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TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 INTERIOR DL FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

I always think it’s interesting to note that when we talk about the absolute best defensive players in the NFL the last couple of years we also begin and end the conversation with JJ Watt and Aaron Donald. They aren’t corners and they aren’t edge rushers but rather interior defensive linemen! To me this is a position that is sometimes overlooked, but it is the position that drives the defense. Having outstanding players up front that can collapse the pocket from within and control the running game between the tackles is almost indispensable when chasing down a national championship. You’ll note that both of Clemson’s starting DTs from a year ago find their way onto my list of Terrific 20 interior defensive linemen. Alabama ALWAYS has 1st round talent at DE and NT. Washington made the playoffs last season. Their starting DTs? Yep, both made my Terrific 20 list this season.

It’s also interesting to note sexy picks for the 2017 playoffs. Florida State is expected to make a playoff run. They look to have exceptional DTs. Miami-FL is experiencing a resurgence that some might think could propel them into the playoffs as early as this season. They have both starting DTs on my Terrific 20 list. There is a lot of flash on the defensive side of the ball. Who doesn’t like edge rushers who can flat get out after the QB? There isn’t much more exciting to me on defense than a bone crushing safety who lays the wood on suspecting WRs over the middle, but who are also exceptional ball hawkers. A shutdown corner has as much flash as anyone, but as is always the case with the game of football, if you want to win, you have to have the big uglies!

A quick reminder, the 20 players are listed alphabetically by their team. As I’ve said before, I don’t try to actually rank the top-20 because I’m not entirely sure how much value added I’d receive by doing so. The margins are fairly thin between some of the players.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope David Moa/6’3/270lbs/rJR: Coming out of high school, Moa was a 6’3/235lbs 2-star DE from San Diego that didn’t draw much attention. Having redshirted a year and then continuing to grow, Moa has turned into a 6’3/270lbs DT for the Broncos who had a standout rSO season with 8.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss! Still a little light at 270lbs, Moa has some solid first step quickness & he has room to get bigger. He should be a 1st team All-MWC and he’ll be interesting to watch for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Computer Hope Dexter Lawrence/6’5/340lbs/SO: Lawrence is going to make a solid case for being the #1 overall draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s a MONSTER at 6’5/340lbs with uncanny athletic ability. Big enough to be a legit 2-gap daddy as a NT in a 3-4 scheme, Lawrence was a manchild in Clemson’s 4-3 racking up 7 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss & 6 QB hurries all as a true freshman all the while being an important cog in a national championship run! Even more impressive possibly? Kid racked up 78 tackles!
Computer Hope Christian Wilkins/6’4/310lbs/JR: Wilkins was a 3rd team All-American last year as a junior and potentially deserved better. Like Lawrence, Wilkins does everything right as a DT. He gets incredible inside pressure and if you watch Wilkins a lot, he is a natural interior DL who always has his hands up to deflect passes. Last year he broke up 10 passes which is an amazing rate. His 13 tackles for loss was 3rd on the team and he still has upside as some of those tackles for loss could turn into QB sacks.
Computer Hope Derrick Nnadi/6’1/312lbs/SR: I love Derrick Nnadi’s game. He’s not overly huge at 6’1, but at 312lbs he definitely typifies the “dancing bear” stereotype of ultra athletic big men. Nnadi does everything well up front. He generates tremendous inside pressure but is also a space eater in the middle that will make tackles and clog up opponent’s running games. I think Nnadi has some more upside as well as Brian Burns, Josh Sweat & Demarcus Christmas should all be better in 2017 alleviating some pressure.
Computer Hope Trenton Thompson/6’4/295lbs/JR: According to Phil Steele, Thompson was the best defensive lineman in the 2015 recruiting class and last year Thompson finally showed that promise with a standout sophomore campaign that saw the big man record 5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss and 7 QB hurries! Thompson even won the Liberty Bowl MVP last year after Georgia beat TCU 31-23 to finish 8-5. Thompson has outstanding upside and hasn’t gotten as much run time as he’ll get this year. Expect big things.
Computer Hope Ed Oliver/6’2/290lbs/SO: The numbers are staggering. Last year as a true freshman Oliver recorded 66 tackles, 5 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, 9 passes broken up and 7 QB hurries! He was without question the best interior D-Lineman in the country in 2016. Did I mention he was a true freshman!? Already a 1st Team All-American, what does Oliver do for an encore? Like Dexter Lawrence, Oliver could be the #1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Losing Tom Herman is tough, but Oliver keeps Houston relevant.
Computer Hope Daniel Wise/6’3/290lbs/rJR: It is somewhat amazing that Kansas has a player on my Terrific 20 for both edge rushers and interior defensive linemen. Wise had an outstanding rSO year last year racking up 38 tackles along with 10 tackles for loss. The Jayhawks have a pretty solid D-Line and you have to give credit to David Beaty and his staff. Beaty recruited Dorance Armstrong to come to Lawrence and his staff has done a great job developing Wise as a solid DT. KU could win 4-5 games this year.
Computer Hope R.J. McIntosh/6’4/293lbs/JR: You know the ACC is being put on notice with “THE U” starts churning out top flight defensive linemen. McIntosh didn’t do much as a freshman, but came alive in his sophomore campaign with 2.5 sacks & 9.5 tackles for loss. That isn’t too bad for a young guy feeling his way through his first year starting. McIntosh has great size at 6’4 and almost 300lbs. Miami-FL has an outstanding D-Line coming back this year that I think only will make McIntosh that much better. Scary!
Computer Hope Kendrick Norton/6’3/312lbs/JR: Like McIntosh, Norton was also a first time starter last year at DT and put up pretty solid numbers with 2 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. I’ve seen some reports of Norton’s weight being as high as 320lbs so he’s a significant space eater in the middle who has quite a bit of upside when it comes to getting to the QB. Both McIntosh and Norton spent a lot of time in opposing backfields and it it’s just a matter of when (not if!) they start getting to the QB before he releases the ball!
Computer Hope Rashan Gary/6’5/293lbs/SO: I almost put Gary on my Terrific 20: Edge Rushers, but at 6’5 and almost 300lbs, he’s more of a 4-3DT or really a 3-4 DE. He didn’t get a ton of run time last year as a true frosh yet still managed 5 tackles for loss & 7 QB hurries. The QB hurries is the stat to watch. Gary didn’t get a ton of time so those 7 QB hurries could be closer to 17-20 if he starts 14 games and doesn’t get taken out. Some people are thinking Michigan might take a step back, but Gary might not let that happen.
Computer Hope Maurice Hurst/6’2/282lbs/rSR: Hurst took a huge step forward last year which his ability to get to the QB and generate interior pressure for the Wolverine defense. Some of that could have been defenses keying on Michigan’s other D-Linemen because they were a formidable bunch led by Taco Charlton, Ryan Glasgow & Chris Wormley, but I think Hurst’s improvements are for real and he’ll play a significant role this season. I think Hurst will be able to take advantage of Michigan having elite pass rushers.
Computer Hope Steven Richardson/6’0/300lbs/SR: Richardson is a little unheralded because he’s only 6’0 and he plays for Minnesota, but he put up a great year last year with 7 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 2 QB hurries for a 9-4 Minnesota team that enjoyed their best season since 2003 when the Gophers finished 10-3. It was also Minnesota’s best defensive effort since 1999 and Richardson was a 3rd Team All-Big 10. With PJ Fleck around, confidence should be at an all-time high & Richardson should be good again.
Computer Hope Freedom Akinmoladun/6’4/270lbs/rJR: The scary thing about Akinmoladun is that the kid is still learning to play defense. Nebraska originally recruited him to play TE, but quickly abandoned the idea given Akinmoladun’s ability to add weight and retain his athleticism. The Cornhuskers are playing him as a 3-4DE, but he had 4 sacks, 5 tackles for loss and an incredible 10 QB hurries last season. It would be interesting to see him turned loose as an edge rusher or make him a 3-4 OLB on passing downs. I like him.
Computer Hope Kevin Givens/6’1/285lbs/rSO: Givens probably isn’t on anyone’s radar just yet but MASSIVE amounts of credit needs to go to James Franklin and his staff for getting in on this guy. Givens came out of high school as a 6’1/235lbs LB, but after a redshirt year he’s now bulked up to 290lbs with exceptional first step quickness. He’s not slated to be a starter this year & he didn’t start last year either but he racked up 4.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss in very limited time. Don’t be shocked when he busts out in 2017!
Computer Hope Harrison Phillips/6’4/285lbs/rJR: Phillips road has a been a bit bumpy to his point. He didn’t get a ton of run time in 2014 as a true frosh and then had to redshirt in 2015 due to injury. Finally given the green light in 2016, Phillips didn’t disappoint racking up 46 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss all from the DT position in Stanford’s 3-4 scheme. He’s a bit miscast as a NT, but he’s highly effective up the middle and should have no issues being an All Pac 12 player. He has double digit sack upside in ’17.
Computer Hope Zaycoven Henderson/6’2/305lbs/SR: Lost in all the Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall hype last season, Zaycover Henderson put together a pretty remarkable season for an interior D-Lineman recording 3 sacks and 10 tackles for loss along with 2 QB hurries. Sort of like Maurice Hurst, you wonder if Henderson will be as good now that offenses will key on him, but he’s got solid size at 6’2 and 305lbs and I think he’ll keep playing well. He should be a 1st Team All-SEC guy meaning he’s one of the best in the nation!
Computer Hope Rasheem Green/6’5/280lbs/JR: One of the most highly touted prospects in the 2015 class, Green is a monster with incredible size at 6’5/280lbs. As a true frosh, Green played in every game for the Trojans which is no easy task given the depth chart & became a full fledged starter as a true sophomore. Green led USC is sacks last year and was also 4th in tackles showing an outstanding ability to limit the run as well as the pass. Green is a big reason why the Trojans could end up being the national champions!
Computer Hope Lowell Lotulelei/6’2/317lbs/SR: Utah seems like a DT assembly line and Lotulelei is the latest edition. You can make a good argument his teammate Filipo Mokofisi deserves to be the on this list but I went with Lotulelei because the guy has been a model of consistency since he arrived in Salt Lake City. Of all the players on this list, if you were looking at bets as to who would reach their ceiling this year, I think Lotulelei would be the safest bet. Not a ton of flash but great size at 6’2/317lbs and he gets the job done.
Computer Hope Andrew Brown/6’4/285lbs/SR: A 5-star recruit out of Chesapeake Virginia, Brown elected to stay close to home and commit to the Wahoos over teams like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio St., and Georgia. Brown had been hampered by injuries over this first two seasons in Charlottesville, but last year was able to stay on the field & ended the season with 6 sacks and 13 tackles for loss which is amazing considering how bad the defense was for UVA. The talent here is undeniable if healthy!
Computer Hope Greg Gaines/6’2/321lbs/rJR: I really like Gaines’ game. Washington plays sort of an odd ball 3-3-5 base defense or nickle package using a couple of huge DTs which one edge rusher and then hoping to get help via one of their outside LBs. This means that the Huskies need their DTs to generate a lot of inside pressure and Gaines does that. Gaines came to UW at 6’1/290 but has grown and inch and put on almost 30lbs. He had 8 tackles for loss and I think there is a lot more upside to his game going forward.
Computer Hope Vita Vea/6’5/344lbs/JR: Vea is an absolute BEAST physically at 6’5 and almost 350lbs! Vea is even bigger than Dexter Lawrence even if marginally so! Vea is an extremely unique player in that he’s a legit 2-gap daddy as a 3-4 NT, but he also gets tremendous pressure, finishing 2nd on the Huskies last season sacks with 5. He’s the reason UW can play the kind of defense they want because he takes up so much space and commands double & triple teams. He’s an All-American candidate that is also a top-10 NFL pick.

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Marlon Tuipulotu/USC/6’3/305lbs: Tuipulotu should get significant playing time and this is one of those instances where talent meets opportunity. The Trojans should have a dominant D-Line with starters Porter Gustin, Rasheem Green and Uchenna Nwosu. That should leave Tuipulotu with plenty of one on one opportunities in the trenches to make an impact. Opposing defenses are most likely going to key on known variables such as the 3 other starting D-Linemen along with other Trojan players like Cameron Smith and Ajene Harris. There is some concern going forward about the overall depth chart of the D-Line, but for the most part I think Tuipulotu gets significant playing time and makes an impact because he’ll be more of an afterthought for opposing offensive coordinators. It’ll be interesting to see how effective the true freshman can be, knowing this and getting quite a bit of playing time.

Jordan Scott/Oregon/6’1/340lbs: I’m really excited to see what Scott can do for the Ducks this season. Just a 3-star DT out of Florida, Scott wasn’t highly recruited by the big boys. He did have an offer from Florida State, but not much outside of that. He chose to go all away across country to Oregon where he seems like a more natural fit in the Ducks 3-4 scheme. Scott couldn’t walk into a better situation. He’s a space eater at almost 350lbs and should command double teams. He’s also in a unique position because DE Jalen Jelks is a returning starter and the other DE looks to be Clemson grad transfer Scott Pagano. That’s a lot of experience up front. Oregon also returns both inside LBs in Troy Dye and Kaulana Apelu meaning Scott is either going to take up a lot of space allowing the LBs to hunt or he’s going to get faced with a lot of one on one opportunities where he can shut down any type of interior running game while collapsing the pocket on opposing QBs. We are used to seeing dominant 3-4 DEs out of Oregon such as DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. Scott might be a legit 3-4 NT for the Ducks that carries around 350lbs.

Marvin Wilson/Florida State/6’4/330lbs: Just a bit smaller than Dexter Lawrence, Wilson enters the 2017 NCAA football season as the most highly touted DL recruit in the 2017 class. Wilson has massive bulk and does everything well in the trenches. He’s exceptional at getting pressure on the QB while also being able to take up space and shut down running games. He demands double teams so it’ll be interesting to see if collegiate offensives will allow him to go one on one with a guard or center. The only issue I think Wilson will have his first season is finding playing time. Derrick Nnadi is one of the best DTs in college football and FSU also returns Demarcus Christmas as their other DT starter. HC Jimbo Fisher is also bringing in Ja’len Parks and Cory Durden. That is a massive amount of talent up front for the Seminoles. Wilson is going to play and I think he’s going to make an impact but it’ll be interesting to see if he makes the same kind of impact Dexter Lawrence made because of the logjam up front in Tallahassee.

Langston Murray/New Mexico/6’2/335lbs: As I’ve written many times, sometimes a player can make himself a household name because of opportunity and I think Murray steps into an interesting situation with the Lobos. Murray has tremendous size at 6’2/335lbs. New Mexico under HC Bob Davie employs a base 3-4 and there isn’t much returning at NT from last season meaning if Murray can step in and be effective, he’ll earn significant playing time. Murray is also big enough already that he won’t need a redshirt year trying to add bulk to his frame. There isn’t any doubt that New Mexico is a work in progress this season after a mass exodus of players from the defensive side of the ball, but that means opportunity for a guy like Murray. I’m not sure he’ll cash in that opportunity, but a legit 3-4NT who can eat up space makes the 3-4 defense flow and you can be sure that the New Mexico coaching staff understands this. The Lobos are going to run the ball and take up time. That’s for certain so the defense will get plenty of rest. If Murray can eat up space then the other defenders can hunt, making an otherwise rebuilding defense, highly effective. Let’s see if Murray can seize the opportunity.

Quinnen Williams/Alabama/6’4/285lbs: Williams is a rFR, but I wanted to get a guy from Alabama on this list because how can you talk about interior defensive linemen and not mention Alabama!? Regardless of who Alabama loses to the NFL Draft, they always have dominant D-Lines and I think Williams is going to be a star in 2017. Williams had an outstanding spring game for the Tide and he’s projected to be the starter along with NT Da’Ron Payne and DE Da’Shawn Hand. Payne & Hand could easily be All-SEC type of players meaning Williams as a relative unknown should have his way early on. That won’t last because he’ll be dominant, but Williams should be able to capture enough momentum early on to propel himself through the season and make people notice for the 2019 NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore season. The only downside to Williams is the incredible amount of talent in Tuscaloosa, but if he can get playing time and remain in the starting lineup, I think Williams emerges as an All-SEC type of player.

July 22, 2017 Posted by | Alabama, Boise St., Clemson, Florida St., Georgia, Houston, Interior DL, Kansas, Miami-FL, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Penn St., Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Stanford, Terrific 20, Texas AM, USC, Utah, Virginia, Washington | Leave a comment

TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 EDGE RUSHERS FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

EDGE RUSHERS!!!!! The most exciting position in football in my opinion! This position was tough because there were quite a few edge rushers who probably deserved to be included yet missed the cut since I limited my selections to the top-20. One thing that stood out is that the SEC & ACC have tremendous pass rushers this season. Catching those conference games almost ensures you’ll see a couple of elite pass rushers. What also stuck out is that you could make a decent argument that Ohio St. has 4 of the top-20 edge rushers in the nation! If there is going to be a single reason why the Buckeyes could potentially win a national championship, it’ll be because of the RELENTLESS pass rush their edge rushers can generate! It should be mind boggling.

A quick reminder, the 20 players are listed alphabetically by their team. As I’ve said before, I don’t try to actually rank the top-20 because I’m not entirely sure how much value added I’d receive by doing so. The margins are fairly thin between some of the players.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope Harold Landry/6’3/250lbs/SR: Landry didn’t play much as a freshman, but flashed quite a bit as a sophomore as he tied with LB Matt Milano for the BC lead in tackles for loss in 2015 with 11. That was a harbinger for things to come as Landry exploded last year racking up 16.5 sacks which led all of college football! While a 4-3DE for Boston College, Landry projects as a 34OLB at the NFL level. Regardless, the Eagles are going to get back to a bowl this year & Landry will have an incredible season.
Computer Hope Clelin Ferrell/6’5/265lbs/rSO: It was easy not to concentrate so much on Ferrell last year during Clemson’s run to a championship because the defense had guys like Ben Boulware, Kendall Joseph, Carlos Watkins, Cordrea Tankersley, Dexter Lawrence & Christian Wilkins, but Ferrell was a huge part of the success racking up 6 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and a team leading 9 QB hurries. Oh by the way he was only a rFR! He returns with a ton of supporting players. He’ll go double digit sacks.
Computer Hope Jabari Zuniga/6’3/245lbs/rSO: Like Ferrell, Zuniga was another redshirt freshman having a helluva year. Zuniga finished the season for the Gators with a team leading 5 sacks, which also happened to be the most sacks by a freshman since 1987! Zuniga wasn’t highly thought of coming out of high school, but he proved to be an incredible get. In limited time last season he still managed the 5 sacks and an astonishing 11 QB hurries. If those hurries turn into sacks, Zuniga becomes an All-American.
Computer Hope Brian Burns/6’5/218lbs/SO: Burns has perfect height to be a 4-3 DE at the next level, but he’s a little light at 218lbs so it’ll be something to watch moving forward. While he might not have ideal bulk at the moment, it’s impossible to overlook the numbers the true frosh put up last season. In limited time, Burns recorded 9.5 sacks which was 2nd on the team to DeMarcus Walker’s 16. With Josh Sweat on the opposite end, Burns should be in for another huge year in what should be a playoff run for Florida State.
Computer Hope Josh Sweat/6’5/250lbs/JR:Opposing teams are screwed with FSU’s edge rushers because Burns and Josh Sweat make the list. Sweat is more of a complete package seeing that he’s 250lbs although his ceiling might not be as high as Burns. Sweat really came on down the stretch in FSU’s last 3 games against Syracuse, Florida & Michigan. In those 3 games, Sweat had 4.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. If Sweat keeps that momentum going in 2017 and improves from his ’16 campaign, then look out!
Computer Hope Davin Bellamy/6’5/240lbs/rSR: Bellamy is almost the ideal size for an NFL 4-3 DE. At 6’5 and almost 250lbs, Bellamy has elite physical size, but one thing that he hasn’t been able to do is transform his QB hurries into sacks. In 2015 Bellamy had 9 QB hurries yet only 3 sacks. Last season he recorded a ridiculous 17 QB hurries but manged only 5 sacks! Those numbers should be reversed! Georgia is a big time threat to win the SEC East and you’d have to think Bellamy could be a deciding factor in the SEC East.
Computer Hope Lorenzo Carter/6’6/242lbs/SR: Everything I wrote above about Bellamy is somewhat true about Carter as well. Despite his IDEAL size for a 4-3 DE, Carter has had trouble converting QB hurries to sacks. In 2015 he had 6 QB hurries but no sacks. Last year he recorded 13 QB hurries but just 5 sacks. Neither Carter or Bellamy show up on first round mock drafts for 2018 so something is up. I’m betting on both of them. The upside is simply too strong there for me to ignore them. I think they both dominate.
Computer Hope Dorance Armstrong/6’4/256lbs/JR: There wasn’t a lot to be excited about regarding Kansas football last year but along with the win over Texas, Dorance Armstrong was a HUGE bright spot for the Jayhawks campaign. Armstrong wasn’t fantastic in 2015, but he exploded last season with 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss! Armstrong was consistent all season & he put up big numbers against some very tough offensive lines. He could be KU’s 1st first team All-American since CB Aquib Talib back in 2007.
Computer Hope Jaylon Ferguson/6’5/255lbs/rJR: Guys like Ferguson are always interesting because you wonder who exactly they got to where they are. Ferguson is from St. Francisville, LA which is about 30 or so miles north of Baton Rouge. How in the world did this guy NOT grow up an LSU fan, and how in the world did LSU NOT want to recruit the guy? It doesn’t look like LSU even offered the guy so maybe it was never on the table. Ferguson exploded last year with 14.5 sacks! He’s an All-American candidate for 2017.
Computer Hope Arden Key/6’6/255lbs/JR: Speaking of Ferguson to LSU, could you imagine the LSU defensive line if it has Ferguson and Key coming off the edge!? Good grief! How in the world would opposing QBs not get killed!? Key is a MONSTER! HC Ed Orgeron is already saying can be as good if not better than former Texas A&M, and #1 overall NFL draft pick, Myles Garrett! Those are lofty words, but Key is fully formed & is an outstanding pass rusher. Coming off shoulder surgery, let’s hope it doesn’t hinder him.
Computer Hope Joe Jackson/6’5/258lbs/SO: I wavered on throwing Jackson on this list because he’s not even projected to be a starter for THE U at DE. The Canes have seniors looking to start in Chad Thomas & Trent Harris. Both are solid players, but it’s hard to ignore what Jackson did last season as a true freshman. He led Miami in sacks with 8.5 and recorded 11.5 tackles for loss which also led the team. Jackson has incredible size at 6’5/260lbs. I’d be shocked if Jackson doesn’t get a ton of reps & net double digit sacks.
Computer Hope Marquis Haynes/6’3/222lbs/SR: Haynes doesn’t have ideal size as a 4-3 DE, but he fits the position well and has a ton of natural pass rushing ability. It’s hard to ignore his production. As a sophomore Haynes posted 10 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. Last year as a junior Haynes had 7 sacks & 11 tackles for loss but also had 8 QB hurries. It was somewhat of a surprise to see him come back for his senior season, but Haynes has the ability to post numbers that could make him an All-American candidate.
Computer Hope Marcell Frazier/6’5/265lbs/rSR: Incredible size for a DE, Frazier could think about gaining 25lbs and becoming a 3-4 DE who could provide pocket pressure off the edge. He’ll have no problem taking over for the departed Charles Harris who the Miami Dolphins took in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Frazier might be one of the most important players in college football this season because if he provides significant pressure, Missouri has a chance to shock a lot of people given their schedule.
Computer Hope Bradley Chubb/6’4/275lbs/SR: Chubb flashed enormous potential for the Wolfpack as a sophomore netting 5.5 sacks & 12 tackles for loss. Those numbers are gigantic but Chubb ranked 2nd on the team in tackles which is amazing for an edge rusher. Last year Chubb flashed for real, racking up 10.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss along with 7 QB hurries. Chubb has tremendous bulk at 275lbs, but he’s got a lot of speed for that size. There are a lot of very good edge rushers in the ACC, but Chubb is the best.
Computer Hope Sam Hubbard/6’5/265lbs/rJR: Hubbard didn’t go nuts last year with his stats with only 3.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss, but he’s roundly considered a first round draft pick and if you watch Ohio St. for very long, it’s not hard to see why Hubbard has as much hype surrounding him as anyone. What could prevent Hubbard from having a huge statistical season is Ohio St. having so much depth on the edge. This will be true for Tyquan Lewis as well but Nick Bosa & Jalyn Holmes are going to need reps too!
Computer Hope Tyquan Lewis/6’4/265lbs/rSR: Lewis has always been an elite pass rusher but playing in the shadow of Joey Bosa, it isn’t easy to get noticed for you own play. In his first season without Bosa, Lewis led the Buckeyes in sacks with 8, in tackles for loss with 10.5 and in QB hurries with 5. He didn’t get to come out of the Bosa family shadow for long though as little brother Nick came in and had a fantastic true frosh season. Like Hubbard, Lewis is a 1st round NFL DE, but his reps won’t be as high because of depth.
Computer Hope Breckyn Hager/6’3/227lbs/JR: KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THIS GUY! Hager had an outstanding sophomore campaign for the Longhorns despite only making 5 starts. Hager made the most of his opportunities finishing 2nd on the team in tackles, 1st in sacks and first in tackles for loss. He has a relentless motor and is constantly on the move regardless of play/position. Hager is a little light but Texas is moving to a 3-4 base defense which forces Hager to a 3-4 OLB spot which he’s more suited for. Scary!
Computer Hope Porter Gustin/6’5/260lbs/JR: Gustin didn’t get a ton of run time as a true frosh back in 2015, but he flashed hard last season for the Trojans picking up 5.5 sacks and a team leading 13 tackles for loss. Gustin is an edge rusher with incredible size at 6’5/260lbs, but he’s quick off the line and he does a great job holding the edge and containing the running game. He’s not a one trick pony to be sure. USC is this close to being back to the glory years under Pete Carroll. Gustin is a big part of that as the defense is solid.
Computer Hope Tremaine Edmunds/6’5/236lbs/JR: A 3rd team All-American last season, Edmunds is a scary sight off the edge down in Blacksburg. Giving Bud Foster an ELITE edge rusher is a thing of beauty. The last time VT had an edge rusher the caliber of Edmunds was back when Jason Worilds was playing in 2008-2009, but Worilds isn’t as good as Edmunds, wasn’t as big or have near the upside. Edmunds only had 4.5 sacks last year but 18.5 tackles for loss! He has the potential to reverse those numbers.
Computer Hope Duke Ejiofor/6’4/275lbs/rSR: Ejiofor was a big part of Wake Forest getting to a bowl game last year for the first time since 2011 and winning a bowl game for the first time since 2008. The 2008 season was also the last time Wake had a winning season before the 2016 campaign. Ejiofor got spot duty his first couple of seasons after redshirting but flashed last year when he became the starter. He led the team in sacks with 10.5 and recorded 17 tackles for loss. The ACC has a lot of outstanding edge rushers.

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Jaelan Phillips/UCLA/6’6/250lbs: A consensus 5-star defensive end out of Redlands, CA, Phillips is a man-child at 6’6/250lbs which is already IDEAL size as a 4-3 edge rusher. Phillips enrolled early at UCLA and was on campus for spring practice. The Bruins hardly have anything coming back as far as pass rush is concerned so Phillips could get some run time early getting a chance to show the coaching staff that he can be an impact player right away. The only downside to Phillips potentially is his size. The kid is already 6’6/250lbs and UCLA runs a 4-3 defense. If he gains 25-30 pounds then Phillips will be a prototypical 34DE at 6’6/280lbs! There isn’t much by way of production last season in front of Phillips and opportunity is half the battle for these newcomers. I think Phillips gets a chance to shine as a true freshman.

A.J. Epenesa/Iowa/6’5/270lbs: I wanted to mention Espnesa because he is the most highly decorated recruit that committed to Iowa that I can remember. Typically the Hawkeyes don’t nail down too many no doubt 5-star studs, especially on the defensive line, but the Illinois native signed with the Iowa and Kirk Ferentz couldn’t be happier. I think opportunity is what is key for freshman contribution and that isn’t easy to see with Epenesa in Iowa City this year. Iowa already has a solid 3-man rotation at edge rusher featuring Parker Hesse, Matt Nelson and Anthony Nelson. What makes it so intriguing however, is that the Hawkeyes could easily make that a 4-man rotation by adding Epenesa  making their D-Line deeper and even more talented. It would also be incredibly BIG! Matt Nelson is 6’8/285lbs. His younger brother Anthony Nelson is 6’7/260lbs. Hesse is 6’3/260lbs and Epenesa is already 6’5/270lbs! Pass rush counts for a lot in football and because of this 4-man rotation, Iowa has a shot at the Big 10 West. I think Epenesa gets a chance to help Iowa.

Jake Lawler/North Carolina/6’3/220lbs: Lawler is a little light for an edge rusher but he’s a true freshman so you’d have to think the weight will come at some point. That being said, Lawler looks like a prime candidate to redshirt, but as I’ve said repeated times, opportunity is a good sign a freshman might have an impact and Lawler might have a shot to get solid reps. The Tar Heels have Malik Carney returning who will be their primary pass rusher, but UNC is a little thin on the opposite side which is where Lawler could come into play. You could make an argument that Lawler is the most talented edge rusher on the squad so that might garner him some opportunities. Admittedly this might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s worth noting because Lawler enrolled early and Carolina needs the help on the edge.

Drew Jordan/Duke/6’2/255lbs: Staying on Tobacco Road, Jordan as a true freshman immediately steps into the starting role for Duke and is easily the most talented edge rusher the Blue Devils have heading into 2017. Typically a team like Duke (or Vanderbilt or Indiana or Northwestern) can sometimes get a solid blue chip recruit along the O-Line or at QB. Even LB, but getting a blue chipper as an edge rusher is a rare thing, yet HC David Cutcliffe managed to pull this off with Jordan, a Georgia native. Jordan has ready make bulk at the collegiate level at 255lbs and to be honest, he’ll need to figure out a way to keep his weight under control unless he shoots up to 6’4-6’5. One thing I like about the impact Jordan could have is that it improves Duke’s pass rush from the edge because the Blue Devils do a pretty good job getting QB pressure from their LBs. Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys get after it a big and a solid edge rusher like Jordan could open up lanes for the LBs to swarm a little bit better. If Jordan gets a lot of reps and his numbers don’t look great, but Giles-Harris & Humphreys get big bumps, it’ll be because Jordan freed them up a bit.

Bryan Jones/Houston/6’5/245lbs: It’s a different coaching staff at Houston with Tom Herman going to Texas, but what sticks out to me about Jones is the presence of Ed Oliver. Jones is a fully formed 43DE at 6’5/245lbs and he was a highly recruited DE. Oliver as a true frosh last season was a 1st team all-american and he’ll be clogging up the middle while Jones is on the edge. Jones is the most talented edge rusher on the Cougars team and it’s not even close. He should get opportunities and Houston’s front-7 is good enough that Jones should see a lot of one-on-one matchups on the edge which could lead to some big plays. Given how well Oliver did as a freshman, I wonder if Jones can come in and have a similar impact especially with Oliver coming back for his sophomore season. Houston lost both of their starting edge rushers from a season ago so competition should be wide open.

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Edge Rushers, Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Houston, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Miami-FL, Mississippi, Missouri, NC State, North Carolina, Ohio St, Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Terrific 20, Texas, UCLA, USC, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest | Leave a comment

TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 QBs FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

Back with my “Terrific 20”! This time we are looking at quarterbacks. Remember that I’m not ranking the top-20 QBs, but rather listing them in alphabetical order by team. As I outlined in my Terrific 20: RB post, it was simply too difficult to try and distinguish between the top-20, and even if I did, I’m not sure there is any real value added to that discussion.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope Jalen Hurts/6’2/214lbs/SO: It was fairly remarkable what Hurts was able to do at Alabama as a true freshman. He might have added to Nick Saban’s number of gray hairs at times, but Hurts was nothing if not exciting. There are certainly some things Hurts can work on. He was flat out terrible against Florida, Washington & Clemson in Alabama’s last 3 games. He wasn’t that great in the 4th quarter or in 3rd down. He’ll improve in all those areas and I could see him going for 3000/1000 in 2017.
Computer Hope Deondre Francois/6’2/205lbs/rSO: Francois took a beating all season long and still managed to play in every game and lead Florida St. to a 10-3 record including a bowl win over Michigan in what was considered a “down” year for the Seminoles. He’s essentially the successor to Jameis Winston and I wouldn’t be against Francois leaving FSU with a title the way Winston did. The rFR was outstanding on 3rd down throwing 10 touchdowns to zero picks. That shows that he won’t beat himself.
Computer Hope Lamar Jackson/6’3/200lbs/JR: Jackson was incredible last year on his way to a Heisman Trophy by throwing for 3,543 yards and rushing for 1,571 yards with a combined 51TDs! It was an easy pick although the Cardinals faded considerably down the stretch losing their last 3 games. Jackson has some room to improve. He wasn’t great on 3rd down & struggled against top flight competition. Louisville loses quite a few starters on offense so it might be difficult for Jackson to repeat last year.
Computer Hope Brent Stockstill/6’0/223lbs/rJR: You simply can’t argue with Stockstill’s numbers. In his first two years he’s thrown for 7200+ yards with 61TD to 16INT. Stockstill was lethal in the 4th quarter & on 3rd down last season and even made himself into more of a running threat. The Blue Raiders finished 8-5 but that was more due to a defense that couldn’t stop anyone because Stockstill guided the offense to almost 40PPG. He should become MTSU’s all time leading passer at some point in 2017.
Computer Hope Gus Ragland/6’1/211lbs/rJR: Miami-OH started the 2016 season 0-6 before HC Chuck Martin inserted Gus Ragland into the starting lineup afterwards going 6-0 to become bowl eligible and losing a nail biter to Mississippi St. in the St. Petersburg’s Bowl 17-16. Ragland was outstanding finishing the season with 17TD to just 1INT! Ragland completed 82% of his passes in the 4th quarter and on 3rd down he threw 6TD to 0INT. There wasn’t a single think Ragland wasn’t good at doing last year at QB.
Computer Hope Nick Fitzgerald/6’5/230lbs/rJR: You might not think Fitzgerald is much of a runner with him being 6’5/230lbs, but the MSU QB ran for 1,375 yards & 16TD while averaging 7.1ypc! He’s more of a running threat than Dak Prescott ever was although at this point Prescott was the much better passer. Prescott was able to lead the Bulldogs to the #1 ranking and I could see Prescott being able to follow suit if he can keep improving as a passer. The size/speed combo is scary, but he needs to be accurate.
Computer Hope J.T. Barrett/6’2/220lbs/rSR: You don’t get much more experience than 5th year senior JT Barrett who has to be the single biggest reason why the Buckeyes are big favorites to win the national championship this season. Barrett is a big time two way threat that rarely if ever beats himself. He’s going to throw for 2600-2800 yards. He’s going to rush for 700-900 yards and he’s going to score 35-36 combined TDs. He could be a bit better in the 4th quarter, but the games are usually over by then for him.
Computer Hope Baker Mayfield/6’1/218lbs/rSR: If you are looking for a Heisman favorite that isn’t Lamar Jackson, then Mayfield is probably your best bet. Mayfield almost threw for 4,000 yards last year with 40TD while completing 71% of his passes! He won’t be able to pass Landry Jones for OU’s all time leading passer but he should finish his career just behind him. I think it’ll also be interested to see where Mayfield goes in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’ll have tons of experience with outstanding accuracy which is key.
Computer Hope Mason Rudolph/6’5/230lbs/SR: Rudolph is going down as Oklahoma St.’s all time leading passer and it should take him a couple of games to get there. Almost overlooked a bit because he plays in the same conference as Mayfield, Rudolph has had an outstanding career and has the physical tools to get plenty of NFL looks. I’d like to see him beat Oklahoma his senior season. Rudolph actually beat the Sooners in 2014 when he was a frosh, but has been downright awful the last two seasons.
Computer Hope Justin Herbert/6’6/225lbs/SO: Herbert wasn’t supposed to be the starter last year, but after Dakota Prukop struggled, Herbert took over. He needed a couple of games to warm up but in back to back games against Cal & Wazzou, Herbert threw for 747 yards & 10TD to 1INT! He’s only win a couple of games, but for a true frosh to complete 64% of his passes with a 19:4 TD to INT ratio, you can’t help but be impressed. Herbert has huge size & a big arm. He’s poised to have a monster year for the Ducks.
Computer Hope Trace McSorley/6’0/204lbs/rJR: I’m listing the best 20 QBs this year in college football and I think McSorley is one of them. With that said, his advanced metrics aren’t promising. McSorley completed just 49% of his passes on 3rd down. He only completed 58% in the 4th quarter. It’s hard to argue with the statistical season McSorley put up last season, but he threw up a lot of prayers that were answered. If he gets significantly better with his accuracy, then Penn St. literally walks into the playoffs.
Computer Hope David Blough/6’1/200lbs/rJR: Tough not to think of the Drew Brees comparisons as 6’0 QBs from Texas who play at Purdue. Blough is a BALLER! His game wasn’t pretty at times (5 picks against Cincy) but in a 4-game stretch against Iowa, Nebraska, Penn St. and Minnesota, Blough went 118/200 (59%) for 1439yds & 13TD to 4INT! He needs to cut down on his mistakes but the kid is fearless and if he sticks in West Lafayette for his last two seasons, he has a chance to be Purdue’s historical leader.
Computer Hope Quinton Flowers/6’0/215lbs/SR: Last season Lamar Jackson passed for 3543 yards. Flowers passed for 2812. Last year Lamar Jackson ran for 1571 yards. Flowers ran for 1530. Last season Lamar Jackson combined for 51 passing & rushing TDs. Flowers had 42. Last year Lamar Jackson led Louisville to a 9-4 record. Flowers led USF to an 11-2 mark. If a non-Power 5 guy can win the Heisman, it might be Flowers because he’s going to put up big numbers and USF has a legit shot at finishing 13-0.
Computer Hope Shane Buechele/6’1/205lbs/SO: Buechele was the best passer I saw all of last season. Has a great arm with outstanding touch. Sure his numbers weren’t as good as Sam Darnold’s or Baker Mayfield’s, but as far as tossing the ball around, I thought Buechele showed the most upside. Buechele was in a tough situation to begin with in Austin playing for a coach on his way out, but he still managed to completed 60% of his passes & throw for almost 3000 yards. He’ll get a lot better which is scary.
Computer Hope Logan Woodside/6’2/201lbs/rSR: Like Gus Ragland above, Woodside is another MAC QB who simply didn’t do a thing wrong last year under center. Woodside was outstanding against winning teams. He was outstanding in the 4th quarter. He was outstanding on 3rd down. He dominated conference play. He ended up with 4000+ passing yards & 45TD! The Rockets are going to be MAC East favorites, but given how amazing Woodside was in 2016, it’s hard to imagine posting better stats!
Computer Hope Josh Rosen/6’4/220lbs/JR: Rosen battled a lot of injuries last season and the Bruins simply weren’t very good, but when you look at some of Rosen’s advanced stats, he played extremely well. Rosen played really well in Pac 12 play and was more than good on 3rd down & in the 4th quarter. His accuracy isn’t fantastic although it’s far from bad. I think what’s keeping him back is getting his accuracy in that 65-66% range. It probably doesn’t help that HC Jim Mora is on the hot seat so we’ll have to see.
Computer Hope Sam Darnold/6’4/225lbs/rSO: Right now Darnold is the odds on favorite to be the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft! His redshirt freshman season was nothing short of amazing as Darnold threw for almost 3100 yards & 31TD while completing a staggering 67.2% of his passes! His situational football was outstanding & most important, Darnold was dominant against ranked teams. Darnold elevated his game when the lights were brightest and this year he gives USC a chance at a national championship!
Computer Hope Jake Browning/6’2/205lbs/JR: Browning is a guy with a lot more to prove than most people think and you can be sure that both he and UW HC Chris Petersen are aware. Browning put together a great statistical season, but you can make an argument that USC, Colorado & Alabama were the 3 best team’s Washington faced last season and Browning went a combined 46/98 (47%) for 527 yards with 4TD & 4INT. Washington went 1-2 in those 3 games. Browning needs to play well against elite teams.
Computer Hope Luke Falk/6’4/225lbs/rSR: It’s easy to put Falk on any list of great QBs in college this year because his statistics are incredible and Wazzou is turning into a top-20 team. Falk earns it though. He’s was extremely good last year in conference play, in the 4th quarter and on 3rd down. Falk also flashes at times against elite competition showing he can get it done in a variety of ways. He’ll become Wazzou’s all time leading passer this season and give the Cougars an outside show at the Pac 12 North title.
Computer Hope Mike White/6’4/225lbs/rSR: If you want a good reason to be very high on David Blough, just take a look at the kind of QB White morphed into under HC Jeff Brohm’s watch down in Bowling Green. White was outstanding last season for WKU but what really sticks out to me is White’s ability limit his mistakes. Playing in CUSA, White didn’t really get to tee it up against ELITE competition although he did play against Alabama and wasn’t dreadful. White has a real shot at leading WKU to a 13-0 season.

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Hunter Johnson/Clemson/6’4/200lbs: Johnson was the #1 QB in the 2017 class according to Phil Steele and with Deshaun Watson now playing for the Houston Texans, the starting job is up for grabs with the defending national champions. Junior Kelly Bryant looks to be the odds on favorite to win the starting job, but Johnson might get some opportunities and he enrolled in the spring so he’s had more time than most true freshman to learn the offense. Clemson lost a lot of impact skill players but returns an outstanding offensive line that would provide quite a safety net for a freshman QB. At the very least I think Clemson will run some sub-packages for Johnson early and see how he performs.

Nick Starkel/Texas A&M/6’3/205lbs or Kellen Mond/Texas A&M/6’2/200lbs: Starkel is a rFR while Mond is a true frosh, but this is tricky with senior QB Jake Hubenak coming back to College Station. Hubenak backed up Trevor Knight last year but didn’t do bad in mop up duty and even started 3 games. HC Kevin Sumlin is on the hot seat a bit as the Aggies have posted 3 straight seasons of 8-5 ball along with bowl losses the last two seasons. Starkel & Mond are more talented QBs than Hubenak is, but Hubenak brings an air of veteran leadership to a team and coach that needs to win desperately. How Sumlin decides between veteran leadership and big play upside might determine if he’s around in 2018. Remember that A&M plays road games against UCLA, Florida, Ole Miss & LSU. Having a senior going into hostile environments might not be a bad thing.

Feleipe Franks/Florida/6’6/220lbs: Another redshirt freshman, Franks was one of the most highly touted QBs in the 2016 class. He’ll have to beat out Luke Del Rio for the starting job, but my guess is at some point Franks takes the reigns as Florida’s upside potential with Del Rio under center is somewhat limited. It’s also worth keeping in mind that this year sets up exceedingly well for Florida in regards to scheduling. They have 3 true SEC road games against Missouri, South Carolina & Kentucky! They avoid both Alabama & Auburn out of the West. They do have tricky games against Michigan to open the season and Florida St. to end the season, but at worst the Gators are probably 10-2 and SEC East champions this year. Franks is a big story if he guides Florida to the SEC championship game, HC Jim McElwain’s 3rd in as many years.

KJ Costello/Stanford/6’5/216lbs: Keller Chryst is supposed to be the starter, but Chryst tore his ACL in last year’s Sun Bowl win over North Carolina which could open the door for Costello who is a rFR and is actually entering his 2nd year at Stanford. A huge recruit out of the 2016 class, Costello has a lot of size and arm strength. He has the ability to really thrive at Stanford this season given what is coming back. Sure the Cardinal lose Christian McCaffery but Bryce Love will do a solid job while Stanford brings back an excellent O-Line and plenty of receivers. It really should be a coming out party for Chryst because Stanford has a team that could potentially get into the playoffs if things break right, but that could be Costello if Chryst isn’t ready to go.

Joshua Jackson/Virginia Tech/6’1/211lbs: The Hokies QB situation is a little muddy with Jackson coming off a redshirt season and with AJ Bush transferring in from a junior college after initially being a Nebraska recruit. Hendon Hooker is also a true frosh who should be in the mix. Jerod Evans is a pretty big loss, but I think Virginia Tech has some interesting upside. Defensively we should see vintage Hokies football led by DC Bud Foster. I think Justin Fuente’s offensive schemes work perfectly well with this so the Hokies could be in line for a lot of wins if they get significant QB play from Jackson who could benefit in this situation. It’ll be tough to get by Florida St., Clemson or Louisville from the Atlantic, but winning a Coastal division title would be pretty great for the freshman.

July 4, 2017 Posted by | Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida St., Louisville, Miami-OH, Middle Tennessee St., Mississippi St., Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Oregon, Penn St., Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Purdue, Quarterbacks, South Florida, Stanford, Terrific 20, Texas, Texas AM, Toledo, UCLA, USC, Virginia Tech, Washington, Washington St., Western Kentucky | Leave a comment

TERRIFIC 20 – TOP 20 RBs FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

Let the previews for the 2017 NCAA Football season begin! I’m going to try and tack a little different this year. I’ll preview the conferences too, but I thought I would change things up with my “Terrific 20” series which will chronicle the best 20 players at a given position. I’m going to start with running backs and go from position to position in whatever order strikes my fancy. One thing to keep in mind is that I’m listing the top-20 in alphabetical order by team name. I thought about trying to rank the top-20 players at a position from #1 to #20, but found it too difficult and in some circumstances I was simply splitting hairs.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope Damien Harris/5’11/216lbs/JR: Harris is an elite RB which is what we’ve come to expect out of Alabama, but he almost is overlooked at times because of the presence of Bo Scarbrough. It comes down to a couple of reasons. Scarbrough is a lot bigger than Harris & in some ways is a better NFL prospect. Scarbrough also scores more TDs. Don’t let it fool you. Harris averaged 7.3ypc in SEC play last year and 7.1ypc against winning teams. Both marks mind you were better than what Scarbrough posted.
Computer Hope Bo Scarbrough/6’2/232lbs/rJR: What separates Scarbrough for me is his ability to turn it on when the lights are brightest. Last season against Auburn (Iron Bowl), Florida (SEC title), Washington (Playoff) and Clemson (National title), Scarbrough ran for 454yds & 6TD on 63 carries for a 7.2ypc average. Scarbrough has breakaway speed as well for being a big man. His longest run was an 84-yard TD run against Tennessee last season. Scarbrough should break through the 1,000 yard barrier this season.
Computer Hope Kamryn Pettway/6’0/237lbs/rJR: After redshirting his first season and getting no run time his freshman year, Pettway made the most of his rSO season running for 1,224 yards & 7TD in what was War Eagle’s lone bright spot offensively in 2016. His efforts garnered him a 1st Team All-SEC nod. Pettway is a methodical runner using his massive size to bowl over defenses. Pettway missed 4 games in 2016 & had a 4-game stretch where he ran for 770yds including a 236-yard explosion against Mississippi!
Computer Hope Nick Chubb/5’10/228lbs/SR: If not for the injury in 2015, Chubb probably would have been the first RB taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. If he had returned for his senior season, Chubb would be without a doubt the best RB coming back to college football. The injury in 2015 has dampened the enthusiasm towards the Georgia native, but Chubb ran reasonably well last season and now he’s even more removed from the 2015 knee injury. The real question is whether or not Chubb can find the form he had as a frosh?
Computer Hope Sony Michel/5’11/222lbs/SR: It’s easy to forget that Michel was actually more highly touted coming out of high school than Chubb. That changed after Chubb’s breakout freshman season but Michel filled in admirably when Chubb went down in 2015. Oddly enough when you look at Michel’s rate stats, he struggled in 2016 as well and I wonder if it had something to do with him having to go back to splitting carries with his running buddy. Love Michel’s game & would love to see him run wild on a top defense.
Computer Hope Akrum Wadley/5’11/195lbs/SR: Wadley keeps getting better and better every year. Not a huge back at 5’11/195lbs but still an NFL prospect who has increased his rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing TDs in each year he’s been in Iowa City. Another interesting note about Wadley is that he’s increased his longest run in each year as well while averaging 6+ypc in Big 10 play. Iowa will depend on Wadley more than ever this season & I think he’s poised for a huge year. He’ll run behind a solid O-Line so expect big numbers.
Computer Hope Derrius Guice/5’11/212lbs/JR: In my opinion the hands down best RB in college football this season. Guice simply runs angry and he’s liable to break off a 90-yard TD run at any moment. Guice took advantage of a Leonard Fournette injury last year and turned it into a sophomore campaign that saw Guice rush for 1387yds & 13TD while averaging 7.6ypc! He’s going to be running behind an OUTSTANDING O-Line with an experienced QB. There really isn’t anything Guice is capable of doing on a football field. Heisman favorite!
Computer Hope LJ Scott/6’1/231lbs/JR: There hasn’t been a lot of bright spots for Michigan St. football this past offseason but Scott should be able to turn that around this year. The Spartans are in for a huge rebuilding effort with only 8 starters returning, but Scott is a big powerful back who can carry a team if he can stay healthy. Last year against Michigan, Scott ran for 139yds & a TD on just 22 carries. Against Ohio St. he ran for 160yds & a TD on 19 carries. If he can run like he did in those two games over a full season, he’ll open up some eyes!
Computer Hope Damorea Crockett/5’11/225lbs/SO: Crockett was an original commit to Boise St,. but switched to Mizzou late and then flashed incredible potential  when he ran for 145 yards on just 14 carries against Florida. The following week he went for 156 against Middle Tennessee arresting the starting spot from Ish Witter & establishing himself as THE Tigers RB. He ended the season with 154 against Vandy & 225 against Tennessee! Was suspended the final game against Arkansas, but all in all had an impressive frosh season. Big time talent.
Computer Hope Tyrone Owens/5’9/187lbs/rJR: Hard not to be impressed with Owens production last season. Despite splitting carries with Teriyon Gipson, Owens still managed to rush for 1,097 yards & 7TD while averaging a fantastic 8.0ypc! He even missed a game! Owens put up some big numbers against tough defenses in Air Force & Boise State. He also went over 100 yards in 5 different games. Owens is likely going to split carries with Richard McQuarley in the Lobos run heavy offense, but he could go for 1500 & 15TD if the season breaks right.
Computer Hope Justin Jackson/5’11/193lbs/SR: Jackson is poised to become Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher in 2017. He has 4,129 career rushing yards & the record is 4,485 held by Damien Anderson. It should take Jackson 3 games to get there. Jackson is also 9 rushing TDs away from becoming the all-time leading rushing TD leader in Wildcats history. Jackson isn’t a huge big play threat but he can grind out for 5.0ypc which keeps the chains moving. He can also catch passes out of the backfield. What can you say? The guy is a football player!
Computer Hope Josh Adams/6’2/220lbs/JR: I think Adams is flying under the radar because of Notre Dame’s disaster of a 4-8 season in 2016, but he flashes big time skill. Adams torched Virginia Tech, USC & Miami-FL last season, schools with an immense amount of talent, so Adams can run over elite talent. He also has the ability to break off big runs. Most importantly, Notre Dame brings back 4 O-Linemen with 3 of them being potential All-Americans! Dexter Williams, Tony Jones & Brandon Wimbush are going to run, but Adams is a dark horse Heisman contender.
Computer Hope Mike Weber/5’10/214lbs/SO: Weber’s biggest problem this season might be getting enough touches. He split time with JT Barrett last season & still rolled up 1,096 yards & 9TD! Weber had a great game against Oklahoma last season and then it was a mixed bag at times. I’d love to see him get 18-20 carries a game because I think he could handle it, but that seems unlikely with Barrett returning and the Ohio St. depth chart at tailback. Still, Weber is a big guy with speed & hands. Those aren’t exactly a dime a dozen so I hope he’s used more.
Computer Hope Royce Freeman/5’11/231lbs/SR: Freeman dealt with injuries quite a bit last year but still managed to lead the Ducks in rushing with 945 yards & 9TD! Freeman got healthy towards the end of the season & finished the year with 3 straight 100+ yard games against Stanford, Utah and Oregon State. If healthy, Freeman is a threat to rush for 1500+ yards & 20TD. He’s going to become Oregon’s all time leading rusher at some point this season & being 5’11/231lbs, he’s definitely got NFL size. Willie Taggart is lucky to have Freeman in his first season.
Computer Hope Saquon Barkley/5’11/228lbs/JR: Barkley really jump started his hype train in the Rose Bowl when he torched USC for 194 yards & 2TD on just 19 carries in Penn St.’s 52-49 dramatic loss. It was a good thing too because Barkley’s previous 4 games were very lackluster. Another feather in Barkley’s cap is that he supposedly ran a 4.33 40-yard dash this offseason which is unheard for a RB that takes the rock as much as Barkley does. Barkley had an incredible season and it could be even better in 2017 as Penn St. is very much a national title contender.
Computer Hope Chris Warren/6’2/252lbs/JR: That isn’t a typo. Warren really is a 6’2/252lbs running back with wheels! Warren was poised for a huge year last season before going down with injury after playing in only 4 games. In his last 2 games against Oklahoma St. & California, Warren ran for a combined 225 yards & 2TD while averaging 8.0 ypc! His injury opened the door for D’Onta Foreman to have an incredible season, but I’d expect Warren to pick up where he left off & Texas will be infinitely better under Tom Herman where Warren should excel.
Computer Hope Trayveon Williams/5’9/200lbs/SO: Outside of Derrius Guice, Williams was the most electric RB I watched in 2016. Williams has incredible agility combined with break away speed. As a true frosh he averaged 7.3ypc against the SEC! He averaged 8.2ypc against winning teams! Williams torched Auburn, Arkansas & Tennessee and even had to split time with Keith Ford & Trevor Knight. Williams is likely to split time with Ford once again this season, but he’s big enough to handle the full load. I’m not sure Sumlin can afford not to feed him.
Computer Hope Ronald Jones/6’1/195lbs/JR: Jones is a play maker with fantastic speed so I can see why a lot of people are hyping him up, but a deeper look is troubling. Jones ran for over 1,000 yards with 12TD last season but he ran it up against some terrible rush defenses. When he went head to head with Saquon Barkley in the Rose Bowl, Barkley badly outran him. I’m buying the hype to be sure, but I can’t wait this season for Jones to show how effective he can be against solid rush defenses. He’ll get his chances & I think he’ll come through.
Computer Hope Myles Gaskin/5’10/191lbs/JR: Gaskin reminds me a bit of Justin Jackson in that he doesn’t have that explosive level of running the way Derrius Guice or Saquon Barkley has, but he’ll grind down a defense in a way that it doesn’t look that amazing but you look up and it’s in the 3rd quarter and you he’s ran for 120 yards! Like Jackson, Gaskin is likely going down as UW’s all time leading rusher & could possibly even do it this year if he has a huge season. The Huskies bring back a solid O-Line & Jake Browning so Gaskin should be impressive.
Computer Hope Justin Crawford/6’0/202lbs/SR: I can’t figure out why nobody is talking about this guy! A JUCO transfer in to West Virginia last season, Crawford took advantages to injuries to Rushel Shell and turned it into 1184 yards & 4TD! Most impressive to me is that Crawford averaged 8.2ypc in Big XII play which included a 331 yard game against Oklahoma where Crawford averaged 13.8ypc!! Crawford averaged 8.4ypc against winning teams and shouldn’t be splitting time with Shell this season. This year Crawford will start impressing NFL decision makers.

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Cameron Akers/Florida State/5’11/213lbs: Akers got to FSU early this spring so he could definitely see a ton of run time in the Seminoles offense. Dalvin Cook is off the NFL but Cook showed just how productive an elite running back can be in the Florida St. offense. Jacques Patrick returns, but he hasn’t gotten a ton of run time playing behind Dalvin Cook so Akers could come in and steal away carries and potentially take the job as lead back. Akers also has ready made size for the collegiate game at 5’11/213lbs. For freshman it is a lot about opportunity and Akers should have that in Tallahassee.

Anthony McFarland/Maryland/5’8/185lbs: The Maryland situation at tailback is a little tricky given how dominant Ty Johnson was on the surface. Looking at Johnson’s raw stats (1,004 rushing yards & 9.1ypc!!!) makes you wonder why in the world HC DJ Durkin wasn’t feeding him the rock 20-25 times a game. I’ve read reports saying Johnson is OK with the distribution of carries. McFarland is a smallish back but he has ELITE speed with home run ability. If the Terps share the ball quite a bit then McFarland has a chance to get his fair share of carries with the potential to earn even more should he be successful. A close look at Johnson’s splits in 2016 show that he might have been racking up numbers against inferior opponents. If that trend holds true, then McFarland will get his opportunities.

Cordarrian Richardson/Central Florida/6’0/240lbs: An incredible get for HC Scott Frost, Richardson is a man-child at 240lbs as a true freshman! Jawon Hamilton was the starter last year as a freshman himself but underwhelmed in 8 starts rushing for 495yds/4TD/3.6ypc. Hamilton is also a bit smaller at 5’9/190lbs meaning UCF is going to have more of a runner that can overpower defenses with his physicality if they go with Richardson. Richardson also walks into a very nice situation. The Knights return their starting QB McKenzie Milton, they return 4 starters on the O-Line with 4 of the 5 projected starters being upperclassmen. They also return 8 of their top-9 receivers so Richardson won’t have to worry about defenses isolating him because UCF should be balanced on offense.

Trey Sermon/Oklahoma/6’0/220lbs: With Joe Mixon & Samaje Perine headed off to the NFL, Oklahoma has a gaping hole at tailback that new coach Lincoln Riley is going to need to fill. It’s Oklahoma so there is quite a bit on the depth chart, but Sermon brings an interesting mix to the table. He’s likely the most talented back on the roster and at 6’0/220lbs, he’s got quite a bit of size to take on defenders and keep going. Rodney Anderson is a big boy too at 6’2/223lbs, but Anderson has essentially missed the last two seasons with injuries so his health is a bit of a question mark. Sermon arrived early in Norman this past spring so he’s had quite a bit of time to learn the offense. I think he’ll get some opportunities early and if he makes the most of them, I think it’ll be hard for Oklahoma to not give him the ball. He’ll be running behind an incredible offensive line with a Heisman favorite at QB. It’s an ideal situation.

Michael Carter/North Carolina/5’9/185lbs: Opportunity is important for freshman and Carter might have a chance to shine in Chapel Hill now that Elijah Hood has moved on from the Tar Heels. Hood was incredibly successful in Larry Fedora’s system and with the Tar Heels not having a running QB in projected starter Brandon Harris (Transfer from LSU), the running back should be the primary ball carrying threat. Jordon Brown looks like he is going to get some carries but he didn’t impress last season when he got a few opportunities so Carter could potentially snag the starters role if things break right. One thing to keep in mind here is that sometimes runners are red shirted because they aren’t big enough. Carter is 5’9/185lbs which isn’t the biggest guy on the block. If UNC think he’s got a couple of more inches to grow and another 25lbs to put on, they could wait until he’s 5’11/210lbs which would make for a more powerful running back.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Iowa, LSU, Michigan St., Missouri, New Mexico, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oregon, Penn St., Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Running Backs, Terrific 20, Texas, Texas AM, USC, Washington, West Virginia | Leave a comment

BOB STOOPS RETIRES

Bob Stoops retiring this week is a huge college football story and I wanted to wait a couple of days for it to sink in before commenting. It is surprising to see Coach Stoops retire so suddenly especially given what a high note Oklahoma went out on in 2016 and how good the recruiting classes are shaping up for the Sooners. If Stoops was going to potentially win a second national championship, it certainly seemed like he was gearing up to take a final shot.

On the other hand, it does make some sense. Stoops was going to be 57 this year in what would have been his 19th year in Norman. His dad died early from a heart attack while coaching football and I’ve read where that weighs pretty heavy on Coach Stoops’ mind, as it should. Stoops was being paid about $5 million per year and if you multiply four by 18 (just to get an estimate), Stoops has made at least $72MM in coaching. Does the guy really need the money? Almost certainly not. He doesn’t need the validation either. Stoops is arguably the best coach in Oklahoma football history. He has also won a national championship. What really is their left to prove for him?

Selfishly, I’d love to see Bob Stoops coach for as long as he can. Who wouldn’t? His Oklahoma teams are outstanding and college football is amazing when Oklahoma is relevant. Unselfishly, I’m glad Coach stepped down if he felt it was what was best for him and his family. He’s given his entire life to the sport of football. I think it’s safe to say he’s earned to make his own decisions and go out on his own terms. As college football fans, all you can do is wish him the best and wish good luck to Lincoln Riley in the hopes that he keeps Oklahoma at the level that Bob Stoops so easily (or at least he made it look easy) maintained.

June 8, 2017 Posted by | Oklahoma | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – THE TOP 10!

THE TOP 10!!! These are the cream of the crop in my opinion and the most elite of the elite. What’s interesting about this group is the history they are all chasing. Of the top-10 coaches, there are 5 who have won national championships. Those 5 are Bob Stoops, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Even though they’ve won national titles, they are chasing history in their own way. For Swinney is the prospect of becoming one of the greatest head coaches of all time. For Fisher it’s to stand side by side with Bobby Bowden in Florida State history. For Stoops it is trying to get back to what he achieve in 2000. For Meyer and Saban, their chase is for the crown of greatest college football head coach of all time. I’m of the opinion that Saban already holds the that crown surpassing Bear Bryant, but if there is a coach who could challenge Saban, it’s Urban Meyer. For the 5 guys on this list that haven’t won a national title, you can be sure they know it’s the last thing they need to accomplish to cement their legacy. The previous rankings can be found in the following links:

#50-#65
#40-#49
#30-#39
#20-#29
#11-#19

#10 – Bobby Petrino – Louisville

While it’s certainly permissible to question his off-field behavior, there is simply no questioning what Bobby Petrino can do on the field. He took Louisville to national championship contender the first go around with the Cardinals. He did the same with Arkansas. Now that he’s back in the ‘Ville, he tied Clemson for the ACC Atlantic division championship and had Louisville not lost to Clemson, then the Cardinals would have been the ones playing for the ACC Championship and the Clemson dream season would never have happened. That was year 3 and he’s already ahead of Florida State! Only Clemson and Florida St. have won more games than the Redbirds the past 3 seasons among ACC teams. Only Clemson & FSU has a better conference record. Recruiting has jumped about 10 spots already from the time Petrino took over until now. His foray into the NFL was a disaster and his questionable conduct at Arkansas was a bit concerning to say the least but Petrino has reinvented himself at Louisville and once again is proving to be one of the very best college football coaches in the nation! With Lamar Jackson returning next year, Louisville should be in the national championship hunt.

#9 – Jim McElwain – Florida

Some might think this is too high for McElwain but in his first two years in Gainesville he’s gone 19-8 with a conference mark of 13-3 winning two SEC East division titles with the Gators finishing the 2016 season ranked 14th! What’s remarkable about Florida in McElwain’s first couple of seasons is that they’ve been winning this much without any QB play. In his first season, McElwain had deal with Will Grier getting injured and then relying upon Treon Harris who should have never been under center. Last season he had to rely on a Purdue transfer who couldn’t find playing time with the Boilermakers! That same Purdue squad who has a record of 8-28 over the last 3 years! McElwain is an offensive guy so my guess is that it’s only a matter of time before Florida starts playing the kind of offense McElwain wants. They’ll always be outstanding defensively because of the athletes the Gators can attract to campus. What McElwain has accomplished with having to build up the program the way he wants it is incredible. Granted, they’ve been dominated in the SEC Championship game and the SEC East hasn’t exactly been fantastic, but I think that is more of a reflection on missed opportunity for teams like Tennessee, Georgia & South Carolina than it is on McElwain taking advantage of a weakened division. McElwain is starting to dominate recruiting too and Gators fans can be rest assured that McElwain won’t leave Gainesville for Ohio.

#8 – David Shaw – Stanford

Frankly this might too low for Shaw. Jim Harbaugh might have laid the foundation for the Cardinal in recent times, but what Shaw has done since taking over the program is nothing short of incredible. In his 6 seasons in Pao Alto, Stanford has won 4 Pac 12 North division titles. They’ve won 3 Pac 12 championships. They are a perfect 3-0 in the Rose Bowl and they’ve been to 4 BCS bowls. Shaw is on a 3-bowl game winning streak and in 5 of this 6 years the Cardinal have never finished below 12th in the final AP Rankings with 3 seasons in the top-10! He’s consistently bringing in top-20 classes which is incredible given the academic restrictions that Stanford is under. Even in his worst season, 2014, Shaw still guided Stanford to an 8-5 season with a bowl victory! Stanford had a little trouble getting started last year but finished the year on a 6-game winning streak to get to 10-3 which was the 5th time in 6 years Shaw had Stanford with double-digit wins. Shaw’s 64 wins in 6-years is Stanford’s greatest run in Cardinal football history! It’s going to be interesting going forward with Stanford and Shaw. The Cardinal lost to both Washington & Washington St. last season and Chris Petersen and Mike Leach aren’t going anywhere. I’m a HUGE fan of Gary Andersen at Oregon St. and the Oregon Ducks bring in a guy in Willie Taggart who at the VERY LEAST will have Oregon as one of the most talented teams in the nation. USC is starting to flex and Mike MacIntyre put the Pac 12 on notice last season. The Pac 12 is changing and it’ll be great to see how Shaw adjusts to the changes.

#7 – Bob Stoops – Oklahoma

Arguably the most underappreciated football coach in America. The last two seasons Bob Stoops has lead the Sooners to a 22-4 mark with a 17-1 conference record. He’s won the Big XII both years. He’s finished #5 in the AP poll both years. Got to the college football playoffs in 2015 and then won the Orange Bowl last year with a convincing 35-19 win over Auburn. All of that winning and Stoops still gets flack for not having Oklahoma where they need to be! What’s hurt Stoops in recent times is his inability to win big time games. It’s unfortunate that Stoops won a national title in Norman in his 2nd year back in 2000 because since then the expectation has been a national championship (as it should be at Oklahoma) but the Sooners have come up empty over the last 16 seasons! That’s a long time to wait when you are an Oklahoma fan. Oklahoma did play for the national title in 2004 and 2008 but the Sooners were hammered in the Orange Bowl in 2004 by USC 55-19, and then in 2008 Tim Tebow got the better of them in Urban Meyer’s 2nd national championship. The other knock on Stoops is that he hasn’t recruited at an extraordinarily high level the past few years (although his 2017 class is a top-10 class) and the Big XII has the perception of being “weak” which hurts Stoops to a degree because he’s the big fish in a relatively small pond. I’m not sure I buy into either excuses, but getting hammered early last year by Ohio State wasn’t a good look and Texas hasn’t given Oklahoma too much competition in the Big XII for quite awhile now. Stoops makes a VERY compelling case to be #3 on this list and #7 does seem a bit low to me, but he ended 2016 on an incredible note and the 2017 recruiting was fantastic. Stoops could very well creep back into top-3 status sooner rather than later.

#6 – Jim Harbaugh – Michigan

The last 3 coaches before Jim Harbaugh had the following first 2-seasons record at Michigan:

Brady Hoke: 19-7
Rich Rodriguez: 8-16
Lloyd Carr: 17-8

Jim Harbaugh in his first two seasons has gone 20-6 with back to back double digit win seasons! The only other Michigan HC in Wolverines football history to begin his career with back to back double digit win seasons was Fielding Yost who posted back to back 11-0 seasons back in 1901-1902! What Harbaugh has done at Michigan is nothing short of spectacular. Rich Rodriguez was a complete mess. Brady Hoke was lost and terrible once he got his own players to Ann Arbor. I’m a big Lloyd Carr fan, but outside of the national championship team Michigan had in 1997 where they went 12-0, Carr never had a team lose less than 2 games. Carr also lost more bowl games than he won and in his last 7 bowl games, Carr’s Wolverines teams were 2-5! Harbaugh has come in to one of the most significant, historically relevant programs in college football history, that hadn’t been relevant in almost 20 years and immediately made them a top-5 team. His last two recruiting classes have both been top-5 classes. Michigan is now competing with Alabama, Ohio St., USC, Florida, Florida St., and Clemson for recruits. Some might think ranking Harbaugh at #6 could be a bit too high too fast, but look at his track record at Stanford. Look what he did at San Francisco? Sure he hasn’t won the Big 10 East yet. He hasn’t beaten Ohio St. yet either, but Harbaugh’s entrance into the Big 10 made the Big 10 East immediately the best division in college football with the best rivalry now being amped up to all time historical levels. He’s a master motivator and is just getting started. If he can post back to back 10-3 seasons without any firm foundation in place, what is Michigan football going to look like when Harbaugh has the program firing on all cylinders?

#5 – Chris Petersen – Washington

I think some people thought Petersen might struggle a bit at Washington after leaving the comfortable confines of Boise. Dan Hawkins couldn’t make it work at Colorado after he left Boise State. Dirk Koetter had a much tougher road at Arizona State after leaving Boise State although Koetter has reinvented himself and is now the HC of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has the Bucs close to playoff contention. The same struggle was thought to follow Petersen to Seattle. Most thought Petersen would turn out well, but that it might take a few years…..yeah it took 3. Petersen’s first two years with the Huskies saw Washington go a combined 15-12 with back-to-back 4-5 conference seasons. In Year 3, Washington would finish the season 12-1 (8-1) with a Pac 12 North division championship, a Pac 12 outright championship and a spot in the college football playoff. The playoff wasn’t spectacular as UW lost to Alabama 24-7, but to be honest, Washington played a pretty tight game against the Crimson Tide despite losing the game. Recruiting is improving under Petersen although it’s always going to be hard to pull kids into dreary Seattle over hot spots like USC, Florida, Florida St., Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Miami-FL, Texas, LSU, UCLA, Tennessee, Arizona State, Arizona and South Carolina. And that isn’t mentioning traditional powerhouse football teams with less than ideal locations such as Penn St., Ohio St., Michigan, and Notre Dame. With that said, Washington should be able to push their recruiting into the top-20 range annually without a problem and that is more than enough talent for Petersen to win and win big with. I think Rick Neuheisel and Don James showed that the Huskies could be relevant on the national stage and Washington is one of those teams that makes college football better when they are winning. The Pac 12 is changing a bit with a lot of incoming young talent as head coaches so Petersen has his work cut out for him, but he’s got Washington ahead of schedule and I don’t think they’ll regress. Washington should be as good or better in 2017 as they were in 2016.

#4 – Jimbo Fisher – Florida State

It’s easy to forget now that Fisher has the Seminoles back at the apex of college football that in Bobby Bowden’s last 5 years as HC, Florida St. posted a combined record of 38-27, finishing outside the final AP-Top 25 in 3 of those 5 seasons and having a losing bowl record of 2-3. Recruiting was way down and some thought that Bobby Bowden was finished and the FSU program along with him. Bowden was finished, but Florida St. wasn’t. Fisher stepped in immediately and led FSU to a 10-4 season, won the ACC Atlantic division title and got a bowl win, giving FSU their first double digit win season in 6 years! Fisher would win the ACC in Year 3. He’d win a national title in Year 4 and play for a another national title in Year 5! Bowden’s last 5 years in Tallahassee saw the ‘Noles go 38-27, but Fisher’s first 5 years in Tallahassee would see FSU post a 58-11 record with a national title and 3 ACC titles! The turnaround was absolutely stunning and put Florida St. back into the ELITE of the ELITE category. Recruiting soared and Fisher has the program humming with no let up in sight. One of the biggest clues that show how good a place FSU is in under Fisher is their last two seasons. Florida St. has had back to back 10-3 seasons finishing #14 in 2015 and #8 in 2016. Those are great if not spectacular seasons, but at this point in Fisher’s tenure, they seem like rebuilding seasons for FSU or disappointing seasons. When you average being a borderline top-10 over a 2-year period and it’s looked at as disappointing, you know you have expectations at an all time high, and Fisher knows he can meet those expectations!

#3 – Dabo Swinney – Clemson

It’s almost impossible to argue Swinney’s success. I’m trying to keep my analysis to the past 5 years and Swinney has enough success those 5 years, but if we stretch Swinney out to his last 6 years, he’s led Clemson to a 70-13 record including a 6-2 bowl record, a national championship, 2 national championship game appearances, 3 ACC championships and 4 ACC Atlantic division titles! It’s a better resume than anyone not named Nick Saban and Swinney can certainly stack up well with Urban Meyer. He has shown he can recruit top-5 classes to Clemson meaning there doesn’t seem to be any weaknesses to Swinney’s arsenal when it comes to head coaching college football. He’s leaped Jimbo Fisher in the ACC Atlantic which is no small feat and he’s keeping Bobby Petrino at bay, which again is no small feat. Swinney was also able to avenge his 2015 championship game loss to Alabama by besting the Tide in 2016 behind QB Deshaun Watson. Swinney has 6 straight 10+ win seasons at Clemson which is a school record. I’d also say that this year Swinney passed Danny Ford as the greatest football coach in Clemson history. The only question now facing Swinney has he moves forward is sustaining that success. The way you become legendary is winning multiple championships the way Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have been able to do. Note that Bob Stoops couldn’t do it. Mack Brown couldn’t do it. Jimbo Fisher hasn’t done it. Jim Tressel couldn’t do it. Steve Spurrier couldn’t do it. Lou Holtz couldn’t do it. It’s not easy. Winning a championship to begin with isn’t easy, but Swinney has about as much momentum going forward as I’ve ever seen and it’ll be interesting going forward to see how much he goes after a historical legacy. He’s a great head football coach. Is he an all-time great?

#2 – Urban Meyer – Ohio State

Speaking of all-time greats……it’s one thing for Dabo Swinney to pass up Danny Ford as Clemson’s best coach of all time. It’s quite another for Urban Meyer to be on pace to make people forget about the legendary Woody Hayes. Meyer has been in Columbus for 5 seasons guiding the Buckeyes after he left a Florida Gators program he won two national championships with. In those 5 seasons, Ohio St. is 61-6 including 3 perfect Big 10 seasons, one perfect season, a national championship, 5 Big 10 division titles and one outright Big 10 championship. In Woody Hayes’s first 5 seasons the Buckeyes were 33-11-2 with one national championship and 2 Big 10 titles. It’s comparable but I’d say Meyer has Woody. It’s hard to knock Meyer’s success. It’s incredible and he’s VERY DESERVING of being #2 on this list. Ohio St. is a machine at this point and there isn’t a team in America that out-recruits Ohio St. other than Alabama, and even then I’d say the Buckeyes Tide have equal talent. The one knock I have on Meyer is that I think he ran from Saban when Saban took over Alabama. I think this is incredible strategy by Meyer, but it also shows to me why you can never put Meyer ahead of Nick Saban unless Meyer just hammers him head-to-head 3-4 times in national championship games. Meyer took over Florida in 2005. Saban’s last year at LSU was 2004 and remember that Saban won a national title in Baton Rouge in 2003. So Meyer came into Florida without Saban at Alabama and the Mad Hatter at LSU. Fullmer goes 5-6 at Tennessee in 2005 and Mark Richt is in Georgia, but he’s not much of a problem for Meyer. Kentucky & Vanderbilt aren’t issues and South Carolina had just hired Steve Spurrier and it’ll take the Ol Ball Coach a little bit of time to get the Gamecocks rolling. Meyer recruits arguably the greatest college football player in history (Tim Tebow) and wins national championships in 2006 and 2008. Saban comes back to Alabama in 2007. Meyer couldn’t have known this. It takes Saban a season to get Alabama rolling but in Year 2, Saban has the Tide at 12-0 and playing for an SEC championship. Tebow is a junior at this time and in the SEC Championship game, Florida beats Alabama 31-20 although Alabama held a 20-17 lead going into the 4th quarter. In 2009, Timmy Tebow is a senior and Florida is expected to win a national championship giving Tebow 3 in 4 years. Florida goes 12-0, but so does Alabama. They meet in the SEC Championship game and instead of Tebow willing Florida to another win, Alabama DESTROYS Florida 32-13 on their way to Saban’s first national title with the Tide. Without Tebow in 2010, Florida slides to 8-5 and takes another beating at the hands of Alabama 31-6 in regular season play. Urban leaves Florida citing health reasons or family reasons or some combination of the two. It’s suspect timing because Alabama would win 2 of the next 3 national championship games with Auburn winning the other. Of course, a year later Urban Meyer takes over the Ohio State team which is conveniently in a conference without Nick Saban.

It’s an interesting story and probably 100% conjecture although it does make some sense. The irony of course is that Meyer comes to the Big 10 East where in 2012, the conference is in turmoil so to speak. Michigan is somewhat of a joke now that they’ve gone through the Rich Rodriguez era and Brady Hoke is screwing up. Penn State is a complete mess due to the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky scandal that is erupting. Bo Pellini can’t get Nebraska figured out and Ohio St. finds itself in the Big 10 Leaders division with Indiana, Illinois & Purdue! Sure Wisconsin is around, but as good as the Badgers are, Meyer has to know that Wisconsin could NEVER keep up with the influx of talent to Columbus with how Meyer recruits. The problem is that it doesn’t stay that way. Two years later the Big 10 welcomes in Maryland & Rutgers and the divisions change. Michigan & Michigan St. come over to the Big 10 East while Wisconsin changes to the Big 10 West. Penn St. rights the ship quick with Bill O’Brien before turning it over to James Franklin. Mark Dantonio is now in the same division as Meyer and lo and behold, Michigan brings in Jim Harbaugh! The Big 10 Leaders division goes from being a laughing stock division that Ohio St. could have dominated for decades to the Big 10 East which is now arguably the most difficult division to play in with 4 of the best head coaches in all of college football.

This bites Meyer a bit. Ohio St. was ineligible for postseason play in 2012, but in 2013 Ohio St. loses the Big 10 championship to Mark Dantonio and Michigan State. In 2014 Ohio St. does manage to win the national championship in the first ever football playoff scenario beating Alabama 42-35 in the semifinals before beating Oregon, but in 2015 they miss the Big 10 title game because of a tie-breaker loss to Michigan St. and last year they miss the Big 10 title game again due to a tie-breaker loss to Penn State! They get to the playoffs last season, but are humiliated by Clemson 31-0 in the semifinal game. Luckily Ohio St. didn’t draw Alabama because shades of 2008-2009 come to mind if that scenario played out again. Saban would have remembered and the outcome for Ohio St., like it was for Florida, wouldn’t have been pretty. I write all of this not to cast doubt on Meyer’s legitimacy. He’s an all-time great legendary coach. Everyone agrees, but I think an overlooked aspect of Meyer’s career is that he’s been fairly strategic in trying to put himself into the best place possible. You can’t knock him on that. Opportunity doesn’t come often and he’s taken advantage of that opportunity by helping it with putting himself in the right situations. That and winning Tebow from Mike Shula during Tebow’s recruitment has done wonders for Meyer’s status.

#1 – Nick Saban – Alabama

G.O.A.T! He’ll eventually tie or pass Bear Bryant’s record of 6 national championships. Saban already has 5 and to be honest he’s probably the greatest coach in Alabama and LSU history. Hell he might be the greatest coach in Michigan State history as well! Saban has been at Alabama now for 10 seasons. In those 10 seasons he’s gone 119-19! The man has averaged 12 wins per season for a decade! He’s won 4 national championships, 6 SEC Championships, 8 SEC West championships and has finished ranked in the AP top-10 for the last 9 consecutive seasons! This doesn’t even account for the national championship he won at LSU, the SEC championship he won at LSU or the 3 SEC West titles he won at LSU. Saban has also won 8 bowl games in this 10 years in Tuscaloosa. Nobody can out-recruit the Tide & Saban. He deals with a lot of coordinator turnover because everyone wants his coordinators to take over their teams! Jim McElwain was his OC. Now he’s the HC at Florida! Kirby Smart was his DC. Now he’s the HC at Georgia! Lane Kiffin was a former HC for USC, Tennessee and the Oakland Raiders and spent the last few seasons as Saban’s OC! Mark Dantonio was on Saban’s staff for 5 years at Michigan St. and he’s now the HC at Michigan State! Jimbo Fisher was on Saban’s staff at LSU. He’s the HC now at Florida State! The one constant is Nick Saban himself. We could go on and on about his accolades but they’ll all point to the same conclusion. Nick Saban is the best football coach in college football right now. He’s also the greatest college football coach to ever live.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Alabama, Big 10, Big XII, Clemson, Coaching, Florida, Florida St., Louisville, Michigan, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, Stanford, Washington | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #19 to #11

Now we are inside the top-20! What’s interesting about these guys to me is that all of them could make moves that would land them inside the top-10 if they had a championship caliber season, which for most of them is the last hurdle they need to overcome to get into that very elite category. As I wrote previously picking from #19 to #11 is probably based more on preference, but if you keep reading, there are some very interesting story lines with these guys that could affect their rankings going forward. Every coach/team mentioned here definitely has a story line that will be scrutinized in 2017. If you need to catch up, here are the links the previous articles in this series:

#50-#65
#49-#40
#39-#30
#29-#20

#19 – Bill Snyder – Kansas State

Coach Snyder is a tough one to rank because on the one hand you can argue he’s one of the all time great coaches in college football history. He’s unique in that he got the Kansas State job and kept it for as long as he wanted. He even came back after leaving at the conclusion of the 2005 season. In today’s football world, a coach at a school like Kansas St. would have bolted for another opportunity if they had had the success that Snyder has had at KSU. From 1995-2000, Snyder posted a 63-12 record with a 39-8 mark in Big XII play which included 3 Big XII North titles. Any other coach would have bolted for Georgia or Clemson or Auburn or Miami-FL. What keeps Snyder a bit lower is that he hasn’t won a ton at Kansas St. nationally. He’s never won a national championship. He’s only won the Big XII twice in 25 years of coaching. He’s 8-10 in bowl games. That mostly speaks to the ceiling of Kansas St. football. Snyder came back to Manhattan because Ron Prince lowered the standards. Snyder raised them again, but he can’t quite get KSU to national prominence. His hope was that Prince could do it. His hope when he retires is that the Wildcats get it right the 2nd time.

#18 – Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State

Gundy might be underrated by a long shot. Remember that Gundy has to go up against Oklahoma within his own state and Texas in his own region. Those are two college football Goliaths that are almost impossible to beat on the recruiting trail yet Gundy over the last 7 seasons has failed to win at least 10 games only twice. Gundy is coming off back to back 10-3 seasons and has posted 10-3 seasons in 3 of the past 4 years. Gundy almost won a national championship in 2011. If the Cowboys don’t completely blow it late in the year against Iowa St., then they would have played LSU in the national championship game that year instead of Alabama. The Tide beat LSU 21-0 in a revenge game after LSU beat the Tide earlier 9-6 in Tuscaloosa, but you’d have to think Oklahoma St. would have had a good shot at upending the Bayou Bengals. Oklahoma St. finished #3 in the rankings, but you have to wonder where the program could have been catapulted to had they brought home a national championship. What sticks out about Gundy to me as well is that he almost accomplished what Jimmy Johnson thought was impossible with Oklahoma State, namely winning a title. Gundy is about as Oklahoma St. as you can possibly get. He’ll be there forever if he wants and I can’t see him leaving which makes him quite a bit like Bill Snyder. Because of 2011, I’m not sure there is a ceiling to OK State football, so it’ll be interesting to see if Gundy can get over the hump and win a title.

#17 – Gus Malzahn – Auburn

It’s easy to forget that Malzahn led War Eagle to a national championship game his first season as head coach of the Tigers. That was a tall order beating a Jameis Winston led Florida St. squad so you can’t exactly blame him for losing. Malzahn has caught quite a bit of heat the past couple of seasons because he hasn’t replicated the success of that 12-2 squad from 2013. Malzahn is an offensive savant, but people forget just how good Auburn’s defense was in 2013. They didn’t create a lot of turnovers but they got after the ball quite a bit with quite a few sacks and tackles for loss. The O-line was dominant giving Tre Mason & Nick Marshall plenty of room to run. The defense & O-Line took a step back in 2014 and in 2015 Malzahn really didn’t have a QB as Jeremy Johnson wasn’t the answer. He entered 2016 with the same problems and Auburn struggled early, but when Auburn finally settled on Sean White, they reeled off 6 straight wins and won 6 of 7 after starting 1-2. The season didn’t end well with losses to Alabama & Oklahoma, but losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa is hardly cause for concern and by season’s end Oklahoma was a top-5 team. Malzahn recruits extremely well and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Auburn really take off. Malzahn has his system in place and there is loads of talent here. Sean White is the unquestioned starter now and I”m willing to bet that Auburn gets back to double digit wins. In the SEC West, that is an incredible coaching job.

#16 – Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern

What Fitzgerald has done at Northwestern is nothing short of amazing. Over this last 9 seasons, he’s lead the Wildcats to 7 bowl games. In the 114 seasons before Fitzgerald got to Evanston, Northwestern played in a total of 6 bowl games! It’s almost impossible for Northwestern to recruit on any major level unless some kids simply want to wind up in Evanston or have ties to Northwestern. While the Wildcats might not necessarily have it as bad as Vanderbilt because the Commodores play in the SEC, that might change given how good the coaching in the Big 10 is getting. I guess it could be worse and Northwestern could be in the Big 10 East, but Nebraska, Wisconsin & Iowa are pretty darn good. Lovie Smith is recruiting better to Illinois and Purdue & Minnesota just hired solid young coaches. It’ll be interesting to see how Fitzgerald adjusts to an influx of talent in the coaching ranks. He’s never gotten Northwestern to the Rose Bowl the way Gary Barnett was able to but he’s won 10 games in 2 of the past 5 years. Regardless of what happens around him, I have a feeling that Fitzgerald is going to keep winnings games. One thing I do want to mention about Fitzgerald and Northwestern is that if I had to pick any place for my son to go to college and play football, Northwestern would be in the discussion along with Michigan and Stanford. There really isn’t a better compliment to pay a head coach.

#15 – James Franklin – Penn State

From semi-mess to Rose Bowl in 3-years!? Franklin has more than earned ranking this high even if hadn’t took the Nittany Lions to a Big 10 championship in year 3. Franklin didn’t necessarily inherit the mess that descended upon Happy Valley in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but Bill O’Brien was never going to be a long term solution and bolted for the NFL the first chance he got. Franklin didn’t shy away from the task of making Penn St. nationally relevant again and in just 3 years he had the Lions playing the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2008 and ranked inside the top-10 in the final AP poll for the first time since 2009! Franklin recruited at a high level immediately when taking the job, but he’s been able to sustain that success despite having a couple of 7-6 seasons to start his tenure. That success would only seem to increase the more Franklin wins because as a football purist, there isn’t many places more special to play than at Penn State! The only wild thing about Frankin’s success will be his ability to keep it going. He’s ranked #15 on this list which is fantastic, but he’s just 4th among coaches in the Big 10 East. That division is without a doubt the most feared and difficult division in all off football with Penn St. emerging as a national threat. Michigan St. isn’t always going to have off years and it’ll be intriguing to see what Franklin can do once Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State are firing on all cylinders. I think Franklin can handle the difficulty.

#14 – Kyle Whittingham – Utah

Did you know that Whittingham is 10-1 in bowl games since taking for Urban Meyer as HC of Utah!? That’s downright amazing and if I’m not mistaken that is the best record of any FBS coach in bowl games that have coached at least 6 of them. All Whittingham does is win football games, but what is most impressive about him is the transition Utah made into the Pac 12. In their last 3 years in the Mountain West, Whittingham guided the Utes to a 33-6 record including their perfect 13-0 year in 2008 which saw Utah finished ranked #2 in the nation! The transition to the Pac 12 was never going to be easy and Utah took some lumps early going 9-18 in conference play in their first 3 seasons. Their next 3 seasons have seen a complete turnaround as Utah has posted a 28-11 record from 2014-2016 with a conference mark of 16-11, winning a share of the Pac 12 South in 2015. A by product of playing in a better conference and winning is that recruiting has massively improved for the Utes since 2014 and the program has a lot more talent on hand to compete with other Pac 12 schools. Last season Utah almost broke through expoentially. The Utes finished 9-4 with a bowl win over Indiana, but their 4 losses came by a total of 19 points! The year before (2015) Utah finished 10-3 with 2 of their losses coming by a combined 15 points. Utah & Whitingham win their fair share of close games as well, but winning a lot more of those games than you lose is a clear indicated of a great coach, which is exactly what Whittingham is.

#13 – Mark Richt – Miami-FL

Richt is another tricky coach because of perception versus reality. There is a lot of sentiment that Richt was somewhat of a disappointment at Georgia despite coaching in Athens for 15 years and averaging 10 wins a season while also averaging a 6-2 conference record during those 15 seasons! Did I mention Georgia plays in the SEC? That’s outstanding but at Georgia that’s only close. During those 15 seasons, Richt won just 2 outright SEC titles and hadn’t one one since 2005 when Georgia parted ways with him after the 2015 season. Richt is a tremendous coach and a tremendous recruiter. There can be no doubt about that, but what’s interesting about Richt’s time in college football is that he got to Georgia in 2001. Urban Meyer got to Florida in 2005. Richt won 2 SEC titles from 2001-2005 and 3 SEC East divisions. It’s also worth noting that Nick Saban was at LSU from 2000-2004 and then at Alabama from 2007 to present. Richt is fantastic. Everyone would agree, but Meyer & Saban and absolute Hall of Fame locks. Saban is arguably the greatest college football coach of all time and Meyer is easily in the top-5 if not #2 behind Saban. Richt’s only real crime is being born at the wrong time, between Saban (9-years later) and Meyer (4-years prior). Richt will do an outstanding job at Miami-FL. Recruiting will be fantastic. He already went 9-4 in his first season and came pretty close to winning the ACC Coastal. He’s not in the Atlantic with FSU & Clemson so the real story here is can Richt take Miami-FL a step further than he took Georgia? Do that and he leaps into the top-10 of these rankings. Stay 10-3 every year and Richt is a top-15 coach for sure, but not quite elite of the elite.

#12 – Gary Patterson – Texas Christian

It took Patterson a couple of years to figure out the Big XII, but once he did, the Horned Frogs started dominating in much the same fashion that destroyed the competition in the Mountain West. From 2014-2015, TCU posted a 23-3 record with a couple of top-10 finishes and a share of the Big XII title in 2014. The 2014 season stung a bit as TCU dropped a 3 points game in Waco to Baylor which nailed their coffin for a shot at the college football playoffs. Florida St. was going to be in as they were 13-0 and defending champions. Alabama was 12-1 and SEC Champs. They weren’t being left out regardless. Ohio St. is Ohio State. At 12-1 they weren’t going to be left out. They had won 11 straight games and was coming off a 59-0 beating of Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship. The one team TCU could have argued against is Oregon, but Baylor might have had a better argument as Baylor beat TCU, but the Bears also lost to West Virginia. The thought was that if TCU can’t win the Big XII outright, should they be in the playoffs? I don’t know who they bump out and I don’t know how TCU would have fared, but that was a tremendous team and Patterson showed that he could take TCU from the Big XII and make them legitimate national title contenders. Last year was a bump in the road for Patterson and the Frogs and you could sense some let down after the Trevone Boykin/Aaron Green/Josh Doctson era ended on offense. TCU has a lot coming back in 2017 and my guess is Patterson jumps back into the top-10 of these rankings.

#11 – Mark Dantonio – Michigan State

I think we can all agree that Dantonio is a helluva football coach and is deserving of this ranking and maybe #11 is too low, but I do think there is a trend here that needs to be looked at because it involved Dantonio going forward. Dantonio really started to up his value as a HC starting in 2010 when he led the Spartans to an 11-2 record with a share of the Big 10 title. From 2010 to 2015, Michigan St. went 65-16 (39-9) with 3 Big 10 titles and 3 Big 10 division titles. Sparty won the Rose Bowl in 2013 and finished ranked in the top-14 in five of the 6 seasons and in the top-6 from 2013 to 2015! The 2010 to 2014 era is significant because of what was going on at Michigan during this time. From 2010-2014, the Wolverines were 38-26 (21-19). Michigan wasn’t Michigan in those 5 seasons and historically speaking, Michigan St. took on the role of Michigan while Michigan took on the role of Michigan State. What happened in 2015? Jim Harbaugh showed up in Ann Arbor! You could argue that the 2015 season showed that Dantonio could handle both Ohio State and Michigan, but that is tough because Michigan St. won a road game over Michigan when the Wolverines game it away. They also beat Ohio St. in Columbus in a game they shouldn’t have and then beat Iowa in the Big 10 championship in a game Iowa should have won. The playoffs exposed Michigan St. a bit when Alabama beat them 38-0, but maybe the Tide would have beat Ohio St. and Michigan by 40 points too! The proof might have come in 2016 when Michigan St. fell off considerably and finished 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in Big 10 play which included losses to Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland and Illinois. Winning those games would have pushed MSU to 7-5 potentially which would have gotten them bowl eligible at least with a shot at 8-5.  Maybe Connor Cook was that important!? Recruiting was down in 2017 for the Spartans while Michigan dominated. The trick with Dantonio is staying relevant while Michigan starts to dominate under Harbaugh. I think geography plays a role here. Auburn and Alabama can coexist as superpowers because they are in Alabama and the southeast. Florida and Florida St. can exist because they reside in Florida. The state of Michigan can’t resemble that type if relationship between it’s two football powers. Is Dantonio an outstanding head coach who can weather a bad year and get right back to the top of the Big 10 East or is he merely a solid head coach who took advantage of Michigan being down?

May 20, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Auburn, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Kansas St., Miami-FL, Michigan St., Northwestern, Oklahoma St., Pac 12, Penn St., Rankings, SEC, TCU, Utah | 1 Comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #29 to #20

We are now over half way done with the rankings with 36 college coaches in the books. You can probably say this with some certainty about any particular range of coaches ranked thus far, but I especially thought at this point that putting a coach here or there was especially difficult because it probably comes down to preference. I thought this was interesting in terms of recruiting because at this point in the rankings from #16 or #17 to #29 or #30, it probably comes down to a recruit’s willingness to buy into the system and his potential relationship with the coaching staff. At this point we aren’t talking about a recruit choosing between Alabama & Rutgers. It’s more choosing between Iowa and Mississippi State. There probably isn’t a wrong answer. To get you caught up, here are the links from the coaches ranked lower than #29:

#65-#50
#49-#40
#39-#30

Now let’s kick off with #29!

#29 – Kirby Smart – Georgia

Some might think this is a little too high for Smart given that he just came off his first year as a HC in Athens where the Georgia Bulldogs finished a pedestrian 8-5 with a 4-4 SEC record in an SEC East that was far from stellar, but I’d take the opposite approach and say Smart accomplished a tremendous amount in Year 1. Georgia did drop 3 home games it shouldn’t have (Tennessee, Vanderbilt & Georgia Tech), but those 3 losses turn to wins and UGA is 11-2 and not 8-5. That’s a rough argument because it cuts both ways, but I don’t think Georgia is going to have problems winning home games moving forward. The team played extremely well on the road even with Smart instituting his new defensive schemes with an offense that never really had a settled QB position. Throw in Nick Chubb coming back from injury and 8-5 doesn’t look too bad for a first year guy heading up one of college football’s elite blue bloods.

#28 – Clay Helton – USC

Helton may not have been the obvious pick to take the reigns in Troy, but he’s the right pick. It’s difficult to get a feel for Helton, but how can you argue with the results thus far? USC by year’s end was arguably one of the three best teams in football along with Alabama & Clemson. The Trojans ended the year on a 9-game winning streak that saw them finish the season with a 52-49 win over Penn St. in the Rose Bowl. Washington was fortunate that USC lost out on the Pac 12 South because I thought USC would have beat them in the Pac 12 championship game. All Helton has done over the last 2 seasons is go 15-7 with a conference record of 12-3! USC is also back to full scholarship strength for the most part and Helton is making no bones about cashing in. He’s recruiting at an exceptionally high level. High level recruiting. High level coaching. We are about ready to see some incredible wars between USC & Washington. The Pac 12 is bananas and Helton will climb this list by leaps and bounds after 2017.

#27 – Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech

I feel like this is too low for Johnson because he’s an incredible coach but he has a couple of things working against him. He’s a system guy because he runs that triple option on offense and that is going to have a tendency to play poorly when a new crop of players come in. This is essentially what happened in 2015 when GT finished 3-9. QB Justin Thomas returned, but their two leading RBs were freshman. That changed in 2016 when Marcus Marshall & Clinton Lynch returned, but RB Dedrick Mills turned out to be outstanding which gave Johnson quite a bit to work with. That improved the team and GT went 9-4 with a 6-1 record in their last 7 games including road wins over Virginia Tech & Georgia. Johnson doesn’t recruit the kinds of players that a lot of other schools are able to. He’s still won two ACC Coastal division championships in the last 5 years and the Yellow Jackets are a team nobody wants to face.

#26 – Kirk Ferentz – Iowa

Ferentz is probably underrated here, but you can’t help but be a little disappointed in Iowa every time they look like they are going to turn a corner. In 2015, Iowa had a tremendous year finishing with a perfect regular season but lost the Big 10 championship game to Michigan St. and the Rose Bowl to Stanford to put a black mark on an otherwise outstanding season. They followed that up last year with an 8-5 campaign that should have been 10-3. But we’ve seen this before from Ferentz. Iowa was 31-7 from 2002-2004 but followed those 3-years with a 3-year record of 19-18 from 2005-2007! The Hawkeyes finished 11-2 in 2009 but followed that up with an 8-5 season. Iowa has spurts of greatness but they are never sustained. Given the talent disparity between an Iowa and say a Michigan/Ohio State, what Ferentz has done in Iowa City is spectacular, but for some reason it always seems a bit disappointing. Iowa should win 10 games a year.

#25 – Paul Chryst – Wisconsin

The jury is still out on Chryst at this point, but the early returns are nothing short of incredible. Chyrst took over for Gary Andersen once Andersen bolted for Oregon State and the Badgers haven’t missed a beat. In his two seasons in Madison, Chryst is 21-6 with a Big 10 record of 13-4 with a Big 10 West division title in 2016. Chryst hasn’t had the most stable offensive game plan the last couple of seasons. In 2015 he had to deal with the loss of RB Corey Clement. Last he had to break in a new starting QB when Joel Stave graduated. What has been constant for Chryst is having a TREMENDOUS defense led by great coordinators. Dave Aranda was DC for Chryst in 2015 before bolting for LSU in 2016. In 2016, Chyrst hired Justin Wilcox to be DC, but Wilcox is now the HC for Cal. This year, former Badger Jim Leonard, takes over after having studied under both Aranda & Wilcox. If Chryst turns in another 11-win season, he’ll shoot up these rankings.

#24 – Dana Holgorsen – West Virginia

I’m a big fan of Holgorsen and he has the Mountaineers trending in the right direction. In 2014 WVU went 7-6. They improved to 8-5 a year later before having somewhat of a coming out party last season when they finished 10-3 (7-2) which was the best record West Virginia has had in the Big XII under Holgorsen. The interesting thing to see with Holgorsen is if he can continue the trend. Recruiting has dropped just a bit the last couple of years and it won’t be easy with the Mountaineers losing their starting QB along with a couple of their best defenders. It’s always going to be hard to compete with Oklahoma & Texas in conference play, but Holgorsen should have WVU set up enough that if one of the powers slip up, West Virginia should be right there to take advantage. That’s the key at this point. When does WVU get home games against Oklahoma & Texas in the same year and can they be primed to beat both of them?

#23 – David Cutcliffe – Duke

Last year’s 4-8 (1-7) team was disappointing but the 4-years prior to 2016 saw Duke finish 33-20, win the ACC Coastal once and get to 4-straight bowl games culminating in 2015 with their first bowl win since 1960! Before Cutcliffe came along the Blue Devils had never made it to a bowl game in back-to-back years. Cutcliffe did in back-to-back-to-back-to-back! He’s also been able to sell the football program as Duke has climbed out of the 50s and 60s recruiting rankings into the 30s and 40s. Duke is never going to out-talent anybody and the football team will always play second fiddle to the basketball team, but you can’t dismiss Cutcliffe’s coaching chops at all. Putting this guy at a place like Oregon or Florida would be scary given the resources he’d have to run the program. The ACC is getting tougher, but keep in mind Duke was a bit young last year. Cutcliffe is going to have more experience in 2017 and he’ll get the most out of it.

#22 – Mike Leach – Washington State

The Cougars were a completely mess under Bill Doba and Paul Wulff before the PIRATE took over. All Leach has done is get Wazzou back to a bowl game in his 2nd year and then come within a win over Washington of winning the Pac 12 North in year 5 last season. We shouldn’t be surprised. Leach spent 10 years in Lubbock at Texas Tech where he never posted a losing season and won 8-9 games per season. It took him 3 years to get Washington St. headed in the right direction, but over the last two seasons the team is 17-9 with a conference record of 13-5! Imagine if Leach wasn’t giving away games each season to FCS opponents!? Leach is still having trouble selling Pullman to potential recruits, but he never recruited exceptionally at Texas Tech either and it didn’t seem to matter. You can make a legitimate argument Leach should be much higher. Are there really 21 other coaches you’d rather have than the PIRATE himself?

#21 – Dan Mullen – Mississippi State

I’m only looking at the last 5 years of data for each coach, but it’s impossible ignore what Mullen has done over his team at Mississippi State. His only losing regular season was his first and he’s guided the Bulldogs to 7 straight bowl games. It was amazing how good Dak Prescott ended up for the Cowboys this past season, but what might have been even more impressive is Mullen getting the MSU to a bowl game in the year after Prescott left! Those were enormous shoes to fill and Mullen was still able to get MSU to 6 wins. While he’s never really had Hail State close to competing for a national championship, there have been glimpses. The Bulldogs started the 2012 season off 7-0 and reached #13 before faltering. In 2014, Mississippi St. started the season 9-0 and was ranked #1 before losing at Alabama 25-20. He’s never outrecruited anyone in the SEC West, but MS State keeps winning. There is a reason his name ALWAYS comes up when there is a big time coaching vacancy.

#2o – Brian Kelly – Notre Dame

One thing that stands out about Kelly against his recent predecessors in South Bend was his ability to avoid the bad season. Charlie Weis went 3-9 in 2007. Ty Willingham went 5-7 in 2003. Bob Davie 5-6 in 2001, his last season. But then it happened. Kelly turned in a 4-8 performance last year with HORRIFIC losses to Texas, Duke, NC State, Navy and Virginia Tech. All games the Irish should have won which would have made that 4-8 season a 9-3 season with the potential to get a solid bowl win to finish 10-3. Kelly has to be feeling tremendous heat as HC of the Irish. He’s recruited well, but the on-field results haven’t been good. Notre Dame really hasn’t beaten anyone of note and the championship game they played in against Alabama was a complete and total embarrassment! If Kelly can defend Notre Dame Stadium this fall, the Irish have a real shot at 11-1. Kelly needs it or else ND could be looking elsewhere for a head coach.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Mississippi St., Notre Dame, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, USC, Washington St., West Virginia, Wisconsin | 2 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE COACHES – #39 to #30

Here are the links for the first two installments:

#50 – #65
#49-#40

if you need to catch up. Today we hit the thirties and I think the rankings start to become quite a bit more interesting as we start to hit some pretty big names in the coaching world. Let’s get to it.

#39 – P.J. Fleck – Minnesota

Yeah I’m rowing the boat! It’s difficult to argue Fleck’s track record as a first time head coach at Western Michigan. In his first year he led the Broncos to an 1-11 season. By his 4th year, WMU finished with a perfect 13-0 season before losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl 24-16. Western finished 29-11 (20-4) in Fleck’s last 3 years as HC. Fleck brings an excitement to Minnesota that Gophers fans haven’t experienced since Murray Warmath led Minnesota to back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1960-1961! You probably don’t even remember those teams unless you were born in the 1940s or early 1950s! It’s hard to argue with his success, but Fleck faces a completely different animal in the Big 10. Iowa, Nebraska & Wisconsin aren’t Ball St., Kent St. and Bowling Green. It’ll be interesting to see if Fleck can raise the ceiling for Gopher football.

#38 – Tom Herman – Texas

The hottest coaching prospect last season who happened to have deep roots in Texas wound up as the new HC for the Longhorns after the university had had enough of Charlie Strong’s leadership. As with Fleck, it’s almost impossible to deny Herman’s track record. He was Urban Meyer’s OC at Ohio State before jumping to the head coaching job at Houston where in his first season, Herman led the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a final ranking inside the top-10! I think Herman is a better fit within the Texas culture than Strong was and he’ll do well. He’s a good solid coach that connects with players and it won’t be long before he’s tearing it up on the recruiting trail once he gets the foundation of the program built. As with Fleck, the road will be a bit tougher. Playing in the American isn’t the Big XII and instead of Tulane, East Carolina and Memphis, Herman will go up against Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., TCU, Baylor and Kansas State.

#37 – Willie Taggart – Oregon

Taggart was an interesting hire for Oregon, but once it was known that Chip Kelly wasn’t coming back to college football, the Ducks had to move on and all Taggart has done as his time as a college football coach is build winners. Taggart played prep ball in Florida and then played his college ball at Western Kentucky where he was an assistant for 8 years before taking the RB coaching job at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. From there he came back to his alma mater to be HC. He inherited a WKU team that went 0-12 the year before Taggart arrived, but in Taggart’s 2nd year, he had WKU at 7-5. In his 3rd and final year he had WKU bowling. Taggart left WKU to return to his home state of Florida and coach USF where he took over a Bulls team that went 3-9 before he arrived. By year 4 the Bulls were 11-2. Now he is going to attempt to bring Oregon back to the heights reached by Chip Kelly. Unlike Herman & Fleck above, Taggart has hit the recruiting trail hard and it is paying off early. It’ll be interesting to see how Taggart does at an elite program with massive resources. His track record speaks for itself.

#36 – Bret Bielema – Arkansas

The decision to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas was an interesting one for Bielema a few years ago and after the Hogs 2016 campaign, the shine is off of Arkansas’s head coach. Bielema took over a program that was in pretty bad shape after a year of John Smith as HC coming off the Bobby Petrino scandal. Bielema’s first year wasn’t pretty as Arkansas went 3-9 without a win in conference play, but by year 3 (2015), Arkansas 8-5 (5-3) and poised to potentially step into the role of challenger to Alabama in the SEC West. It wasn’t meant to be as Arkansas regressed last season to 7-6 (3-5) with a bowl loss. The 7-6 isn’t completely awful, but the losses were terrible. Arkansas was blown out in all of their losses except a close loss to Missouri which itself was inexcusable. I’m not completely sold on Bielema’s style of offense working in the SEC West, and truth be told, the worst thing for Bielema is having to live up the incredible expectations Bobby Petrino set when he was in Fayetteville. LSU has been dealing with a similar situation after Nick Saban took the Tigers to top-5 status.

#35 – Gary Andersen – Oregon State

Andersen is one of my favorite head coaches in college football and Oregon St. is one of my favorite teams. The two coming together was great for me as I think college football is better when Oregon State is relevant. That’s probably just me, but so what! It’s interesting that I ended up with Bielema and Andersen together as both left Wisconsin for other jobs. Andersen is a helluva head coach. He turned Utah State into an 11-win team with a WAC championship in 4 season. He took Wisconsin to a Big 10 West title in his 2nd year. When Mike Riley left Oregon St. for Nebraska, their was quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Beavers program. Andersen came in and struggled his first year going 2-10 (0-9) but in his 2nd season last year, the Beavers improved to 4-8 (3-6) with conference wins over California, Arizona and hated rival Oregon! The scoring defense and scoring offense were also improved by 7 points each. The Pac 12 North is getting scary good with Chris Petersen doing work at Washington, Mike Leach winning at Washington St. and Willie Taggart taking over at Oregon, but something tells me Andersen is going to make life hard for those guys.

#34 – Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech

Absolutely love what Fuente did with the Hokies last season. Fuente had a lot of success at Memphis before taking the Virginia Tech job, but he’s been nothing but spades since landing in Blacksburg. Keeping Bud Foster on staff as DC was a genius move and speaks volumes as to the kind of man Foster is. Fuente also brought a run heavy attack to Virginia Tech which I think works in their favor. The Hokies have always been known under Bud Foster for having a very intimidating, turnover causing, very fast defense that hits exceptionally hard. Keeping those guys fresh and healthy by dominating time of possession is outstanding strategy that Fuente used last year to win the ACC Coastal in his first season where VT finished the year 10-4 and ranked #16 in the AP. Fuente is making deep strides in recruiting already and once the talent is assembled, Virginia Tech is going to be extremely difficult to handle.

#33 – Hugh Freeze – Mississippi

Like Bielema, the shine has dulled a bit on Freeze’s tenure in Oxford. After improving by a win each year for 3 straight years after a 7-6 campaign in 2012, Freeze and the Rebels took a tremendous step back last season finishing 5-7 (2-6). The overall records can also be a bit misleading as Freeze’s 5-year record in SEC play is not even .500 at 19-21. The bigger problem is the controversy surrounding the Ole Miss program and the NCAA violations. Ole Miss has taken a hit in recruiting already and if recruiting dries up for the Rebels then that spells disaster in arguably the most competitive division in all of college football. There is no question that Freeze can make Ole Miss great. He proved that in 2015, but how he deals with a potential fall out from these mistakes will be telling. The best news for Freeze at this point is that he’s still head coach and that QB Shea Patterson decided to stick around. With no bowl eligibility this season, Ole Miss should be playing like a teach with a chip on their shoulder.

#32 – Mike MacInytre – Colorado

You knew it was only a matter of time before Coach Mac had Colorado on the cusp of greatness. When MacIntyre got his first job as a HC at San Jose State, he finished 1-12 (0-8) in his first season as the Spartans leader. In year 3, San Jose St. went 10-2 (5-1) and beat Bowling Green in the Military Bowl! MacIntyre used that success to grab the Colorado job and what he did in Year 4 in Boulder almost defies reality. The Colorado rebuild wasn’t going to be easy. Not by a long shot. MacIntyre’s first 3 years as HC witnessed Colorado post a combined record of 10-27 with a conference record of 2-25!!!! Those were 3 straight last place finishes in the Pac 12 South! Last season, MacIntyre broke though HUGE as Colorado went 10-4 (8-1), won the Pac 12 South and drew Oklahoma St. in the Alamo Bowl. The Buffs posted wins over Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, Utah, and Washington State! It was a BANNER year that was dampened a bit by losing 41-10 to Washington in the Pac 12 championship and 38-8 to Oklahoma St. in the Alamo Bowl. Was the breakthrough real, or did Coach Mac take advantage of an unusually weak Pac 12? Oregon was way down. UCLA was down. Arizona St. & Arizona were down. They beat Stanford 10-5 in an ugly contest and drew Utah & Washington St. in Boulder. I’m betting on MacIntyre. I think Colorado is good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buffaloes regressed just a bit in 2017.

#31 – Larry Fedora – North Carolina

This feels low considering it was just two years ago that Fedora led the Tar Heels to an 11-3 (8-0) record that saw the UNC win the ACC Coastal relatively easy. A deeper look though and you come away disappointed just a bit. That 2015 season was smoke and mirrors as UNC finished the regular season 11-1 but didn’t play a ranked opponent all season. They lost to Clemson in the ACC Championship game and then lost to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Last season, the Coastal was again ripe for the taking but UNC gags at home to NC State in the season finale 28-21 and loses to Duke in Durham two weeks before 28-27! That seems ridiculous when you consider just how much offensive firepower the Heels had last season. Fedora has had some good seasons in Chapel Hill but no great ones and that task is going to get tougher and tougher now that Virginia Tech is in seemingly good hands with Justin Fuente and Miami-FL now has one of the best coaches in all of college football in Mark Richt. I really like Fedora and believe he can climb the rankings, but at this point it seems as if UNC has missed a couple of opportunities.

#30 – Mike Riley – Nebraska

The problem with Nebraska is that haven’t found anyone that can take the program to the heights that Tom Osborne did. Frank Solich wasn’t horrible actually and had a few top-10 squads in Lincoln, but not enough big time wins against bit time teams. The hiring of Bill Callahan was a disaster and Bo Pelini couldn’t quite get Nebraska past the 9-4/10-4 mark. Now Mike Riley gets his chance. Riley did wonderful things at Oregon St., and I was a bit surprised that he took the Cornhuskers job, but Oregon St. isn’t Nebraska and Riley now has every resource available to him. In his first season Nebraska wasn’t great at 6-7 (3-5) but last year Riley improved to 9-4 (6-3) with a perfect 7-0 record at home. Nebraska was even ranked #7 in the nation at one point after starting 7-0! It wouldn’t last as Nebraska would go on to lose games to Iowa, Ohio St., Wisconsin & Tennessee, but the season was a win. Riley is making big strides in recruiting and I think he’s putting an emphasis on the Black Shirts which is getting back to Nebraska football.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arkansas, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, Texas, Virginia Tech | 3 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #49 to #40

If you missed the rankings for the coaches ranked #65 to #50, you can find it here or just keep scrolling and it’s the post directly after this one. We left off with Arizona HC Rich Rodriguez at #50 so let’s take a look at the coaches landing in the forties.

#49 – Kliff Kingsbury – Texas Tech

I’m not as down on Kingsbury as some people are. He’s heading into 2017 on the hot seat to be certain, but I don’t think it’s been all bad. Texas Tech isn’t the easiest place to win and so far in his 4 years in Lubbock, Kingsbury is 24-26 overall and 13-23 in conference play. Those aren’t tremendous numbers, but if you look at the league historically, the Red Raiders are following Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St., TCU, Kansas St. and West Virginia. That makes them 7th in the league and a good coach at Baylor puts Tech 8th. Kingsbury has yet to record a winning record in conference play, but he recruits fairly well and I think he’s good for the university and the program. If trends hold, he should be in for a 7-9 win season in 2017.

#48 – Dave Doeren – North Carolina State

Doeren didn’t walk into a great situation given how NC State AD Debbie Yow dismissed his predecessor Tom O’Brien. Yow essentially cited lack of enthusiasm for the football program as justification for canning O’Brien, but in O’Brien’s last 3 seasons, NC State went 24-14 (13-11). In Doeren’s last 3 seasons as HC, the Wolfpack have went 22-17 (9-15). Yow wanted a football coach who could bring in Top-25 classes. Doeren hasn’t done that either. With that said, Doeren has been consistently 7-6/8-5 in his last 3 years, but he’s also went 3-5 in conference play those same three seasons. I think a coach can win at NC State & Doeren is doing just that, but he needs a breakthrough season with 9-10 wins.

#47 – Todd Graham – Arizona State

A lot of what I wrote about Rich Rodriguez can be written about Todd Graham as well. Graham is better than this but the Sun Devils have been regressing for a couple of year now. In 2013-2014, the Sun Devils posted a 20-7 record. The last two years that total has dropped to 11-14. Graham has been better than Rodriguez in conference play, but only marginally so. ASU went 8-1 in the Pac 12 South in 2013 and won the division. Just 3 years later they finished 2-7 and this is with USC still somewhat regrouping. Graham has recruited top-25 level classes to Tempe and Sun Devil Stadium can be a bear to play in for opposing teams. ASU was pretty young last year and I think 2017 will see a much improve Sun Devils squad.

#46 – Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M

Sumlin’s star could have been any brighter after the 2012 season when he took the Aggies to an 11-2 record and a final ranking in the top-5. A&M would beat a #1 ranked Alabama team that year and then go on to humiliate a solid Oklahoma team in the Cotton Bowl. QB Johnnie Manziel wasn’t quite as spectacular in 2013 and the Aggies dropped to 9-4. Life after Manziel hasn’t been promising either as Sumlin has turned in 3 consecutive 8-5 seasons with a slew of QB transfers that can’t help morale down in College Station. Making matters worse is that Texas A&M is 15-17 in SEC play over the last 4 years & Alabama isn’t going away. Life in the SEC West isn’t easy and Sumlin probably enters 2017 on a seat that is heating up.

#45 – Derek Mason – Vanderbilt

Mason has to deal with some of the difficulties of being a HC at a school like Vanderbilt in much the same way that Northwestern, Duke, Stanford and even possibly Virginia has to deal with. Stanford is somewhat of an exception, but Vanderbilt is the only one of those schools playing the SEC which makes their ceiling quite a bit lower. You can’t help but be impressed with Mason so far in taking over for James Franklin. Mason cut his teeth under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw at Stanford so he knows the drill. His first year in Nashville saw Vandy post a 3-9 (0-8) record. Last year, Mason’s 3rd, Vandy improved to 6-7 (3-5) with a bowl appearance. The rebuild wasn’t as fast as James Franklin coming in, but the Commodores are in good hands.

#44 – Mark Stoops – Kentucky

Like Mason, you can’t help but be impressed by the work Stoops is doing in Lexington. Stoops took over a disaster of a program left behind by Joker Phillips and turned them into a bowl team 4 years later. In Stoops’s first year (2013), UK was terrible going 2-10 (0-8) but last year the Wildcats jumped to 7-6 (4-4) and got a rivalry win over Louisville! Stoops has shown the ability to recruit top-25 level classes to Kentucky which is borderline amazing considering they are surrounded by football blue bloods which is another feather in Stoops’ cap. UK was smart to stick with their HC despite back-to-back 5-7 (2-6) seasons. It paid off in spades last year with UK having their best season since 2009. The talent is there for UK to be even better in 2017.

#43 – Dave Clawson – Wake Forest

Wake Forest hasn’t been relevant since the days of Riley Skinner and Aaron Curry. When Clawson took over in 2014, the Demon Deacons hasn’t had a winning season since 2008 nor had they had a bowl win since 2008. Winning in Winston-Salem isn’t exactly easy which is why it was so amazing what Jim Grobe was able to accomplish with Wake. He couldn’t sustain that and eventually Wake ended up being a sub-.500 team which led to Clawson’s hire. Clawson had to do some rebuilding his first two seasons which saw WF finish with back-to-back 3-9 (1-7) seasons, but the Deacons broke through last year finishing 7-6 (3-5) including a bowl win over a very good Temple squad. That’s solid progress for this program.

#42 – Butch Jones – Tennessee

This is probably too low for Jones. I’m of the opinion that the Vols should have never fired Fulmer, but I’m also not sure Fulmer was going to get Tennessee another national title which should always be the goal in Knoxville. Tennessee made a couple of bad hires in Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley and Jones was hired to clean up the mess. In his first season UT went 5-7. In his 2nd the Vols went 7-6 followed up by back to back 9-4 seasons. That’s progress, but to a degree Jones’s tenure at Tennessee has been marked by disappointment. In and SEC East where Missouri won a couple of division titles, Tennessee has come up empty despite SC not being very good and Florida being in a holding pattern until McElwain showed up. Is that a missed opportunity? It sure seems like it. Throw in the fact that UT is 14-18 in SEC play during Jones’s stay and he doesn’t look so good.

#41 – Jim Mora – UCLA

Like Jones, I think Mora is somewhat disappointing which is why he’s ranked in the 40s instead of the 20s. Last season was depressing with expectations that weren’t close to being met. The Bruins entered the 2016 season as the odds on favorite to win the Pac 12 South. With Washington thought to still be a year away, with USC still in rebuilding mode and with Oregon headed towards disaster, the conference and potential playoff spot was ripe for the taking. Instead, UCLA turned in a 4-8 season that saw star QB Josh Rosen miss half the season and potential 1st round NFL Pick DT Eddie Vanderdoes turn in an underwhelming season. The talent is here & Rosen is great so there is time for Mora to improve his stock in 2017.

#40 – Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh

Narduzzi was a tough one to figure out. On the one hand it seems as if he’s a little underrated. Since coming to Pittsburgh, he’s led the Panthers to a 16-10 overall record with an 11-5 mark in conference play. Last year’s Pitt squad was the best they’ve fielded since Dave Wannstedt took Pitt to a 10-3 final record back in 2009. On the other hand, the team under Narduzzi has also been puzzling. The 16-10 record is nice, but if you have watched Pitt the last two years, it could have been so much more. Last year the Panthers lost 4 games by a total of 18 points! The year before they lost 4 games by a total of 27 points. If Narduzzi can figure out how to win close games, we might be looking at a dominant Panthers team. However, Pittsburgh is also 0-2 in bowl games under Narduzzi’s watch & the defense got worse from 2015 to 2016 despite Narduzzi’s reputation as a defensive wizard. Narduzzi loses a truck load of talent so we’ll see how he responds in 2017.

May 15, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona St., Big XII, Coaching, Kentucky, NC State, Pac 12, Pittsburgh, Rankings, SEC, Tennessee, Texas AM, Texas Tech, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest | 4 Comments