martin found a home at Miami and enrolled in time for spring practice. Perhaps he was not thrilled at the situation because come mid-June the tailback was back in the transfer portal looking for a new program to play with.

We’ll see if this latest move to Memphis sticks because we’ve certainly seen that Martin is no stranger to moving around.