Early College Football Preview 2008
As spring practice wraps up around the nation, we take a look at some of the issues and changes College Football teams have been dealing with and will continue to deal with, as the 2008 College Football season approaches. Below we’ll take an early look and preview the major conferences to wet your appetite for the coming year. Summer goes by fast. We’ll be in full football mode 24/7 before you know it. Just a couple of months away!
Can Ohio State, the runner-up for the title the past two years, get back and play for another one with 18 starters returning?
Will Southern California, after two years away from the BCS title Game, return?
Or is this defending Sugar Bowl champion Georgia’s time to climb to the top of the polls?
How will coaching changes at places such Michigan, Nebraska, Arkansas and West Virginia impact the national picture, and the teams individually?
Can Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who last year became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, become the second player to win two of them?
Will there be a 2008 version of Hawaii-Boise State-Utah, a team from outside one of the six major conferences GAining an automatic berth in a BCS Game?
Can Notre Dame bouNCe back from a disastrous year and start to become a consistent player on the national scene?
The season kicks off August 28TH. Buckle your chinstrap.
After so much waiting has Clemson’s breakout season finally arrived? Quarterback Cullen Harper, the running duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, receiver Aaron Kelly and defensive lineman Dorrell SCott have all returned. Still, the Tigers have Four new starters on their offensive line. Clarity didn’t come for Virginia Tech’s quarterback quandary, the battle between pocket passer Sean Glennon and multi-threat Tyrod Taylor. “We’ve got two really good quarterbacks. What we’re going to do with them will continue into the fall,” coach Frank Beamer said. As for defense, questions abound after the Hokies lost seven starters. The two new coaches in the league have formidable challenges ahead. Can GeorgiaTech’s Paul Johnson, who was successful at Navy and Georgia Southern, win at this level with his triple-option offense? And can Duke coach David Cutcliffe build a program the basketball team can be proud of? Boston College lost its standout QB Matt Ryan, but senior Chris Crane, Ryan’s backup the last two seasons, is the leading candidate. “We’re going to have to use him differently than we used Matt. I don’t want to throw the ball 50 times like we did last year,” coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. “Chris’ mobility and ability to make plays on the run will be a big factor for us.” Florida State receiver Preston Parker’s recent arrest, in which he was charged with carrying a coNCealed .45-caliber pistol and a small amount of marijuana, disrupted an otherwise quiet spring in Tallahassee. After the academic scandal from last year, the arrest of the Seminoles best offensive player is not the way coach Bobby Bowden wanted to begin his 33rd season at FSU.
Given the tumultuous off-season at West Virginia, spring football was a welcomed fresh start. Under new coach Bill Stewart and new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, the former QB coach at Wake Forest, quarterback Pat White will throw more. Pittsburgh needs reliable quarterback play to take pressure off running back LeSean McCoy, the nation’s top freshman rusher who averaged 110.7 yards per Game in 2007. There is a three-man race for the starting QB job with junior Bill Stull the favorite. The defense will again be led by linebacker SCott McKillop, the nation’s leading tackler (12.6 per Game) on a unit which finished fifth nationally in total defense. After waiting three years behind QB Brian Brohm, Louisville’s Hunter Cantwell’s time has come. But defense, which struggled mightily in last year’s 6-6 season, is where the Cardinals need to improve the most. Rutgers will replace running back Ray Rice, the all-time leading rusher in school history, with a slew of RBs: Mason Robinson, Kordell Young, JOurdan Brooks and Joe Martinek. Connecticut and Notre Dame are finalizing the details of a 10-Game series. Five of those Games will be played in South Bend, Ind., and the five UConn “home” Games will be played at large stadiums in the New York or Boston areas, but not at the Huskies’ 40,000-seat Rentschler Field.
RB Rashard Mendenhall departed for the NFL, but key blockers for Illinois’ running Game return. Seniors Ryan McDonald and Xavier Fulton have been named to the watch list for the OUtland Trophy. McDonald, a center, will be a Four-year starter while Fulton, a tackle, begins his second season with the first string. Both players earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2007 after the Illini led the Big Ten in rushing for the second consecutive year and ranked fifth in the nation, compiling 3,338 yards. With Michigan adjusting to a new offense and a new coaching staff under Rich Rodriguez, QB candidates Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan will continue their battle to replace Chad Henne during summer camp. The Wolverines must replace 11 starters. Michigan State lost WR Devin Thomas to the NFL, but Four underclassmen showed in the spring Game the passing attack could still be potent. Mark Dell, B.J. Cunningham, Chris D. Rucker and Blair White combined for 19 catches for 393 yards. With only Four starters departing from the team that lost to LSU in New Orleans, Ohio State figures to be near the top of the preseason polls. So can the Buckeyes overcome a second consecutive championship-Game thrashing? “It’s very hard to put it behind us,” TB Chris Wells said. “It happened two years in a row. But that’s something that a lot of us are using for motivation to get back there next year and just become a better and more united football team.” Penn State might use the spread offense, at least sometimes, but how much could be decided by who emerges at QB. “Whether we call a spread depends,” said coach Joe Paterno. “If Daryll Clark’s the quarterback then we can probably lean towards some things, but he doesn’t have the job yet. I think Pat Devlin and Paul CiaNCiolo are good football players. We’ll see who comes out of this, works the hardest this summer and comes back. We’ll take it from there.”
New Baylor coach Art Briles is not interested in comparing the talent level he left behind at Houston with that on hand for the Bears. “I feel good about Our guys,” he said. “We’re about a lineman short, offensively. We have wide receivers coming in this summer we think will help us. We have good players; we just don’t have much depth.” After an Orange Bowl championship, expectations will be high at Kansas. “On the offensive side of the ball, we have to get Our line to where we want it,” said coach Mark Mangino. “We have to replace (running back) Brandon McAnderson. We have a chance at a pretty good offense. The kids took a business approach. This year’s team wants to maintain the excelleNCe that last year’s team had. I don’t see major differeNCe between this year and last year.” Expectations will also be up at Nebraska, where Bo Pelini returns as head coach after a previous stint on the Huskers staff. “Nothing here surprises me,” Pelini said. “It becomes obvious how passionate people of Nebraska are about football. We’ve had a great reception. It sends a bolt of energy through your team. The foundation has to begin with effort and discipline. The scheme comes later when you Game-plan specific opponents.” Oklahoma, with standout QB Sam Bradford returning, has installed the no-huddle offense. Coach Bob Stoops believes the new 40-second play clock, which starts when the previous play is blown dead, “will speed you up” when it comes to getting the play off on time. The no-huddle will help the Sooners adjust, Stoops said, and also allows more time to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Oklahoma State lost offensive coordinator LArry Fedora when he became head coach at Southern Mississippi, but Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said there won’t be many substantial changes in OSU’s attack. The players remain “comfortable with Our system,” he said.
Defense is an off-season priority at Arizona. The Wildcats starting unit will iNClude eight new faces along with returning LB Ronnie Palmer and safeties Nate Ness and Cam Nelson. Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter had minor surgery on his right (throwing) thumb last week. He is expected to start throwing in 2-3 weeks. Carpenter hurt his thumb during a handoff in the California Game last October and played with the injury the rest of the season. With his main competition sidelined, Justin Roper made his bid to become Oregon’s starting quarterback, passing for 82 yards, throwing for one touchdown and running for another in the spring Game. Roper made his first start for Oregon in last year’s Sun Bowl. He is expected to compete with redshirt sophomore Nate Costa for the job in the fall. Costa was limited to non-contact drills this spring as he rehabs from knee surgery. After sitting out a season following his transfer from Arkansas, Southern California’s highly touted sophomore QB Mitch Mustain threw six TD passes in three spring scrimmages while spitting time with starter Mark SaNChez and redshirt freshman Aaron Corp. WR Richard Sherman, who has led Stanford in receiving yards for two consecutive seasons, picked up in the spring Game where he left off, catching nine passes for 96 yards. New UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel already has QB issues. Patrick Cowan will be unable to play in 2008 because of a knee injury, and Ben Olson is expected to be out six to eight weeks with a foot injury. Washington center Juan GArcia’s status for the season is up in the air after he suffered the same kind of foot injury (a LisfraNC sprain) that sidelined Huskies QB Isaiah StaNBAck two seasons ago. He had been named to the OUtland Trophy watch list and was a second-team all-Pac-10 selection last year, starting every Game for the second consecutive year. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing 2004 and 2005 with injuries.
Can LSU, the defending national champ, rely on Ryan Perrilloux, a quarterback who has been suspended more times (3) than Games he has started (2)? Coach Les Miles thinks so. “I think Ryan’s handling his business and doing right things,” Miles said. “If that continues, which we expect it would, when it comes to the fall, it’d be a three-way competition for who the starter is.” If Perrilloux stays out of trouble, the job is his. Florida Gators fans hoping for a much improved running Game left the spring Game a bit more confident after Chris Rainey ran for 75 yards and a touchdown and added a 65-yard scoring reception. Southern California transfer Emmanuel Moody rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown. If Rainey and Moody can lighten the rushing load on quarterback Tim Tebow, the junior should be a favorite to win an another Heisman Trophy. Coming off a Sugar Bowl championship, Georgia has a pair of its defensive players includedon the Lott Trophy Watch List. Junior cornerback Asher Allen and senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens have been nominated for the award named for NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, which equally recognizes athletic performance and the personal character attributes of its recipient. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is handing over most play-calling duties to son Steve Jr., the Gamecocks wide receivers coach. After the spring Game, Spurrier Sr. said he is not ready to name either Chris Smelley or Tommy Beecher his starting QB, but he later told a booster club if the season started now, Beecher would be No. 1. The spring Game did feature some fun, especially when Steve Spurrier’s youngest son, SCott, caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Smelley by coming off the beNCh on to the field during the play. The referees threw a flag for illeGAl participation, but the head ball coach ordered his defense to decline it. There is plenty new at Tennessee: a quarterback, an offensive coordinator and a system. New QB Jonathan Crompton, who completed seven of 12 passes with two interceptions and one touchdown last year, will take over for Eric Ainge; former Richmond coach Dave Clawson replaced new Duke coach David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator.
Coming off a 3-9 season, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis was eNCOuraged by the performance of QB Jimmy Clausen in the spring Game. Clausen completed a 57-yard pass to Golden Tate to the 8-yard line on Fourth-and-10, then threw an 8-yard TD pass to Duval Kamara with 24 seconds left to give the offense a 47-46 victory. “He could never make the (long) throw last year,” Weis said. “Even at the end of the year, he couldn’t make that throw.” Clausen passed for 183 yards. “Jimmy got good zip on the ball,” Weis said. “Obviously, he can sling it.” Army, which ran a wishbone offense for years before former coach Todd Berry scrapped it in 2000, is going back to an option-based attack, although it will not be the wishbone. Brigham Young carries a 10-Game winning streak into the season, and if the CouGArs keep winning, they might be in position to follow Utah, Boise State and Hawaii and secure an automatic berth in a BCS Game. The CouGArs have Four players on the preseason watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award: DE Jan Jorgensen, TE Dennis Pitta and OLs Ray FeinGA and Dallas Reynolds. Hawaii lost not only coach June Jones and QB Colt Brennan, but the Warriors need to replace six defensive starters and seven on offense, iNCluding almost all of their skill players, from last year’s Sugar Bowl team. New coach Greg McMACkin’s team opens at Florida.
Be sure to join us starting in August and throughout the 2008-2009 football season. Football is Our specialty here at Bettorsworld and this coming year promises to be Our best one yet. You don’t want to miss Our weekly picks, predictions and analysis!