While a few elite schools do so, it's tough to sustain recruiting success year after year.
Some programs just find it hard to continue their recruiting run into the following cycle. Examining the 2014 and current 2015 rankings, several teams do not look to be in good position to repeat last year's recruiting success.
A Big Ten powerhouse doesn't look like it will sign another upscale class this year, while an SEC school is finding life after a stud recruiting head coach to be one of hard knocks. Plus, an ACC school simply will not duplicate its previous year's class.
David Ash is healthy and will be Texas' starting quarterback for as long as that holds true. But due to his history of injuries, the battle for the backup job could be just as important to the Longhorns' prospects for the 2014 season.
For better and worse, Case McCoy has exhausted his eligibility and will no longer be next in line behind Ash. It's a plus that we will never again see one of those wobbling sidearm lobs again on a college football field, but it leaves Texas without any experience behind Ash in fall camp.
Ash has missed 11 games and played hurt in at least two more, so that increases the chances we see a start from either Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard. In turn, there's a high bust factor for Charlie Strong's first season, but a healthy Ash could just as easily make it a 9- or 10-win campaign.
Ash is the swing factor this season. With him, the Longhorns will be competitive in almost every game and have a chance to hit the fan-made 10-win goal.
But if he goes down, this team is going to struggle.
He isn't one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but Ash has the ability to cover up a lot of Texas' shortcomings. As shown by his YPA in 2012 and his brief appearances in 2013, he can get the ball down the field, and do so with accuracy. That's as important as anything in the Big 12.
The issue, of course, is whether Ash do that for 12 regular-season games. He's missed 11 games with injuries to his wrist and head before missing most of the spring with a foot injury. He's mostly back from the foot injury according top 247Sports.com's Jeff Howe, but the concussions will always muddy the waters.
That combined history makes it hard to trust in a player that otherwise would inspire great confidence in the upcoming season.
When you're talking about a dropoff in just about every conceivable way, the one from Ash to his backups is a prime example.
For now, Tyrone Swoopes and his 1.1 YPA are next in line should Ash succumb to another injury. He started the spring game in the junior's stead, completing 17 of his 30 passes for 229 yards and three scores. Those numbers indicate progress, but we can't forget that they came against the backups.
What Swoopes brings is a ton of potential. A better athlete now than a quarterback, the 6'5", 240-pounder can hum it downfield with the best of them and is always a threat to pick up yards with his feet. We just have no idea if he can do that in a game against an opponent's first-team defense.
The upside is there for Swoopes. But with this next guy already coming up in the system, his days as a quarterback may be numbered.
He's here, and the future may begin sooner than expected with Jerrod Heard taking over the quarterback position.
Lost in the Howe's report about Ash's health is that Heard, the nation's top dual-threat prospect in 2014, is splitting the snaps with Swoopes. The 'Horns don't have any other options, but this kid's personality is to run with every opportunity he gets, as he told CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman:
I feel like I can play. Like coach said, it is up to me, but it's also how the situation goes.
The (QB) job is an open situation, especially with the new coaching staff and a new system coming in. It's an open job, so I'm going to try and get in, get my opportunity and take over.
And when you take a look at Heard's track record, you share the feeling. The two-time state title winner spent the summer working with George Whitfield, who has also mentored the likes of Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.
Heard is talented, well-rounded and motivated. Him seeing the field will mean some growing pains, but he will bring a level of excitement that Texas has lacked since 2009.
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Each year, one of the biggest events for rising high school quarterbacks comes around as the Elite 11 Finals take place in Beaverton, Oregon. Following months of grueling competition, the top 18 signal-callers in the nation will fight for a spot in the final Elite 11 list.
Whether they have already committed to a school for their college tenure or are waiting to announce their decision, the competition helps draw attention to every notable quarterback in the field. The Nike event draws plenty of attention, with each of the quarterbacks earning spots on a team at The Opening.
Much like Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford before them, each field general hopes to enjoy a successful college career after the camp. Those notable alumni have helped build the foundation for the Elite 11, but who out of this year's crop will continue the history of success?
Here's a look at the entire field of competitors, per the event's official Twitter account:
Many of the top players in the nation will make their commitments at The Opening throughout the week, with one of those being 3-star quarterback Ross Bowers. According to 247Sports' "Crystal Ball" projections, Bowers is expected to choose California over Colorado State and several other programs.
With the event officially getting underway over the weekend, here's a look at the competition thus far.
Day 1 Recap
After getting acquainted with their fellow competitors on Saturday through several difficult workouts, the quarterbacks finally took the field during Day 2 of the event.
During a series of drills that tested every quarterback's speed and arm, several players stood out on Sunday. One player that had a strong showing was Kyler Murray, a dual-threat quarterback who has committed to Texas A&M.
Barton Simmons of 247Sports passes along footage of the young signal-caller during workouts:
Murray comes into the competition with plenty of hype as a 5-star player and is apparently showing the same potential at the Elite 11 finals.
Another quarterback looking great on the field is recent Alabama commit Blake Barnett. After announcing his decision to join the Crimson Tide last month, Chad Simmons of Scout.com notes that Barnett shined on Sunday:
Barton Simmons also provides a look at the zip on the ball from Barnett:
Either player has a chance to be one of the top at the camp, as both Murray and Barnett are ranked inside the top three in the 247Sports' composite rankings for dual-threat quarterbacks.
One other signal-caller just behind both Murray and Barnett also made a statement on Day 1. Brandon Wimbush, a 4-star quarterback committed to Penn State, is also ranked as a top-five dual-threat QB and showed off his athleticism on Sunday:
With just one more day on the schedule for the Elite 11 finals before The Opening officially starts on Tuesday, each player will continue to try to shine through on Monday. As players like Wimbush, Murray and others prove themselves, other signal-callers have a chance to blossom.
On Tuesday, each quarterback will find out which team they will play for during The Opening in the seven-on-seven tournament. With only a few days remaining, all 18 players will continue to look to prove they are worthy of making the final list of the famed Elite 11.
Though there weren't many on-the-field events going down, Saturday of the "campetition" was an eventful one for the blossoming signal-callers.
Simply arriving at the camp is an experience for every player in attendance. With just 18 quarterbacks making the cut, the Elite 11 Twitter account noted the arrival of the special field generals:
ESPN analyst and famed quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. also provides a look at the field donning their new gear from Nike:
Along with their new clothes and shoes, the quarterbacks were also greeted by a familiar face.
After making their way to Beaverton, the players were treated to a memorable start to the event. Florida State's quarterback Jameis Winston, an Elite 11 alumnus who won the 2013 Heisman Trophy and National Championship, was part of the welcoming committee, via the Elite 11 account:
While the players were slowly getting comfortable in the finals environment, some were already plotting their plans for later in the week.
For now, only the quarterbacks have arrived for the Elite 11, but other top players will enter the fold during The Opening. One quarterback who plans to utilize the opportunity for recruiting will be USC commit Ricky Town, per Gerry Hamilton of ESPN:
Town committed back in January with the Trojans and is apparently looking to put more quality recruits around him at USC. He also commented on what he hopes to accomplish during the competition, per Barton Simmons:
It’s just an honor to be here. I’m trying to be part of the 11, be part of that fraternity and do the best that I can, and show that I am the best.
I think we’re all trying to compete here and prove we’re the best. I’m here just to compete against everyone, whoever I’m up against, I’m ready to compete and have fun.
Though it's an honor to make it to the finals, it's not all fun and games for the remaining players. Saturday saw all 18 of the quarterbacks take part in a series of strenuous tasks that pushed them all to the limits on Saturday and into Sunday.
Nike Football provides a look at the workouts:
With all of the player set to take the field on Sunday of the competition, Saturday set the stage for a tough camp that will help all of the top signal-callers. Heading into a week where they will look to separate themselves, every player will benefit from Saturday from a leadership standpoint.
Star ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.
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The Texas A&M football team still does not know who will line up under center when the Aggies take the field on August 28 against South Carolina. There is a quarterback competition taking place, and it will continue into fall practice.
Johnny Manziel's decision to leave Texas A&M after his sophomore season and move on to the NFL has left the Aggies with youth and inexperience on the depth chart. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has proved before that he can produce a prolific offense with young quarterbacks.
The Aggies have been recruiting well at the position, and there is talent in the pipeline. Texas A&M fans are going to have to hope that talent can develop quickly so they can put a quality offense on the field in 2014.
If the young quarterbacks on the roster are able to develop and stay healthy, then the Aggies will be able to compete for the SEC title in 2014. If they have multiple injuries at the position, then the Aggies will struggle to qualify for a bowl game.
Kyle Allen is a true freshman quarterback from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. The 6'3", 200-pound gunslinger was the top-rated recruit in the country in 2014 according to 247Sports.com.
Allen passed for 2,535 yards and 29 touchdowns with 10 interceptions as a high school senior in 2013. He passed for 3,119 yards with 36 touchdowns as a junior. He has a strong arm and is very accurate inside the pocket and on the run.
Allen was able to enroll at A&M early and participated in offseason conditioning and spring practices. He ended spring practice listed atop the depth chart at the quarterback position.
Sumlin has started a true freshman quarterback before. In 2010, the first- and second-string quarterbacks for the University of Houston were injured in a game against UCLA. The Cougars were forced to finish the season with true freshman David Piland as their starting quarterback.
Piland started eight games for the Cougars and averaged 330.1 yards passing per game. He threw 24 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions.
The increased access granted to coaches during the summer should really expedite Allen's development. The NCAA's new rule means that Sumlin and his staff can observe Allen throughout the summer and basically give him an extra three months of instruction.
This new rule will decrease the experience gap between incoming freshmen and redshirt freshmen and sophomores in college football. There will not be as much of a shock to the system when practices and meetings start in August, and the freshmen should already have a solid understanding of the playbook when fall practice begins.
The Aggies begin the 2014 season on the road at South Carolina. You never know how a freshman is going to react in his first collegiate game, much less on a national stage in an unfriendly environment. Aggies fans are going to have to hope that Allen is able to keep his cool and simply execute Sumlin's offense.
Kenny Hill is a 6'2", 210-pound sophomore quarterback at Texas A&M. He saw action in four games, completing 72.7 percent of his passes with a touchdown and no interceptions.
Hill is a dual-threat quarterback who offers the Aggies more of a running threat than Allen does. If Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital decide they want to keep a lot of the running components that Manziel added to the offense in place, then that would bode well for Hill.
Hill and Allen were neck and neck in the competition for the starting quarterback spot until Hill ran into some off-the-field trouble and was suspended for the remainder of spring practice. He passed out in a bar district in College Station and was arrested for public intoxication.
Hill was a 4-star recruit and the No. 8 ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class according to 247Sports.com. He led his Southlake Carroll High School team to the 2011 Texas 5A state title as a junior.
Hill split the second-team snaps in games with Matt Joeckel in 2013. Joeckel has since transferred to TCU to complete his career.
If Allen is the starter to begin the year as expected, then Hill will make a very capable backup. He has a year of experience in the system under his belt and has played in front of large crowds before.
Hill's ability to make plays with his feet cannot be discounted. Entering a season in which the Aggies do not know what to expect from their defense, the ability to extend drives and win the time-of-possession battle cannot be overlooked.
Hill has already proved that he can take the offense down the field and score a touchdown. He will be a very capable backup for the Aggies in 2014.
All the Rest
The Aggies enter the 2014 season with only two scholarship quarterbacks on their roster. There are three walk-on quarterbacks on the roster in Conner McQueen, Kobe Miller and Jordan Traylor.
Miller and Traylor are true freshmen who are just beginning to learn the system. McQueen is a 5'10", 175-pound sophomore from Klein, Texas, who earned a letter in 2013.
If Allen and Hill go down, then McQueen is the most likely candidate to go under center. The coaches would also likely consider converting one of their position players back to quarterback.
Senior receiver Malcome Kennedy led Cayuga High School to the Texas 1A state title as the quarterback in 2009. He would get a look under center as well as 6'5", 230-pound redshirt freshman receiver Ricky Seals-Jones.
Seals-Jones played quarterback during his injury-shortened senior season at Sealy High School in 2012. He is a tremendous athlete who has a decent arm and the ability to make people miss in open space.
If Allen and Hill go down, you would likely see the Aggies resort to a variation of the zone-read offense that emphasized their running backs. The season would turn into a fight for survival and a bowl game.
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If you want to see the future of college football, look no further than this year's Elite 11, featuring the best high school quarterbacks in the country.
The competition has been the proving ground for some of the best recruits to come along in the past few years. Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston are just two of the many stars to have honed their craft at Elite 11.
There's little doubt that this year's crop of incoming finalists includes future All-Americans and maybe a Heisman Trophy winner. You can see the field for the 2014 finals below, courtesy of the event's Twitter account:
Among the 18 taking part, the five stars below are the cream of the crop.
Ricky Town, USC
Ricky Town and Josh Rosen are the consensus top two QBs in the country. Some people will tell you Town's better; others prefer Rosen. The former ranks 27th overall in 247Sports' composite rankings and is listed as the second-best pro-style quarterback in the country.
Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue wrote that those two would come to define the USC-UCLA rivalry over the next few years:
Instead, two of the top high school passers to emerge in recent years decided to stay close to home and sustain an increasingly familiar conversation.
Who's better? Town or Rosen?
That narrative will define a crosstown rivalry for the next half decade and may ultimately determine the outcome of future conference championships, national titles and Heisman Trophy races. Town and Rosen are eternally bunched together as quarterback prospects, and we can't wait to see what happens next.
USC is absolutely loaded at the QB position, with Cody Kessler, Max Browne and Jalen Greene. The fact that the Trojans continued pursuing Town is a testament to his ability. He's a great passer for this stage in his career, and the Elite 11 camp is a great opportunity for those few fans who've yet to watch Town throw to see what all the hype is about.
Kyler Murray, Texas A&M
Right or wrong, every dual-threat quarterback who steps on the field for Texas A&M will be compared to Johnny Manziel. Kyler Murray better get ready for the overwhelming amount of attention and expectation he'll have in College Station.
At least he has an endorsement from the legend himself:
Since he's listed as a dual-threat quarterback, Murray's accuracy and arm will likely be questioned. However, he's an extremely gifted thrower, especially on the run. Sure he's still a little raw, but that's to be expected of any incoming freshman QB.
What's so scary about Murray is that he's essentially a pro-style quarterback in a dual-threat body. He'll thrive in Kevin Sumlin's offense.
Blake Barnett, Alabama
What might Nick Saban be able to do with an athletic quarterback? That's the biggest question surrounding the Alabama offense after the Crimson Tide snagged Blake Barnett. The 4-star quarterback firmly falls into the dual-threat category and brings an athleticism that the Tide have lacked under center before.
Listed at 6'3.5" and 195 pounds on 247Sports, Barnett is a much better athlete than you'd think him to be. He's extremely adept at creating more time for himself in the pocket and throwing on the run.
AL.com's Matt Scalici pondered how Barnett might impact Alabama's offensive game plan, considering the pro-style offense has been the team's bread and butter:
As Saban has pointed out numerous times in recent years, having a quarterback who can make plays with his feet is useful in any style of offense and it's clear that bringing in a more athletic player under center is an idea that has been on Saban's mind for several years. In fact, Saban talked about the appeal of dual-threat quarterbacks during the spring.
"I think if you have a guy like that, it does create a lot of problems for the defense," Saban said in March during an interview with ESPN. "I think that as we go forward in the future, that we'd like to have that kind of quarterback as well. But we're still a pro-style type of offense. "
Saban is a master tactician, so if anybody can figure out a way to maximize Barnett's talent in a pro-style offense, it's him.
Brady White, Arizona State
Watching top recruits go outside of the college football elite is always interesting. Arizona State is far from a minnow, but the Sun Devils aren't exactly a top-10 team, either.
Todd Graham laid down a marker with the commitment of Brady White. ASU will be a threat in the Pac-12 South.
White is cut from the pocket-passer mold. He's very accurate, even on the deep throws over the top of the defense. Throws into tight coverage aren't a problem, either, as White knows exactly where to put the ball to avoid any damage.
You can see a Vine below of White working out at the IMG7v7 National Championship, via ESPN.com's Derek Tyson:
Arizona State has one 10-win season since making that Rose Bowl run in 1997. Maybe White can channel his inner Jake Plummer and help to make the Sun Devils nationally relevant again.
Jarrett Stidham, Texas Tech
You can't overstate how important the commitment of Jarrett Stidham could be for Texas Tech. This is the landmark signing that Kliff Kingsbury needed to take the Red Raiders to the next level:
Like Murray, Stidham has all the skills of a pro-style quarterback with the mobility and elusiveness of a dual-style quarterback. He's accurate, with the arm strength to make a variety of throws. If a play breaks down, the 4-star QB can also create plays with his feet.
You can't envision a better fit for Kingsbury's offense.
The Red Raiders made major strides on the field last season, and Kingsbury demonstrated his play-calling acumen. By securing Stidham, Kingsbury showed that he can become a major threat to the established powers on the recruiting trail, too.
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The Clemson Tigers play a decent ACC schedule in 2014, but the non-conference games are really tough with Georgia and South Carolina.
Good teams are made up of good players, so the Tigers will face some of the best in the nation next season. A couple of them were held in check by the Tigers a year ago, but there’s one especially that had a breakout game versus Clemson.
Last winter, the coaching carousel was a bit quieter than normal. Although several major positions (Penn State, Southern California and Texas) opened up, only 20 FBS institutions will boast new head coaches when preseason practice opens up next month.
With conference media days and the opening of fall practice just around the bend, speculation will begin on just how well (or how poorly) these coaches will perform in their inaugural seasons at their respective institutions. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s exactly the opportunity these coaches will have in 2014.
We decided to take a look at just how each new coach will fare this fall. Here’s our shot at predicting the 2014 win-loss record for every new college football head coach.
Notre Dame football had a busy week in the recruiting world.
Three commitments joined the class, but the Irish missed out on three other marquee names.
Notre Dame’s Class of 2015 now sits at 17 commitments after landing 10 pledges over a 34-day stretch ending this week.
We’ll take a look back at the eventful week in Fighting Irish recruiting and analyze what each result means to the program.
Here we go.
In what seems like a regular thing at this point, the Wisconsin football team has a Heisman Trophy candidate in its backfield. This year, as well as last year, it's Melvin Gordon. And without James White coming in and "stealing" carries from the talented junior from Kenosha, Wisconsin, this could very well be the season that Gordon at least makes it to New York.
Though Gordon struggles in pass protection at times while also providing little help as a receiving threat, this is something he has worked on throughout the offseason, with ESPN's Adam Rittenberg reporting, "Gordon remained [after a spring workout], running routes and catching passes from walk-on quarterback Thad Armstrong."
With the hope that Gordon improves in the passing game, let's take a look at the over/under for just how good Gordon can be this season now that he is the clear No. 1 back for the Badgers with an outstanding line in front of him.
As a baseline, take a look at the table below to see his stats from his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Also keep in mind that Gordon played in three games in 2011—though it didn't count against his eligibility—amassing 98 yards on 20 carries to go with a touchdown.YearAttemptsYardsTouchdownsAverageLong2013 206 1,609 12 7.8 80 2012 62 621 3 10.0 60
The Tennessee Volunteers' 2014 schedule is widely regarded as one of the toughest in the nation. A big part of that is due to the extremely skilled players the team will match up against each week.
In fact, many of the opponents the Vols face this upcoming season have rosters loaded on both sides of the ball with All-SEC, All-American and even Heisman Trophy candidates.
Since Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter left for the NFL in 2012, Tennessee hasn't truly established any elite athletes on either offense or defense, although players like Marquez North, Cameron Sutton and A.J. Johnson could achieve that status with solid play this season.
In order to compete throughout the team's gauntlet of a schedule, the Vols need more exceptional playmakers of their own to emerge to offset the big plays generated by opposing superstar athletes.
Here are the top five toughest players Tennessee's offense and defense will face during the 2014 season.
Brady Hoke expounded on the importance of tradition when he became Michigan’s head coach. Now entering his fourth season, high expectations fueled by the storied past of Michigan football threaten to swamp the program.Program Winning Percentage 1969-2007 (at least 400 games played) Rank Team Winning % Wins Losses Ties Total Games 1 Nebraska 0.79979 383 94 5 482 2 Michigan 0.77612 360 101 8 469 3 Ohio St. 0.76609 353 105 8 466 Source: Stassen.COM
Fans in Ann Arbor, spoiled by a 40-year run of success, are eager to forget the disappointment of the last six seasons.Program Winning Percentage 2008-2013 Rank Team Winning % Wins Losses Ties Total Games 53t Toledo 0.54467 41 34 0 75 55t Michigan 0.53947 41 35 0 76 Source: Stassen.COM
Here’s a look back at the first three seasons of Michigan football coaches since 1969. How does Brady Hoke compare?
The future stars of college football will be in action from July 5 to July 10, as the 2014 Elite 11 quarterback competition will show the nation which signal-callers are poised to excel at the college level.
Quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel, Jake Locker, Andrew Luck, EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and others are all alumni of the Elite 11 competition, so it's reasonable to say that a few of the athletes we see in action in a few days will eventually find their way to the pros.
Then again, their goal is to focus on the competition at this point, as it's often a good precursor to how successful they'll be in college.
There will certainly be a ton of buzz surrounding the nation's top recruits once the tournament kicks off, so get familiar with the names of the top guys before the action gets underway.
Josh Rosen, a UCLA commit, already has the size (6'4", 205 pounds) to get scouts buzzing. Despite not yet throwing a pass in college, Rosen should have his sights set on the pros.
His junior season was remarkable, throwing for 3,200 yards and 39 touchdowns. His skills were on display all season, as his great touch and refined mechanics from the pocket make him one of the best pure passers in the Elite 11 competition.
Rosen has very good arm strength to generate good zip on the ball, and he doesn't sacrifice accuracy to get the ball to his receivers in a hurry. He'll put the ball where his receivers can catch it, and he'll do it quickly.
The kid is certainly an exciting prospect, and Pac-12 Network analyst Yogi Roth, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, thinks that he looks like one of the game's all-time greats: "I don't know what Troy Aikman looked like in high school, but I bet this is what he looked like. The ball rips out of his hand. He's got a good frame, and on tape he's athletic."
It'll be interesting to see how he fares against higher-level competition, but all signs point to success for Rosen.
Committed to USC, Ricky Town actually made headlines back in April when he turned down Alabama head coach Nick Saban in an email, via Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
I sent Coach Saban an email and said ‘Thank you for everything, but I have to do what’s best for me.’ I never heard back from Coach Saban. But one of the girls that works in his office, she wrote back and said ‘Best of luck.’
There are multiple reasons why he was coveted by Saban. First of all, Town has great size at 6'4", 205 pounds (yes, the same as Rosen's measurements). Town moves well in and out of the pocket, and his accuracy isn't affected when he has to go on the run. He completed 70 percent of his passes last season.
He has great arm strength that allows him to go over the top of defenses, but sometimes he gets a little too excited. Too frequently Town can be seen throwing the ball well over his intended receiver. While they often drop for incompletions, it's a dangerous game to play. Those passes can easily get picked off and taken the other way.
For Town, the Elite 11 competition will be all about staying within himself and making the right passes. He doesn't always have to go down the field, but he needs to be accurate when those opportunities present themselves. At the next level, quarterbacks don't always get long incompletions back.
Kyler Murray has committed to Texas A&M, and the Aggies are getting a very quick quarterback in and out of the pocket. Elite 11 tweeted a clip of his strong footwork and speed while rolling to his right:
Murray is a bit small at 5'11", 185 pounds, but he could gain a few pounds over the next couple of years. He's right on the cusp of 6'0", and it's not completely out of the question for him to gain an inch or two in the near future. That said, he's still capable of destroying collegiate defenses.
He's a dual-threat quarterback who usually takes what the defense gives him. If the opposition plays him up in the box, he delivers strong strikes down the field. If the defense backs down to defend against the pass, he will burn them on the ground.
Good mechanics allow Murray to be extremely accurate in mid-range situations, but he needs to work on accurately throwing the deep ball with consistency. When he puts that part of his game together, he'll be difficult to stop.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR
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The Founding Fathers legally separated from Great Britain. Will Smith saved America (and the world) from an alien invasion. And Jack Swarbrick kept Notre Dame free of a conference in football.
Sure, those are probably in order of importance. But on a festive day with family barbecues and fireworks, for Notre Dame fans, it's worth taking a look back at a whirlwind past few years and being thankful that the Irish survived a massive reshuffling in college athletics and came out on the better end of it.
Irish fans have Swarbrick to thank for it. Notre Dame's athletics director (technically, he's a university vice president, too) found himself in the middle of a ferocious land grab that saw century-old rivalries detonated and conferences imploded after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and his council of presidents and chancellors declared an interest in expansion in December 2009.
From there, things got nuts. Nebraska jumped at the chance to join Delany and the Big Ten. The SEC moved into Texas and Missouri, grabbing A&M (and capitalizing on the Johnny Football explosion) and Gary Pinkel's Tigers, further gutting the Big 12.
On the West Coast, Larry Scott tried expanding to 16 before settling on adding Colorado and Utah. West Virginia and TCU jumped at a chance to fill a rapidly expanding void in the Big 12. While the Big East was trying their best to plug holes, Delany struck again with the news that Maryland and Rutgers were joining the B1G (no use in calling it "Ten" anymore).
Meanwhile, the ACC was in a state of flux as well. Having been relatively stable since the additions of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004-05, Pitt and Syracuse joined the conference in 2013. Louisville joined as of July 1, free from the American Athletic Conference, a rebranded and repackaged Big East.
(Confused? You should be. An insane 78 programs changed conferences in the BCS era.)
All that movement put Notre Dame in a tricky spot. As a university—and football program—with a national footprint and a network television deal of its own, it had long been the apple of Delany's eye. But with a school history tied to football independence, Swarbrick's main mission was to protect the Irish's interests in football while making sure the university's other 20 varsity teams had a conference to call home.
But before finding a new home for all Irish sports, Swarbrick had to solve college football's postseason. (That's all.) After surrendering Notre Dame's cozy stakeholder seat in the BCS, Swarbrick needed to make sure the Irish had an opportunity to compete for the four spots in the College Football Playoff.
So he worked in lockstep with SEC commissioner Mike Slive, one of the most unlikely marriages in collegiate sports history. But it worked, and Swarbrick was the driving force behind the four-team playoff (and monster TV deal) that will finally see college football crown a champion.
"In my mind, he played a critical role in the success that we accomplished during the year," Slive told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel.
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock had this to say about Swarbrick's role in creating the new model: "Jack was our MVP."
With the postseason resolved, Swarbrick also found a way to upgrade Notre Dame's conference athletics home, continuing those conversations with ACC commissioner John Swofford while hammering out the playoff details.
And in moving to the ACC, he managed to find a geographically advantageous footprint, a group of like-minded universities and a way to keep football independent.
Swarbrick said in September 2012:
We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us. This will enable us to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC’s non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports.
Notre Dame's other sports began ACC play in 2013, with the Irish men winning their first ever Capital One Cup in men's athletics. And football will begin its scheduling alliance with the ACC in 2014, set to play 15 games against the conference over the next three seasons.
Sure, Swarbrick made concessions. Traditional rivalries with Michigan State and Purdue have been halted. As has the game with Michigan, with no scheduled matchup against the Wolverines on the books after the September date in South Bend.
But staying independent isn't easy. So while we celebrate our country's most treasured holiday, ND Nation should tip their collective cap to Swarbrick's work these past two years. In the murky, murky waters of college sports, Notre Dame came out smelling like roses.
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Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has been the man of the offseason. Everybody is wondering how he’s going to recover from last year’s injury, if he can adapt to new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and if he is truly ready to turn the corner and lead the Gators through a tough SEC schedule. After last year, Florida fans' patience is running thin.
But nobody has mentioned reasonable expectations for the starting quarterback.
What do you expect from Driskel this season?
Florida has question marks for wide receivers, an offensive line with no depth and a young backfield that is likely going to be asked to grow up quickly. Driskel has thrown for only 2,271 yards and has 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his career.
Given the circumstances and what we know at this very moment, here are the reasonable expectations for the Gators' starting quarterback.
Rushing for 500 Yards
Honestly, this expectation may be a couple hundred yards short. I expect Driskel and the Gators to run the ball a ton in this new offense. Last season, Roper ran the ball 544 times at Duke, which was good for fourth in the ACC. While this will eventually become more of a passing offense, Roper is likely to play to Driskel’s strengths early on and rely on them throughout the season simply because he’s a much better athlete than passer at this stage in his career.
For whatever reason, the offensive coordinators before Roper never used Driskel’s legs as much as they probably should have. Driskel has just seven career games with double-digit carries. Nick Marshall topped that last season alone, and Driskel is bigger than the sophomore at Auburn.
You can’t convince me that Driskel can’t be a top rushing quarterback in college football this season.
In an April interview with Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, Roper touched on Driskel’s strengths:
He has everything physically. He does have great size, but he can really run. He's a fast guy. He can start quickly. He can change direction. His top-end speed is really good for a quarterback. He has a really good arm. He's accurate. I like his throwing motion. It's fast-twitch. He possesses everything.
Notice he touched on his running ability before anything else. Driskel is extremely fast for his size and can break off multiple long runs in a single game. He ran the ball 118 times in 2012, and 28 of those touches produced 10 or more yards. There’s no reason not to allow him to call his own number more this season.
Driskel has a career high of 408 rushing yards. He should have no problem shattering that record with at least 500 yards. That would mark the most rushing yards from a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009.
Passing for 2,000 Yards and 15 Touchdowns
One of the main reasons Roper was hired is because he is prolific when it comes to the passing game. He likes to spread the field, throw it around and put up big numbers through the air. He’s the perfect coach for this era that seems to be breaking passing records left and right.
Let’s take a look at Roper’s passing numbers in the six seasons he was in the ACC:
The numbers to pay close attention to are the passing attempts, as Duke finished no less than third in the ACC in that department in Roper’s last five seasons. It’s clear Driskel is going to get plenty of chances to toss around the pigskin and should have little problem topping 300 passing attempts for the first time in his career. If he completes more than 60 percent of his passes like he has his last two seasons, a new career high in passing yards will be set.
Again, another number that may be a little low in the grand scheme of things, but we are talking about an offense that finished behind Texas State, Akron and Idaho last season. Florida could barely move the chains without tripping over its own shoelaces, so it simply wouldn’t be realistic to expect an outrageous season from a quarterback who hasn’t shown much in his first three years.
Is there potential to have a breakout season? Of course. Florida fans should also expect more given what they saw during the spring game. However, if everybody is being honest with themselves, a better and more efficient 2014 season from Driskel should be considered a success.
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