Last season, Johnny Manziel amassed 3,706 yards through the air while compiling another 1,410 yards on the ground. Even the best SEC defenses had trouble containing the eventual Heisman winner.
Now armed with a year of game film on the dual-threat quarterback, will SEC defenses have better luck containing or even shutting down Manziel in 2013?
Better yet, which teams are equipped to try and stop Johnny Football this season?
Let's take a look at five teams that have the best shot.
While old pros like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer sit at the top of the recruiting game, there are several coaches on the rise in the recruiting game. And, as any Alabama fan will tell you, top-notch recruiting is vital for capturing the national championship.
These young coaches are overcoming challenges and have already risen up higher than where we thought they might be. Some of these coaches have had to deal with NCAA sanctions or the threat thereof, while still trying to get kids to come to their programs.
So, what coaches are the best recruiting rising stars? Read on.
Note: All recruiting data and class rankings listed here come from Rivals.com.
The recent news of the home-and-home series Boise State signed with the University of Virgina seems to have been well received by many Broncos fans.
As most of those fans know, it is hard to get BCS conference teams to travel to Boise to play on The Blue. So, to land an ACC squad like the Cavaliers has to be exciting for the school and the fanbase.
Teams like Oregon, Washington, Oregon State and Washington State have or will visit Bronco Stadium soon for nonconference games, and while the fans love those matchups, those schools are in close proximity to Boise. In turn, regional games don't effectively spread the orange and blue brand across the land.
The Virginia games will serve as a way to get some expanded exposure, and bring some excitement to Bronco Stadium. But you have to wonder if there are other teams that could bring the same kind of benefit for the Boise State program.
There are, of course, the unrealistic choices such as Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame or even USC. But Broncos fans understand these kind of games will probably never happen. Stadium size, payouts, travel and the fact that those schools would have little to gain by visiting Boise are all factors.
However, there are some schools out there that might be possibilities, and they are games that Boise State fans would probably enjoy seeing.
The NFL Scouting Combine serves as the unofficial moment in the college football offseason where we hit the reset button. It’s at this moment—somewhere between the first and final 40 completed in Indy—that we realize the talented group currently under the scouting microscope is gone from college football for good.
Excuse me while I pour out a can of warm Busch Light leftover from the tailgate season in their honor.
Although we’re quite familiar with this yearly ritual now, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. The players we’ve marveled over for the past three to four seasons are gone, off to get paid for their efforts, leaving us with another batch of faces to become familiar with before and during the fall.
There are plenty of known commodities still around in college football—be sure to enjoy Jadeveon Clowney while you can—although there’s no question we’re losing quite a bit in 2013.
They're not exactly disappearing, of course, but it just won’t be the same.
From the known talents who have been doing it for a few seasons to the freakishly gifted specimens who never quite showcased their full potential playing on Saturdays, here’s who I’ll miss the most as we bid them farewell and good luck.
You know that wide receiver you created in NCAA 13 with the preposterous 99-speed? The pixelated freak who could never, ever exist in real life, but you don’t care.
Well, West Virginia wide receiver/running back/highlight generator Tavon Austin is the special exception to this rule and the closest thing to a cheat code on offense. His 4.34 40 at the combine was ridiculous, sure, but that doesn’t do his talents justice.
Austin’s 2012 game against Oklahoma is one I’ll remember for quite some time. He finished with 344 rushing yards—yeah, he did plenty of that, too—along with 82 receiving yards and two scores...and his team lost.
For him, it’s not about stats, though. And those were certainly there in 2012.
It’s that rare “he could score here” moment you have every time he touches the football regardless of where he is on the field. Being a senior, however, there wasn’t any eligibility left, but I really wish there were.
Please, future NFL destination, give him the damn ball. We demand to see more.
About a year ago, I wrote this column on the overwhelming potential of the Arkansas running back when healthy. We didn’t see that potential in the 2012 season, but saw plenty of it at the NFL combine.
At 227 pounds, Davis ran a ridiculous 4.37 in the 40. He also did 31 reps on the bench press, and we’re already aware that he can squat a family of four—well, maybe five, 'cause he moves 600 pounds rather easily.
He’s a physical freak, a specimen that showcased his talents during his sophomore season when he ran for 1,322 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
So why did he only run for 377 yards in 2012? Was it his health? His offensive line? Was it the team, which was more or less in disarray? I would say a healthy combo of each factored here, although I was disappointed he didn’t come back for his senior season.
We got a glimpse of the off-the-charts talent, and now we’ll see if the measureables can amount to NFL success.
My intelligent, professional scouting take: Tackling him would really, really suck, so maybe.
Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah
Let’s stay with the “potential” theme, although the path for BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah is very different from Knile Davis. Ansah’s path is only just beginning.
When he first came over from Ghana and started playing football in 2010, he didn’t know how to put on pads. Even at times last season, it seemed that Ansah was lost on the football field, unsure of where to be or why to be there.
On those same plays where confusion seemed obvious, however, he ended up destroying an entire offense almost unknowingly. He’s a ridiculous athlete becoming a football player—still miles away from what he’ll become—and he showcased his ability in Indy on the biggest stage.
At 6’5” and 271 pounds, Ansah ran a 4.63 40. He’ll be a top-15 pick in the NFL draft, although I would have loved to see one more season at BYU.
He’s just figuring it out, and this kind of rapid, incomplete development only leaves you wanting more. We’ll get to see it in the NFL—where he’ll be a star eventually—but I enjoyed his ability to stumble into demolition so, so much in 2012.
In Michigan State’s opening tussle against Boise State last season, Le’Veon Bell carried the ball 44 times and also had six catches. It was exhausting just watching him, and he single-handedly lifted Sparty to victory.
Bell decided to go pro a year early, and as much as I loved watching him run through Big Ten defenders, I can’t blame him for leaving. A running back only has so many carries, and after 382 in one season and six games with at least 30 carries, it was time to move on.
What I really enjoyed about his game was the variety in the embarrassment he dished out. He pummeled tacklers if he wanted to, but he also has the shiftiness to make a coiled linebacker look foolish with a half-hearted tackle attempt.
And then there’s his famous hurdle, which I will miss the most.
Bell helped himself a great deal at the combine, running a 4.6 40 at more than 230 pounds. He will be a player in the NFL, and while I’m disappointed that a giant man with hurdling potential will be leaving our Saturday lineup, I will hope this translates at the next level.
We are all Marcus Lattimore fans; it’s that simple.
After suffering season-ending knee injuries in back-to-back seasons—including the horrific dislocation that will stay with me for a while—it was time for him to move on. Get paid to get healthy with some of the best doctors in the world, and that’s exactly what Lattimore will do.
And while I agree with his decision, we were deprived of his greatness. We didn’t get to see the best running back in college football fully healthy for as long as we wanted, which is a damn shame. He leaves South Carolina as the all-time leader in touchdowns, a record he could have shattered had he stayed healthy for three seasons.
Although Lattimore didn’t work out at the combine, he did show up and is running once again. His attitude through it all has been tremendous, and I doubt we’ll wait very long to hear his name called over draft weekend.
Good luck, Marcus. And good luck to those tasked with tackling him once he’s full strength.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
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Last week, we covered Boise State’s offensive line, giving a pre-spring practice preview by breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the unit, as well as key position battles.
Moving right along, this week we’ll take a look at the linebacker corps for the Broncos, previewing the positions in the same way as the previous two similar-type articles.
For those of you that missed out, below are links to the previous position breakdowns.
Linebacker should be an area of focus for the coaching staff during spring practices, due to the fact that the Broncos will be replacing both starters for 2013. However, the prospects look good that Boise State will be strong at the position this coming season.
To clarify, this article will break down the strengths, weaknesses and key position battles for the linebacker positions.
Let’s take a look at the 2013 Boise State Broncos linebacker corps.
On March 10, the West Virginia football team will officially begin its 2013 spring practice. With spring ball rapidly approaching, it's time to take a quick peek at which position battles will be hashed out on the practice field over the coming months.
The most glaring of all will be at the quarterback position, where the Mountaineers will look to find the successor to Geno Smith—a three-year starter under center.
WVU will also have plenty of openings at wide receiver and linebacker, and it might be tabbing a new starting running back as well.
So before we spoil too much, let's dive right in and check out our position-by-position preview for West Virginia's upcoming spring practice session.
We are all a little crazy.
It's just part of life. And it seems that people who are involved with football just naturally have another level of crazy, which they tend to display on the field.
This list is about those who sometimes just seem to flat lose it.
The guys who have done something, or continually do things that make us wonder what in the world just happened.
Most of them are coaches, because it takes a special kind of crazy to coach a football team—the kind that is dedicated, loyal and not afraid to let lose with the emotions for the sake of the team.
Of course, there are a few guys on this list who really don't have any idea what reality is, and even a mascot, who seems to have some issues of his own.
Whatever the reason, they are all gathered here on this list of the biggest headcases in college football.
While fans eagerly await preseason rankings, players and coaches are focused more on the early competition that the 2013 college football season will offer. Every year, there are some early shockers, and next season won't be any different.
The first official preseason polls won't be released until August, but that doesn't mean we can't start predicting some upsets now, does it? With a heaping helping of monster showdowns in early September, there's room for a big shakeup in the rankings—even before those rankings really mean much in the race for the BCS title.
We'll give all of the amateur college football soothsayers out there a helping hand with our early edition of upset projections for the first part of the 2013 season.
The trendy thing to do as a recruit these days is to make an early decision and commit to a school. I have a few theories as to why early commitments are becoming the norm in college football recruiting.
For starters, schools are offering more and more junior prospects scholarships and building relationships with them sooner. In turn, recruits are more comfortable with coaches earlier in the process and are committing sooner.
My next theory is that coaches are using the "if you don't commit now, we might not have any room for you later" line more and more. So recruits are almost getting pressured into committing early.
My last theory is that recruits find it cool these days to show up at camps and combines in the summer with their committed school's gear on. Recruits also may actually enjoy recruiting for their future schools, a la Shane Morris last year.
Whichever theory you may agree with, the following five prospects in the 2014 class are likely to follow the trend of making an early decision.
The NFL combine was hosted last weekend, and five former Tennessee Volunteers were invited. Here's a quick review of their performances along with the official draft grade each has been given.
Tight end Mychal Rivera, offensive lineman Dallas Thomas, wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson and quarterback Tyler Bray were all invited to the combine, by itself an honor and a signal that scouts believe they're worthy of a draft spot.
Players like Bray and Rivera were looking to move up a couple rounds, while Thomas, Hunter and Patterson were trying to position themselves in the first round.
For the most part, the Vols had a nice showing.
We took a look at the 2014 recruiting needs for each SEC team and we now arrive at the sequel of our "2014 recruiting needs" series by heading up to B1G country. The Big Ten is one of the historically great conferences in college football and the quality of play is always solid in this conference.
Now with 12 schools, the B1G is expanding to new territories. The recruiting landscape will change a bit, but the Midwest will always be the foundation for this conference's recruiting real estate.
Each team has needs and this 2014 recruiting cycle will be a good opportunity to fill those needs. Getting a recruit who can come in and play right away in 2014 is nice, but college coaches have to always be thinking 2-3 years ahead in terms of recruiting personnel.
Filling needs is critical in recruiting, and this piece will hit on a few positions of need that each B1G program needs to address with the 2014 recruiting class.
When the Cincinnati Bearcats took a page out of the Urban Meyer-Tim Tebow playbook and brought back the jump pass last season, many speculated about where that piece of innovation landed among the best college football plays in history.
Well, it's time to find out. The folks over at The Fifth Quarter have compiled a list of the 10 best college football plays in history, and it's a glorious 10 minutes for anyone going through football withdrawal syndrome.
Each of these plays exemplifies the type of creativity fostered in the collegiate atmosphere. While the NFL has spurned much of its trick playbook over the years, the ascent of trickery in college football has only made the sport more beloved by the masses.
The chasm between the reasoning behind each of these plays is as wide as the calls are innovative. You have Boise State's infamous hook-and-latter and Statue of Liberty plays from the 2007 Fiesta Bowl versus Oklahoma, which represents David doing anything in his power to slay Goliath. And on the other side, you have plays like Nebraska's fumblerooski in the 1984 Orange Bowl, where Tom Osbourne was simply looking to keep the Cornhuskers' national championship hopes alive.
Whether it's an underdog team playing a juggernaut in a BCS bowl game, or just simply a fun device to see your school on SportsCenter, there is a universal truth to trick plays: They are just really, really cool and incredibly fun to watch.
While your opinion may differ on the 10 plays chosen, that's the beauty of college football. Just when you think there can't possibly be a better trick play, another coach comes along with yet another piece of innovation.
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Alabama football produces a bevy of first-round NFL prospects every year, and 2013 is no different.
Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack and Eddie Lacy are just a few of the players who will be drafted by pro teams, but where will they land?
Warmack didn't look great at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, and Lacy wasn't able to participate in drills because he's nursing a hamstring (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter). Still, both players are considered to be the top players at their positions.
Milliner has long been considered the top cornerback in this year's draft class, and he didn't do anything to dispel that notion with a blazing-fast 40-yard dash—a run that clocked in at 4.37 seconds, making him the second-fastest cornerback in Indy.
Let's take a look at where these three former Crimson Tide studs are most likely to land this upcoming April when the draft commences in New York City.
Dee Milliner, Cornerback
Already considered to be one of the best players in the country before the combine, Milliner boosted his already hot stock with his 40 time of 4.37 seconds.
He is an exceptionally skilled cover corner with ideal size for the pro game (6'0", 201 pounds). Milliner struggled with the field drills at the combine, bobbling a few passes, but his footwork was rock-solid.
Messing up during the field drills won't hurt his draft stock. Milliner is a corner, not a receiver, and his 22 passes defended during the 2012 season proves that his ball skills are exemplary. He may not lead the NFL in interceptions, but if he can continue batting down passes and sticking to his man like glue, it won't matter.
Where Will He Land?
Cornerbacks aren't typically taken in the Top 5, but the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions both have a need for secondary help.
That said, it seems more likely that Milliner will be drafted by the Cleveland Browns at No. 6 or the New York Jets at No. 9 (if the Jets trade Darrelle Revis, that is).
There's always the possibility that a team like the San Francisco 49ers trades up into the Top 10 to land him, too.
Chance Warmack, Offensive Guard
As we already alluded to, Warmack didn't put on a good show at the combine.
He posted one of the worst 40 times of any offensive lineman and looked to be laboring during field drills.
That said, all scouts have to do is take a look at Warmack's tape to see what kind of devastation they should expect from him in the NFL. He's a prototypical pulling guard who lays out many defenders who try to take him on.
Warmack will be an instant starter in 2013, provided he stays healthy.
Where Will He Land?
The Tennessee Titans will likely be the first team to consider Warmack, as the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt recently reported that the franchise is open to drafting a guard in Round 1.
After Tennessee, the likeliest landing spots for Warmack are the Carolina Panthers (No. 14) and the St. Louis Rams (No. 16).
Eddie Lacy, Running Back
Lacy is the only running back with a real chance to be selected in Round 1 this year.
The powerful young man with a glorious spin move wasn't able to run at the combine, so he'll need to really put on a show during his pro day on March 13.
Lacy really came on late for 'Bama last year, rushing for 131, 181 and 140 yards in his last three games while scoring five touchdowns on the ground. What he was able to do for the Crimson Tide against Notre Dame in the title game was awe-inspiring, and his stock has been soaring ever since.
Provided Lacy runs well at his pro day, he is likely to be selected somewhere in the bottom half of Round 1.
Where Will He Land?
The earliest Lacy will be selected is probably at No. 21, when the Cincinnati Bengals pick. Cincy already has BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but he's not a true featured back.
After that, Lacy likely won't be taken until at least No. 26 when the Green Bay Packers pick, though the Packers have many other needs.
If the Atlanta Falcons don't pick up Steven Jackson via free agency, Lacy could be taken with the No. 30 overall pick and end up on a championship contender.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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