CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: SEC Predictions

5 Comments

As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC), HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

SEC EAST

1. Georgia (10-3; beat Louisville in Belk Bowl)
There is one certainty when it comes to the East: UGA will not finish lower than third, a low-water benchmark for each of Mark Richt‘s 14 seasons in Athens that has included five division titles — none since 2012, though.  They return the most talent of any team in the division, although the fact that they opted for Grayson Lambert as the starting quarterback has me second-guessing my prediction.  It’s been a decade since UGA’s last SEC championship, and if they’re going to get back to that level they’ll have to do so with a schedule that includes both Alabama and Auburn as well as a road trip to Tennessee.  Still, anything less than an East title and a spot in the SEC championship game would be decidedly disappointing — and would lead to yet another offseason of “is it time to go in another direction?” speculation.

2. Tennessee (7-6; beat Iowa in Taxslayer Bowl)
Am I a year early with this lofty projection?  Possibly, especially given the team right below them.  Still, there’s no denying that Butch Jones has stuffed his talent cupboard after the barren years under his predecessor, Derek Dooley.  The Vols closed out last year on a positive note, going 4-1 down the stretch — the lone loss coming by eight to Mizzou — capping it off with an impressive 45-28 win over the Hawkeyes in the bowl game.  That final flourish coincided with Josh Dobbs‘ ascension as the starting quarterback.  With the scintillating playmaker poised to build off his first season at this level, the Vols could very well challenge both UGA and Mizzou for East supremacy.

3. Missouri (11-3; beat Minnesota in Citrus Bowl)
“Here we go again, denigrating the two-time defending East champion Tigers.” — the two Mizzou fans who frequent this site, probably.  And, actually, that’s an understandable reaction, given how the Tigers have been the class of the division the past two seasons.  They’re also one of the few teams in the conference that returns its starting quarterback.  Still, there are concerns along the defensive line — they return just five starters on that side of the ball, period — and their schedule doesn’t do them very many favors as they play at Georgia and Arkansas as well as play host to Mississippi State.  It wouldn’t shock me, though, if Mizzou made it three straight titles.  In fact, the only thing that would shock the system is if they finish outside the top three in the division.

(more…)

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Key Transfers

3 Comments

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.

Vols’ Marquez North expected back ‘within a week’

Leave a comment

In the end, it was much ado about almost nothing.

Late last night, a Knoxville radio station reported that Tennessee wide receiver Marquez North sustained a leg injury during Wednesday’s practice that was deemed serious enough to potentially be season-ending.  Local beat writers shortly thereafter began tamping down the seriousness of the injury, with national writers joining in this morning.

In a text message to the Knoxville News Sentinel, head coach Butch Jones joined in as well, writing that the Vols “fully expect to have him [back on the practice field] within a week.” The exact nature of North’s injury hasn’t been detailed.

One year after leading the Vols in receiving as a true freshman, a shoulder injury limited him to 30 receptions for 320 yards, totals that were third on the team.

Vols mum as Marquez North injury rumors swirl

Leave a comment

Tennessee’s offense may have lost one of its more significant and talented pieces to a serious injury.  Or said playmaker may have just been dinged.  Or nobody knows.  One of the three.

Warning flares went up all around Rocky Top overnight when the Knoxville FOXSports radio affiliate reported on its website that Marquez North “has suffered a serious leg injury and it is feared to be season ending.” In an update, the station added that “North went down with a serious, non-contact injury to his leg [during practice] and could not put any weight on it” and an “MRI is scheduled for Thursday” to determine the extent of the injury.

The Vols have yet to address what if any injury issue North is facing, adding to the speculation. Further adding to that speculation? Practice has reportedly been cancelled for this morning, meaning media members won’t be able to ask head coach Butch Jones about North’s status until later on tonight.

Some members of the media, though, are attempting to tap the brakes on the seriousness of whatever injury North sustained.

And then there’s this, from RockyTopInsider.com:

Here’s what we’ve been told via a source: North did, indeed, sustain an injury early during practice on Wednesday. After the injury, North spent the rest of Wednesday’s session on the training table observing practice, but was not in any noticeable pain. The injury continues to be evaluated and the severity of the injury is unknown at this time. We can confirm that much, but anything else at this point is speculation.

One of the most physically-gifted receivers in the SEC, the 6-3, 229-pound North has failed in the eyes of some to live up to the billing his four-star pedigree portended, though health issues have certainly played a role in that perception  Last season, a shoulder injury knocked him out of the final three games of the season and limited him for the two prior to that.  Coincidentally or not, the Vols went 4-1 in those five games, although the emergence of Josh Dobbs as the starting quarterback likely had as much to do with that run than anything.

Despite that missed playing time, North was still third on the team with 30 receptions and 320 receiving yards, and tied for second with four receiving touchdowns, one year after leading the team in receiving as a true freshman.  He was one of several players limited during spring practice earlier this year.

Tennessee Vols reinstate star wide receiver Von Pearson

7 Comments

So much for a football future in doubt in Knoxville. Just days after Tennessee learned wide receiver Von Pearson will not face charges following a rape allegation, the program has welcomed him back to the team by announcing his reinstatement Friday afternoon.

Tennessee placed Pearson on an indefinite suspension after allegations were made against the Vols receiver in April. As previously reported, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said the university had suspended Pearson as well while the legal process continued to play out. Earlier this week a district attorney decided there was insufficient evidence in the case to sustain a criminal prosecution against Pearson. With that decision made, Tennessee saw it appropriate to cease the suspension.

Pearson was Tennessee’s second-leading receiver last fall with 393 yards and a team-high five touchdowns last season.