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Florida QB Jeff Driskel Is Perfect Fit for New Offense, Expect Huge Numbers

Jeff Driskel is back from injury and ready to return to his role as quarterback for Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators. The redshirt junior will be a huge playmaker in new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's offense. 

Driskel has the skills to be a true dual-threat QB in the new offense. He has the speed to break out long runs and the arm strength to take the top off defenses. 

Watch B/R analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss what to expect from Jeff Driskel in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

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Georgia Football: Todd Gurley Won't Win the Heisman, but That's a Good Thing

Last month, Seth Emerson of TheTelegraph (Macon, Georgia) reported that a fan asked Georgia head coach Mark Richt about the possibility of a Heisman campaign for star running back Todd Gurley.  Richt responded by saying:

I don't think you have to have a campaign for the Heisman. I think the numbers will speak for themselves. I think his highlights will speak for themselves. The Heisman usually goes to a team that's winning and somebody that's just doing superb work, and has a little bit of a flare about him.

In many ways, Richt accurately summarized Gurley's career as a Bulldog.  He's been statistically impressive while generating highlight after highlight and contributing at a high level to Georgia's success.  

That being said, even a continuation of such stellar performance won't garner Gurley a Heisman Trophy in 2014, but that's a good thing for Georgia.

 

Crowded Backfield

Georgia's backfield will be crowded in 2014 when Gurley is rejoined by Keith Marshall, who is expected to be back from injury, Brendan Douglas and two of the nation's best incoming freshmen, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.  Add A.J. Turman (who redshirted as a freshman in 2013) to the mix, and there's little surprise as to why J.J. Green, the team's second-leading rusher last season, so eagerly moved to defensive back this spring.

And yet despite boasting what may be the SEC's deepest stable of running back talent, Gurley is unquestionably the group's leader thanks to his immense talent and history of top-tier performances—particularly in Georgia's biggest games.  That wealth of surrounding may push Gurley during practice, allow him to catch his breath on a few more plays and otherwise support him, but there's another consequence to having so many options.

Those players are going to take some carries that could have otherwise belonged to Gurley.

If the past 10 years of Georgia football are any indication, Gurley is unlikely to garner more than 45 percent of the Dawgs' total rushing attempts.  In fact, over the past decade, only one Bulldog back—Knowshon Moreno—has accounted for that much of Georgia's total workload on the ground.

It's worth noting that 2008 was a true anomaly within the confines of recent Georgia history.  That season, Moreno was backed up by Caleb King, a redshirt freshman who carried the ball just 61 times on the season.  Quarterback Matthew Stafford was third on the team with 55 rushing attempts.  Wide receiver A.J. Green was fourth on the team in rushing yards despite carrying the ball just four times.  Moreno did not have a crowd comparable to the depth Georgia will have at running back in 2014.

 

High Demands for Heisman Winners

Ultimately, the depth and variety in skill sets provided by the likes of Marshall, Douglas, Michel, Chubb and Turman make Georgia a better team.  As last year demonstrated, there's no such thing as too much depth—especially when ACL injuries become mysteriously contagious.  Furthermore, having a number of fresh legs ready to come in and share the load during late-season conference games is invaluable.

So while those players may get a few carries of their own, it will be for the greater good of the team.  But that dispersion could realistically cost Gurley the Heisman.

Only five running backs have won the Heisman Trophy over the past 20 years.  All five of those running backs received more carries than one can reasonably expect for Gurley in 2014.  The table below shows the last five Heisman-winning running backs and their rushing attempts per game for all matchups prior to the Heisman Trophy ceremony (this data excludes bowl games).

Over the course of his career, Gurley has registered 387 rushing attempts in 24 games for an average of 16.13 attempts per outing.  Even if his partial games (he missed sizable portions of the Clemson, LSU and Florida games last season due to injury) are removed, that average only moves to 16.67 attempts per game.  The five Heisman-winning running backs of the past 20 years have collectively averaged over 25 rushing attempts per game en route to taking home the most coveted hardware in college football.  Gurley has carried the football 25 or more times in just two games over the course of his career.

For Gurley to even average 20 rushing attempts per game, he'd have to take on an uncharacteristically high percentage of the Dawgs' carries, which seems unlikely given the aforementioned embarrassment of running back riches.  Over the past 10 seasons, Georgia has averaged roughly 36.5 runs per game.  Twenty totes per outing would represent nearly 55 percent of that total figure.  Even when he was completely healthy in 2012, Gurley only accounted for 42 percent of the team's carries.

 

Exceptions and Implications

Obviously, there are exceptions to statistics, and for Gurley's offensive production, that exception is an obvious one: His role as a receiver.  Gurley has been increasingly active in Georgia's passing game and finished 2013 with an astounding 441 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 37 catches.  If he continues to be used by quarterback Hutson Mason, then the usage models above (which rely exclusively on running backs' running) may be somewhat obsolete.

Furthermore, as Mark Ingram showed in 2009, being the most noteworthy player on a dominant team can also generate Heisman votes.  If Georgia were to win the SEC and punch a ticket to the first round of the inaugural College Football Playoff, and Gurley were the most deserving Bulldog, there's a tremendous chance that he would find himself in New York City for the ceremony.  But he'd still probably need an increase in workload and a successful season as a dual-threat offensive producer to win outright.

The award, however, is not Gurley's only priority, and as Richt implied while shooting down the notion of launching a formal campaign in support of his stud running back, it's not at the top of the team's to-do list either.  

In that light, Heisman hype may give Bulldog fans something to talk about—and rightfully so.  But a prolific ground attack led by Gurley and balanced out by a host of his backfield companions gives him the best shot at staying healthy and the Dawgs the best shot at winning the conference.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Case for Bill Belton as Penn State's Starting Running Back

The Nittany Lions will be looking for a vocal senior leader on offense in 2014, and running back Bill Belton is the perfect player to assume the role.

Over the past two seasons, Zach Zwinak has received the bulk of the carries for Penn State, but Belton adds a different dimension for an offense that will be in need of playmakers and pass-catchers—both strengths of the New Jersey native.

Bill O'Brien liked to use a running back-by-committee approach, which limited Belton's ability to get in a groove in all aspects of the offense. He still rushed for over 1,000 yards in that time, caught three touchdowns and averaged nearly half a yard more per carry than Zwinak in 2013.

Huff says Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak have some of the qualities of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

— Black Shoe Diaries (@BSDtweet) January 24, 2014

Word out of camp is that Belton looks stronger than ever and has picked up the new offense quickly. With his speed and elusiveness, added strength would make him the complete package as a running back.

As a receiver, Belton can quickly contribute in the absence of the top two receivers from last season. Departed receivers Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder accounted for 125 catches in 2013. Only two players on the current roster have more career catches than Belton.

Perhaps the most important thing that Belton can provide for the offense is his leadership and resiliency. As a player who took time to find his role on this team and battled academic issues at one point, Belton is a player who has matured in front of his teammates and is one of the most respected men on the team. 

Penn State RB Bill Belton tells NBC10 he and players spoke to BOB and are happy for him. "He gave PSU a sense of life in a very dark time"

— John Clark CSN (@JClarkCSN) January 2, 2014

When called upon to shoulder the load last year, Belton stepped up with a fierce performance against Michigan and, later, a 200-yard rushing game in an overtime win over Illinois. In fact, every time he received more than 10 carries, he responded with at least 81 yards.

Belton played a large role in the win over Ohio State his freshman season. He scored the game-winning touchdown against Michigan last year. He has shown the ability to excel under pressure and has bounced back several times in his career.

When he talks in the huddle, his teammates listen and believe in him. He can score from anywhere on the field in a number of ways. 

Zwinak and Akeel Lynch will be a part of this offense, but Bill Belton should be Penn State's starting running back.


All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football: Analyzing Ducks' Top 5 2014 Recruiting Targets

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has been able to check a few priorities off his team's 2015 recruiting list. But with four verbal commitments heading into the summer, there's plenty more room for the Ducks to make a splash. 

The ripples from that splash could cover the entire country. The Oregon coaching staff is working to plant the program's flag in every corner of the nation.  

With prospects in California, Texas, Georgia and Florida, the Ducks' 2015 signing class could have a decidedly national flavor if each of the top targets pledges to Oregon. 

The Ducks find out the fate of one top prospect Wednesday, when 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray announces his decision. But no matter if Oregon lands Murray's commitment or not, the recruiting staff has its sights set on a potentially impressive class for 2015. 

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Oregon Football: Analyzing Ducks' Top 5 2014 Recruiting Targets

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has been able to check a few priorities off his team's 2015 recruiting list. But with four verbal commitments heading into the summer, there's plenty more room for the Ducks to make a splash...

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Florida Football: Analyzing Gators Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

The Florida Gators 2015 recruiting class doesn’t feature any big names just yet, but there are five key guys who could eventually turn the table on the rest of college football.

It’s the Gators' top recruiting targets for this year’s class, and they’re some of the top players at their positions. Players who could step in right away and help Florida reach its goal of climbing back on top of the SEC.

The list includes three defensive players, an elite offensive lineman and possibly the top wide receiver in this class.

Here’s the breakdown of the Gators’ top five recruiting targets.

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Each College Football Team's Most Intriguing Freshman

The youth are our future. Not just for the world, but for our college football teams, too.

Each year, as the recruiting cycle runs its course and hundreds of high school football players make their collegiate choices, we're told a little bit about each of these potential future stars. Each gets a rating and a ranking. They all have their best skills.

Then national signing day comes, and for coaches, it's on to the next year.

But before we can start getting too interested in what the 2015 recruiting class will bring us, let's take a closer look at the top talent from 2014. Or rather, the top prospect for each and every FBS college football team—a quick glimpse at interesting players who have yet to take a snap in college.

Here's our look at every school's most intriguing freshman, whether it be an early enrollee, a just-graduated senior or a player from the 2013 class who redshirted and will get into the mix this fall.

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Arkansas Football: Summer Grades for 2015 Recruiting Class

You have to feel for fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks. They went from enjoying one of the most successful two years in the program's history from 2010-11 to suffering through the abysmal last two seasons from 2012-13.

From 2010-11 under former head coach Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks posted a 21-5 (80.8 winning percentage) record and a 12-4 (75.0) mark in SEC play.

The last two years after Petrino's dismissal as the head coach for his now infamous motorcycle accident have been one big struggle. In these last two years Arkansas owns a 7-17 (29.2) record and a 2-14 (12.5) record in the SEC.

It's hard for fans to endure such a bipolar four-year stretch, as the program went from one of the SEC's best to one of the worst in a matter of a year.

Head coach Bret Bielema and his staff have a pretty good idea after 2013 just how big of a rebuilding project Arkansas is right now.

Rebuilding programs to their former glory starts on the recruiting trail. Bielema is slowly reeling in players to fit his style and make the Hogs one of the conference's best once more.

Bielema and his staff did a nice job in their first full cycle for 2014. They are off to a great start for the '15 haul, and if they can continue the momentum, it could be one of the best classes in a long time for the Razorbacks.

Here, we take a look at the 2015 class as it stands now and assess grades for each position. Keep in mind that most of these grades can become much higher as Arkansas adds more recruits.

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Miami Football: Analyzing Hurricanes' Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

Al Golden and the Miami coaching staff has reeled in 247Sports' No. 13 recruiting class in the nation, including a pair of 4-star running backs.

But instead of focusing on committed players—whether the program is "The U" or elsewhere—this piece will analyze top undecided targets.

Factors taken into account are potential, the Hurricanes' current depth chart and a recruit's perceived ability to immediately contribute. Conversely, the likelihood a given athlete commits to Miami does not exclude anyone.

The prospects are separated based on offense and defense, not ranked in a particular order.

Note: All recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.

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