Posts Tagged 'john brantley'

College FootBlog Week 4 Recap

Week 4 of the College Football season is officially in the books, and the dominant players and teams are beginning to separate from the rest of the pack.  College FootBlog breaks down last weekends action in the Week 4 Recap.

Sooners fall out of #1 spot:  Once a Heisman front-runner, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has been very average the last two weeks, throwing for 4 TD’s and 4 picks.  The Sooners still won, but they didn’t exactly get the payback they were looking for against Mizzou, who upset OU last season in Columbia.  Wins against Florida State and Mizzou, who are both 2-2 with no big wins against major programs, along with LSU’s dominance against top-tier competition allowed the Tigers to jump ahead of the Sooners in the AP Poll.  Luckily for Sooner fans, LSU and Alabama square off in Tuscaloosa in a month, so one of those teams will drop a few spots.

Brandon Weeden continues to lead the high-octane OSU offense (photo courtesy of OSU Marketing)

LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu may be the best DB in the country:  LSU and Alabama have the two best defenses in the country–and it’s not even close.  The Tigers have forced 12 turnovers against top-flight competition, all away from Death Valley.  Their defense is full of elite talent that will be playing on Sundays in the near future, but the guy that always seems to make the biggest plays on the biggest stages is cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.  In last weekend’s bigtime match up against West Virginia, the sophomore DB had a key interception and a forced fumble, in which he literally ripped the ball right out of the hands of WV wideout Brad Starks.  That makes twice that Mathieu has brought his A-game to a national television audience–in week one, he stripped the ball from Oregon punt returner Kenjon Barner and promptly took the fumble in for a touchdown, and the Ducks never recovered.

Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden continues to light it up:  We anticipated a shoot out, and that’s exactly what we got last weekend, when Oklahoma State traveled to Texas A&M.  Weeden threw for 438 yards (a new school record) and two TDs against the Aggies.  The senior quarterback completed a whopping 47 passes in 60 attempts and spread the ball around nicely–he had three different receivers with ten or more catches, led by dynamic wideout Justin Blackmon, who had 11 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.  Weeden currently leads the nation in passing yards per game with 398.0 per contest.

Florida could be back:  After a disappointing 2010 season, first year head coach Will Muschamp has the Gators off to a 4-0 start, 2-0 in SEC play.  Quarterback John Brantley looks much more comfortable in Charlie Weis’ pro-style attack versus Urban Meyer’s spread attack that made Tim Tebow a household name, although they didn’t need much passing last weekend against Kentucky, as both Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey rushed for over 100 yards a piece.  More importantly, Muschamp has brought his attitude to the Gator defense, who created four turnovers last weekend.  We’ll see just how far Florida has come very soon–the Gators host Alabama this weekend and travel to LSU next weekend.

The ACC is not good at tackle football:  I’m not sure how the intramural flag football programs in the ACC are, but several programs proved their conference still isn’t ready for big boy football.  After giving then #1 Oklahoma all they could handle, Florida State’s defense was gashed by the Clemson QB-WR combo of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.  The ‘Noles gave up 455 yards to the Tigers, 366 coming through the air.  FSU was supposed to be the ACC’s hope for a title-contender in 2011, but that’s not going to happen.  Miami lost to Kansas State, NC State was destroyed by Cincinnati, and Maryland had the ugly knocked out of their uniforms by Temple 38-7.  Until the ACC can beat quality out of conference opponents, they will not be taken seriously in the BCS title talk.

Changing of the Guard

Florida State’s 31-7 throttling of the Florida Gators this past weekend was much more than a win–it marks a new beginning for the Seminoles and a sign of things to come.  All three of the state’s major programs (Florida, Miami and FSU) have made runs, but with blow out victories over Miami earlier this season and over the hated Gators and Urban Meyer last weekend should have FSU fans very excited about the direction of their program.

College FootBlog takes a look at four major evolutions that were apparent with FSU’s coveted “State Championship”–something the ‘Noles had not done since the 1999 season.

1.  Talent discrepancy:  Over the last decade (Miami in the first part of the decade and Florida over the last six years), FSU was outmatched on at least one side of the ball.  FSU had no answer for Sean Taylor and the dominant Miami defenses in the early part of the decade, and they were absolutely no match for Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin.

My, how times have changed.  While Florida has plummeted to #78 nationally in total offense, the FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher has the ‘Noles have continued to develop into a more balanced offense, but the biggest difference has been the FSU defense.  After ranking in the 100’s in every major statistical category last season, new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has revamped the D in the top 40 defenses in the nation this year.   While the Gators and Hurricanes have dropped to worse records this year, Florida State already has nine wins with two more games left in the season.

FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher beat rivals Miami and Florida in his first season (google images)

2.  Recruiting:  Florida State was already off to a great start in recruiting (Rivals currently has FSU ranked 4th overall), and the huge wins over the ‘Canes and Gators will only solidify a top five finish in recruiting.  There were over 100 recruits at the Florida game, and many of those athletes are considering the Big 3 schools in the state of Florida. 

Those recruits saw a completely one-sided game on Saturday, one in which the Florida Gators displayed an unimaginative, ineffective offensive game plan that generated a whopping 64 yards passing.  Meanwhile, the Hurricanes lost an overtime game to the South Florida Bulls, which resulted in a 7-5 regular season and the firing of head coach Randy Shannon.

3.  Preparation for the NFL:  Tebow’s lack of development as a passer was well-documented last spring before the NFL combine.  Tebow had to spend his spring retraining himself how to throw a football.  Urban Meyer was openly criticized by scouts and media for not making those corrections in the four years he had Tebow on campus.  In contrast, current Florida QB John Brantley, who is more of a pro-style quarterback has struggled mightily in Meyer’s spread attack, posting anemic numbers this season.  Despite having all the speed and talent at wide receiver, Brantley is averaging just over 168 yards passing per game.

In Miami, quarterback Jacory Harris entered the season on the Heisman radar, but he has noticeably regressed in 2010.  Both Harris and FSU quarterback Christian Ponder have been down statistically versus last season, and injuries to each have been a major culprit.  However, there is no question on which QB is more NFL-ready. 

4.  Size of Players:  Since Fisher’s arrival as the offensive coordinator four years ago, he immediately began recruiting bigger, more physical players, and that trend has continued on defense since he took over as head coach this past January.  On the defensive line, FSU is beginning to look more like an SEC team, with defensive tackles going from the 270 lb range to 285-300 lbs.  Defensive ends, linebackers and safeties are getting much bigger and faster as well (FSU’s starting safeties are Nick Moody at 6’2″, 228 lbs. and Terrance Parks at 6’2″ , 218 lbs.).

The past few years, FSU has lost games in the trenches to bigger, stronger teams.  That discrepancy was not as apparent this season, and as Fisher and his staff continue to recruit bigger players, along with an enhanced strength and conditioning program that Fisher instituted immediately after taking the reigns, expect this trend to continue.

College FootBlog 3rd &1: Week 7

In this new feature, College FootBlog’s 3rd & 1 will provide a quick, three-part analysis of the current week of college football, and we’ll also feature one thing to look for in the upcoming week of action. 

1st:  11 wins, 8 losses.  That’s Lane Kiffin’s record as a college football head coach after losing for the second consecutive week on a late field goal.  Things could get much, much worse for Kiffin as the season moves along.  The Trojans have given up 30 or more points in three of their six games this season, and they still must face the nation’s top offense, Oregon and the 22nd and 26th offenses in the country, Arizona State and Arizona, respectively.  With that schedule looming, Kiffin could find himself out of USC almost as quickly as he left Tennessee last season.

So far in 2010, Florida QB John Brantley has not been able to get the Gators going on offense (google images)

2nd:  Florida’s offense will cost them at least one more loss.  Urban Meyer has tried to downplay John Brantley’s ineffectiveness all season, but here is a stat that no one saw coming–the Gators offense is ranked 96th nationally.  Looking at the remaining games on the schedule, the Gators have three games that should have fans concerned.  Georgia is down this year, but look for them to pull out all the stops in their annual battle in Jacksonville, and then UF will take on South Carolina before finishing up in Tallahassee against the much-improved Florida State Seminoles.  It’s hard to imagine the Gators winning all three of those games with their play so far this season.

3rd:  Alabama will still be in the SEC Championship Game and challenge for the BCS National Title.  Give all the credit in the world to Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks for knocking off the defending national champs this past weekend.  After blowing out the hated Gators the previous weekend, the Tide’s defense was exposed against Carolina QB Stephen GarciaNick Saban will use this as a wake up call, and if the Crimson Tide can take care of business and win out the rest of the season, it will be very hard to keep them out of the national title game in January.

….and 1:  Although Alabama’s running back duo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson get all the hype, Wisconsin’s tandem of John Clay and freshman sensation James White have 339 more yards and seven more touchdowns in the same number of games.  Clay and White have combined for 1,177 yards and 17 touchdowns behind the Badgers’ massive offensive line.  Fire meets steel this weekend in Madison as Ohio State brings the nation’s #4 ranked rushing defense to town in a contest that has Big Ten title implications.  If Wisconsin can run the ball effectively, they will have a great shot at knocking OSU off, which would create a wild finish for the conference title.

Will Alabama Do It Again?

When you look at the 24-20 close call in Fayetteville, you have to wonder if Arkansas is better than we thought or if Alabama has some serious holes.  College FootBlog takes a look at a couple of areas of concern for the Tide and a couple of reasons they could represent the SEC in another BCS National Championship, and we’ll wrap up by breaking down our thoughts of just how far they should go in 2010.

1.  Youth in the Secondary:  Any time you lose three of four starters in the secondary, it takes time to reestablish that continuity.  We saw this inexperience last weekend, as Ryan Mallett threw for over 350 yards.  The Tide did manage to pick him off three times, but they showed that they can be vulnerable, particularly to the intermediate pass.  This weekend, they face more speed and explosiveness at wide receiver.  If they are relying on the interceptions and big plays (something Bama has had a knack for since Nick Saban’s arrival), the Gators could pull off the upset.  If, however, they play more consistent and force Brantley to check down to the short routes, the Tide should win and win big.  With Saban’s scheme and his ability to coach up DBs, this unit will continue to improve and could be lights out by season’s end.  In the meantime, however, they still have some work to do.

2.  Greg McElroy struggled against his first SEC Defense:  After blowing up in the first three games against vastly inferior opponents (including Penn State, who struggled last weekend with Temple), McElroy looked like a different QB than the one we saw last season.  Against the Razorbacks, McElroy struggled, going 18-26 for under 200 yards and two picks.  He will face much more speed and athleticism against Florida and LSU.  McElroy must step up in these games if he wants to lead a balanced attack.

While those two factors have been weaknesses in this early season, here are a couple of key factors that could continue to off-set the Crimson Tide’s few deficiencies.

Despite missing the first two games, Mark Ingram has put his hat back in the ring for this year's Hesiman race (google images)

1.  The Running Game:  Most running backs have a difficult time getting back after even the smallest knee surgeries.  But Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram seems to have even more explosion after a late-August knee procedure.  In his two games since being activated, Ingram has blown up for 308 yards and four touchdowns and is averaging nearly ten yards per carry.  Add sophomore Trent Richardson and his 356 yards and 7.6 yards per carry, and Bama boasts the most explosive backfield tandem in the nation.  Teams that run the ball effectively win games, and nobody does it better than the Tide, now that Ingram is back and healthy.

2.  Remaining SEC Schedule:  We discussed Bama’s need for improvement in the pass, but they just faced the best passing team they will face in conference play this year.  Florida’s John Brantley has fallen short of expectations, and the rest of the teams on Bama’s schedule depend on the run to move the ball.  The secondary will continue to improve under Saban’s tutelage, and the rush defense for the Tide is already solid, holding opponents to 106 yards per game.  If they can continue to limit the ground game, there will be another SEC Championship Game in their future.

Overall Analysis

After losing three starters in the secondary, All-World linebacker Rolando McClain, Terrence Cody and several others on defense, there had to be at least a slight drop off on defense.  Since his arrival, Saban has recruited well, and he has the talent to field one of the best defenses in the SEC, but it will take some games for the younger players to get acclimated.  McElroy wasn’t nearly as sharp last week, but as the running game continues to hit its stride, that will only help the passing game.  Records and rankings go out the window in rivalry games, and Bama has two big ones (one this weekend against Florida, and the Iron Bowl against Auburn).  Florida has not found their rhythm yet, and Auburn is still probably a year away, and most importantly, both of those games are in Tuscaloosa this season, which is a huge advantage for Bama.  It would be a huge shock if Saban doesn’t lead his team onto the field at this year’s SEC Championship once again.  If they take care of business, there is every reason to believe they will be playing for a second straight BCS Title in early January.

2010 College Football SEC East Preview

In the last two weeks, College FootBlog has unveiled our Preseason Rankings for the ACC and the Big Ten.  This week, we take our shot at the SEC in another two-part breakdown.  We start with the SEC East and we will roll out our SEC West breakdown later in the week.  The SEC has long been known for being the best conference in college football, and this year should be no different.  Here is how we see the rankings going into the summer:

Florida QB John Brantley will put up big numbers this fall, but he will need a physical RB to join him in the backfield in the red zone (google images).

1.  Florida:  The loss of Tebow will certainly hurt the Gators’ chances, but Florida fans will quickly realize that John Brantley is a much more polished passer than their former Heisman Trophy winner at QB.  Brantley has more arm strength and more accuracy, and with UF’s speed at wide receiver, he will put up big numbers this fall.  There are two unknowns for Florida going into the fall that have been strengths of the team the last three years–talent and experience on defense and short-yardage plays on offense.  The Gators lost some key players on defense, including DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Brandon Spikes and big-play CB Joe Haden.  Urban Meyer has recruited with the best of them, but replacing those three impact players will be extremely difficult.  The issue that could cost the Gators a game or two this season is that without Tebow, they have no proven short-yardage running back.  With the goal line defenses in the SEC, that will likely cost them dearly in 2010 unless they find someone by August.  If they solve that problem, they will again be the team to beat in their division.

2.  Georgia:  The ‘Dawgs struggled with a conference record of 4-4 last season, but they have a lot of reasons for optimism in 2010.  Head coach Mark Richt will have a new defensive staff going into the fall, as the Bulldogs try to take a page out of Nick Saban’s book and institute the 3-4.  Even though it is an entirely different system, new D-coordinator Todd Grantham has some great players returning, headlined by NT DeAngelo Tyson.  After the spring workouts, Richt announced that Freshman QB Aaron Murray is first on the depth chart, but his inexperience should be offset by All-American WR candidate AJ Green and sophomore RB Washaun Ealey.  With the departure of Tebow from Florida, solid skill players on offense and a revamped defense, 2010 should be a year that UGA challenges Florida for a SEC Championship.

3.  South Carolina:  Steve Spurrier’s “Fun & Gun” offense has never quite materialized since he took over in Columbia, and last season was an offensive season he would like to forget, and much of those issues were due to a very bad offensive line that surrendered more sacks than any team in the SEC and were also dead last in rushing in the conference.  Spurrier brought in Shawn Elliot from Appalachian State to coach the offensive line.  That should help an O-line that can’t get any worse.  The good news for the Gamecocks is that they have some very talented skill players on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, quarterback Stephen Garcia threw for over 2,800 yards and 17 TDs, despite the poor play on the line in front of him.  Look for those numbers to improve behind a better running game.  Defensively, South Carolina returns several players from a defense that finished 15th nationally in total defense.  That defense and an improved line will result in more respect in Columbia this season.

After just one season in Knoxville, Lane Kiffin departed for USC and left the Vols high and dry in the thick of the recruiting season (google images)

4.  Tennessee:  The Vols lost several key players on defense, including NFL first rounder Eric Berry.  The lone bright spot on offense was running back Montario Hardesty, and he has left for the NFL.  Former five-star prospect Bryce Brown announced this past spring that he was leaving the program as well, leaving little in the cupboard for what was already an anemic offense. The key losses on both sides of the ball, in addition to all the coaching changing leave the Vols with an uphill battle this fall.  Now for the bad news.  New head coach Derek Dooley must clean up the mess that former coach Lane Kiffin left behind when he abruptly departed the Vols for USC, just weeks before National Signing Day, which put a major strain on recruiting. The Vols should still have the talent to compete in the SEC, but they are at least another year away from being a serious contender.

5.  Kentucky:  Joker Phillips officially moves from assistant coach to running the show this fall, and he will have his hands full.  The Wildcats must replace four starters on the offensive line and several key players on defense, including linebackers Sam Maxwell and Micah Johnson.  Quarterback Matt Hartline returns this year from injury and should have the upper hand for the starting job, but Morgan Newton, who started seven games last season has a legitimate shot at taking the starting role away during two-a-days.  With all the losses on both sides of the ball, it could be a tough season in Lexington.

6.  Vanderbilt:  If last year’s 2-10 season was any indication, it could be another long season for the Commodores this fall.  It’s not all doom and gloom, though.  Running back Warren Norman returns after being named last season’s SEC Freshman of the Year.  Also on offense, quarterback Jordan Rogers (brother of Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rogers) comes to Vandy after leading his junior college team to a Juco National Championship last season.  Rogers is expected to battle Larry Smith for the starting job.  Regardless of who lines up under center, the Commodores must improve their offense, which finished 110th nationally last season,  if they want to have a shot at a .500 season.

Check College FootBlog later this week for our breakdown of the SEC West!

College Football Preseason Top 25 (#8-#15)

College FootBlog continues our countdown of our Preseason Top 25.  In this edition, we break down teams #8-#15.  In case you missed teams #16-#25, check it out here (#16-#25).  Later in the week, we will unveil the top seven, but until then, check out our analysis and breakdown of the teams that are on the cusp of the Super 7.

8.  Arkansas:  The return of quarterback Ryan Mallett instead of entering the 2010 NFL Draft should pay huge dividends to Bobby Petrino, but it another year under Petrino’s tutelage should only improve Mallett’s draft position next spring.  At 6’7″ and 238 lbs., Mallett has the size that NFL scouts like, but he can also make all the throws.  Mallett has several experienced and proven wide receivers, and several versatile running backs, headlined by Ronnie Wingo and Dennis Johnson.  Offense will not be an issue for the Razorbacks in 2010, but their 89th ranked defense will have to improve if they want to stay in the Top 10 and survive an SEC season.

Wisconsin RB John Clay rushed for 1,500+ yards and 18 TD's last season (google images)

9. Wisconsin: Big Ten foes will get a healthy dose of John Clay in 2010.  The reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year checks in at 6’1″ and tips the scales at just under 250 lbs.   Clay will run behind an experienced offensive line, which will likely consist of three seniors, two of which were All-Big Ten selections in 2009.  Quarterback Scott Tolzien will be a senior and stepped up big in the Champs Sports Bowl.  The Badgers will have to replace quite a few upperclassmen from last year’s dominant defense, but they still have playmakers like defensive back Jay Valai who should be solid enough to slow down the many not-so-creative offenses in the Big Ten.

10.  Oklahoma:  The Sooners have a tough test early when Florida State comes to town on September 11th.  If they can survive that game, they have the Red River Rivalry minus Colt McCoy, and the rest of the Big 12 schedule could be smooth sailing.  Rival Oklahoma State will be without QB Zack Robinson and WR Dez Bryant (although Bryant was suspended for virtually all of last year).  The Sooners will have to fill the void of likely top-five pick DT Gerald McCoy, but the defense should hold their own in 2010.  Sam Bradford’s injury hurt the Sooners, but it gave Landry Jones some great experience.  As a freshman, Jones was a bit inconsistent, but he showed flashes of brilliance last year.  If he can continue to improve, he could be the next great quarterback produced by QB coach Josh Heupel.

11.  Florida:  Although Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler was berated by Urban Meyer, his interview with wide receiver Deonte Thompson was spot on.  As great as Tim Tebow was, John Brantley will prove to be a much better quarterback, in the traditional sense of the position.  While Brantley will not bring the running ability of Tebow, he is a much more polished passer and should stretch the field vertically much better than his predecessor.  The losses of key contributors on defense, including linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Joe Haden will hurt, but what could hurt the Gators the most in 2010 is the goal line opportunities.  With the departure of Tebow, there is no significant threat for short-yardage threats in the Florida backfield.

12.  Pitt:  Fresh off a contract extension, Dave Wannstedt is really settling in as the Panthers’ head coach.  The loss of Bill Stull hurts a bit, but Pitt has a couple of capable back ups at QB, in sophomore Tino Sunseri and junior Pat Bostick.  Whoever wins the starting QB job has the luxury of having Dion Lewis in the backfield.  Lewis was one of the best running backs in the nation last year, and he was only a freshman.  As good as the offense should be for the Panthers, however, the strength of the 2010 team will likely be the defense.  Going into the spring, the defense looks to have seven juniors and two seniors in the starting line up.

FSU's Christian Ponder will try to throw his hat in the ring of this year's Heisman race (google images)

13. Florida State: The Seminoles were an average defense from being a 10-win team last season.  Unfortunately for Bobby Bowden and legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, the FSU defense was shredded all season in ’09, ranking 108th nationally overall.  Three of the ‘Noles’ six losses were by touchdown or less.  The bright side for FSU was the offense, led by quarterback Christian Ponder, who will likely be in the Heisman discussion this season.  Ponder has all five starters on the offensive line returning this fall, led by All-American guard Rodney Hudson.  If the newly revamped defensive coaching staff can improve last season’s dismal defensive unit, first year coach Jimbo Fisher could easily have his team playing for the ACC Championship in December.

14.  USC:  The dominance of the Trojans was bound to come to an end at some point, and 2009 proved that regardless of depth and top-tier recruiting, when you ship eleven players to the NFL in one season, it is going to have an impact.  Despite the off-the-field distractions and the departure of Pete Carroll, Lane and Monte Kiffin should have Southern Cal back in a familiar place next season–challenging for a Pac 10 Championship.  Linebacker Chris Galippo should reap the benefits of playing under one of the best defensive minds in the NFL or college, Monte Kiffin.  The Trojan offense should see much improvement from last season as well, now that Matt Barkley has a year of experience under his belt.

15.  Iowa:  The Hawkeyes surprised a lot of people last season when they made a serious run at the Big Ten title, and they dominated Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl with great defense and a solid performance from quarterback Ricky Stanzi.  Stanzi will have to be much more consistent in 2010 if the ‘Hawks are going to challenge Ohio State for the title this fall.  Stanzi loses three All-Big Ten offensive lineman, which was anchored by future first-round selection Bryan Bulaga, but they return their top two running backs and stud DE Adrian Clayborn, who surprised many when he announced that despite dominating the Orange Bowl, he would return for his senior season at Iowa City.