Nelson Spruce

Two glaring omissions headline Biletnikoff watch list

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It’s not often that who’s not on what’s essentially a meaningless preseason watch list is the main storyline, but that’s the case when it comes to the Biletnikoff Award this year.

First, who is on the watch list for the award handed out annually to the nation’s top wide receivers: a total of 48 players at the position, which is actually a rather subdued number compared to other watch lists that come out this time of the year.

Headlining the four dozen receivers actually listed is Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins, who was a finalist for last year’s award that went to Alabama’s Amari Cooper.  Joining Higgins are 2014 semifinalists Sterling Shepard of Oklahoma and Nelson Spruce of Colorado.

Now, the players who was inexplicably excluded from the initial watch list? Auburn’s D’haquille Williams, first and foremost. The senior wideout was already named to the Maxwell Award watch list earlier this month. He’s considered by many to be the best receiver in the SEC — Mel Kiper has Williams as his No. 1 player at that position — yet four receivers from that conference are included.  The only receiver on the Biletnikoff watch list to also make Maxwell’s is South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper.

Williams missed three of the last four games last season because of an injury, yet still totaled 45 receptions for 730 yards and five touchdowns. Kiper may have him a bit overrated on his Big Board, but Williams certainly deserves one of the 48 spots allotted — or the award should at least make room for a 49th.  Or a 49th and 50th.

That said, Williams can, and probably will, be added to an in-season update from the folks at the Biletnikoff.  The same could be said for Player. No. 2: Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell.

Despite missing the last four games of the year because of a gruesome leg injury, Williams still led the Rebels in receptions with 48 and was second in yardage with 632.  Like Williams, Treadwell made the cut for the Maxwell, which is awarded annually to the best player in college football regardless of position.

Anyway, below is the complete Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list.

Victor Bolden, Oregon State
Devonte Boyd, UNLV
Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
Ryan Burbrink, Bowling Green
KD Cannon, Baylor
Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
Rashon Ceaser, ULM
Corey Coleman, Baylor
Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
River Cracraft, Washington State
Jared Dangerfield, Western Kentucky
Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Josh Doctson, TCU
Travin Dural, LSU
Alex Erickson, Wisconsin
William Fuller, Notre Dame
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
Donovan Harden, Georgia State
Carlos Harris, North Texas
Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Ajalen Holley, ULM
Cayleb Jones, Arizona
Corey Jones, Toledo
Isaiah Jones, East Carolina
Marcus Kemp, Hawaii
Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
Byron Marshall, Oregon
Mitch Mathews, BYU
Teldrick Morgan, New Mexico State
Jordan Payton, UCLA
Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
Jalen Robinette, Air Force
Demarcus Robinson, Florida
Alonzo Russell, Toledo
Artavis Scott, Clemson
Hunter Sharp, Utah State
Tajae Sharpe, Massachusetts
Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State
Nelson Spruce, Colorado
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Michael Thomas, Ohio State
Shaq Washington, Cincinnati
Mike Williams, Clemson
Ron Willoughby, Buffalo

Nebraska player offers personal scouting report on new Eagles WR Nelson Agholor

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The Philadelphia Eagles did not end up drafting Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in the first round of the NFL Draft, causing the team to go into some spin control while the fans in the city try to figure out how months of speculation and rumors came up so empty. Although Mariota is not making his way to Philly, Chip Kelly stuck to his Pac-12 roots and drafted wide receiver Nelson Agholor out of USC.

Whether or not drafting Agholor was a good move is up for debate considering some of the needs on the Philadelphia roster, but one Nebraska cornerback has weighed in with his personal scouting report on the now former Trojans receiver. Josh Mitchell, who covered Agholor in last season’s Holiday Bowl between Nebraska and USC, chimed in on Twitter…

Agholor was USC’s leading receiver in 2014 with 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was second in the Pac-12 in receiving yards only to Washington State’s Vince Mayle and his touchdown total was tied for most in the conference with Colorado’s Nelson Spruce and Washington State’s Isiah Myers. But as Mitchell said on Twitter, Agholor did not have a tremendous amount of success against the Nebraska corner in the Holiday Bowl. Agholor did catch seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, but none of that came against Mitchell. USC won the Holiday Bowl, 45-42.

Maybe Mitchell will one day be picked up by one fo the NFC East rivals to go up against him twice a year in the future.

Buffs get WR Nelson Spruce back for one more season

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As it turns out, Colorado won’t be losing the most potent and productive member of its offense this upcoming season after all.

After briefly flirting with the idea of leaving early for the NFL, Nelson Spruce informed head coach Mike MacIntyre prior to the school’s semester break that he will indeed be returning to the Buffaloes for another season, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. The wide receiver had stated back in mid-November that he was leaning toward a return, but still left the pro door open at the time.

Spruce’s 106 receptions in 2014 marked the first time a Buffs receiver had cracked the 100-catch plateau and stands fourth all-time in the Pac-12. His 8.8 catches per game were tied for third in the country, while his 99.8 yards per game was 13th nationally and third in the Pac-12.

As the Daily Camera wrote, Spruce’s return means “he will likely set new career school records in every major receiving category.”  The 6-1, 195-pound junior will enter the 2015 season with 205 career receptions for 2,294 yards and 19 touchdowns.  The current school records are, in order, 215 (Scotty McKnight, 2007-10), 2,548 (Michael Westbrook, 1991-94) and 22 (McKnight).

Players from top seven CFP teams among 15 Camp semifinalists

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It stands to reason that the highest-ranked teams possess a good amount of top-tier talent.  If the fine folks at the Walter Camp Foundation can be used as an accurate barometer, that’s certainly the case this year.

Wednesday morning, the Camp Foundation released its 15 semifinalists for the 2014 version of its prestigious Player of the Year award.  Included in that group was at least one player each from the top seven teams in the current College Football Playoff Top 25.

  • Wide receiver Amari Cooper, quarterback Blake Sims, No. 1 Alabama
  • Quarterback Marcus Mariota, No. 2 Oregon
  • Quarterback Jameis Winston, No. 3 Florida State
  • Quarterback Dak Prescott, No. 4 Mississippi State
  • Quarterback Trevone Boykin, No. 5 TCU
  • Quarterback J.T. Barrett, No. 6 Ohio State
  • Quarterback Bryce Petty, No. 7 Baylor

Winston and Mariota were semifinalists for last year’s award, , while Winston was named a finalist prior to claiming the 2013 Camp trophy. A group of five finalists will be announced Dec. 3, with the 2014 award being presented Dec. 11.

More than half of the 15 semifinalists (eight) are quarterbacks, while two are running backs and two are wide receivers.  There are just three defensive players on the list, and just two of them play defense exclusively (Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright, Louisville safety Gerod Holliman).  The other, Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson, is his team’s second-leading rusher.

OSU’s Barrett is the only freshman, redshirt or otherwise, while there are four sophomores — Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins, Winston, Wright and Holliman.  The rest are juniors (seven) and seniors (three).

The ACC, SEC and Pac-12 have three semifinalists each.  The Big Ten and Big 12 have two apiece.

Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and Higgins are the only players from Group of Five conferences to be named a semifinalist.

Just to name a few, among the notable players absent from the list of semifinalists are running backs Tevin Coleman of Indiana and James Conner of Pittsburgh (second and third nationally, respectively, in rushing); wide receivers Nelson Spruce of Colorado, Kevin White of West Virginia and Justin Hardy of East Carolina (first, second and third, respectively, in receptions); Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson (second in pass efficiency); and Utah’s Nate Orchard and Washington’s Hau’Oli Kikana (tied for the lead in most sacks).

Below is the complete list of Camp semifinalists, with statistical notes provided by the foundation.

J.T. BARRETT, RS Freshman, QB, OHIO STATEHas passed for 2,356 yards and 29 touchdowns for the 9-1 Buckeyes.

TREVON BOYKIN, Junior, QB, TCUHas passed for 3,201 yards and 24 touchdowns for the 9-1 Horned Frogs.

RAKEEM CATO, Senior, QB, MARSHALLHas passed for 2,613 yards and 26 touchdowns for the 10-0 Thundering Herd.

AMARI COOPER, Junior, WR, ALABAMAHas caught 87 passes for 1,303 yards and 11 touchdowns for the 9-1 Crimson Tide.

MELVIN GORDON, Junior, RB, WISCONSINLeads nation with 1,909 rushing yards, averaging 8.6 yards a carry, and has scored 23 touchdowns for the 8-2 Badgers.

RASHARD HIGGINS, Sophomore, WR, COLORADO STATEHas caught 67 passes for 1,280 yards and 13 touchdowns for the 9-1 Rams.

GEROD HOLLIMAN, Sophomore, DB, LOUISVILLELeads the nation with 13 interceptions for the 7-3 Cardinals.

DUKE JOHNSON, Junior, RB, MIAMI (FLA)Has rushed for 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns for the 6-4 Hurricanes.

MARCUS MARIOTA, Junior, QB, OREGONHas passed for 2,780 yards and 29 touchdowns, and has eight rushing touchdowns for the 9-1 Ducks.

BRYCE PETTY, Senior, QB, BAYLORHas passed for 2,421 yards and 21 touchdowns for the 8-1 Bears.

DAK PRESCOTT, Junior, QB, MISSISSIPPI STATEHas passed for 2,521 yards and 20 touchdowns, and has 11 rushing scores for the 9-1 Bulldogs.

BLAKE SIMS, Senior, QB, ALABAMAHas passed for 2,454 yards and 18 touchdowns for the 9-1 Crimson Tide.

SHAQ THOMPSON, Junior, LB/RB, WASHINGTONHas 60 tackles and scored four defensive touchdowns, while rushing for 456 yards for the 6-5 Huskies.

JAMEIS WINSTON, Sophomore, QB, FLORIDA STATEHas passed for 2,844 yards and 18 touchdowns for the 10-0 Seminoles.

SCOOBY WRIGHT, Sophomore, LB, ARIZONAHas 117 tackles, 21 for losses, and 12 quarterback sacks for the 8-2 Wildcats.

Biletnikoff Award names 10 semifinalists

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With the end of the regular season two weeks away (three if you’re a Big 12 fan), the Biletnikoff Award announced 10 semifinalists on Monday:

Nelson Agholor (USC): 82 catches, 1,079 yards, 10 TDs
Amari Cooper (Alabama): 87 catches, 1,303 yards*, 11 TDs
Rashad Greene (Florida State): 75 catches, 1,042 yards, 5 TDs
Rashard Higgins (Colorado State): 67 catches, 1,280 yards, 13 TDs*
Tyler Lockett (K-State): 60 catches, 878 yards, 6 TDs
Vince Mayle (Washington State): 86 catches, 1,152 yards, 9 TDs
Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma): 50 catches, 957 yards, 5 TDs
Nelson Spruce (Colorado): 99 catches*, 1,091 yards, 11 TDs
Jaelen Strong (Arizona State): 71 catches, 982 yards, 9 TDs
Kevin White (West Virginia): 91 catches, 1,207 yards, 8 TDs

*Denotes FBS leader

Any snubs on here? Only one statistical leader isn’t on this list — Notre Dame’s Will Fuller, whose 13 touchdowns are tied with Higgins for the most among FBS receivers.

If I’m taking a stab at the three finalists, I’ll say Amari Cooper (who should win the award), Jaelen Strong (if he’s over his possible concussion vs. Oregon State) and Kevin White.

The Biletnikoff Award will announce three finalists Nov. 24 and the winner of the honor on Dec. 11.