Devonte Fields

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: ACC Predictions

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The ACC is starting to gain some confidence as a conference based on success in recent seasons. Florida State won a BCS title and Clemson defeated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl two postseasons ago. Last year the Seminoles were invited to the College Football Playoff and Georgia Tech topped the SEC’s Cinderella team from Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, and Clemson smacked Oklahoma up and down the field in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The ACC will work the numbers to their liking to prove they are among the elite power conferences right now, but the numbers can just as easily tell a different story as well. Regardless, things look to be lining up for a fun season in the ACC with Clemson a preseason favorite of many, Florida State likely to remain in the hunt and Louisville proving to be a tough out. And then there is the ACC Coastal Division, where mediocrity across the division makes for another wide-open division race this fall.

Let’s put my money where my mouth is and go on the record with some predictions for the ACC this season. Feel free to hold me accountable at the end of the season when these surely go wrong.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. Florida State (Last year: 13-1, lost to Oregon in College Football Playoff semifinal)
Florida State has entered the stage of program development where it is appropriate to suggest the program is reloading, rather than rebuilding. The Florida State offense returns just three starters from last year’s squad, but it does add Notre Dame transfer quarterback Everett Golson. With Dalvin Cook recently being found not guilty of battery charges, he should remain a featured asset in Florida State’s offense . Getting at Louisville in Tallahassee will be key, but the road game at Clemson could prove difficult. I have Florida State, Clemson and Louisville all ending the season with identical division records and splitting game sin the three-way head-to-head. This one comes down to the 27th ACC division tiebreaker, which may end up in Florida State’s favor when all is said and done.

2. Clemson (Last year: 10-3, beat Oklahoma in Russell Athletic Bowl)
The Clemson Tigers are returning perhaps the top quarterback in the conference with Deshaun Watson. Many are already pegging him as a strong Heisman Trophy contender, and having one of the top wide receiving units in the ACC will certainly help his case. The offensive line returns just two starters from last season though, and the entire offense has just four returning starters. The defense is in even more of a shaky ground with a pair of starters back in 2015. But place some trust in Brent Venables to have the defense up to speed enough to work things out along the way. An early Thursday night game at Louisville could be tricky, and the final game of the regular season at South Carolina is rarely easy. But Clemson gets Florida State at home in Week 10, by which most of Clemson’s concerns could very well have been put to rest.

3. Louisville (Last year: 9-4, lost to Georgia in Belk Bowl)
Another team that has a bunch of starters to replace, Louisville returns just seven starters from last season’s team. And things could very well get off to a bumpy start with Auburn in the season opener and Clemson just a couple of weeks later. But I think they manage to split those games, winning the important ACC Atlantic Division match-up on Thursday night in Week 3. The addition of defensive end Devonte Fields should be a really good addition to the defensive line. Louisville’s defense should be very good, and perhaps one of the best in the ACC, but the secondary will have to step up and make some plays if Louisville is going to make the kind of noise I expect from them this season.

4. Boston College (Last year: 7-6, lost to Penn State in Pinstripe Bowl)
Boston College is going to be one of those teams that gives opponents a tough game, but ultimately will not have enough offense to make the Eagles any serious threat in the ACC. The defense can hold its own, but Steve Addazio has just three returning starters this season. None of them are on the offensive line. I suspect Boston College will try trusting the running game with Jon Hilliman capable of going for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Things may very well improve at Boston College as the season progresses, but there is a brutal stretch that includes back-to-back road games at Clemson and Louisville and that is followed by a home game against Virginia Tech. Playing Notre Dame in Fenway Park late in the year should be interesting as well. Boston College should have what it takes to go bowling, and a return trip to the Pinstripe Bowl may not be unlikely.

5. North Carolina State (Last year: 8-5, beat UCF in St. Petersburg Bowl)
North Carolina State is a team many people think is capable of making some noise in the ACC this season, and they very well could. The reason is the Wolfpack return seven starters on offense and seven more on defense. If experience is the key, no team in the ACC Atlantic Division has more of it heading into the 2015 season. There is not one thing NC State does exceptionally well, but they are pretty well-rounded in all areas of the game. Jacoby Brisset is back to start at quarterback, after helping the team improve dramatically last season. Now we will see if he is capable of taking NC State to the next step forward. The Wolfpack should get off to a good start with a favorable schedule, but I’m seeing some bumps in the road once they get into ACC play. NC State gets Louisville and Clemson at home, which is good and easily a recipe for potential upset alerts. I still will go with the favorites for now.

6. Syracuse (Last year: 3-9)
It looks to be a long season at Syracuse. The move to the ACC has not shown much improvement in the recruiting game under Scott Shafer, who could very well be coaching for his job this season. Syracuse could get off to a quick 3-0 start this season, but even that might be difficult. Then LSU comes to the dome in Week 4. Syracuse will get a bye after the big game with the LSU Tigers, and a road trip to USF comes after that, but then ACC play resumes and Syracuse’s next win may not come until 2016 at that point.

7. Wake Forest (Last year: 3-9)
If you thought Syracuse had it rough, take a look at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons will be a young team in 2015, giving head coach Dave Clawson some more expected growing pains this fall. Wake Forest could get off to a 2-1 start with wins over Elon and Army (losing to Syracuse), but it will be a long stretch of demoralization after that. If Wake Forest manages to get to four wins to improve on last season’s win total, that should be considered a solid victory for Clawson and company.

COASTAL DIVISION

1. Virginia Tech (Last year: 7-6, beat Cincinnati in Military Bowl – they also beat Ohio State, in case you forgot)
Virginia Tech has the best defense in the ACC this season, and that should be enough to push the Hokies ahead fo the rest of the seemingly always up-for-grabs Coastal Division. The biggest question for Virginia Tech is whether or not the offense can avoid giving it away. Having Marshawn Williams back and healthy at running back should help. I look for the Hokies to give Ohio State a respectable fight in the Labor Day season opener, bu the Buckeyes leave with revenge after last season’s meeting in Columbus. From there, things look good for Virginia Tech with no Clemson, Florida State or Louisville on the schedule. Pittsburgh and UNC are both at home too. The schedule and defense should come in handy this season in Blacksburg.

2. North Carolina (Last year: 6-7, lost to Rutgers in Quick Lane Bowl)
No offense in the ACC returns as many starters this season than the North Carolina Tar Heels. A total of 10 starters are back for UNC, including a healthy Marquise Williams at quarterback, but how much will he have to carry the offense this season? In addition to being the leading passer, Williams is also UNC’s leading returning rusher from a year ago (788 yards, 13 touchdowns). I’d like to see others take some of the pressure off Williams to do everything if UNC is going to make a serious run to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. Looking at the schedule, I see real potential for a possible 7-0 start, but I also see the possibility of a rough finish to the season. That would seem to be the opposite of what happened last season after UNC closed on a hot streak to overcome a dismal start to the season.

3. Pittsburgh (Last year: 6-7, lost to Houston in Armed Forces Bowl)
I seem to have said this the past couple of years and I will do so once more; Why not Pitt? Pat Narduzzi takes over the Pittsburgh program and that should help lock things down on defense, with seven returning starters. The former Michigan State defensive coordinator also inherits some of the top offensive players in the ACC with wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back James Conner, but it will be up to quarterback Chad Voytik to keep things moving consistently for the Panthers. If the Panthers can get off to better than a 2-2 start (as I predict), they could make a run in the wide open division.

4. Miami (Last year: 6-7, lost to South Carolina in Independence Bowl)
Another year, another season of wondering if this could possibly be the year Miami finally plays in the ACC Championship Game. They have yet to do so since leaving the Big East to provide the ACC with more football balance, and it looks as though this could be another season that sees early promise and hype ultimately fizzle out in an up-and-down second half of the season. They have the quarterback in Brad Kaaya, but do they have the ability to pull it together everywhere else? I have Miami getting out to a nice little 4-0 start before visiting Florida State in Week 6. From there it should be on-off-on-off for the Hurricanes. That could put head coach Al Golden on as hot a seat as possible at the end of the season.

5. Georgia Tech (Last year: 11-3, beat Mississippi State in Orange Bowl)
The formula for Georgia Tech’s success never seems to change, although the effectiveness of it seems to have mixed results. Paul Johnson‘s offensive style picked up 11 wins last season and gave Florida State one of many close calls last season in the ACC Championship Game. Playing in this wide open division, you can easily make a case for Georgia Tech to make a return trip to Charlotte at the end of the season, and a steady defense helps support that argument. I just think there are some tough battles ahead this season with a road trip to Notre Dame followed by ACC contests against Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Pittsburgh and Florida State all in a row. That can be a tough stretch for the Yellow Jackets, as could the final two games of the season, at Miami and home against Georgia. Georgia Tech will still be a decent team, but they may skate on thin ice en route to the postseason.

6. Virginia (Last year: 5-7)
Virginia has had a rough stretch under Mike London, and this might be the final straw for the head coach if things do not show potential moving forward. Unfortunately for London, there may not be much progress shown with a three-win season. Yet, I have them somehow managing to avoid last place and staying ahead of Duke? Strange, I admit, but I think Virginia manages to win a pair of home games in ACC play, against Syracuse and Duke, and that is good enough to sneak just ahead of the Blue Devils in the standings. It may not, however, be enough to assure London a job in Charlottesville next season. Early games against UCLA, Notre Dame and Boise State (and William & Mary) might be rough to watch at times.

7. Duke (Last year: 9-4, lost to Arizona State in Sun Bowl)
Do not be fooled by a last-place finish in the ACC Coastal. As you no doubt have learned by now, I view this division as a wide-open race, and I still predict Duke will be bowl-eligible this year. That will be because Duke has a very favorable schedule this season with likely wins in non-conference play and no Clemson, Florida State or Louisville on the conference schedule. Yet I still see Duke struggling to find much consistency in conference play. David Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job in Durham, but this year’s team may be lacking in enough playmakers outside of safety Jeremy Cash to find enough wins to make a run at the division.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Florida State over Virginia Tech
After coming out on top of a clouded three-team tie in the ACC Atlantic Division, Florida State once again manages to win the ACC championship game for a fourth straight season. As will be the story all season, the Hokies defense keeps them in the game but the offense simply will not have enough firepower to get by a team with as much talent as Florida State. But will this Florida State team have done enough to convince the College Football Playoff selection committee it deserves a second straight invite to the postseason party?

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Key Transfers

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Recruiting is what builds a college football program. Transfers are what patches holes still left to address. It seems as though the transfer game in recruiting has picked up notoriety in recent years, and this past offseason may have been one of the biggest.

This season two programs look to replace Heisman Trophy winners with potential Heisman candidates, while also keeping playoff plans on the table. Other playoff and conference title contenders look to add some key additions as well thanks to the transfer process. Here are some of the more notable transfers taking the field with new teams this fall.

EVERETT GOLSON, QB, FLORIDA STATE
Perhaps the most notable of the offseason transfers saw former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson leave the Irish for Florida State. Golson is expected to replace former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. The addition of Golson helps keep Florida State in the running for another ACC title despite filling plenty of starting jobs from a season ago. Golson ran into some trouble with consistency last season but will now be surrounded by plenty of talent and athleticism, and the chance to redeem himself and put another team in the national title hunt will be one worth relishing.

VERNON ADAMS, QB, OREGON
Golson is not the only transfer replacing a former Heisman Trophy winner. Vernon Adams is making the jump from FCS power Eastern Washington to perennial Pac-12 and national title contender Oregon, vying to replace Marcus Mariota. Adams should fit well in Oregon’s system, assuming he wins the starting job in Eugene. Twice a finalist for the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, the Walter Payton Award, Adams already has a terrific resume. Now he looks for quite the storybook ending.

DEVONTE FIELDS, DE, LOUISVILLE
The former Big 12 freshman defensive player of the year is finally back on the FBS playing field. Now at Louisville, Devonte Fields has a chance to bring havoc in the trenches to opposing ACC offensive linemen and quarterbacks. The former TCU Horned Frog should play a huge role on Louisville’s defensive line. But Fields is not the only player looking to embrace a second chance on the Cardinals defense…

JOSH HARVEY-CLEMONS, S, LOUISVILLE
Former Georgia Bulldog safety Josh Harvey-Clemons landed in the Louisville nest last season but had to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Now he is eligible to play and leave an impact on what could be a very good Louisville defense. Harvey-Clemons was often among the best players on the field when he played at Georgia, and that could be the case once again at Louisville if he has not lost a step in his year away from the field.

ALVIN KAMARA, RB, TENNESSEE
Former Alabama running back Alvin Kamara is back in the SEC after a year of junior college. Kamara was one of the top junior college transfers this past year, continuing an impressive recruiting trail for the Vols under Butch Jones. Kamara was a monster at the JUCO level and should be put to work out of the Tennessee backfield along with Jalen Hurd.

CHAD KELLY, QB, OLE MISS
Ole Miss does not have many holes to fill this season with a ton of starters returning, but quarterback is one of them. Fortunately, replacing Bo Wallace should be fairly easy with former Clemson quarterback Chad Kelly in the mix. Kelly is one of many notable players seeking to take advantage of a second chance at the FBS level after being dismissed by Clemson last year. Kelly will have to stay in the good graces of head coach Hugh Freeze to hold down the starting job, but he should manage to come away with the job entering the 2015 season.

JOVON ROBINSON, RB, AUBURN
Auburn’s offense is expected to light up that giant new scoreboard in Jordan-Hare Stadium this season, and the top JUCO transfer Jovon Robinson could be a big part of the reason why. The former Army All-American dominated at Georgia Military Institute and should make for a powerful combo with running back Roc Thomas and quarterback Jeremy Johnson in Auburn’s backfield. Auburn also solidifies some holes in the defensive secondary with the additions of Michigan graduate transfer Blake Countess and former Georgia safety Tray Matthews.

MARQUAVIUS LEWIS, DE, SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina may not have another Jadeveon Clowney on its hands, but Marquavius Lewis is already earning a solid reputation with the Gamecocks. Lewis was named South Carolina’s defensive player of the spring and should help improve what was a weak area of concern for Steve Spurrier last season. The Gamecocks need help on the defensive line and the addition of Lewis could provide it as one fo the top JUCO transfers in the nation.

BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma hired Lincoln Riley to be the new offensive coordinator, which means the Sooners are looking to open things up offensively through the air. Having a quarterback suited well in that offensive mindset is key, and Baker Mayfield may be the best option in Norman. A former Texas Tech walk-on, Mayfield showed glimpses of what he can do with the Red Raiders. Now the Sooners will hope he can take it to the next level. Mayfield will have to win the job from incumbent Trevor Knight, but that may not be too far-fetched of a goal.

Louisville asks South Carolina RB to grayshirt at a tough time

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With 48 hours to go until being able to submit his National Letter of Intent to Louisville, South Carolina running back Matt Colburn was asked to put his Louisville plans on hold until next January. Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino pulled a scholarship offer to Colburn that had been verbally accepted for the past eight months with the request he enroll next January and grayshirt for the Cardinals.

“They want him to [grayshirt], which is him coming in next January,” Colburn’s high school coach Tom Knotts said to The State. “Matt has been committed to them almost eight months. We’re all very upset about it.”

So close to signing day, the search for a new football home is going to plaid right now for Colburn, but the options this late in the recruiting game are limited at best.

“Right now, we’re being proactive in trying to reach out to other schools but he really shut himself off from all the other schools relative to his recruitment,” Knotts explained. “We have to get his name back out there. We’re not happy about it. We’ll see what else might pop up.”

This sort of thing happens every season, so Louisville is far from the first or last school to use this method of recruiting and roster management. To do so this close to National Signing Day may come off a little odd though, and there is no question it is unfortunate for the recruit.

Louisville recently added former TCU defensive standout Devonte Fields to the Class fo 2015, taking up one scholarship in the process. The addition of Fields was not exactly in the plan of attack when a scholarship was initially offered to Colburn, because Fields was not dismissed by TCU until just before the college football season. TCU has also had to focus on defensive secondary options in recruiting after losing some key players to the NFL a year early. Louisville is not doing anything that violates any recruiting rules, although some will suggest Louisville may be violating a certain unwritten code of recruiting ethics.

Players are given the freedom to flip their commitments at any time. Is it fair for schools to pull a scholarship for reasons based purely on roster manipulation? It would have been one thing had Colburn been in some sort of legal trouble that raised a red flag, but that is not at all the case here. Feel free to leave your thoughts on this practice of grayshirting players and how Louisville handled it in the comments below.

Devonte Fields announces commitment to Louisville

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Louisville had previously been reported to be the leader in the clubhouse for the recruiting of former TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. Those reports were not without merit it seems. Fields officially announced his commitment to Louisville Sunday morning with a picture on Twitter calling out anyone who stands in his way.

Fields should be a terrific addition to the recently handsomely paid defensive coordinator Todd Grantham‘s defense. The former Big 12 standout at TCU is coming off a season playing football for Trinity Valley Community College in Austin, Texas and is hungry to get back to playing at the FBS level. The former Horned Frog was a Big 12 Freshman Player of the Year in 2012 but was booted from the team prior to the 2014 season after allegedly pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend. His 2013 season was a hindered by an injury.

Now Fields is ready to line up in the ACC and be a big part of the Louisville defense. Assuming he is ready to go at this level after some time away, this is a huge pick-up for Louisville.

Former TCE DE Fields plans on FBS return before NFL

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If you think Devonte Fields is going to play football this fall at a junior college and get set to enter the NFL Draft in 2015, that may not quite be the plan. The former TCU defensive star is currently playing his college football at Trinity Valley Community College but his plan appears to be going through the recruiting process with the intent of playing at least one more season at the FBS level before taking a chance at the NFL Draft.

“Everything he has said to me and everything his family has said to me is the plan is for him to get his (Associate’s Degree) and to play Division I again,” Trinity Valley CC head coach Brad Smiley said to The Dallas Morning News this week. “He is excited about going through that process and playing Division I again. He has not said anything about coming out to play in the NFL.”Brad Smiley said to said to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week. “He is excited about going through that process and playing Division I again. He has not said anything about coming out to play in the NFL. He is excited about going through that process and playing Division I again. He has not said anything about coming out to play in the NFL.”

Fields was forced to relocate to the junior college level this fall after a promising career at TCU spiraled out of control. The former defensive freshman of the year in the Big 12 was involved in an incident reportedly involving pointing a gun and making a threat to an ex-girlfriend. That led to an investigation over the summer and TCU removed Fields from the football program. Fields later surrendered after a warrant for his arrest had been issued and it looked as though Fields would drop down to the FCS to play at Stephen F. Austin. TCU blocked the transfer and then officially separated from any association with Fields.

As noted by The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fields currently has 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one tackle for a loss through the first three games of the season. This comes with double team coverage routinely as Fields is a superstar on the junior college playing field.

“Everybody he sees knows who he is,” Smiley said. “He is their Super Bowl.”