LSU head coach Les Miles knows coaches are only as good as their players.
Miles deserves plenty of credit for LSU's success in his tenure. He has led the Tigers to 95 wins in nine seasons despite players leaving early. But there is no question his success is powered by his players, more often than not, being superior than their opponents.
Luckily enough for Miles, talent-rich states such as Louisiana makes roster transformation easier. His 2014 recruiting class, arguably his best ever, has taken over the offseason buzz in Baton Rouge.
Overall, Miles has a young, yet talented, roster. If LSU's youth play like veterans, they will be successful.
Here are six players, which includes two juniors, three sophomores and one freshman, that will breakout in 2014.
August will be here by the end of the week, and every ACC team's goal will be the same: Make the inaugural College Football Playoff and win a national championship. Realistically, some teams have better odds than others of achieving that goal.
Florida State, for one, begins its quest to repeat as national champs with a Heisman winner still in tow. Plenty of other teams in the conference have the talent to make the Noles feel the heat as they pursue perfection again, and it's rarely the most cost effective solution to go with the favorite when it comes to Vegas.
Here's a rundown of my odds for each ACC team to go dancing, in the football sense, come December, including the teams I'd put my money on for the most bang for my buck.
This one's pretty clear. Florida State will look to bring home another title to Tallahassee, and the odds seem to be in its favor, as it should be the favorite in each regular-season game this year.
Repeating is a different animal though, and head coach Jimbo Fisher has repeatedly stated, according to 247Sports' Tim Linafelt (subscription required), that the team won't be trying to defend their title but rather pursue another in 2014.
The Seminoles return Jameis Winston, and even a sophomore slump would still make him one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. If he puts up similar numbers to a year ago, he could be walking away with similar hardware in 2014.
Perhaps even more significant in Florida State's chance to repeat is the offensive line, which returns four of five starters. The unit paved the way for a running attack that featured three of the top seven running backs in yards per carry last year, according to cfbstats.com. The line did give up 33 sacks last year, but some of that can be attributed to a quarterback who loves to improvise and throw the ball downfield when things break down.
Don't think the new starters will hurt their team's chance of repeating either says Matt Brown of SportsOnEarth.com:
Fisher has signed five recruiting classes since replacing Bobby Bowden, two of which finished in Rivals.com's top five and none of which finished worse than 10th. Lose a bunch of all-conference players? So what? There are still eight (first-, second- or third-team) returning and plenty more likely on their way to that recognition.
The Noles will undoubtedly be among the most talented teams in the nation this year, and Jimbo Fisher has already proved he can win a championship. What's scarier is that he looks poised this year to do something his predecessor never did: Repeat.
The Best Value
The Miami Hurricanes know a thing or two about recruiting the nation's best talent too, which is why I think they have the best value for making the College Football Playoff at 12-1.
The scenario is easy to envision if Duke Johnson has an even more spectacular season than his first eight games last year when he rushed for 920 yards. If he stays healthy this year, he may very well dethrone Jameis Winston as the ACC Player of the Year.
Johnson has the ability to take over a game, and if he has the endurance to make plays in the fourth quarter, he could lead Miami to even more than a Coastal Division crown.
The brilliance of Johnson is somewhat expected this season though, and to sneak into the playoff the Hurricanes will have to surprise the country with a stout defensive performance in 2014. Much of the fanbase in Coral Gables was hoping head coach Al Golden would replace Mark D'Onofrio at the end of last season, but the defensive coordinator is getting one more shot.
He has plenty of talent to work with as well, with linebacker Denzel Perryman likely being one of the conference's top tacklers and a secondary that returns both Tracy Howard and Deon Bush at corner.
The Canes will have to shore up the front four on defense and find a quarterback if they hope to be legitimate contenders for the playoff this fall, but this team is the definition of dangerous with a wide variety of weapons and talent on the field.
If there's one quality of every successful sleeper team, it's a great coach who can get the entire squad to believe anything is possible. David Cutcliffe is a brilliant coach and a tough motivator, which is the primary reason the Duke Blue Devils are my sleeper team.
It's hard to claim a team coming off a 10-win season is a sleeper team, but that was the first 10-win season in school history and their first appearance in the ACC title game. What's more, the Dukies have the pieces in place to do it again.
They return quarterback Anthony Boone, who may have even more to play for this season, per ESPN's Matt Fortuna:
Don't be surprised if Anthony Boone enters this season with a chip on his shoulder after seeing multiple preseason All-ACC teams list UNC's Marquise Williams ahead of him as the second-team quarterback. Boone took his Blue Devils into Chapel Hill last season and beat Williams and the Tar Heels, and Williams isn't even assured of starting this season.
Boone will have plenty of options to throw to as well, with Jamison Crowder vying to be the conference's top receiver. He'll get help from tight end Braxton Deaver and an offensive line that returns three starters.
In short, the offense shouldn't be a problem for the Blue Devils. If they hope to make a Cinderella run to the College Football Playoff though, they'll need huge seasons from everyone in the talent-laden secondary to cover up an offensive line that only returns tackle Jamal Bruce.
Safety Jeremy Cash will have to at least duplicate his 121-tackle, four-interception season, and linebacker Kelby Brown will have to be a First Team All-ACC performer for Duke to have a shot.
Far-fetched? Maybe. But remember, it could happen.
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After a 4-8 season last year, the Florida Gators are going to need everybody to step up in order to bring about a turnaround.
That’s obvious, but the Gators also need breakout seasons from some underachievers.
That includes a quarterback who has been a turnover machine and never blossomed into that leader the offense desperately needs, and a receiver who has been with the team four years and has four receiving touchdowns.
If Florida is truly going to make a genuine run at an SEC East title, these players and others need to fulfill their potential.
Here are some of the players who you can count on having that breakout season.
Jeff Driskel, Quarterback
If Driskel doesn't figure things out this season, there's always a baseball future to fall back on.
Seriously, Kurt Roper’s offensive system was built for a quarterback such as Driskel. Spread the field, allow the quarterback to use his legs when needed, get the ball out quickly and allow the receivers to make things happen. In past years, Driskel was asked to do too much and wasn't able to take advantage of his athleticism.
There's a reason Roper was drooling over Driskel the second he arrived on campus, according to Robbie Andreu of Gainesville.com. Roper said of Driskel:
He's really talented. I didn't get to see him much before I got here. I watched him in high school and knew he was heavily recruited and those things. I don't know that I was one of his choices, so now I get the luck of the draw here, I guess I should say.
But that's a big, powerful, fast-twitch, natural throwing motion. He's talented, folks. I mean we're sitting here talking about a guy that's really, really gifted. And his experience shows whenever we have conversations. He understands football. It's not his first rodeo.
Roper obviously sees something many others don’t about a quarterback who has 14 career touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
These two should click and could bring Florida its most successful season from a quarterback since the Tim Tebow era.
Jonathan Bullard, Defensive Lineman
Sometimes that third year really is a charm. That's where Bullard comes in.
The versatile defensive lineman is capable of more than the three sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss that he's racked up in two seasons. Bullard has the size (6'3", 271 pounds,) explosiveness and the overall strength to be a monster in the SEC and possibly even make the all-conference team this season. His skill set is unique, and there are not many offensive linemen who can stop him when he's focused on the football field.
Being dialed in was a problem last season, as Bullard didn't enjoy moving from defensive end to defensive tackle. The switch inside really frustrated Bullard and didn't help his production, but he's made the proper adjustments in camp, according to Marty Cohen of 247Sports:
I’ve got the hang of it, I can read things better at D-tackle like I could at end. Now it’s kind of even and to be honest, I’m trying to embrace it, enjoy it, rather than last year not really wanting to but knowing I had to. Now I’m trying to embrace it and do it at a high level. Now I look at it as a plus because I can also play end and I can play inside and if I can do both at a high level it helps me in the long run.
Having a talented player along the defensive front who can play multiple positions only helps Florida's defensive line. Bullard is too gifted not to have that breakout season. Expect big numbers from the third-year defensive lineman.
Andre Debose, Wide Receiver
This will be the season Debose lives up to the hype.
Wait, haven't we heard this the past four seasons? Actually, it feels more like a decade.
Debose, who tore his ACL last spring, has been cleared for full contact in the fall, according to Edward Aschoff of ESPN:
[Team doctors] didn’t think there was any way he’d participate in non-contact in spring practice, and right now he’s been cleared for everything in the summer. Here’s a guy who’s really worked his tail off to put himself back into position to do some things.
That's great news for a receiver who has been given a sixth year by the NCAA. Debose seems a sure bet to be successful, as—like with Driskel—Roper's offense fits him perfectly. He'll be asked to help spread the field and become that deep threat that has been missing from Florida's offense since Percy Harvin.
Debose will face many one-on-one situations, which you have to believe he'll be able to win due to his elite speed. Having Quinton Dunbar, Latroy Pittman and Debose on the field at the same time would cause headaches for opposing defenses.
Debose, who was one of Florida's top recruits in 2009, hasn't contributed much on the offensive side of the ball. With the change at offensive coordinator and the drastic need for playmakers at wide receiver, that's likely to change this season.
Better late than never.
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In the iron-sharpens-iron SEC football environment, only the battle-tested survive and rise to the top of national rankings.
So what happens when iron goes up against a weaker substance?
It cuts right through.
Therein lies the concern for SEC programs this season.
The normally star-studded league still features some of the country’s elite talent—players such as Georgia tailback Todd Gurley, Auburn receiver Sammie Coates and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
For the SEC to be the top conference in 2014, though, it must do so with at least eight quarterbacks who will start the majority of their teams’ games for the first time this season.
More than half the league will turn to quarterbacks with six career starts or fewer, including recent powerhouses Alabama, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina.
Gone are Heisman Trophy winners (Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel) and finalists (Alabama’s AJ McCarron).
So, too, are conference record-setters (Georgia’s Aaron Murray) and program record-setters (South Carolina’s Connor Shaw).
So the nation’s perennial top conference must reload at the game’s most pivotal position or risk falling back toward the middle of the pack in the college football landscape.
Well, that gets into what “holding back the conference” really means.
Do all the new signal-callers really mean the SEC champion will be kept out of the inaugural College Football Playoff?
Those odds are probably about as closer to zero as Kentucky winning the national title.
Face it: The SEC will get at least one team into the four-team playoff this year.
No matter how bold the College Football Playoff committee intends to be, it won’t be prepared for the backlash of leaving out the SEC champion—no matter how justified it might be in such a decision.
It seems more likely that two teams from the SEC would make the playoff than zero.
So from that perspective, inexperience at the quarterback position won’t impact the conference in any real way.
As long as the SEC remains at the top of college football in the court of public opinion, it will be difficult to erase the perception.
National championships certainly go a long way toward building a case for being the best league in America.
Then again, no sane person outside of the 14 ACC programs is arguing the ACC is better than the SEC based on Florida State beating Auburn last year.
With no football equivalent of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge in men’s basketball, all arguments against the SEC remain conjecture or speculation.
No matter what the eye test tells us about the Pac-12 and its experienced quarterbacks, such as Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley, many fans will still side with the SEC.
The Pac-12 and Big 12—two of the leagues most likely to stake a claim for top-conference honors—will have a hard time proving on the field they’re better than the SEC.
Teams from the SEC play Big 12 opponents just four times during the coming regular season.
Two of those games feature Tennessee and Arkansas, who combined for two wins in conference play last season. They play at Oklahoma and Texas Tech, respectively—both of whom qualified for bowl games last season (and the Sooners reached the Sugar Bowl).
Meanwhile, Alabama should be a prohibitive favorite in a neutral-season opener against West Virginia.
Only the nationally televised Thursday night Auburn-Kansas State game should be evenly matched—and could easily be explained away by dismissive SEC defenders should the Tigers fall.
There are no SEC-Pac-12 matchups scheduled for the 2014 regular season.
Any “best conference in America” will be a matter of opinion.
Over the course of the last decade, the SEC has built enough of a reputation to earn benefit of the doubt in the “best conference” conversation.
Thus, inexperience at quarterback won’t hold the league back there, either.
Here’s where it could hurt the league—whether the SEC is “held back” or not: The best teams in the SEC might not emerge with the resumes they have compiled in recent years.
If LSU’s young quarterbacks struggle, a win over a 4-4 or 5-3 Tigers team won’t mean what it has in years past. Namely, beating Les Miles’ team won’t necessarily mean a program has a reasonable chance to make a run in its division.
Texas A&M could be in for a fall as well with Manziel now gone, weakening the SEC West, which is at very least a strong contender for best division in the country.
An SEC program will reach the College Football Playoff this year.
The league often represents well in big games—Alabama’s performance against Oklahoma notwithstanding.
This season will likely be no different.
New quarterbacks won’t hold back the SEC this year.
They could, however, lead to a weaker top-to-bottom conference in 2014.
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Heading into the NCAA preseason, and with media days behind us, there are a few players who stand out as compelling prospects to watch for the 2014 Heisman Trophy award.
To make matters more interesting, the two previous winners have been redshirt freshmen, and the trophy has been awarded to underclassmen more frequently since the early 2000s. That means the field of inclusion for the award is wider than ever—as long as you're a quarterback or running back.
The following players' seasons will play an important role in the competition as they attempt to win their first—or perhaps second—Heisman.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
When head coach Chip Kelly departed Oregon prior to the 2013 season to coach the Philadelphia Eagles, many thought it would result in a hit to Mariota's stats and a less productive offense across the board for the Ducks. But new coach Mark Helfrich led the team to an 11-2 finish and emphasized the passing game. Mariota had 3,665 passing yards compared to 2,677 in 2012 under Kelly.
Mariota's accuracy decreased in 2013 from a 68.5 completion percentage in 2012 to 63.5 percent, but that's not unusual with 50 more attempts (h/t Sports-Reference.com). In 2014 he'll continue to benefit from the Ducks' high-octane spread offense, which should allow him plenty of opportunities to pad his stat sheet.
In 2013, Mariota demonstrated a keen ability to progress quickly through his reads. He lost two top targets from last season (Josh Huff to the NFL and Bralon Addison to a torn ACL in spring practice), but he has a corps of young talent in Chance Allen, B.J. Kelley and Dwayne Stanford.
The stats also suggest that Mariota's knee injury in Stanford game affected the rest of his season considerably. Though he hadn't thrown an interception to that point, he threw four over a two-game stretch against Arizona State and Oregon State, and he didn't rush for a single touchdown post-injury after scoring nine prior. Better health in 2014 should translate to better production from Mariota.
If Mariota falls out of Heisman discussions, it'll likely be because the Ducks don't have the weapons he needs. But if he can match or exceed his production last season, and if the young receivers step up, he'll be at the front of the pack.
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Despite only playing in 10 games last season, Todd Gurley racked up 989 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Bulldogs in 2013. He also dramatically increased his role in the passing game, notching 37 receptions for 441 yards compared to 16 for 117 in 2012.
That increased production as a pass-catcher gave Gurley the opportunity for six additional scores, bringing his total to 16 over 10 games.
What's really impressive about Gurley's 2013 campaign is that, as Tony Barnhart of the SEC Network pointed out, he only had four games last season with 20-plus touches.
With Aaron Murray's departure, the Bulldogs will feature the ground game more prominently in 2014, and provided he can stay healthy, Gurley should have his best season yet. Being a high-profile player in a high-profile conference certainly won't hurt him either as Heisman discussions begin to gather steam.
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
In 2014, Winston could make a legitimate push to be just the second player in college football history to win consecutive Heisman awards—a feat accomplished first by Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975.
If Winston can even come close to replicating his production in 2013, it's hard to imagine he won't be a frontrunner for the award. The Seminoles face a tough season opener against Oklahoma State, along with Notre Dame further down the stretch, but their conference schedule is winnable.
Last year, in the best freshman season by a college quarterback on the books, Winston set single-season NCAA freshman records for passing yards (4,057) and touchdowns (40). Though he lost receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL, the Seminoles return top target Rashad Greene, while Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield could fill holes on the outside and in the slot, respectively.
It will be hard for anyone to touch Winston in the Heisman race if he repeats his performance from 2013.
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If there is a stigma in college football about starting a freshman quarterback, well, there shouldn’t be.
Just look at how the last two seasons have played out and any worries about youth should be totally debunked.
Two years ago, a previously unknown redshirt freshman named Johnny Manziel burst on the scene and won a Heisman Trophy for Texas A&M. Last fall, Jameis Winston emerged as college football’s most exciting player, winning a Heisman and leading Florida State to a BCS National Championship in his first season of college football.
Youth has been served in college football, and don’t be surprised if a number of freshmen emerge as stars this fall.
Here is a look at some freshman quarterbacks who would surprise no one by winning a starting role this fall.
Can you feel it? College football is right around the corner.
We've gone through the various media days for each conference, with coaches and selected players telling us how excited they are about the upcoming 2014 season. Some preseason all-conference teams and league-standings predictions have been made, and goals are being set for number of wins as well as division and conference titles and maybe spots in the first-ever College Football Playoff.
Preseason top-25 polls are the next step. The Amway Coaches Poll, which is the old USA Today poll but with a new sponsor, is set to release its initial rankings on Thursday, and the Associated Press will follow on Aug. 17 with its preseason media poll.
Ours is ready right now.
Here's Bleacher Report's Top 25 heading into the start of fall camp. The rankings are a projection of how teams will fare in the 2014 season based on returning players from the year before, incoming talent that is expected to contribute and offseason events which may have an impact on how a team will perform this fall.
There are three opponents in particular with the ability to upend a potentially special season for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team.
Two of these contests exist on the road. One will test the Bruins' ability to not only travel a great distance, but to also compete against a less-than-ideal start time. The other road game will feature a daunting home crowd in addition to adverse weather conditions.
Lastly, UCLA could theoretically be facing its biggest rival for a division championship. A loss in such an affair would likely rival a punch to the proverbial stomach.
Here are three games that could ruin the 2014 season for the Bruins.
Ohio State is gearing up for another run at a national title after last year's quest fell short. Meyer has the pieces to contend, but fall camp will be a pivotal time for the Buckeyes to patch their remaining holes and really grasp the vision of the coaching staff.
Meyer and the players he brought with him to Chicago echoed that sentiment universally.
Here are the biggest Buckeyes-related takeaways from Big Ten media days.
Brady Hoke told reporters at Day 1 of Big Ten Media Days, including MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner, that he's not worried about his job security at Michigan. But that doesn't mean the questions are going to stop anytime soon.
Athletic director Dave Brandon has dispelled notions that Brady is on the hot seat this season multiple times, most recently to Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News. "I have all the confidence in the world that he’s bringing in the right kids, that he continues to do the right thing in terms of getting his staff lined up," Wojnowski said. "I’m convinced we’re heading to a very, very good place."
But the question is, what if Michigan doesn't get to that very good place by January? Hoke is coming off a 7-6 season entering his fourth year with the program. In a vacuum, his 26-13 overall record looks promising, but it doesn't tell the whole story.
After leading the team to a strong 11-2 finish in 2011, his squad dropped to 8-5 in 2012 before the dangerously-close-to-.500 2013 campaign.
That record included a strong undefeated start that went south quickly as the season progressed, as BTN.com's Tom Dienhart pointed out during Hoke's presser.
And though the team was perfect at home under Hoke in each of his first two seasons at the helm, they dropped two at Michigan Stadium in 2013—including a game vs. archrival Ohio State on November 30, which has left a bitter taste in Wolverines fans' mouths. Hoke's gutsy decision to go for a two-point conversion rather than tie that game with an extra point fueled many fans' disenchantment.
"I've done this at two other schools," Hoke said Monday, per Baumgardner. "You come in as a new coach, and you don't put a timetable on anything. Because you don't know." Though Hoke may not admit to having a timetable in place, rumblings about his days at the program being numbered will continue if the team doesn't make serious strides in 2014.
There were some moments in the 2013 season Hoke would undoubtedly like to forget, such as the Wolverines' embarrassing loss to in-state rival Michigan State on November 2, in which the team rushed for a record-low minus-48 net yards.
Last season's 7-6 record would have been more understandable in Hoke's first season. The Wolverines were transitioning from a spread offense under Rich Rodriguez (who, incidentally, went 7-6 in his last season in 2009 before Hoke was brought in), which is not a process that happens overnight.
But the year-to-year decline in Hoke's squad's performance is what gives fuel to the hot seat questions, and not unfairly so.
The expectations are elevated for the coach of the winningest program in college football, and Hoke understands that. Brandon told Wojnowski he doesn't have a target record in mind for the 2014 season because that would be "grossly unfair," but it's not hard to imagine he or the fanbase will be satisfied with another 7-6 or even 8-5 season.
Three of Michigan's losses in 2013 were by four points or less, so the team has a foundation to build on. Hoke hired new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and opened competition at multiple positions, according to Baumgardner.
That includes the offensive line, for which Brady has yet to name the front five starters, and the receivers group, which lost Jeremy Gallon to the NFL and now includes Devin Funchess, Amara Darboh, Drew Dileo, Jehu Chesson and true freshman Freddy Canteen.
Of course, some key factors aren't in Hoke's control, such as Devin Gardner's performance.
He's moving things in the right direction for the Wolverines, but college football is a numbers game, and until Hoke can deliver a record that will please the fans and Brandon, the questions surrounding his job security will continue.
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College football followers are familiar with Duke Johnson, Stacy Coley and Denzel Perryman, but five lesser-known Miami Hurricanes are poised for breakout seasons in 2014.
Youth, injury and nationally popular teammates have overshadowed the members of the list, keeping them as relatively unknown commodities beyond the conference landscape.
The following 'Canes are organized by position, not by a subjective interpretation of the respective performances each player is capable of this season.
The Georgia Bulldogs could do a lot of special things this season.
If they can stay healthy and the defense improves from what it was last season, they could have a chance to not only win the SEC, but also be one of the four teams that reach the first annual College Football Playoff.
But the Bulldogs have been in position before to have a chance to be a national champion and came up short because they lost a game early or late in the season, and it came back to bite them.
So here’s a look at three games that could ruin the Bulldogs’ 2014 season.
The Clemson Tigers are just days away from the unofficial beginning of the 2014 college football season. Fall camp opens, and the countdown is on for the Tigers' trip to Georgia on August 30 to open the new season.
Much of the offseason talk has centered on Clemson's quarterback situation—and rightfully so. It's the most important position on the field, and the Tigers just graduated the top passer in the school's rich history.
But even with the loss of Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, there is a palpable buzz around the program. The Tigers are coming off three consecutive 10-win seasons and are in position to challenge defending national champion Florida State for ACC supremacy despite the loss of some key personnel.
Can senior Cole Stoudt replace Boyd? Or will Clemson rely on one of the most experienced and talented defensive lines in the country to carry the team in 2014?
Here are four storylines Clemson fans should keep an eye on as fall practice begins.
Nebraska football fans will be anxiously watching the 2014 season to see which players will become breakout stars. It’s the breakout stars, not the proven commodities, who can help propel a team like Nebraska from almost-there to contending for conference and national titles.
So which Cornhuskers are primed for breakout seasons? Here are five candidates.
Every head college football coach in the country is assembling his 2015 recruiting class with much hope that every recruit graduates in four-to-five years.
However, college football is also big business, which means winning is the most important thing for a coach's future. Whether it be a coach on the hot seat, the calling of the NFL or possible retirement, there are a few college coaches who very well may not see their next recruiting class get all the way through their programs.
An SEC coach has some fire under his seat, while an ACC coach may be running out of time. Plus, a respected Big Ten coach could be replaced before his 2015 class graduates.
All recruiting class ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Recruiting Rankings.
All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.com, Rivals and 247Sports.Stats are from Sports-Reference.com.
2014 has been a year of change for the Texas Longhorns. When one considers the new head coach and coaching staff, multiple dismissals from the team and a change of culture in the football program, this offseason has been anything but ordinary in Austin.
All of the change has led to a number of interesting storylines, which Texas fans across the nation are eager to follow.
Change of Culture
One of the most significant storylines has to be the complete 180-degree culture change first-year head coach Charlie Strong has brought to the team.
Last week, Orangebloods.com first reported that running back Jalen Overstreet and defensive back Chevoski Collins were dismissed from the team due to a violation of team rules.
The duo being removed from the team was quickly followed up by news courtesy of Orangebloods.com that Strong had dismissed two other players on the roster, running back Joe Bergeron and safety Josh Turner.
In six months, Strong has dismissed six Longhorns and indefinitely suspended two others.
Some Texas fans may like his no-nonsense approach, some may not. However, whichever side of the fence you fall on does not really matter.
Strong has made it clear it's his way or the highway, and nobody is going to question him in doing so.
It will be interesting to see if he keeps it up or wavers, but all signs are pointing toward a continuing change of culture for the Longhorns.
Depth at Safety
A storyline that is a spin-off of the recent dismissals is the lack of depth at safety. Following Turner's dismissal from the team, the safety position became a lot less clear.
Senior Mykkele Thompson is now the only safety with starting experience. Behind him are five young players—two (Kevin Vaccaro, Adrian Colbert) have a little game experience on special teams and the remaining three (John Bonney, Erik Huhn, Edwin Freeman) have not seen playing time in college.
One could argue that Thompson's role will not be up for grabs, but the role beside him could be anyone's game.
Sophomore Colbert has a chance of being a hard-hitting safety that Texas will need this season, but he has yet to see the field aside from on special teams. True freshman Bonney could have the chance of being a contributor, but depending on an incoming freshman is not always the best answer.
In other words, the depth at safety is nonexistent. Nevertheless, Strong will need to find the best option available before Texas takes the field on Aug. 30.
At Big 12 media days, Strong said junior David Ash would be the starting quarterback for the Longhorns heading into fall camp. However, a major question surrounding Ash is his ability to stay healthy.
After missing the majority of 2013 with recurring concussion symptoms, Ash was ready to take the field for spring practice.
Unfortunately, the hopes of his return were shut down early after he suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and missed the second half of the spring.
He has officially been cleared to participate in fall camp, but that does not necessarily mean his health issues are a thing of the past.
In fact, Strong told ESPN's Joe Schad that he has had discussions with Ash on the importance of sliding and not taking a big hit:
Even if Ash can stay healthy and holds on to the starting role, it will be interesting to see which quarterback makes a name for himself as Ash's backup.
Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Jerrod Heard will be battling it out to take on the No. 2 role this fall, but nobody is quite sure what either quarterback will bring to the Longhorns due to the lack of playing time between the two youngsters.
Will Swoopes' limited playing time and inconsistent spring-game performance hinder his ability to take the next step? Will Heard not enrolling until the summer hurt his chances of being the No. 2 guy?
These are all questions that could get answered during fall camp, but it may take longer to get the answers some Texas fans are anticipating.
At the end of the day, nobody truly knows what the future holds for Texas football under Strong. There are a lot of issues that will not immediately be sorted out for the Longhorns, but the time to get some of the questions answered is right around the corner.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter @Taylor_Gaspar.
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At Ohio State, the role of what he calls the "heart and soul" of the Buckeyes is not one that Urban Meyer takes lightly.
Two years ago, it was defensive end John Simon. Last season, it was left tackle Jack Mewhort. Type A personalities propped up in the preseason by the Ohio State head coach looking for leaders.
Asked at Big Ten media days who this year's version would be, Meyer didn't point to the star quarterback or veteran defensive lineman that he brought with him to Chicago. Rather, Meyer opted to anoint the nontraditional tight end who was hardly tailor-made for his spread offense.
"Jeff Heuerman is a guy who's got that kind of work ethic and leadership," Meyer said.
Given that the tight end position has hardly been highlighted and isn't even on the field for every offensive play for Ohio State, it's hard to imagine one being the "heart and soul" of the Buckeyes. But with Heuerman's ability—as well as fellow tight end Nick Vannett's—Meyer said that it's safe to throw away any preconceived notions about where OSU's leadership will come from.
"He will be (on the field for every offensive play)," Meyer insisted of Heuerman. "I have two legitimate pieces to the puzzle I've never had. You're going to see some two-tight end offense."
Just as dual tight ends aren't traditional in Meyer's spread offense, how Heuerman got here isn't your standard story, either. In fact, it was just three years ago that the Naples, Florida, native was admittedly unsure whether or not he had a future in Columbus.
A mere four months after arriving on campus as an early enrollee in January 2011, Heuerman witnessed the man who recruited him to Columbus get fired when Jim Tressel was ousted from Ohio State due to NCAA violations. What followed wasn't pretty, either, as the Buckeyes limped to a 6-7 season, with Heuerman catching one ball for 25 yards in his freshman campaign.
"I remember just like it was yesterday, that Memorial Day when we woke up and found out Coach Tressel resigned," Heuerman recalled. "I was like, 'What are you talking about? He was one of the reasons I came here.'"
But even as the hiring of Meyer in November 2011 breathed some much-needed excitement into the Buckeyes program, Heuerman found himself not sharing the same sentiment. A 3-star tight end in high school, according to 247Sports, Heuerman wasn't recruited by his new head coach despite playing right down the road from him in Florida.
"When he first got here, he didn't know me. He really didn't know me because he didn't recruit me," Heuerman said. "I was like, 'Oh man, here we go. A coach who didn't recruit me is coming in.'
"Everyone's telling me, 'Oh, you'll be like Aaron Hernandez.' We both know I ain't Aaron Hernandez—on and off the field. But you watch Aaron Hernandez highlights, and that's not the way I play football. We're two different body types. Obviously, some doubt crossed my mind."
Only adding to Heuerman's concern was his status on the depth chart, which pegged him as the third-string tight end entering his sophomore season. But when Reid Fragel was converted into an offensive lineman and Jake Stoneburner moved to wide receiver, it was Heuerman who found himself starting for an Ohio State squad that went 12-0 in 2012.
"I woke up one day, and I was the starting tight end at Ohio State," Heuerman recalled. "Jake and Reid were in front of me going into my sophomore year. I wasn't even supposed to play. I was the third-string tight end. And they both moved positions, and one day, I'm like, 'Here we go.' You could say I've come a long way."
Although he was merely an option as a sophomore, the 6'5", 255-pounder grew to be an integral role in the Ohio State offense as a junior, catching 26 balls for 466 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. A workout fiend who possesses the best bench press and highest vertical jump on the Buckeyes roster, Heuerman surely would have catapulted up draft boards following an impressive showing at the NFL Scouting Combine had he decided to forgo his senior season of eligibility.
But after meeting with Meyer—the same coach he was unsure of just two years earlier—mere moments after Ohio State's loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, Heuerman decided that he had unfinished business in Columbus.
"I really didn't know until after the bowl game. Coach Meyer and I sat down in some office in the Orange Bowl stadium," Heuerman recalled. "I probably could have left, and everything would have worked out. But we sat down and weighed the options, and I decided to come back. I don't really look back or dwell on the past."
And while classmate and star quarterback Braxton Miller may be the face of the Buckeyes, Heuerman now finds himself the unlikely heart and soul of an Ohio State squad with national championship aspirations and expectations. That's just fine with Heuerman, whose natural leadership has helped him overcome the trials and tribulations that he's already faced in his college career.
"It's special," Heuerman said. "Guys look at you differently. You're a captain now. You're not a young sophomore or junior. You're kind of up there. Guys are always looking at you or what you're doing. But also, it's nice.
"I embrace it. Being a captain at Ohio State's a pretty big deal."
If Heuerman can have the same impact that Simon did two years ago, it will be an ever bigger one.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.
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Brady Hoke is quite familiar with the song and dance of Big Ten media days.
During the conference's big day on stage in Chicago, the Wolverines' fourth-year coach answered questions about rebounding from a 7-6 season, facing off against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, the quarterback situation and Jabrill Peppers, Team 135's incoming super frosh.
This slideshow will cover all things Michigan-related that came out of the Windy City. And to get your motor revving, here's Hoke on Shane Morris, a sophomore, versus Devin Gardner, the senior incumbent, via MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner:
I think (Morris) has a legitimate chance (to win the job), but I would also say that Devin's done a nice job of working every day to try and solidify that. To some degree, we all need motivation.
But Devin did a nice job, in my opinion, of processing his performance from a year ago (from both a positive and negative standpoint).
Hoke touched on the subject but didn't say anything that would indicate that the job is anyone but Gardner's. Now in his second year, Morris should be competing for top reps. After all, he was one of the best quarterbacks of the 2013 class, not to mention one of Hoke's highest-rated signees.
CHICAGO — “Talking season,” as Steve Spurrier likes to call it, is over. It’s time for football.
The best and brightest of the Big Ten flocked to the Chicago Hilton for Big Ten Media Days, one of the final stops before fall camp.
Day 1 consisted of a more formal podium session, giving each coach in the conference 15 minutes to address the media and answer questions. Day 2 wasn’t nearly as structured. All players and coaches in attendance sat at roundtables, answering questions for roughly two hours as media members pinballed around the room.
As for the winners and losers of the weekend—including a cameo from Kenny Bell and his fabulous media-day attire—here are some takeaways.
Adam Kramer is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.