Archive for the ‘College Football’ Category

2,319 Heisman Watch: Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson is just one of several quarterbacks that could challenge for the Heisman Trophy in 2012.

Stats: Last year Denard Robinson threw for 2,173 yards and 20 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,179 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Why: One could argue that Robinson is finally becoming a quarterback in full. It isn’t just that he amassed more than 3,000 yards in total offense last year. It’s how he did it. First, he led the nation in yards per completion (15.1 yards). Next, he was fourth in the Big Ten in passing efficiency. He showed improved decision-making while working with an offensive coordinator in Al Borges that is more used to working in a pro-style offense, and thus a drop-back passer. Robinson also showed a great deal of leadership during the Wolverines’ resurgent 2011, which saw them win the Sugar Bowl. Michigan appears on the ascendancy and Robinson will benefit from that increased attention. He has a returning starter at wide receiver in Roy Roundtree, and his leading returning receiver is Jeremy Gallon, who played a supporting role last year and appears ready to step up and take more plays. That’s good new for Michigan, which appears to have finally put the Rich Rodriguez era behind it and is pointed toward returning to what it considers its rightful place as a Big Ten contender.

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2012 Top 30 Countdown: No. 17 Boise State

Last Year: 12-1 (6-1 in Mountain West), beat Arizona State, 56-24, in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Why: The Broncos have some solid returning starters that were part of last year’s near-undefeated season, including wide receivers Matt Miller and Mitch Burroughs, along with running back D.J. Harper. Miller, a preseason All-MWC selection, had 62 catches for 679 yards and nine touchdowns last season with senior quarterback Kellen Moore running the offense. Burroughs added 49 grabs for 500 yards and a score. Harper rushed for 557 yards and 9 touchdowns. The Broncos also have three returning starters back on the offensive line in left guard Joe Kellogg, center Cory Yriarte, and right tackle Charles Leno, Jr. The Bronco offense should continue to fire on all cylinders.

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2012 Top 30 Countdown: No. 19 Oklahoma State

Last Year: 12-1 (8-1 in Big 12), beat Stanford, 41-38, in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl.

Why: RBs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith could end up being the best backfield tandem in the Big 12, in spite of the fact that they’re the backs on one of the most prolific passing teams in college football. Lane Taylor and Jonathan Rush are the anchors of an offensive line that only has two returning starters, but plenty of experienced players on the roster. The defense should be better for Oklahoma State this year as it tries to successfully defend its Big 12 title. The Cowboys have seven starters back on defense, including free safety Daytawion Lowe, who led the team in tackles with 97 last season. P/K Quinn Sharp is one of the best in the country and KR Justin Gilbert returns after averaging 27.0 yards per return last season. Most of OSU’s toughest Big 12 games will be played in Stillwater.

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2012 Top 30 Countdown: No. 20 Clemson

Last Year: 10-4 (6-2 in ACC), ACC Champions, lost to West Virginia, 70-33, in Orange Bowl.

Why? Well, the Tigers have plenty of returning talent, especially on offense. First-team All-ACC quarterback Tajh Boyd is back after throwing for 3,828 yards with 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Tigers also return starting tailback Andre Ellington, who had 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and receiver Sammy Watkins, who had 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns and also earned a first-team all-conference nod. DeAndre Hopkins is another returning starter at wideout. In the secondary, safeties Xavier Brewer and Jonathan Meeks and cornerback Bashaud Breeland are all returning starters. Meeks had 61 tackles and a team-best three interceptions last season. Quandon Christian and Jonathan Willard are both back at linebacker. Willard had 75 tackles last season, while Christian logged 29. Stephone Anthony, the third starting linebacker, could be ready for a big season.

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2012 Top 30 Countdown: No. 21 Stanford

Last Year: 11-2 (8-1 in Pac-12), lost to Oklahoma State, 41-38, in overtime of the Fiesta Bowl.

Why: The Cardinal still has some good weapons on offense. Tailback Stepfan Taylor and fullback Ryan Hewitt are both back. Taylor rushed for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Hewitt had 34 catches for 282 yards and five scores last season. They form a nice tandem.  Three of the five starters on the offensive line — left guard David Yankey, center Sam Schwartzstein, and right tackle Cameron Fleming — are back. The linebacking corps has three starters back in Trent Murphy, A.J. Tarpley, and Chase Thomas. And the fourth starter, Shane Skov, was starting when he went out with a knee injury in the third game. Skov led Stanford in tackles in 2010. Last season, Thomas was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection. Special teams could be the strongest of the units, with kicker Jordan Williamson, a second-team All-Pac-12 pick, back. Montgomery will also be returning kickoffs again after averaging 25.2 yards per kick with a touchdown last year.

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Postscripts: LSU, Texas compete for most loaded backfield in America

LSU and texas should compete for the most loaded backfield in America. I love power running games. To me, it’s the best way to win. It’s safe, secure and turns your opponent to mush. The Tigers and longhorns have the backs to ride that formula to great success in 2012.

LSU’s backfield is a monster, stacked with four players that saw significant time last year. Michael Ford and Spencer Ware are the pair you’ve probably heard the most about. Ford is the leading returning rusher with 756 yards, but it’s not by much. Ware gained 707 yards last year. They combined for 15 touchdowns.

But that’s not all. The Tigers had two other backs that played well. Kenny Hilliard gained 336 yards and scored 8 times. Alfred Blue rushed for 539 yards and scored 7 times.

So, combine their numbers and you get a combo backfield that rushed for more than 2,500 yards last year. More significant, at least to me, is that they combined for 30 scores. This group knows how to close, and even if one gets hurt, there will be little fall-off in terms of production.

If LSU has the track record, texas has boundless potential. The returning leading rusher is Malcolm Brown, who gained 742 yards and scored 5 touchdowns. Brown was a true freshman and UT’s No. 1 recruit for the 2011 class. Plus, speedy Joe Bergeron is back after gaining 463 yards and scoring 5 touchdowns last year.

Now Jonathan Gray joins them. Gray was the No. 1 overall back in the 2012 recruiting class and his numbers at Aledo (texas) High School were dizzying – 205 career touchdowns, breaking the national record, and more than 10,000 yards rushing, a few hundred short of the national record. texas can’t possible redshirt this guy.

If LSU and texas make a run at a national championship this year, you can see where it’s going to start.

More on Penn State, Georgia and Bobby Petrino after the jump.

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2012 Top 30 Countdown: No. 22 Nebraska

Last Year: 9-4 (5-3 in Big Ten), lost to South Carolina, 30-13, in the Capital One Bowl.

Why: Nebraska has few issues on offense. Rex Burkhead, coming off a 1,357-yard, 17-touchdown season, should be a Heisman Trophy candidate this season. Another season like that and he should vault into the Top 3 among all-time Nebraska rushers. QB Taylor Martinez showed growth last season, throwing for 2,089 yards and rushing for another 874 yards. His completion percentage and his touchdown to interception ratio still need work. Kenny Bell nearly set freshman receiving records last season, with 32 catches and 461 yards. The defense has seven returning starters – which include DE Jason Ankrah and LB Will Compton – and 10 other players that started at least one game in 2011. Few teams can boast that kind of experienced depth.

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2012 Top 30 Countdown: No. 23 Kansas State

Last Year: 10-3 (7-3 in Big 12), lost to Arkansas, 29-16, in the Cotton Bowl.

Why: K-State had unexpected success last year and it has the talent to maintain it in 2012. Dual threat quarterback Collin Klein rushed for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2011. WRs Tyler Lockett and Chris Harper return, and Lockett was last year’s Big 12 offensive freshman of the year. Lockett will have an impact on special teams after breaking the Big 12’s record for kickoff return average. LB Arthur Brown should be one of the best defenders in the Big 12 again this year after notching a team-best 101 tackles, including 9.5 for loss. He was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year. DE Meshak Williams is back after seven sacks last season. CB Nigel Malone returns after being named to the All-Big 12 team and a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist.

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2012 Top 30 Countdown: No. 24 Louisville

Last Year: 7-6 (5-2 in Big East), lost to North Carolina State, 31-24, in the Belk Bowl.

Why: The Cardinals are stacked with young talent that played last year and showed promise. QB Teddy Bridgewater completed 64 percent of his passes last year as a true freshman. Sophomores WRs DeVante Parker, Michaelee Harris and Eli Rogers were among the leaders in receiving last year. Three-fifths of the projected offensive line are sophomores, and two of them started last year. Defensively – a unit that was No. 9 in run defense and No. 23 in total defense in FBS, by the way – returns nine starters. That includes defensive backs Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor, two of seven underclassmen who started a year ago. That doesn’t include junior end Marcus Smith, who leads all returning players with 5.5 sacks. Few FBS teams have as much experienced young talent as the Cardinals.

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2012 Top 30 Countdown: No. 25 Notre Dame

Last Year: 8-5, lost to Florida State, 18-14, in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Why: The Irish have two significant offensive weapons with experience. TE Tyler Eifert caught 63 passes last year and has been a popular preseason All-America selection. “He’s a guy that has to replace the production of Michael Floyd,” HC Brian Kelly said. The Irish can also count on running back Cierre Wood, who is coming off a 1,000-yard campaign, and an experienced offensive line anchored by left tackle Zack Martin, left guard Chris Watt and center Braxston Cave. Defensively LB Manti Te’o spurned the NFL to spend one more season with the Irish. The Butkus candidate is coming off a season in which he led the Irish in tackles (128) and added 5.5 quarterback sacks. Kapron Lewis-Moore and Louis Nix III, a pair of 300-plus pounders, anchor the defensive line.

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