Friday, August 7, 2015

UTSA Roadrunners Season Preview

One year after returning the most starters in the FBS, UTSA will return just six (two offense/four defense) in 2015, which is the lowest total in the country. The Roadrunners welcome back senior OG Williams Cavanaugh and senior TE David Morgan II on offense and senior LB Drew Douglas, junior S Chase Dahlquist, senior S Mauricio Sanchez and senior CB Bennett Okotcha on defense.

UTSA’s spring two-deep depth chart features a defense that returns a combined 91 career starts, but the offense brings back just 47.

Morgan II is the Roadrunners’ lone returning All-Conference USA honoree. The Marble Falls, Texas, native is coming off a junior campaign that saw him catch 20 passes for 255 yards (12.8 avg.) and one touchdown in nine games of action (six starts). Morgan II owns career marks of 40 receptions for 538 yards (13.5 avg.) and three scores in 30 contests (10 starts).

UTSA’s non-conference schedule arguably is one of the nation’s toughest, as it will travel to Arizona (Thursday, Sept. 3) and Oklahoma State (Sept. 19) in addition to hosting Kansas State (Sept. 12) and Colorado State (Sept. 26). The quartet of 2014 bowl teams com- bined for 36 wins a year ago and Arizona (#17/#19) and Kansas State (#18) finished the season ranked in the USA Today Coaches’ and As- sociated Press Top 25 polls.

The Roadrunners signed their largest signing class, 37 players (28 high schoolers — including five 2014 greyshirts & two early enrollees — eight junior college transfers and an FBS transfer), in February and it also will welcome Russell Bellomy, who will transfer from Michigan after receiving his undergraduate degree in May

UTEP Miners Season Preview

The 2014 Miners posted the program’s first winning season since 2005 and played Utah State in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, their first bowl appearance since 2010. UTEP enters this season seeking back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 2004-05. 

Junior RB Aaron Jones became the first Miner underclassmen to lead the team in rushing in each of his first two years since John Harvey (1985-86). Jones has averaged better than 5.0 yards per carry in both seasons, while moving into 10th place on the Miners’ career rushing list with 2,132 yards. Jones ended the 2014 season with 1,321 yards, the fourth-best seasonal total in school annals. 

There are six quarterbacks on the roster for the Miners, as Coach Kugler and staff aim to find a replacement for Jameill Showers, who started all 13 games last year while compiling 1,858 yards and 12 TDs. Only two (junior Garrett Simpson and sophomore Mack Leftwich) of the six QBs have taken a snap at the collegiate level but those have been very limited. Leftwich, who redshirted in 2014, started the final four games of the 2013 season after being pulled from redshirt status. He connected on 44-of-75 passes (58.7 percent) for 458 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Simpson, meanwhile, has appeared in five total contests in two years, completing all three attempts for a total of 55 yards (in 2013). The other three signal callers on the squad are all freshmen, with two redshirt-freshmen (Hunter McEachern and Ryan Metz) and a true freshman from the high school ranks (Kavika Johnson). 

UTEP finished with 76 tackles for loss last year after posting 45 during the 2013 season. 

Southern Miss Golden Eagles Season Preview

On offense, Southern Miss lost just two skill players from last season in QB Cole Weeks and WR Markese Triplett, who both graduated. The Golden Eagles return all of their rushing yards from last season, 76.4 percent of their passing yards and 83.6 percent of their receiving yards.

Junior QB Nick Mullens tallied 263 yards passing in the season finale, marking his 14th career 200-yard passing games in 16 starts. Last season, he collected 200-yard passing games in nine of 10 starts. Mullens finished the season with 2,470 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games.

Sophomore WR Michael Thomas led the team in receiving yards (592) and touchdown receptions (five) during his freshman season. He collected at least one reception in every game, including four or more in five outings. Thomas had a string of four-straight games with a TD catch.

Southern Miss lost five of its top six tacklers from a year ago to graduation. Senior LB Brian Anderson returns as the top tackler from a season ago when he registered 65 tackles.

Southern Miss will open its 2015 campaign against in-state foe Mississippi State. It will be the Bulldogs first visit to Hattiesburg since 1989, which also marks the last time an opponent from the Southeastern Conference came to play at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Rice Owls Season Preview

The Owls made their school-record third straight bowl appearance last season, defeating Fresno State, 30-6 in the Hawai’i Bowl. 

Rice was 8-5 in 2014, the ninth time in school history the Owls have won eight or more in a season. Head coach David Bailiff matched Jess Neely with his third season of eight or more wins. 

The Owls have posted the best win totals in two (18) and three (25) years in school history. Senior QB Driphus Jackson moved into third place on the Rice list for TD passes in a single-season (24), and into fifth for TD passes in a career (30). Jackson placed fourth on Rice’s single-season passing yards list at 2,842 - the most since Chase Clement in 2008 - and piled up 3,243 yards of total offense (4th-best in school annals). 

Junior RB Darik Dillard has compiled 16 touchdowns in two seasons (14 rushing, 2 receiving) and has a combined 76 with his brother, former All-American WR Jarett Dillard. The best total in NCAA FBS history by a pair of brothers is 81 by Jacquizz (51) and James (30) Rogers of Oregon State. 

The Owls will play just one game outside of the state of Texas all season long - Oct. 10 at Florida Atlantic. The other 11 games will take place in the Lone State State. 

North Texas Mean Green Season Preview

Head coach Dan McCarney is establishing a record of success at Apogee Stadium as North Texas has a home record of 16-7 since the stadium opened in 2011. The Mean Green went 5-1 at home in 2013, tying for the second most wins in school history. In the three seasons before 2011, the Mean Green went just 1-16 at home.

McCarney has won 22 games at North Texas, which already ranks in the top- 10 all-time as he enters the 2015 season eighth in coaching wins. McCarney reached 18 wins faster at North Texas than any coach since Rod Rust in 1967- 69 after his first three seasons.

The Mean Green rushed for more than 200-yards on three different occasions and NT has run for over 300-yards now seven times in the last four seasons. The Mean Green rushed for 21 touchdowns in 2014, which is tied for the eighth most in school history.

Senior WR Carlos Harris caught 70 passes for 863 yards last season, posting three 100-yard games. The 863 yards are the most among returning players in C-USA.

Kicker Trevor Moore turned in perhaps the best season by a placekicker in school history in 2014. Moore earned freshman All-America honors after hitting 15-of-17 field goal attempts while going a perfect 37-for-37 in PATs. Moore’s field-goal percentage of 88.2 was the best in school history and his 37-for-37 in PATs was tied for the most without a miss in a single season.

The Mean Green defensive line produced 33 sacks last season, tied for the fifth most in school history. North Texas had a school-record 10 sacks in a game and defensive end Tillman Johnson recorded a freshman school-record 3.0 sacks in a game. Johnson finished with a freshman record 5.0 sacks on the season.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Season Preview

The Bulldogs won the West Division title, played in their first C-USA Championship Game and won the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl last season, defeating Illinois, 35-18. 

Senior RB Kenneth Dixon, finished with 28 touchdowns last season (22 rushing, six receiving), the second-most in a single season in CUSA history. He broke the school record for career rushing yards after finishing the season with 1,299 rushing yards and 3,410 for his career. Additionally, Dixon’s 366 points scored in his career is a new school record, eclipsing Matt Nelson’s 360 points scored from 2009-12. The tailback has also scored 61 touchdowns in his career, topping the old school record of 57 scored by Troy Edwards from 1996-98. 

Former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel joined the LA Tech program in January and is expected to be eligible to play during the 2015 season. One of the nation’s top quarterbacks coming out of high school, Driskel spent four years at Florida where he threw for 3,411 yards, 23 touchdowns, 20 interceptions and completed 59.4 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 644 yards and nine touchdowns. 

LA Tech was among the nation’s leaders in most improved scoring based on points per game compared to the previous year. LA Tech finished the 2014 season ranked fifth in most improved scoring of- fense with a 94.8 percent improvement, going from an average of 19.2 points per game in 2013 to 37.4 points per game last season. 

The Louisiana Tech defense finished the year leading the FBS in in- terceptions (26) and turnovers forced (42). The Bulldogs scored 176 points off turnovers. 

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Season Preview

The Hilltoppers won the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas bowl and ended its season on a five-game winning streak to finish its inaugural Conference USA campaign with an 8-5 record. WKU’s victory represents the program’s first FBS bowl win.

The Hilltoppers 67-66 overtime win at then-No. 19 Marshall in the regular season finale marked the program’s first win over a ranked team in the FBS era.

In 2014, WKU became the first FBS Team to have a 4,500 yard passer and 1,500 yard rusher as QB Brandon Doughty threw for 4,830 and RB Leon Allen rushed for 1,542. WKU was also the fourth team in FBS history to have a 4,000-yard passer and 1,500-yard rusher in the same season. Baylor (2011), Tulsa (2008) and Oregon State (2003) are the only programs in FBS history to have two individuals hit those marks in the same season.

Doughty led the FBS with 4,830 yards and 49 passing TDs for the season. Doughty threw at least 4 TDs on six occasions last season and for 5 TDs five different times. Only five quarterbacks since 1956 have thrown for more touchdowns than Doughty’s 49, and only 15 quarterbacks since 1956 have thrown for more yards than Doughty’s 4,830. Doughty enters 2015 as the FBS’ active career leader in passing yards (7,800) and TD passes (63).

Allen was third in C-USA with 1,542 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns (fourth-best in WKU history). WKU has had a running back reach the 1,500 yard mark in each of the last five seasons, becoming just the second program in NCAA history to have a 1,500- yard rusher in five-consecutive seasons. WKU is joined on the list by Northern Illinois (2002-06).

Old Dominion Monarchs

The Monarchs won each of their final three games in 2014 on the final play to finish their first season at the FBS level with at 6-6 record. 

Running back Ray Lawry earned C-USA Freshman of the Year honors after rushing for an ODU single-season record 947 yards and 16 touchdowns. He led all league freshman backs with a school-record 7.1 yards per carry and tied for third in C-USA with 16 rushing TDs. 

Quarterback Taylor Heinicke is gone after a spectacular four-year career in which he passed for 14,959 yards and tossed 132 touchdown passes. Two players are in the running to replace the record-setting signal-caller. Shuler Bentley redshirted in 2014 sitting after a standout career at Byrnes High School in South Carolina. A USA Today Parade All-American and two-time South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year, Bentley has a year of fall practice and off-season training under his belt. Sophomore Joey Verhaegh comes in from Fullerton CC after throwing for 2,515 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore. Verhaegh and Bentley will compete in the first ODU quarterback competition in spring football since Thomas DeMarco won the job in 2009. 

Senior David Washington was Heinicke’s backup in 2013 and 2014, but added another role in 2014: starting wide receiver. The redshirt junior caught 47 passes for 599 yards and four touchdowns and the game-winning touchdown in the overtime thriller against Louisiana Tech. The plan is for Washington to stay at wide receiver but take some snaps at quarterback.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Season Preview

Junior RB Shane Tucker had 12 touchdowns last season and has scored 17 times in 17 career games. His 25 receptions were the most by a Blue Raider back since Eugene Gross hauled in 33 in 2005. 

Senior RB Jordan Parker’s 10 career 100-yard rushing games rank 7th most in school history. Eight of his ten 100-yard games have come against conference foes. 

In its two years as members of Conference USA, Middle Tennessee is averaging 240.1 yards rushing per game in league play. 

Senior S Kevin Byard had 66 tackles and led the team and conference with six interceptions. Byard also had four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. Byard ranks third among the NCAA’s active players in interceptions per game at 0.41. He is tied for second in total interceptions with 15 and that figure is two shy of equaling the Middle Tennessee career record. 

Head Coach Rick Stockstill is in his 10th season leading the Blue Raiders. His 10 seasons make him the longest tenured head coach in C-USA. In nine years under Stockstill, Middle Tennessee has reached bowl eligibility six times, including five times in the last six years. 

The Blue Raiders have been bowl eligible under Rick Stockstill in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Middle Tennessee’s special teams unit recorded five blocked kicks in 2014.

Marshall Thundering Herd Season Preview

Marshall finished last season 13-1 (tying the C-USA record for victories), won its first C-USA Championship and defeated MAC Champion Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl, 52-23. The Herd finished the season as the only FBS team ranked in the top 20 nationally in both rushing offense (No. 8, 271.9 yards per game) and passing offense (No. 17, 287.3).

Head coach Doc Holliday’s last two Marshall teams have posted a 23-5 record. The only teams with more wins in 2013 and ’14 were Florida State (27-1), Ohio State (26-3), Michigan State (24-3) and Oregon (24-4).

Marshall tied national runner-up Oregon for the most touchdown receptions by freshmen (17). The Herd ranked No. 5 in FBS in freshmen receiving yards, with 1,315, on 82 catches by wide receivers Angelo Jean-Louis, Deon-Tay McManus, Hyleck Foster and tight end Ryan Yurachek.

Senior RB Devon Johnson topped the 100-yard mark 10 times during the 2014 season, reaching the century mark in 10 of the 11 games he played in from start to finish. The converted tight end led C-USA with 1,767 yards and had 17 rushing TDs in 13 games. Johnson finished among the FBS leaders in total rushing yards (sixth), average per game (fifth at 135.2 yards per game), yards per carry (fifth at 8.58) and scoring (24th with 8.8 points per game). He also had seven runs of 50 yards or longer last season.

Florida Atlantic Owls Season Preview

Senior QB Jaquez Johnson had a solid second season as a starter for the Owls, passing for 2,215 yards and 17 TDs, while rushing for 513 yards and seven scores. In just two seasons at Florida Atlantic, he is already fifth in school history in career rushing yards, fourth in career rushing TDs and fourth in pass attempts, completions and yards. He is third in passing TDs and No. 2 in completion percentage and passing yards per game.

Junior Jay Warren is scheduled to return as the Owls starting run- ning back after leading the team with 571 yards last season and av- eraging 4.7 yards per carry. Complimenting Warren’s efforts will be sophomore Greg Howell, who dropped his redshirt mid-way through the 2014 season. He saw action in three games, tallied 50 carries for 253 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry before he was sidelined with an injury.

Freshman LT Reggie Bain was FAU Newcomer of the Year after earn- ing a 97 percent grade for his season of work. Bain allowed just two QB hurries, tallied 52.5 knockdowns, saw just two sacks and had no pre-snap penalties. He also earned Freshman All-America honors.

The defensive line returns eight players who started at least one game in 2014, including senior DT Trevon Coley, who has started every game since coming to FAU in 2012.

The secondary leadership will be carried by senior CB Cre’von LeB- lanc. He is the team’s leading returning tackler after registering 71 stops in 2014. LeBlanc also leads all returners with two interceptions and three pass break-ups.

Florida International Panthers Season Preview

Junior DB Richard Leonard was the first player in C-USA history to win Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Week twice in the same season last year. He registered four touchdowns on the year (two INTs, one fumble recovery, one punt return), recorded a school-record-tying five interceptions and averaged 25.7 yards per kickoff return and a nationleading 23.8 yards per punt return.

Junior TE Jonnu Smith finished the 2104 season with 61 catches for a team-best 710 yards, the most ever by an FIU tight end. His eight receiving touchdowns led all FBS tight ends in 2014 and set the school mark for receiving scores in a season, breaking the previous mark set by T.Y. Hilton (2008 & 2011) and Cory McKinney (2002). He enters his junior season ranked second all-time among tight ends at FIU in career receptions (100) and career receiving yards (1,098).

In 2014, FIU’s defense made an impact. The Panthers ranked No. 35 in the nation in total defense (363.8 ypg), No. 40 in scoring defense (24.8 ppg), No. 28 in third down conversion defense (35.8 percent), and scored a conference-best six defensive touchdowns (No. 2 in the nation), including a school-record five interceptions for TDs.

FIU returns 95.1 percent of its total rushing yards, 83.3 percent of its passing yards, 66.1 percent of its total receptions, 59.6 percent of its receiving yards and 87.0 percent of its total scoring from the 2014 season.

Charlotte 49ers Season Preview

2015 will be the 49ers first in Conference USA and first as a member of the FBS. 

The Charlotte 49ers start-up football program took the fast track to the FBS. The program debuted in 2013 and played for two years (2013, 2014) as an FCS Independent before making the jump to the FBS and Conference USA in 2015. The 49ers were invited to be a member of Conference USA in the summer of 2012 – before holding their first practice. 

The 49ers will move to Conference USA in 2015 with an opportunity to gain full FBS member status with bowl eligibility in 2016. 

Head coach Brad Lambert and his 10-man full-time staff have 115 years of collegiate coaching experience. Lambert (26) and coordina- tors Jeff Mullen (24) and Matt Wallerstedt (23) each have over 20 years of collegiate coaching experience. 

Top returners for the 49ers include a pair of 1,000-yard performers. RB Kalif Phillips rushed for a school-record 1,441 yards (131.0/gm) and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014. Slot receiver Austin Duke had a school-record 1,373 receiving yards (124.8/gm) as a redshirt sophomore in 2014. Phillips had six games with 150 or more rushing yards and seven 100-yard games. Duke had six games with at least 100 receiving yards including two games of over 200 yards. 

Safety Branden Dozier topped the 49ers with 86 tackles as a junior while NT Larry Ogunjobi led the squad with 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks as a red-shirt sophomore.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Season Preview

Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery makes his head coaching debut this season following a recordbreaking tenure as Baylor’s offensive coordinator. Tulsa has reached double digits in wins four times since the 2007 season, most recently in 2012, when the Golden Hurricane went 11-3 and won the Conference USA title. Tulsa returns 17 starters from last season.
The Golden Hurricane returns 10 starters from an offensive unit that averaged 412.5 yards per game in 2014. WR Keevan Lucas finished second in The American in receptions (101) and receiving yards (1,219) and last season and led the conference with 11 touchdown receptions. Lucas joins WR Keyarris Garrett to comprise one of the top receiving tandems in the conference. RB Zack Langer was second in The American in rushing in 2014 (80.1 ypg). Langer registered four 100-yard games in his final six appearances. QB Dane Evans ranked second in The Ameican in passing (258.5 ypg) and finished with 23 touchdowns in his first year as the regular starter.
S Michael Mudoh enters the 2015 season with 271 career tackles, which ranks fourth among returning players in FBS football. Mudoh was sixth in The American last season with 9.4 tackles per game. Mudoh is the lone returning starter in the Tulsa secondary. DT Derrick Luetjen, who has made 24 consecutive starts, and DE Derrick Alexander, who has 23 career starts, lead a veteran defensive line. Alexander earned second-team all-conference accolades in 2014. LB Craig Suits earned FWAA Freshman AllAmerica honors last season after he finished with 81 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in 12 starts.
P Dalton Parks was an honorable mention all-conference selection last season after he averaged 42.0 yards per punt. Tulsa will turn to K Redford Jones as the new placekicker. Jones saw action as a kickoff specialist last season. RB D’Angelo Brewer was second in The American in kickoff returns last season (22.3 ypr).

Tulane Green Wave Season Preview

Tulane fielded one of the youngest teams in college football last season. The Green Wave has 34 sophomores on its roster this year. Head coach Curtis Johnson has won a Super Bowl title (in 2009 with the New Orleans Saints) and a BCS National Championship (in 2001 with Miami) as an assistant coach. Tulane, which won seven games in 2013, looks to bounce back from last year’s 3-9 campaign. 
Tulane returns nine offensive starters from last season. The Green Wave has its starting quarterback and top three rushers back for 2015. Tulane’s leading passer (QB Tanner Lee), rusher (RB Sherman Badie) and receiver (WR Teddy Veal) were all freshmen last season. Badie rushed for 688 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the top man in a talented backfield. Lee threw for 1,962 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie last season and should benefit from his year of experience. OT Arturo Uzdavinis, a six-foot-seven, 307-pound tackle, has made 25 starts the last two years and leads a veteran offensive line. 
CB Parry Nickerson, another impact player as a freshman last year, registered six interceptions in 2014 and was named to the USA Today Freshman All-America Team. Nickerson joins S Darion Monroe to lead what should be one of the better defensive backfields in The American. Monroe had 73 tackles with two forced fumbles last year. LB Nico Marley registered 13.5 tackles for loss, good for second in the American Athletic Conference, in 2014. DE Royce LaFrance, who has started 24 games at defensive end, leads an experienced defensive line that has three returning starters. LaFrance had a team-high 5.5 sacks in 2014. 
P Peter Picereli is a senior who averaged 37.8 yards on 71 punts last season. K Andrew DiRocco made eight field goals in 14 attempts as the Green Wave struggled to find consistency in the kicking game last season. RB Dontrell Hilliard was the primary kickoff returner last season (15.3 ypr), while Teddy Veal handled punt returns (4.6 ypr).

SMU Mustangs Season Preview

SMU had played in a bowl game in four consecutive years between 2009-12, but have gone backto-back years without reaching the postseason. First-year head coach Chad Morris, a native of Dallas, returns to his hometown after a highly successful stint as Clemson’s offensive coordinator. Morris amassed a 169-38 record as a high school coach in the state of Texas. SMU’s nonconference schedule includes two games against teams ranked in the top seven of last year’s final poll (No. 3 TCU, No. 7 Baylor). SMU’s first six games of the season are in the state of Texas. 
SMU used four different starting quarterbacks during the course of last season. QB Matt Davis, a transfer from Texas A&M, started the last five games of the year and finished as the Mustangs’ leading passer and rusher. WR Darius Joseph looks to regain his form of 2013, when he ranked second in the American Athletic Conference with 108 receptions. Joseph and WR Deion Sanders Jr. are both returning starters from a year ago. C Taylor Lasecki — who was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list for the second straight year —leads an offensive line that has all five starters returning. 
SMU returns seven defensive starters from last year. The Mustangs have three starters back in the secondary and three on the defensive line. DE Zach Wood led the Mustangs with four sacks and had six tackles for loss and a fumble recovery last season. He joins DE Robert Seals to comprise a senior-laden tandem up front. CB Horace Richardson had a team-high two interceptions, while S Darrion Richardson had 69 tackles with a forced fumble, a sack and an interception to lead the secondary. LB Jonathan Yenga is the only returning starter at linebacker. Yenga had 65 tackles with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss last season.. 
P Jackson Koonce averaged 40.8 yards on 74 punts as a freshman last season. Deion Sanders Jr. was a first-team all-conference selection as a return specalist. Sanders was third in The American in all-purpose yards (105.2 ypg) and averaged 20.5 yards on kickoff returns. The Mustangs will likely turn to an incoming freshman for the regular placekicker duties.

Navy Midshipmen Season Preview

Navy joins the American Athletic Conference this season after playing as an independent for the previous 134 seasons. Navy went 8-5 last season, marking the 11th time in 12 years that the Midshipmen finished with at least eight wins. Navy has made 10 bowl appearances in the last 11 years. Navy led the nation in fewest penalties per game in 2014 (2.54). It was the fourth time in the last six years that Navy was the nation’s leastpenalized team. 
 QB Keenan Reynolds enters his senior year with 64 career rushing touchdowns, which is tied for fourth in NCAA history. The NCAA record is 77 (Monte Ball, Wisconsin). Reynolds rushed for 1,191 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Navy ranked second nationally in rushing offense in 2014, averaging 325.4 yards per game. The Midshipmen return four starters from last year on offense —two from the offensive line. OG EK Binns and OT Joey Gaston are seniors who have significant starting experience. Navy uses a number of players at slotback and fullback. FB Chris Swain rushed for 693 yards and four TDs a year ago. 
The Midshipmen return six defensive starters from last season, with particular depth on the line and in the secondary. NG Bernard Sarra finished last season with 38 tackles and three blocked kicks, tied for the most in the nation. Sarra has started 22 games in his first three seasons. DE Will Anthoy led the team with 11 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. LB Daniel Gonzales finished last season with 86 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. CB Quincy Adams was third on the team in tackles (75), while CB Brendon Clements was fifth (58). 
K Austin Grebe took over as the regular kicker midway through last season was went 6-for-6 on field goal attempts and 33-for-33 on PATs. Grebe hit the game-winning field goal with 1:27 left to give the Midshipmen the win against San Diego State in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl. The Midshipmen will go with a new punter in 2014. P Gavin Jernigan is the favorite to handle the chores as a senior.

Memphis Tigers Season Preview

Memphis takes a seven-game winning streak into the 2015 season. Only Ohio State, Boise State and TCU have longer active winning streaks entering the season. Memphis coach Justin Fuente was one of eight finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award as the national coach of the year after he led the Tigers to a share of the American Athletic Conference title in 2014. Memphis’ conference title was the Tigers’ first since the 1971 season. 
The Tigers scored 471 points in 2014, shattering the old school record of 430 points, set in 2004. QB Paxton Lynch threw 22 touchdown passes and added 13 rushing TDs as a sophomore in 2014. Lynch earned second-team all-conference honors. The Tigers should expect a boost from the return of RB Doroland Dorceus, who averaged 5.2 yards per cary and had four rushing touchdowns in four games before suffering a season-ending injury. The Tigers return four starters on the offensive line, as well as first-team all-conference TE Alan Cross. 
Memphis was ranked 11th nationally in scoring defense (19.5 ppg) in 2014, but the Tigers return only three starters from that unit. LB Jackson Dillon is the top returning tackler. Jackson had 43 stops with nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2014. S Reggis Ball is the lone returning starter in the secondary, though the Tigers do have a number of players who saw regular action there last season. DE Ernest Suttles emerged as a starter on the defensive line as a freshman and will be the most seasoned of the Tigers’ down linemen in 2015. 
K Jake Elliott is one of the nation’s top kickers and was an all-conference first team selection last season. Elliott, who led The American in scoring (9.2 ppg), hit 21 of 32 field goal attempts and was 15-for-16 from inside 40 yards. Elliott hit a season-long 54-yard field goal in overtime in the Miami Beach Bowl win against Brigham Young. P Spencer Smith stepped in as the regular punter last season and averaged 40.3 yards per punt. Smith helped the Tigers finish third in The American in net punting.

Houston Cougars Season Preview

Houston coach Tom Herman is in his first year on the Cougar sideline after he helped Ohio State to the 2014 College Football Playoff National Championship as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The Cougars closed last season by beating Pittsburgh, 35-34, in the Armed Forces Bowl. Houston trailed 34-13 with less than four minutes left before scoring three touchdowns and recovering two onside kicks.
QB Greg Ward Jr. went 6-2 as Houston’s starting signal-caller last season. Ward completed 67.0 percent of his passes (175 of 261) and accounted for 18 touchdowns (12 passing, six rushing). RB Kenneth Farrow led the American Athletic Conference with seven 100-yard games last season. Farrow has been named to the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the Doak Walker Award. WR Demarcus Ayers, who was The American’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2013, is the top returning receiver for 2015. Ayers had 33 receptions for 335 yards and two TDs last season.
Houston, which led the nation in takeaways in 2013, finished 11th nationally in 2014 with 30 turnovers gained. S Adrian McDonald had a had in eight turnovers last season. He had five interceptions and three fumble recoveries and was a first-team allconference selection last year. McDonald leads a secondary that returns all four starters from last season.. CB William Jackson had 12 passes defended last year on his way to second-team all-conference honors. LB Steven Taylor is the lone returning starter at linebacker. Taylor was second on the team with 76 tackles to go with four sacks, nine tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in 2014.
Houston returns both of its kicking specialists from 2014. K Kyle Bullard was fourth among American Athletic Conference kickers in scoring last season (6.9 points per game). P Logan Piper averaged 39.5 yards per punt in his first year as the Cougars’ punter.

Temple Owls Season Preview

Temple improved by four wins in Matt Rhule’s second season with the Owls, going from 2-10 to 6-6. Temple has 19 returning starters from last season — the most of any American Athletic Conference team. The Owls will play home games against Penn State and Notre Dame during the nonconference portion of its schedule.
QB P.J. Walker enters his third year as the Owls’ starting signal-caller. Walker threw for 2,317 yards last season, good for second on Temple’s single-season chart. RB Jahad Thomas rushed for a team-high 384 yards on 80 carries and had 364 yards on 14 receptions after making the transition from the defensive backfield. RB Zaire Williams, who rushed for 517 yards in 2013, returns after redshirting last season. C Kyle Friend, who has made 33 consecutive starts, anchors an offensive line which returns four starters from last year. The Owls are relatively inexperience at wide receiver. WR John Christopher, who had 24 receptions for 194 yards last season, is the top returning player.
Temple returns 10 starters from a defense that ranked fourth nationally in scoring last season (17.5 ppg). LB Tyler Matakevich enters his senior year with 355 career tackles and is the only active Division I player with at least 300 career stops. Matakevich could become the seventh FBS player to register four seasons with at least 100 tackles. CB Tavon Young led the American Athletic Conference with 153 yards on interception returns last season. Young had four interceptions, which ranked sixth in the conference. The Owls held seven of their 12 opponents to 16 points or fewer in 2014.
K Austin Jones hit 13 of 22 field goal attempts (59.1 percent) and was perfect on PATs as a freshman. P Alex Starzyk averaged 38.4 yards per punt. The Owls blocked five kicks in 2014, leading The American. Temple led the American Athletic Conference in punt return average (12.3 ypr).

South Florida Bulls Season Preview

USF doubled its wins total from 2013 in Willie Taggart’s second year as the Bulls’ head coach. Since 2007, USF has registered nonconference wins against Auburn, UCF, Clemson, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), North Carolina, Northern Illinois and Notre Dame, among others. The Bulls will have new coordinators on both offense and defense in 2015. Co-offensive coordinator Danny Hope was formerly the head coach at Purdue.
RB Marlon Mack was named the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year in 2014 after he led the conference in rushing (86.8 ypg). Mack had four 100-yard games and five touchdown runs of at least 54 yards in his freshman season. QB Steven Bench and QB Quinton Flowers will battle for the starting spot in the summer. Bench has made three career starts, while Flowers made one start as a freshman last year. Returning starters OG Brynjar Gudmundsson and OG Thor Jozwiak provide a solid foundation on the interior line. The top returning receiver is WR Rodney Adams, who had 23 catches for 323 yards and two touchdowns in 2014
Defensive coordinator Tom Allen joins the staff after he spent the last three seasons as the linebackers coach at Mississippi. LB Nigel Harris led the nation with six forced fumbles in 2014. He is part of a USF defense that returns its top five tacklers from last season. Harris joins LB Auggie Sanchez as returning starters at linebacker. S Jamie Byrd also returns as a starter at the husky position. The secondary returns three starters — CB Johnny Ward, S Nate Godwin and S Devin Abraham. S Tajee Fullwood saw starting duty as well.
P Mattias Ciabatti is among the top punters in the nation. He led The American and was 10th nationally with an average punt of 44.4 yards on his way to all-conference first-team honors. The Bulls will have to replace the production of Marvin Kloss, a former Groza Award finalist who was one of the nation’s top kickers.

East Carolina Pirates Season Preview

East Carolina has made eight bowl appearances in the last nine years. The Pirates registered two wins against top-25 opponents last year, defeating No. 17 Virginia Tech and No. 25 North Carolina in nonconference play. East Carolina, which fell to Florida in the Birmingam Bowl last season, has a rematch with the Gators in the second game of the 2015 season. 
East Carolina will have to replace the potent tandem of QB Shane Carden, who was the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and WR Justin Hardy, the NCAA career receptions leader. QB Kurt Benkert, who saw action in three games in 2014, is expected to take over as the starter. WR Isaiah Jones was the team’s second-leading receiver last year with 81 receptions for 830 yards and five touchdowns. RB Chris Hairston was second on the team in rushing last season (528 yards, two TDs) and is primed to take over as the starter. OT Ike Harris, OG J.T. Boyd and TE Bryce Williams all earned second-team all-conference honors last year. 
The Pirates return fiver starters from last year’s defense. LB Zeek Bigger led the American Athletic Conference in tackles in 2014 (140) and was a second team all-conference selection. LB Montese Overton had 68 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss. DE Johnathon White is the lone returning starter from last year on the defensive line, but the Pirates should receive a boost from the return of DE Terrell Stanley. Stanley was a starter in 2013 who missed all of last season while recovering from injuries suffered in a car accident. CB Josh Hawkins had five interceptions, which ranked third in The American, and was second in the conference with 11 pass breakups. 
The Pirates will have to find a new man at placekicker following the departure of Warren Harvey. K Davis Plowman saw limited action last season. P Worth Gregory, a transfer from Alabama, averaged 43.6 yards per punt, which would have put him among atop the conference leaders had he enough punts to qualify. Isaiah Jones served as the primary kickoff return specialist last year. The Pirates will need to fill the void left by Justin Hardy, who doubled as the main punt returner.

UCONN Huskies Season Preview

UConn heads into its second season under head coach Bob Diaco with 13 returning starters, including seven on defense. The Huskies had reeled off four straight winning seasons between 2007 and 2010 — a stretch that included two conference titles and a Fiesta Bowl appearance — but look to end a string of four straight seasons without a bowl bid. UConn will face five of its 12 opponents for the first time in the 2014 season.
QB Tim Boyle is the only returning player on the roster who saw time behind center last season. QB Bryant Shirreffs, a transfer from North Carolina State and a former Northeast Georgia high school player of the year, figures to battle for the starting spot in 2015. RB Ron Johnson emerged as the Huskies’ leading rusher as a freshman last season. Johnson rushed for 429 yards and three touchdowns, while RB Arkeel Newsome and RB Joshua Marriner made contributions as freshmen as well. WR Noel Thomas had a team-high four touchdown receptions last year and is the Huskies’ top returning receiver. UConn returns three starters on the offensive line — OT Richard Levy, OT Andreas Knappe and OG Tyler Samara. C Ryan Crozier was named to the Rimington Trophy preseason watch list.
UConn could boast one of the more improved defenses in the nation thanks to the return of key players at every spot. DE Kenton Adeyemi and NG Julian Campenni anchor a veteran defensive line which returns its top four tacklers from last year. LB Marquis Vann (eighth), S Andrew Adams (10th) and LB Graham Stewart (12th) were all among the American Athletic Conference leaders in tackles. Vann finished the season with 105 tackles and seven tackles for loss. Stewart registered 94 stops with 10.5 TFL, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Adams proved to be an impact player in the secondary after he made 95 tackles with four interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
UConn will return both kicking specialists from last year. K Bobby Puyol was the regular placekicker and made 19 of 22 field goal attempts. P Justin Wain averaged 38.8 yards on an American Athletic Conference-leading 74 punts last season. Wain’s average was fourth in The American.

Cincinnati Bearcats Season Preview

Cincinnati has won at least nine games seven times in the last eight years. The Bearcats won their last seven regularseason games to close the 2014 season before falling to Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl. The Bearcats return to Nippert Stadium in 2015 after the venerable stadium underwent an $86 million renovation. Cincinnati played its 2014 home games at Paul Brown Stadium. 
QB Gunner Kiel battled through injuries to start all 13 games last year. Kiel led the American Athletic Conference with 31 touchdown passes and a 149.4 efficiency rating. The Bearcats return their top seven receivers from last season — players who caught a combined 33 touchdown passes in 2014. WR Chris Moore averaged a conference-leading 22.4 yards per catch and had eight TDs last season. Cincinnati saw a number of running backs go down with injuries last season before RB Mike Boone picked up the slack as a true freshman. Boone led the team with 650 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. OG Parker Ehinger earned all-conference firstteam honors last season and is the anchor of the Bearcats’ veteran offensive line. That unit has 76 career starts to its credit. 
Cincinnati has five starters back from a defense that made marked improvement in the second half of last season. The Bearcats ranked ninth in The American in total defense last year. The Bearcats lose two players who registered 100 tackles last season (LB Jeff Luc, LB Nick Temple). The top returning tackler from last year is S Zach Edwards, who made 121 stops with two interceptions and six pass breakups. CB Adrian Witty was granted a sixth year of eligibility and returns to his starting spot in the secondary. 
K Andrew Gantz earned all-conference second team honors as a freshman after he ranked second in The American in kicker scoring. Gantz hit 16 of 20 field goal attempts in 2014. P Sam Geraci averaged 39.4 yards per punt and ranked seventh in The American. WR Johnny Holton averaged 20.6 yards on kickoff returns, which ranked third among American Athletic Conference players.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Central Florida Knights Season Preview

UCF has gone 15-1 in American Athletic Conference games in the league’s first two years. The Knights won the outright league title in 2013 and shared the crown in 2014. UCF went 6-0 at Bright House Network Stadium last season and is 22-3 in its last 25 home games. The Knights have won 10 straight at home. Since 2012, UCF ranks eighth nationally with 31 wins.
The only returning starters at the skill positions from last year are QB Justin Holman and RB William Stanback Stanback is a two-time all-conference selection who rushed for 697 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Stanback was sixth in The American in rushing. Holman started the final 12 games of the season after coming on in relief in the season-opener. He threw for 2,952 yards and 23 touchdowns with 14 interceptions last year. C Joey Grant is a third-year starter who anchors the offensive line, but looks to remain in the lineup after an injury-shortened 2014 season. OG Tarik Cook and OG Chavis Dickey return from last year’s starting unit. WR Jordan Akins (12 receptions, 135 yards) is the top returning receiver.
The Knights return only four starters from last year’s defense, which allowed just 298.5 yards per game to lead The American. Among the losses are three all-conference selections in the secondary, including CB Jacoby Glenn, who shared the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award. DE Thomas Niles earned second-team allconference honors last year after he registered 13 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Niles leads a defensive line that returns seven of its top eight players from last year’s depth chart. LB Chequan Burkett is the lone returning starter at linebacker. Burkett made 40 tackles in 12 games last season.
P Caleb Houston averaged 38.9 yards per punt last season and ranked eighth in the American Athletic Conference. The Knights will need to find a new placekicker with the loss of the reliable Shawn Moffitt. K Matthew Wright enjoyed a promising spring and could take over as the regular.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Virginia Tech Hokies Season Preview

Heading into the fall, prime projects include rebuilding the off ensive line around T Jonathan McLaughlin and G Wyatt Teller, improving the consistency of QB Michael Brewer, replacing both safety positions and developing overall depth on defense...Th e Hokies made progress in all areas in the spring...G Augie Conte, T Wade Hansen and C Eric Gallo emerged as the leaders to fi ll the other positions on the line... With a year of being in the system, Brewer, who completed 59% of his passes for 2,692 yards and 18 TDs, should be improved ...He will have several weapons at his disposal...One of the reasons for Tech’s late-season surge was the play of its fourth-string TB in J.C. Coleman, who ran for 468 yards and a 5.8 average in the fi nal four games of the year...Coleman will be joined by TBs Marshawn Williams (471 yds), Shai McKenzie and Trey Edmunds aft er their rehab from their 2014 injuries...WRs Isaiah Ford (56 catches) and Cam Phillips (40 catches) and TE Bucky Hodges (45 catches, 7 TDs) were revelations as freshmen...Th ey will be joined by TEs Ryan Malleck and Kalvin Cline and WRs Kevin Asante and Demetri Knowles to form a deep corps of receivers...Defensively, Tech should have as good a line as anyone in the ACC with DEs Nicolas and Ekanem, who combined for 18.5 sacks, joined by DTs Maddy, Marshall, Williams and Woody Baron...LBs Deon Clarke and Andrew Motuapuaka ended 2014 as an athletic, productive pair and will be joined by Ronny Vandyke at OLB...Fuller and Chuck Clark enter fall as the starters at CB with former starter Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman also in the mix...Junior Desmond Fyre ended spring ahead of Donovan Riley at FS while soph C.J. Reavis heads into the fall just ahead of Terrell Edmunds at rover.

Virginia Cavaliers Season Preview

Coach London will welcome back 44 returning lettermen and 12 starters...Off ensive priorities include developing playmakers at wide receiver and running back...Johns impressed in the spring and claimed the starting QB position with Lambert then deciding to transfer...But the Cavaliers received a pair of transfers themselves in RB Albert Reid (Maryland) and TE Charlie Hopkins (Stanford)...Th e off ensive line returns four starters in Ts Michael Mooney and Eric Smith, G Ryan Doull and C Ross Burbank...Burbank moved to G, with Jackson Matteo taking over at C and redshirt freshman Jake Fieler ended spring ahead of Smith at the RT position...UVa improved to 19th nationally in sacks allowed last year a lot of the credit for that goes to its O-line which this year will work to improve the Cavaliers’ ground attack...RBs Taquan Mizzell (280 yds, 4.4 avg, 39 catches), Daniel Hamm and Reid step into the void left by Parks, who had 3,219 career rushing yards...UNC graduate transfer T.J. Th orpe will add a deep threat to a receiver corps that already includes WRs Canaan Severin (42 catches, 5 TDs), Andre Levrone and Keeon Johnson...Defensively, UVa will have to fi nd replacements for fi ve of its top six tacklers from a year ago...DE Mike Moore and DT David Dean return to the line as does DE Kwontie Moore and DTs Andrew Brown and Donte Wilkins, a trio of key backups from last year...LB Micah Kiser (15 tackles) and OLB Zach Bradshaw fi nished spring as the leaders at MLB and WLB, respectively and will be joined by SLB Mark Hall.....Blanding leads a veteran secondary that also includes Maurice Canady, 2013 starter CB Demetrious Nicholson and Tim Harris at CB with Kelvin Rainey taking over the SS position.

Pittsburgh Panthers Season Preview

Narduzzi and his new staff will welcome back 17 returning starters from last year’s team, eight on off ense and seven on defense, as well as both PK Chris Blewitt and P Ryan Winslow... Heading into the fall, the main priorities are to fi ll the gaps on the off ensive line and fi nd a receiver to complement Boyd...Th e line should be helped by the return of C Artie Rowell, who can play C or G and missed all but two games of last year with an injury...Rowell will join returning starters T Adam Bisnowaty, G Dorian Johnson and C Alex Offi cer...At the other tackle, sophomore Aaron Reese will be a viable candidate while redshirt freshman Alex Bookser, also a leading candidate to fi ll the vacant guard position, is a possibility at tackle as well...At WR, junior Dontez Ford (3 catches) sophomores Zach Challingsworth and Jester Weah are possibilities to take some pressure off Boyd who will be in line for national honors this fall... Conner leads a talented tailback corps that includes RB Chris James (437 yds, 5.0 avg.) ...With a year of experience under his belt, QB Chad Voytik should also be more consistent...Defensively, DT Darryl Render and NT Khaynin Mosley-Smith return inside... Senior DE Ejuan Price ended spring ahead of last year’s starter Shakir Soto at one end, while sophomore DE Rori Blair is at the other with junior NT Tyrique Jarrett battling Mosley-Smith for starting honors...MLB Matt Galambos (72 tackles) is the lone returning starter at linebacker, while Bam Bradley (36 tackles) and Nicholas Grigsby, who both saw action last year head to the fall as starter with Quintin Wirginis and redshirt freshman Jamal Davis competing for playing time...Th ree starters return to the secondary in CBs Lafayette Pitts and Avonte Maddox and FS Reggie Mitchell (62 tackles, 7 PBUs) with sophomore Pat Amara and junior Jevonte Pitts competing for the boundary safety position.

North Carolina Tarheels Season Preview

North Carolina should again be good on off ense with 10 starters returning led by Williams, WRs Switzer, Hollins, Quinshad Davis and Bug Howard and a running back corps led by T.J. Logan (582 yds) but including Ellijah Hood, Romar Morris and Khris Francis...Most importantly all fi ve starters on the off ensive line also return and four of them--Ts Jonathan Heck and John Ferranto, G Caleb Peterson and C Lucas Crowley--are juniors joining senior G Turner, though sophomore Bentley Spain emerged from spring as the starter at LT while sophomore G Jared Cohen is pushing Peterson for playing time ...Talented backup QB Mitch Trubisky also returns to provide quality depth...It is on defense, though, that the Tar Heels must improve in order to challenge for the Coastal Division title...New coordinator and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik brings with him a new 4-3 defensive scheme and the credentials to improve a unit that was ranked 117th in total defense last fall...Chizik will have a couple of young, promising players in Drennon (5.5 TFLs) and Nazair (7.5 TFLs) who saw signifi cant action as freshmen...Senior DT Justin Th omason also returns upfront where he started all 13 games a year ago...Also returning is DE Junior Gnonkonde, DE Jeremiah Clarke and DT Tyler Powell and they will be pushed by January enrollee Jalen Dalton...Senior LB Jeff Schoettmer (74 tackles, 6 TFLs) was the second leading tackler on the team a year ago and returns to lead a LB corps that includes Shakeel Rashad, Joe Jackson, Cayson Collins, Tyrell Tomlin, Cole Holcomb and January enrollee Andre Smith...Two of the three starting CBs return in Brian Walker (3 INTs) and Des Lawrence (71 tackles), but they ended spring in battles with M.J. Stewart and Malik Simmons (34 tackles at Ram) for starting honors, while Sam Smiley (52 tackles, 1 INT) heads into the fall as the leader at free safety with freshman J.K. Britt and junior Dominqiue Green (41 tackles) in the running at strong safety.

Miami Hurricanes Season Preview

Twelve starters return, including fi ve each on off ense and defense plus PKs Michael Badgley and P Justin Vogel....Th e Canes’ primary off ensive task will be to fi nd replacements for Johnson, Walford and Dorsett and rebuild the off ensive line...Yearby (509 yds), an elusive speedster, and Gus Edwards, a physical back, and freshman Mark Walton look to share the load carried by Johnson...Th e return to form of WR Stacy Coley (23 catches), a playmaker as a freshman who was inconsistent as a sophomore, would help the WR corps which also returns Malcolm Lewis (25 catches), Braxton Berrios (21 catches), Herb Waters (20 catches) and Rashawn Scott...Replacing Walford will be a big task, but junior TE Standish Dobard has ability...K.C. McDermott, Nick Linder, Sonny Odogwu and Alex Gall are possibilities for the off ensive line to team with returning starters Trevor Darling at T and Daniel Isidora at G...With a year under his belt in the off ensive system of coordinator James Coley, Kaaya should be even better and could challenge for national honors...Defensively, Miami made strides in 2014, fi nishing 14th nationally in total defense...DT Calvin Heurtelou returns upfront and will be joined by DEs Chad Th omas, Jelani Hamilton and Al Quadin Muhammad and DTs Ufomba Kamalu and Courtel Jenkins... Raphael Kirby (54 tackles) and Juwon Young return at MLB with Darrion Owens and Tyriq McCord battling at SLB and Jermaine Grace (60 tackles) at OLB...In the secondary, CB Artie Burns and S Deon Bush (53 tackles, 2 INTs) both return as do CBs Tracy Howard (20 tackles) and CB Corn Elder (34 tackles) with Dallas Crawford (35 tackles) and Jamal Carter competing at safety.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Season Preview

Off ensive priorities this fall include replacing both starting B-backs, A-Backs and wide receivers, in other words just about everyone who touched the football besides the multi-talented Th omas...Broderick Snoddy and Isiah Willis head into the fall as the leaders at A-Back with Qua Seary and Clinton Lynch in the running for playing time...At B-Back, Marcus Allen emerged from the spring at the top of the depth chart, but Stanford graduate transfer Patrick Skov will provide plenty of quality competition...Micheal Summers (7 catches) and Ricky Jeune are the leaders at WR, but Antonio Messick and Brandon Oliver are in the mix as well...Th e good news is four starters return upfront in Burden, Chamberlain, G Errin Joe and T Trey Braun with massive G Shamire Devine moving into the other starting role...Defensively, Coordinator Ted Roof’s crew improved measurably during the second half of 2014, forcing 19 turnovers in its fi nal seven games...With eight starters returning, including DE KeShun Freeman (4.5 sacks) and DT Adam Gotsis (3.0 sacks) upfront, look for them to be improved in 2015...Th e return of DT Jabari Hunt-Days, a 2013 starter who missed all of last year, should help a unit that also includes DTs Francis Kallon and Patrick Gamble as well as DEs Kenderius Whitehead, Rod RookChungong and Antonio Simmons...Leading tackler LB P.J. Davis (119 tackles) heads a group that includes Tyler Marcordes and Terrell Lewis...Th e secondary features four starters returning in CBs D.J. White and Chris Milton, FS Jamal Golden and SS Demond Smith (72 hits).

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Duke Blue Devils Season Preview

Offensively, Duke’s main priorities will be to confi rm a replacement for Boone, who threw for 2,700 yards and 19 TDs last fall, and come up with replacements for Crowder, Tomlinson and Cofi eld, three of the better players at their positions in program history...Junior QB Th omas Sirk, who had 11 TDR in a reserve and short-yardage role last fall, emerged from spring as Boone’s successor...Senior WR Max McCaff rey (37 catches) heads a receiver corps that also includes WRs Johnell Barnes (23 catches) and Chris Taylor as well as TEs David Reeves (13 catches) and 2013 TE starter Braxton Deaver... Duke returns a bevy of RBs in Shaquille Powell (618 yards), Shaun Wilson (598 yds, 7.7 avg.), Joseph Ajeigbe (150 yds) and Jela Duncan, Duke’s second-leading rusher in 2013 who missed all of 2014... Skura leads an off ensive line that includes G Lucas Patrick and Ts Casey Blaser and Gabe Brandner with Cody Robinson and Tanner Stone competing for the other guard spot...Defensively, Duke suff ered an off season blow when senior Kelby Brown, an All-ACC linebacker who missed all of 2014 with an injury, saw his career end with another knee injury in July...Th at leaves safety convert Dwayne Norman joining Mike Holmes and Zavier Carmichael to compete for playing time ...On the defensive line, DT Carlos Wray is only returning starter, but DT A.J. Wolf, DT Mike Ramsay and DE Kyler Brown have all seen playing time while senior DE Britton Grier came out of spring as the other starter at DE...Th e strength of Duke’s defense is its secondary where Cash leads a veteran and talented group that includes CBs Breon Borders and Bryon Fields and safeties DeVon Edwards and Deondre Singleton. Th is quintet has 96 starts between them already with Cash the only senior.