NCAA Football News
At the heart of most potent offensive attacks lies a strong running game, which is what Devin Gardner and the Michigan football program needs more than anything else this year to find success.
Thankfully, Fitz Toussaint appears to be coming back as strong as ever after recovering from a broken leg suffered against Iowa last season in November. Head coach Brady Hoke raved about the senior running back in an interview with WTKA-AM 1050's Michigan Insider show regarding Saturday's scrimmage, as noted by Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, saying, “Fitz ran the ball awfully, awfully well and looked like the Fitz of old.”
That's good news for Michigan's offense in 2013.
Gardner carries the weight of high expectations on his shoulders this season, and those expectations seem to be growing on a daily basis. Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com noted a recent spike in favor of Gardner in betting odds:
Gardner, who opened with 40/1 odds of winning college football's most coveted award, saw his Heisman odds leap up to 25/1, per oddsmaking site Bovada.lv...Bovada projects Gardner as the favorite to lead the Big Ten in both passing yards and passing touchdowns -- ahead of [Braxton] Miller in both categories.
No offense intended to Gardner or the oddsmakers, but let's let the kid play a few games first this season before we crown him as an elite passer.
Don't get me wrong.
Gardner possesses elite talent, and Michigan's passing attack could be quite potent with burgeoning tight end Devin Funchess making big plays in the middle of the field while Jeremy Gallon makes plays on the sidelines.
But Gardner is still a young quarterback who needs a strong running game behind him to keep opposing defenses honest. Last season after he took over for Denard Robinson, he completed less than 60 percent of his passes, throwing 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
The team struggled to move the chains when the running game failed to produce, as neither Gardner nor his receiving corps excelled in 3rd-and-long situations.
But a strong rushing attack opens up the entire offense.
If Toussaint can return back to the form that saw him rush for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011, as Hoke alluded to in his interview, then Michigan's offense would be a potent blend of ground-and-pound and big plays down the field off of play-action passes.
Time will tell if Toussaint can play with explosiveness and consistency behind Gardner, but if he does, then Michigan will be a difficult team to stifle on offense.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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Van Jefferson, a 6’3”, 180-pound junior wide receiver from Ravenwood in Brentwood, Tenn. knows where he’d like to play his college football. Yes, he still has a couple of years of high school ball to play, but if this one certain school in the ACC offers, it could be all over.
We’ll get back to that in a minute.
Jefferson knows a little bit about the wide receiver position. His father, Shawn Jefferson, is a former NFL receiver that logged 195 games in the league and made appearances in two Super Bowls. Shawn is now the wide receivers coach for the Tennessee Titans.
“I’m very blessed to have my dad,” Van Jefferson said. “I thank God for him every day. He’s always on my butt telling me not to settle for being good but to always strive for being great.
“I just take that advice in and try to get better everyday. My dad will give me advice on my routes. We will come up here to the school and do cone drills.
“My dad tells me that to be a great wide receiver it starts with the mindset. You have a DB in front of you and you have to want to dominate him. I’m getting the ball and you’re not. That’s what it takes. He also tells me that I need to be physical."
Jefferson, a 3-star prospect, according to 247Sports, has already pocketed a few scholarship offers. The first offer came from the Vanderbilt Commodores.
“I was surprised when Vandy offered,” Jefferson said. “I love Vanderbilt. I love Coach (Josh) Gattis and I love Coach (James) Franklin. I was excited to get that first offer. I’ll be at Vanderbilt next week (Aug. 29) for the there game with Ole Miss.”
The ‘Dores aren't the only school that feels Jefferson has the tools to be a dominating wideout at the next level.
“Tennessee, Penn State and MTSU have also offered me a scholarship.” Jefferson said.
“I went to Tennessee for an unofficial visit and their facilities are pretty nice. I also went over to MTSU to check that out. I also went to Happy Valley to check out Penn State. My former teammate, Allen Robinson, from Orchard Lake (Mi.) St. Mary’s is at Penn State. It was pretty cool seeing Beaver Stadium and the campus.”
Jefferson couldn't stop complimenting his teammates at Ravenwood for helping him with his transition to a new part of the country and a new school. A transition that Raptors head coach Will Hester said has been very smooth thus far.
“Van has been a phenomenal teammate,” Coach Hester said. “The kids in the locker room have fallen in love with him and that’s huge. Everyone is cheering for him. There’s nobody jealous of the attention he’s been getting and that’s great.”
We asked Hester what makes Jefferson a blue-chip prospect.
“Obviously Van has been well drilled,” Hester said. “His daddy has coached him up since he was little. He runs the routes as well as any receiver I’ve ever coached. Van is polished and we expect great things from him.
“Van has had a wonderful summer on the camp circuit, he has gotten a lot of attention, and now it’s time to get on the field and live up to it.
"Van’s understanding of the game and his football IQ are off the charts. He knows where to sit down in zone coverage and things of that nature. I still think he needs to put on a little more weight. He’s a little thin; I think Van can easily add 20 pounds to his frame. Once he gets in the weight room and gets stronger, he’ll be unbelievable.”
Hester is from Williamson county. He played and coached at Brentwood High School before taking over at Ravenwood this year. We asked him where Jefferson ranks among the great wide receivers all-time in the Nashville area.
“Van’s got to be right there with the best.” Hester explained. “There’s Quinton Patton, who was drafted by the 49ers this year. The list is pretty short after that. Van has the potential to be the best to come out of Middle Tennessee.”
Jefferson said although he doesn’t have a scholarship offer, he’d like to hear from USC, Arkansas, Michigan and Michigan State but remains open. However, if Clemson offers, it could be a short recruitment for Jefferson.
“I’ve never been to Clemson, but they are my No. 1 right now.” Jefferson said.
“I really like Clemson. I love Chad Morris and Dabo Swinney. Seeing Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins and all those guys running down that hill on Saturday. It’s pretty special. I can’t wait to get over there to watch a game.
“Clemson and Tennessee are my favorites right now.”
The Tigers and the Vols lead right now, but other top programs will have plenty of time to get Jefferson interested in their program. For now, Jefferson is focused on Friday night’s game against Stuart Creek.
“Oh man, I can’t wait to get out there.” Jefferson said. “I’m ready to play for my teammates, my coaches and my God. I can’t wait for Friday night.”
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There is a lot of momentum heading into the 2013 season for the Pac-12 Conference. Oregon and Stanford are the heavy weights contending for not only the Pac-12 title, but for a spot in the BCS National Championship.
Will Oregon State make some noise in the Pac-12 North Division?
Things could get crazy down in the Pac-12 South Division. USC will be seeking revenge after a disappointing 2012 season and UCLA, as well as Arizona State, will try to prove that they are indeed Pac-12 title contenders.
Will the Pac-12 be one of the best conferences with all of the talent and depth it has this season?
Here are how things will shape up in the Pac-12 this year: