Posts Tagged 'cincinnati'

Heisman Dark Horse Part 2: Noel Devine

It’s only July, but major universities and college football programs are already launching Heisman campaigns to generate the much-needed media exposure for select candidates.  Anyone who follows college football knows about Washington’s Jake Locker, Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and last year’s Heisman-winner, Alabama running back Mark Ingram.

WVU running back Noel Devine has his sights set on a Big East Title and a trip to New York in 2010 (google images)

If you just take a look at his numbers, it’s amazing that the explosive running back is not on everyone’s watch list, but surprisingly, many of the so-called experts do not have Devine listed as a threat to take home the coveted trophy. 

Devine burst on the scene as a true freshman, when he took carries away from All-American running back Steve Slaton.  After Slaton was injured in the Fiesta Bowl, which meant Devine would have to carry the load for the Mountaineers, and he delivered, rushing for 105 on just 12 carries with two touchdowns.

His numbers increased his sophomore season, as he rushed for 1,289, and despite being hampered by minor injuries for much of last season, the talented back still managed to rush for 1,465 yards and 13 TDs.  If this trend continues, and more importantly, if Devine can avoid injury this season, there is every reason to believe that he could break 1,800 yards this season.  That sounds like a high number, but it is more attainable than you may think.

Since his arrival in Morgantown, the electric running back from Fort Myers, FL has averaged 6.5 yards per carry.  If he can stay healthy, there is every reason in the world to believe that he will get more carries than last season.  If he gets just 44 more carries than last season, that would put him at 285, putting him over 1,800 yards, given his career yards/carry average.

College FootBlog takes a look at the two things must happen for Devine to get serious consideration from the media and ultimately, the voters. 

West Virginia must win the Big East:  Six out of the last seven Heisman Trophy winners played on conference champion teams.  This could be a tall order for Devine and the Mountaineers, and given the emergence of the Big East as a formidable BCS conference in the last couple of years, it is.  But despite the success of WVU, Cincinnati, Pitt and others from the conference, the Big East is still unfairly viewed as a little brother to the other conferences by most writers.

In order for the national media to take notice of a Heisman candidate from this conference, they will have to win, and they’ll have to hope that others in the conference like Pitt and Cincy win as well.  This would set the stage for a national TV audience for the “Backyard Brawl” rivalry game on Nov. 26, when WVU travels to Pitt to take on the Panthers.

Will it happen?  They should be in the hunt, but the Pitt game will likely determine who wins the Big East.  West Virginia hosts Cincinnati, South Florida and Syracuse before the Pitt game, and they travel to UConn and Louisville.  Unless something unforeseen happens, the Mountaineers will be favored in all of these games.  If they take down Pitt, the conference title will be theirs, and they will lock up a BCS game, and the media will notice.

Devine must avoid injury:  At 5’8″ and just 176 lbs., Devine is far from a bruising back.  The only thing preventing him from eclipsing 1,500 yards last season was the fact that he played much of the season banged up.  He still managed to put up some very impressive numbers last fall, but his relatively small frame showed signs of fatigue last year, particularly in the middle of the season.

Devine needs at least 300 touches (rushing, receiving and returning) if he is going to put up the kind of numbers that will trump the other candidates.  If he gets that many touches, that means he made it through the year without a significant injury, and with his explosiveness and elusiveness, that means bigtime production.

Will it happen?  It should.  Despite traveling to Death Valley to take on LSU in September, the non-conference schedule is not that tough for the Mountaineers.  And despite his small frame, Devine has proven to be an extremely durable back.  In addition, new quarterback Geno Smith is more of a passer than a runner, which means that unlike in past years, Devine will not be splitting carries with his QB.  His strength and durability will be tested, but he has carried 447 times in his two years as the featured running back at WVU.  Look for that durability to continue in 2010 because it will be his last season, and Devine will have his chance to ease the concerns of NFL scouts that his body can handle the punishment of a 280-plus carry season.

Advertisements

NFL Combine Big Winners and Losers

Each year, millions of dollars are at stake in Indianapolis, as top college players take part in testing and interviews at the NFL Combine.  Depending on their performances over the four-day period, these young men can literally make or lose millions of dollars based on what they show NFL scouts in this short amount of time.

This year was no different from years past as a few individuals improved their stock, while others likely took major hits to their wallets.  College FootBlog breaks down six of the biggest winners and three of the biggest losers based on their combine performances.

Winners

Jacoby Ford posted the Combine's top forty time at 4.28 seconds (google images)

1.  Jacoby Ford (WR/Clemson):  Ford stole the show on the wideout day, posting a ridiculous forty time of 4.28.  At 5’9″ and 186 lbs, many experts had him pegged in the later rounds of the draft.  Ford helped his stock even more by running very crisp routes, negating the criticism that he was just a return man.  With his performance in the receiver drills and his forty time, Ford is now drawing comparisons to Carolina Panther All-Pro Steve Smith.

2.  Taylor Mays (Safety/USC):  Mays was already tabbed as a first rounder, but his 4.43 time in the forty may have moved him into the top 10.  Mays has made a steady climb since the Senior Bowl, where he intercepted a pass in the game, showing critics that he is only a big hitter that he can also perform in coverage.

3.  Jahvid Best ( RB/Cal):  Best was right in the thick of the Heisman race before he was forced to miss several games due to a concussion.  His speed has been well-documented–Best was the California state champion in the 100-meter dash as a senior with a blistering time of 10.31 seconds.  That speed was on display for the pro scouts at the combine as Best posted the top time for all running backs, edging CJ Spiller by 0.02 seconds with a time of 4.35.

4.  Eric Berry (Safety/Tennessee):  Berry also showed out in the forty-yard dash, posting an official time of 4.47.  Like Mays, Berry was already considered a first rounder, but the versatile defensive back showed a lot of confidence and great hips and change of direction in the combine drills.  That, in addition to playing for defensive guru Monte Kiffin should result in a nice payday for him next month.

5.  Sean Weatherspoon (ILB/Missouri):  Weatherspoon continues to see his stock soar as he ran a 4.68 forty, which is very respectable for a middle linebacker.  He also did an unbelievable 34 reps of 225 lbs in the bench press.   This strong performance combined with his dominance in the Senior Bowl, where Weatherspoon showed cover skills to compliment his ability to close holes and make tackles will only help his stock.

6.  Dekoda Watson (Linebacker/Florida St.):  Watson ran a 4.52 forty and is now up to 240 lbs.  FSU’s defensive captain from 2009 battled minor injuries throughout his career, but his speed off the edge and his improved muscle mass should help the OLB move higher in the third round or potentially crack the late second round.

Losers

Joe Haden's slow forty time likely dropped him out of the Top 10 in next months draft (google images)

1.  Joe Haden (CB/Florida):  Haden was widely considered the to DB in the draft this year, but his stock took a major hit at the combine, as he posted a very unimpressive 4.57 and followed that time up with a 4.60.  Despite all the great film of Haden from his dominant days at Florida, this slow time will have a major impact on his stock. 

2.  LeGarrette Blount  (RB/Oregon):  Blount was already fighting an uphill battle due to his actions in the 2009 opener against Boise State when he KO’d Byron Hout and then had to be held back by coaches and teammates from going into the crowd to fight fans.  After a solid performance at the Senior Bowl, Blount showed up at the combine looking like he was carrying some extra, unnecessary weight. 

That proved to be the case when he clocked in at 4.62 and 4.69 in the forty.  His 241-pound frame should help his cause, but even for a big back, 4.62 is not a solid time.  Blount could have offset the less than stellar forty time with the bench press, but he managed 19 reps of 225 lbs, which is okay, but not spectacular.

3.  Tony Pike (QB/Cincinnati):  Pike was on a lot of scouts’ radar going into this season, but after a rather unimpressive performance at the Senior Bowl, he had a lot to gain going into the combine.  After the combine, he likely dropped even lower.  Pike took part in throwing drills and many scouts were unimpressed with his arm strength.  Pike, who is not a physical specimen, will have to hope for a third round selection.

Senior Bowl Recap: Which Players Improved Their Draft Stock?

The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama featured several NFL prospects with big names, but there were five athletes who did wonders for their draft stock with their performances yesterday afternoon.  College FootBlog breaks down these five individuals and analyzes how they could fare in NFL training camps in the upcoming months.

5.  Stafon Johnson (RB/USC)

How can you not root for this kid?  After nearly dying from a freak accident in the weight room, which crushed his larynx, many thought Johnson would be done with football.  Although his numbers were not great (4 carries for 3 yards), Johnson showed his speed and agility on his first carry, making a defender miss en route to a short gain.  If Johnson can show the same perseverance and guts that got him back on the field yesterday, his stock will only continue to rise. 

Oregon's Legarrette Blount had an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl (google images)

4.  LeGarrette Blount (RB/Oregon)

Blount’s measurables have never been an issue–at 6’2″ and 240 lbs, he is a load out of the backfield.  Blount also possesses a textbook right cross (just ask Boise State’s Byron Hout), which has scouts questioning his character.  Since that altercation in Boise, Blount has been on the straight and narrow.  Blount’s suspension was lifted, and he has continued to show maturity.  In the Senior Bowl, Blount was by far the most NFL-ready running back on the field.  Of his 240 lbs, it is all solid and he has good speed and power.  He finished the day with 36 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. 

3.  Dan LeFevour (QB/Central Michigan)

While Tim Tebow got all the press for his strep throat and upcoming Superbowl commercial, it was LeFevour who impressed at quarterback.  He showed great escapability and showcased his ability to run and pass.  His running style should translate to the NFL because he is quick and despite his size (6’3″, 229 lbs), he does not depend on power, but instead, he has deceptive speed and keeps his eyes down field.  LeFevour also showed good pocket presence and delivered the best pass of the day, when he dropped a perfect pass in a very tight window for a 32-yard touchdown to Mardy Gilyard.

2.  Brandon Graham (DE/Michigan)

Graham was disruptive all game, collecting two sacks and a forced fumble.  He showed great explosiveness off the edge, but he also showed a solid base against the run and pass.  On a misdirection running play, Graham showed the ability to change direction, shed a block and accelerate to the ball carrier.  Graham was always know at Michigan as an end who could get to the quarterback, but he showed tremendous versatility yesterday and likely made himself a lot of money with his dominant performance.

1.  Mardy Gilyard (WR/Cincinnati)

Gilyard was one of the most explosive players in college football in the last two seasons, but experts wondered how he would do against the big boys, outside of the Big East Conference.  Simply put–Gilyard showed out yesterday.  His size may be an issue with some scouts, but the upside he possesses and the number of ways he can collect yardage (as a return man and a receiver) can not be ignored.  Gilyard was on a different level all afternoon, and he highlighted his five-catch, 103-yard performance by leaving All-American cornerback Javier Arenas on a go-route for a touchdown.

Honorable Mention:  Jeremy Williams, WR/Tulane; Sean Weatherspoon, LB/Missouri; Colin Peek, TE/Alabama

2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings Part 3

In our first two pieces, College FootBlog ranked the third through the sixth ranked BCS conferences from the 2009 season (see link).  In this three-part breakdown, we analyze the results from each conference from the 2009 college football season, and we also give an outlook for the upcoming 2010 season.

Without further adieu, here are our top two BCS conferences from our Power Rankings.

2.  Big East

2009 Recap:  There was a time when analysts argued if the Big East should even have the right to an automatic BCS bid for its champion.  That is no longer the case.  Most people left the Big East for dead when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left for what was believed to be the greener pastures of the ACC.  While the ACC has fallen from respectability, the Big East has consistently raised the bar over the last three years.

Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard was one of the most explosive players in all of college football in '09 (google images)

Dave Wannstedt has Pitt back on the national scene and they gave Cincinnati all they could handle in a stunning 45-44 loss that was one of the best (if not the best) college football games all season.  Overall, the Panthers finished with ten wins on the year, West Virginia and Rutgers racked up nine wins and USF and UConn each pulled in eight victories on the year. 

2010 Outlook:  Coaching changes could have a significant effect on the Big East next season.  The Departure of Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly for Notre Dame and the firing of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt will put a lot of pressure on new head coaches Butch Jones and Skip Holtz.

The good news is that each of those two programs will have a proven quarterback.  Cincy did not lose a beat when Tony Pike was lost temporarily due to injury because of the great play of Zach Collaros.  And USF will have leader Matt Grothe back next fall, but they now have a proven back up in BJ Daniels.

The issue for the Bulls is going to be replacing future NFL defensive ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul.  Pitt will have to replace quarterback Bill Stull, but running back Dion Lewis will take a lot of pressure off the new starter at QB.

Overall, it will be difficult to keep the #2 Power Ranking in 2010, but the coaching and talent will continue to gain well-deserved respect from college football.

1.  SEC

2009 Recap:  As much as some fans would like to see a changing of the guard, the SEC simply will not allow that to happen.  All the SEC did this season is send ten of their twelve teams to bowl games, and they won six, which included the Sugar Bowl and the BCS National Championship.

When the dust settled, the SEC combined for a whopping 97-59 record in ’09, making it by far the deepest conference in the country.  Led by Alabama’s national championship team and the Florida Gators, whose only loss came at the hands of the Crimson Tide, the SEC once again imposed its will on the rest of college football.

Mark Ingram's punishing running-style led the Tide to the BCS Title (google images)

2010 Outlook:  Look for much of the same with the SEC dominating college football.  Flordia will have a bit of a rebuilding year after the loss of Tim Tebow and likely NFL first rounders, LB Brandon Spikes, TE Aaron Hernandez and CB Joe Haden.

The scary part is that the other top teams could be and should be even better this fall.  That includes ‘Bama, who returns the running back tandem of Ingram and Richardson, but they also return WR Julio Jones and QB Greg McElroy.

Head coach Gene Chizik will look to build on the momentum he created at Auburn, and with Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, the SEC could possibly have a pair of first round quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Just to recap, College FootBlog’s 2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings are as follows:

  1. SEC
  2. Big East
  3. Big Ten
  4. Big 12
  5. ACC
  6. Pac 10

Please feel free to post your own power rankings and give your feedback.  Also, look for College FootBlog’s analysis of the recruiting season in a couple of weeks.

Is Tebow Deserving of All of the Heisman Hype?

If you check the latest rankings for the favorites for this year’s Heisman Trophy, the name at the top of the list is Florida’s Tim Tebow.  While that does not pose as much of a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to college football the last four years, the statistics for Tebow and many others who are not on the watch list may be a bit of a surprise.

Tebow's charisma, not his overall performance, may be influencing Heisman voters (google images)

Tebow's charisma, not his overall performance, may be influencing Heisman voters (google images)

Going into the 2009 season, the three favorites to bring home the coveted award were the top three finishers in last year’s voting, Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford from Oklahoma, Texas Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy and Tebow.

Bradford’s chances at a repeat fell dramatically when he was knocked out of the first game of the year and subsequently missed the next three games with a sprained shoulder.  McCoy has again put up solid numbers, but he has seen a bit of a dip slightly from his stats from a year ago.  McCoy could make a strong impression this weekend in front of a national television audience in the Red River Shootout against the hated Oklahoma Sooners, but as of now, he is second on the Heisman list to Tebow, according to most experts.

A closer look at Tebow’s stats this season, however,  begs the question:  Is the Heisman Trophy supposed to go to the best player or the most popular one?  While the Florida Gators have been the number one team in America since the preseason, Tebow’s stats are a far cry from elite, not only in the country, but in his conference and even in his own state.

Tebow’s 155 passing yards per game rank him 96th in the FBS, and eighth in his own conference.  In fact, the only great statistical game Tebow has managed was against Troy, where he completed four of his seven touchdowns on the year.  If you take out both cupcakes, Troy and lowly Charleston Southern, and focus on the three SEC opponents the Gators have faced (Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU), Tebow is averaging 124 yards passing a game with two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

On the ground, he is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 79 yards per game.  There are 59 quarterbacks in the FBS that are averaging more than that just in passing yards.  That is an average of 203 yards of total offense. 

Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen has led an Irish team with a very average defense to a 4-1 record this season.  He is averaging 308 yards per game with 12 TDs and two interceptions, and he has kept the Irish in every one of their games, including the last second, heart-breaking loss to Michigan in week two.  

Finally, Tony Pike is getting some serious Heisman consideration (google images)

Finally, Tony Pike is getting some serious Heisman consideration (google images)

Until this week when ESPN’s Robert Smith discussed it, very few experts had mentioned Cincinnati’s Tony Pike as a threat.  Pike has led the Bearcats to a 5-0 start and is averaging  just under 300 yards per game through the air with 13 TD’s and only three interceptions.

What may be the most surprising is that Tebow is statistically a far cry from the being the best QB in the state of Florida.  Miami’s Jacory Harris has quietly led the Hurricanes to a 4-1 start.  Harris has been great in every game except the monsoon in Blacksburg when the Hokies held him to 150 yards.  In that game, not only did Harris face one of the best defensive coordinators in the country in Bud Foster, he also had to deal with Mother Nature.  The entire game was played in monsoon-like conditions with steady rain and gusting winds.  Still, Harris has 25th in the nation in yards per game.

The other QB that may surprise a lot of people due to his team’s record is Florida State’s Christian Ponder.  Through the Bobby Bowden retirement soap opera and the ‘Noles’ travesty of a defense this season, many outside of Tallahassee have not recognized what the junior signal caller has done thus far. 

Ponder currently ranks 11th in passing yards per game with 9 TD’s and only one pick.  He has added another 123 yards on the ground and more importantly, Ponder has kept his team in every game this season, despite an inconsistent running game and one of the nation’s worst defenses.

Finally, ESPN has Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike and Jacory Harris on their watch list, but they may want to check the stats before the put Tebow on top again.  Unfortunately, the very mediocre stats will be downplayed by ESPN and the rest of the media and Tebow’s leadership and charisma will be brought up. 

What should be considered instead is who is the best college football player in the nation.  Who does more for his team and does more in big games?  The stats don’t lie, but if the season plays out like it has and the Heisman race plays out like it looks like it may, ESPN’s Erin Andrews may want to see if she still has eligibility left.  Her popularity may make her next year’s Heisman front-runner.