Melvin Gordon

Derrick Henry’s hat trick pushes Tide to impressive win over Badgers

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It was Jake Coker‘s solid play under center that helped push No. 3 Alabama to a halftime lead on No. 20 Wisconsin.  It was the punishing running of Derrick Henry — and a revitalized unit on the other side of the ball — that sealed the win.

In the only Week 1 game pitting ranked teams against one another, the Tide was able to pull away with a solid and convincing 35-17 win over the preseason Big Ten West favorite Badgers.  Henry rushed for 147 yards — on just 13 carries — and scored three touchdowns, two of which came in the second half to help the Tide run out to an 18-point third-quarter lead.

As good as Henry was in chewing up yards on the ground, the Tide’s run defense was equally adept at spitting out Badger running backs after little or no gain.

The last time prior to tonight ‘Bama took the field, they were gashed for 281 rushing yards by Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal.  Going up against one of the top rushing teams in the country this century, the Tide gave up just 40 yards on 21 carries.  Corey Clement, expected to be the bell-cow replacement for Melvin Gordon, was limited to 16 yards and, adding insult to literal injury, left the contest with a groin issue.

Just as important as Henry’s running and the Tide’s run defense were to the win, the Tide’s long-term hopes this season were buoyed by Coker’s performance.

The fact that Coker, making his first career start, didn’t seem smaller than the stage on which the hyped game was played should bode well for the Tide’s playoff aspirations.  In three quarters of work, Coker completed 15-of-21 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown in the quintessential game-manager performance.

The Tide’s win also capped a fairly decent day for the conference.

Ezekiel Elliott one of 69 on Doak Walker watch list

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Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was the hottest running back exiting the 2014 season, and that momentum carried into the offseason as he’s one of the wagering favorites for the 2015 Heisman Trophy and claimed a prestigious amateur honor for good measure.  Not surprisingly, he’s landed on a watch lost that specifically honors the position he plays.

As part of the annual watch list dump in mid-July, the Doak Walker Award announced a group of 69 backs added to its preseason listing.  Included in that number are six backs who finished in the Top 10 in rushing yards in 2014: Elliott (No. 3), along with San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey (No. 4), Marshall’s Devon Johnson (No. 6), Pittsburgh’s James Connor (No. 7), Oklahoma Samaje Perine (No. 8) and Toledo’s Kareem Hunt (No. 10).

Connor and Johnson were semifinalists last year for the award won by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, as was 2015 watch lister Matt Breida of Georgia Southern.

Conference-wise, the Pac-12 led all leagues with 12 players on the list.  The other Power Five conferences has the SEC with 10, the Big Ten with eight, and the ACC and Big 12 with five each.  Amongst the Group of Five, Conference USA and the Sun Belt are tops with six apiece.

Arkansas, Oregon and USC were the only schools with two backs each listed.

2015 Doak walker Award Watch List

Pac-12, ACC lead way with nine first-round picks

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Many of us watching college football maintained the Pac-12 was college football’s strongest conference in 2014. The NFL agreed – but it also liked the ACC a whole heck of a lot, too.

The Pac-12 and ACC led all conferences with nine selections apiece. The Pac-12’s nine selections was the most it has ever had according to ESPN’s research department. The SEC, normally the far-and-away leader of this category, followed with seven. The Big Ten claimed three picks, followed by the Big 12 and American with two each.

A few notes:

– The Big 12 narrowly avoids its worst first-round ever: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown snuck into the first round at No. 32, the Longhorns’ first pick since 2013.

– ACC leads off for the first time in a while: As widely expected, the Tampa Bay Bucs lead off the night by taking Florida State’s Jameis Winston. He became the ACC’s first No. 1 pick since the Texans grabbed N.C. State’s Mario Williams in 2006. Winston also became just the fourth player ever to complete the trio of a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and a No. 1 NFL Draft pick.

– Just because you have good players doesn’t mean you’re good: Al Golden‘s 6-7 Miami team had two first-round picks in offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and wide receiver Philip Dorsett. So did 4-8 Florida with defensive lineman Dante Fowler, Jr. and offensive lineman D.J. Humphries. Washington led all teams with three picks – defensive lineman Danny Shelton, cornerback Marcus Peters and linebacker Shaq Thompson – despite going 8-6 and posting a losing Pac-12 record.

– Other schools with multiple selections: Florida State (Winston, Cameron Erving), Clemson (Vic Beasley/Stephone Anthony), USC (Leonard Williams/Nelson Agholor) and Oregon (Marcus Mariota/Arik Armstead) Speaking of the Oregon…

– Chip Kelly just can’t help himself. Eventually there will come a time when the Pac-12 is no longer stocked with players the former Oregon coach recruited and/or coached against. Until then it’s insider trading in Philadelphia as Kelly nabbed USC’s Agholor.

– Duke is off the clock: Laken Tomlinson‘s selection was the Blue Devils’ first first-rounder in the lifetime of its entire roster.

For those of you living under a rock, here’s how the first round played out:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, Florida State
2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, Oregon
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, Alabama
5. Washington Redskins – Brandon Scherff, Iowa
6. New York Jets – Leonard Williams, USC
7. Chicago Bears – Kevin White, West Virginia
8. Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, Clemson
9. New York Giants – Ereck Flowers, Miami
10. St. Louis Rams – Todd Gurley, Georgia
11. Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, Michigan State
12. Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, Washington
13. New Orleans Saints – Andrus Peat, Stanford
14. Miami Dolphins – DeVante Parker, Louisville
15. San Diego Chargers – Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
16. Houston Texans – Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
17. San Francisco 49ers – Arik Armstead, Oregon
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Marcus Peters, Washington
19. Cleveland Browns – Cameron Erving, Florida State
20. Philadelphia Eagles – Nelson Agholor, USC
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Bud Dupree, Kentucky
23. Denver Broncos – Shane Ray, Missouri
24. Arizona Cardinals – D.J. Humphries, Florida
25. Carolina Panthers – Shaq Thompson, Washington
26. Baltimore Ravens – Breshad Perryman, Central Florida
27. Dallas Cowboys – Byron Jones, Connecticut
28. Detroit Lions – Laken Tomlinson, Duke
29. Indianapolis Colts – Phillip Dorsett, Miami
30. Green Bay Packers – Damarious Randall, Arizona State
31. New Orleans Saints – Stephone Anthony, Clemson
32. New England Patriots – Malcom Brown, Texas

Twenty-six players invited to NFL Draft

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Ah, the NFL Draft. It’s that awkward in-between time when the likes of Jameis WinstonLeonard Williams, et al, aren’t college football players anymore but they aren’t really NFL players yet, either.

Nevertheless, it’s the last time the newest crop of NFL players will be identified primarily by their college, and on Tuesday the NFL released the list of 26 players invited to hear their names (and schools) called over Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre on Thursday, April 30.

They are as follows:

Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
Vic Beasley, DE/LB, Clemson
La’El Collins, OL, LSU
Landon Collins, DB, Alabama
Bud Dupree, LB, Kentucky
Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
Dante Fowler, DL/LB, Florida
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Randy Gregory, DE/LB, Nebraska
Todd Gurley, LB, Georgia
D.J. Humphries, OL, Florida
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
Bernardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Andrus Peat, OL, Stanford
Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
Shane Ray, DL, Missouri
Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
Danny Shelton, DL, Washington
Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Laken Tomlinson, OL, Duke
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Leonard Williams, DL, USC

 

Nick Chubb impresses even the great Herschel Walker

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I’ve made it perfectly clear during my time at CFT that Herschel Walker was the greatest college football player I’ve seen in my lifetime, so the former Georgia running back’s words carry a little more weight in my mind.  And Walker’s words on a current UGA running back?  Positively glowing.

Walker attended practice at his old stomping grounds Thursday, and spoke with the media about very Bulldog talking points.  Well, really, one talking point: Nick Chubb.

And when it comes to Walker on Chubb, well, insert an erection euphemism here.

“One thing I like about him, the game is over, practice is over, and the kid is still out there working out,” the College Football Hall of Famer said. “That’s just the sign of a good athlete. That’s a sign that he’s doing things he needs to get done. …

“This kid came on as a freshman and just think if he had started the whole season, what he would have done. That’s what’s so amazing.”

Walker has a very valid point when it comes to Chubb.

Backing up a healthy Todd Gurley, the true freshman Chubb rushed for a modest 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the first five games of the 2014 season. Gurley’s season was over after that fifth game thanks to a combination of a four-game suspension for NCAA violations and a torn ACL in his first game back, which allowed Chubb to absolutely go off: in the last eight games of the year, Chubb ripped off 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns. Included in that total was a school-record 266 yards in the Belk Bowl win over Louisville.

Extrapolate that production out over an entire regular season plus a bowl game, and Chubb’s statline would’ve read 2,150 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. The former total would’ve been good enough for second nationally this past season, behind only the 2,587 yards from Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.

As it was, his 1,547 yards rushing were the second-most ever for an UGA freshman, behind only the 1,616 yards put up by, you guessed it, Walker back in 1980.

As impressive as those numbers are, it’s the workload Chubb shouldered that really stands out to Walker, especially in this day and age of passing offenses. In his eight games post-Gurley, Chubb had 25 or more carries four times, with three games topping the 30-carry mark.

“When you see football today, you see a choir playing at running back,” Walker said. “You see about 10 guys running in and out of the game. This guy (Chubb) carried the ball 30 some times. That is absolutely amazing. That shows you the worth that he is. I’m amazed.”

Given the shelf life of running backs these days, I’d be amazed if Chubb continued that workload throughout the entirety of the 2015 season.