Kapri Bibbs

NFL calls, Colorado State’s Dee Hart answers

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In December of 2013, Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State’s leading rusher, announced that he was leaving early for the NFL.  A little over a year later, the Rams’ running game has taken a similar hit.

In a conversation with the Fort Collins Reporter-Herald, Dee Hart confirmed that he has decided to make himself available for the 2015 NFL draft.  Although the running back already has his degree, he still had two years of eligibility remaining before deciding to forego them.

I’m going to declare for the draft,” Hart told the Reporter-Herald. “It was just a dream I always had growing up, and it’s an opportunity I have this season, so I want to take advantage of it.”

Hart transferred to CSU from Alabama in August of this past year and, because he had already received his degree from UA, was eligible to play immediately.  In what turned out to be his lone season at the school, Hart led the Rams in rushing (1,275) and rushing touchdowns (16).

Hart’s route to Fort Collins and the success he found in 2014, however, was a circuitous one filled with far more downs than ups.

In July of 2011, Hart, a five-star recruit rated as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the country, suffered a torn ACL that forced him to miss his true freshman season.  After rehabbing that injury, Hart tore the ACLin the same knee during an October 2013 win over Ole Miss and, obviously, missed the remainder of the season.

In February of this 2014, Hart was arrested and charged with giving false information and possession of marijuana. It was revealed at that time that Hart hadn’t been a part of the team since shortly after the Tide’s Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

“I think Colorado State went out on a limb and took me in a student and a player, it was a risk for them as well,” said Hart. “They didn’t know what I was going to be able to come in and do. I think it worked for both of us this season. It helped me, giving me the confidence back that I could play with the guys I used to play with.”

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Key transfers

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The lifeblood of a college football program comes through recruiting, but there are times when recruiting requires making sales pitches to experienced college football players as well. Seniors looking for a chance to compete for a starting job in the final year or years of eligibility can turn into great stories at any school, and this season is no exception.

We already took a look at some of the impact freshmen and the top Heisman Trophy candidates this season, but here is a look at some of the names you may already be familiar with looking to take advantage of a clean slate with a new program.

MICHAEL BREWER, VIRGINIA TECH, QB
With Virginia Tech looking for a new starting quarterback to replace Logan Thomas, the Hokies could be hoping Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer emerges as the best available option. The spring game failed to answer the question under center so the addition of Brewer figured to spice things up a bit. By all accounts it appears Brewer is making his case for playing time this fall as well, taking over the top spot in the depth chart during fall camp. Brewer appeared in just four games last season for Texas Tech, completing seven of his 10 pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown. He graduated this spring, making him eligible to play this fall for the Hokies.

JACOBY BRISSETT, NC STATE, QB
A change of scenery could be just what Jacoby Brissett needed after a disastrous 2012 season at Florida. With Jeff Driskel taking on the starter role for the Gators, Brissett made the decision to transfer to NC State, where head coach Dave Doeren will finally get a chance to coach him after attempting to recruit the quarterback to Wisconsin out of high school. Fortunately for NC State, Brissett’s desire to transfer to Miami was blocked due to a lack of room on the roster at the position in January 2013. Little did Miami know at the time the potential need for a transfer option  in 2014 (more on that later). Brissett played in five games in 2012 for Florida, completing 65.7 percent of his pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown. Brissett will be the starting quarterback for NC State, and he will have a stable of healthy receivers and good running back depth surrounding him on the field.

JACOB COKER, ALABAMA, QB
Looking to find his third starting quarterback in six seasons, Alabama head coach Nick Saban may not have been able to find a more suitable option through a transfer than Jacob Coker. Coker came to Alabama from Florida State, looking to get out from under the tremendous shadow cast by Jameis Winston. He does so with the personal endorsement of Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. Coker could likely be a starter on just about any team in the country, but it is not a guarantee just yet Coker will be the Tide’s starter just yet. Coker will have to beat Blake Sims for the job and Saban is known to let these competitions play out as long as he needs before coming to a final decision, even if it means a week or two into the season.

BRANDON CONNETTE, FRESNO STATE QB
An opportunity to play his final year of eligibility closer to home and his ailing mother landed Brandon Connette at Fresno State. Leaving a promising and developing Duke program was surely a tough decision, but as far as football is concerned Connette appears to be landing in another good position as well. Connette is competing for the starting job at Fresno State, offering a bit of a different style than the Bulldogs had grown accustomed to under Derek Carr the last few years, but it is what Connette offers with his feet that could be beneficial for the Bulldogs in their quest to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions. Connette rushed for 14 touchdowns for Duke last season, a big reason why Duke was able to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and play for the conference championship. He may not wing it like Carr, but he did throw for 1,212 yards on 145 pass attempts last season, including 13 touchdowns.

DEE HART, COLORADO STATE RB
Colorado State has some big shoes to fill at running back after Kapri Bibbs rushed for 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. It is clear the Rams like to run the football, so bringing in a running back from Alabama is certainly a good way to go for head coach Jim McElwain, the former Alabama assistant who secured a new contract recently. Dee Hart, who is looking for a more prominent role in an offense rather than part-time work in the crowded and deep Alabama backfield, arrives at Colorado State and should slide right into the starting role right away. Hart, who has battled through various knee injuries already, had just 22 carries in 2013 and with T.J. Yeldon leading the way for the Crimson Tide it looked as though getting many snaps was out of the question for Hart in Tuscaloosa this season. That should not be the case at Colorado State.

JAKE HEAPS, MIAMI QB
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Jake Heaps. The former BYU and Kansas quarterback has arrived at Miami and may have done so at just the right time. With an injury to projected starting quarterback Ryan Williams in the spring, Al Golden left the door open for all possibilities to plug the hole, including transfer options. That left an option on the table for Heaps to find a better situation for the remainder of his eligibility. He was once a highly rated recruit but has struggled to match that expected potential. With the right pieces around him, like running back Duke Johnson, Heaps could finally be ready to enjoy some stable success on the football field this fall. Heaps is currently one of the top two candidates for the starting job at Miami.

MATT JOECKEL, TCU, QB
The former back-up to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M decided it was best to try and compete for a starting job at another program rather than go through another round at Texas A&M. That led senior Matt Joeckel to TCU, where he is eligible to play right away this fall and making his case for the starting job. Joeckel is in the thick of the competition at TCU with Trevone Boykin, who has started 15 games for the Horned Frogs. TCU head coach Gary Patterson could have some options though, with the possibility of moving Boykin to receiver and allowing more time under center for Joeckel addressing two areas of need with one decision.

GUNNER KIEL, CINCINNATI QB
Despite Cincinnati working incumbent starter Munchie Legaux back from injury, it looks like the new guy may be the number one option to lead the American Athletic Conference favorites. Gunner Kiel, who transferred to Cincinnati from Notre Dame, put on quite the show in Cincinnati’s spring game and brings plenty of potential to the passing game for the Bearcats. Kiel sat out the 2013 season due to transfer rules and is now poised to take on the role of starting quarterback for a contender in the AAC as well as for a spot in a big revenue bowl.

WES LUNT, ILLINOIS QB
Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit thinks the Illini can have the best offense in the Big Ten this season. That may not be totally unrealistic with the addition of quarterback Wes Lunt, from Oklahoma State. Lunt arrived at Oklahoma State with loads of hype and potential as an early enrollee looking to succeed Brandon Weeden in 2012, but injuries quickly erased those plans in Stillwater. As he struggled to regain a footing on the depth chart, it became necessary to look for other options to compete for a starting job. Illinois had the need to improve at the position, and Lunt has become the top candidate for the starting job this summer.

JAKE MCGEE, FLORIDA TE
This one came as a bit of a surprise, and is a pretty significant blow to Virginia. Jake McGee was Virginia’s leading receiver last season, and after transferring to Florida he fills a position in need of a major upgrade at Florida. Tight ends at Florida combined for four receptions for 42 yards last season. McGee had a little over 10 times as many catches for the Cavaliers in 2013 and should immediately give Jeff Driskel a competent target in the field. The two have already been developing some chemistry in fall camp, with highlight plays apparently giving the offense a lift. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper intends to make McGee a significant part of the rejuvenated Florida offense.

RUSHEL SHELL, WEST VIRGINIA RB
Going from one end of the Backyard Brawl to the other, Rushel Shell transferred from Pittsburgh to West Virginia last summer. After sitting out the 2013 season, Shell is ready to go and make his case for playing time in a West Virginia offense in need of some physicality. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has said Shell has some of the best skills at the position this camp. In 2012, at Pittsburgh, Shell backed up Ray Graham but still accounted for 641 rushing yards and four touchdowns. West Virginia was seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense in 2013. Shell could help the Mountaineers improve on the ground as a key contributor.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Purdue RB Dawkins will transfer to Colorado State

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In need of running back depth, Colorado State is adding a young talent from a Big Ten program.

Purdue running back Dalyn Dawkins is transferring to Colorado State in search of more playing time. The Coloradoan confirmed the transfer news Thursday morning.

Purdue returns the top two rushers from last fall with Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom each back for a senior season. Hunt led Purdue with 464 rushing yards and Cottom was second on the team with 154 rushing yards. Each scored one touchdown for the struggling Boilermakers. Dawkins was the only other player to get at least 30 rushing attempts for Purdue last season. Following the transfer of Dawkins, Purdue still has seven running backs on the roster heading into the fall.

Colorado State’s depth in the backfield is a bit different. The Rams lost Kapri Bibbs early to the NFL Draft after leading the team with 1,741 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in 2013. Colorado State also lost Donnell Alexander to a transfer as a result of a falling out with the coaching staff. Alexander was second on the team in rushing with 428 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Dawkins will have to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he will have three years of eligibility remaining after playing a limited role as a true freshman for the Boilermakers in 2013. Dawkins is the nephew of former NFL defensive star Brian Dawkins.

Likely starter at RB granted release by Colorado State

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With leading rusher Kapri Bibbs leaving Colorado State for the NFL, it was thought that Donnell Alexander would be first in line to replace the talented running back.  Unfortunately for head coach Jim McElwain and his offensive coaching staff, they’ll be forced to look at other options to fill the sizable hole left by Bibbs’ early departure.

Following practice Saturday, McElwain confirmed that Donnell Alexander has been granted a release from his CSU scholarship.  The news comes a couple of days after the running back had taken a leave of absence from the Rams for personal reasons.

Alexander, the son of deceased NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas, is seeking a transfer to play closer to his home in Kansas City, Mo.  McElwain said Alexander has been given permission to talk to one school about playing there, although the coach declined to specify the school.

The coach did add that he has not completely ruled out Alexander playing for the Rams in 2014.

In 2013, Alexander was second to Bibbs with 428 yards.  The year before, he led the team in rushing yards (587) and rushing touchdowns (four).

Tide’s Sunseri one of record 98 players declaring for draft

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A draft-eligible Alabama rumored to be headed to the NFL — or not — will indeed be a part of a record-breaking pool this May.

Tide defensive back Vinnie Sunseri was one of 98 players included on the NFL’s official list, released Sunday, of players “who have been granted special eligibility” for the upcoming draft.  It was reported a week ago that the safety was leaning toward making the early leap into the NFL, although there was some vacillation as the redshirt junior waited until right up until the Jan. 15 deadline — plus the three additional days allotted to reconsider, provided there’s no signing with an agent — before making his final decision.

Sunseri is still rehabbing a torn ACL, which he suffered in a mid-October win over Arkansas.

The 98 players granted special eligibility by the NFL is a record, shattering and/or obliterating the old mark of 73 set just last year.  That standard broke the record of 65 set the year before that.  In 2004, just 43 players with eligibility remaining left school early.

For the second consecutive year, LSU led all schools with seven early entrants.  In 2013, the Tigers saw 10 players leave early.  Sunseri gave the Tide five players leaving early, the same number as USC and one-win Cal (?).  Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and South Carolina each saw four players take the early jump into the NFL.

2014 marks the sixth consecutive year that the number of early entrants has increased.

The number could have actually topped the century mark as four players who have left school early but have already graduated were not included in the NFL’s official count: Southern California defensive back Dion Bailey, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard.

You can view the complete, official list of early entrants into the NFL draft:

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