Posts Tagged 'john clay'

New Big Ten. New Favorite?

Wisconsin was already in good position to challenge for a Big Ten title this season, but one of many replacements head coach Bret Bielema had to contend with was the quarterback position, which had been vacated by Scott Tolzien.  As consistent as Tolzien was last season, the Badgers just upgraded this afternoon, when former NC State three-year starter Russell Wilson announced that he will be suiting up in Madison this fall.

Russell Wilson adds a new dimension to the Wisconsin offense (google images)

Wilson, who also plays professional baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization was released from NC State by head coach Tom O’Brien.  O’Brien wanted to have his team focused on the 2011 season, and he felt that Wilson’s baseball obligations hindered that focus.

This, despite overwhelming success in his three years as the Wolfpack’s starting signal-caller.  In his time in Raleigh, Wilson amassed over 8,500 passing yards and over 1,000 yards rushing, while throwing for 76 touchdowns, compared to just 26 Int’s.

His presence at Wisconsin should make a very immediate impact.  Unlike the spread offense at Auburn (which was reportedly the other finalist Wilson considered), Wisconsin is a more traditional offense, similar to the one he ran for three years when he starred at NC State.  The only difference is that Wilson never had a running game to rely on like the one he will join in August.

Although bruising tailback, John Clay is no longer there, the Badgers will once again boast one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, led by sophomore James White and junior Montee Ball.  Ball fell just four yards short of breaking the 1,000 yard mark, while White tallied 1,056 yards as a true freshman.  The tandem put up those numbers, despite splitting carries with Clay.

Cynics will point to the departure of both offensive tackles, including Gabe Carimi in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Badgers will only reload in 2011 on a unit that has been a hot-bed for the NFL.  Expect senior guard Kevin Zeitler to be the next high draft pick to lead another smash-mouth running game this fall (and you can also expect to hear Zeitler’s name early in the 2012 NFL Draft…mark it down).

If the Wisconsin defense, led by safety Aaron Henry can hold up their end, Wilson and the Badger offense will be much more explosive than in year’s past.  Wilson is quite possibly at his best when the pocket breaks down–just ask Florida State, who gave up three rushing TDs to Wilson last season.

He adds escapability and play-making ability to an offense that only lost one game in the Big Ten last season.  Add talented wide out Nick Toon to the equation, and Bielema may just have the formula for a Big Ten title run and a shot at being a top 5 team.  Although one player doesn’t make a team, a smart, athletic quarterback who is a proven winner will only make Wisconsin better.  At the least, the Badgers will be favored by many to lock up the newly expanded Big Ten.

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College FootBlog 3rd & 1: Week 8

For the second consecutive week, College FootBlog rolls out our 3rd & 1 feature, which breaks down three observations from the college football action from the previous weekend.  And we finish by giving one key match up to look for in the upcoming week.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

1st:  Another week, another set of hangover games.   Last weekend, the Alabama Crimson Tide fell at South Carolina after thumping the hated Florida Gators the week before.  This weekend, Kentucky returned the favor.  Steve Spurrier took his Gamecocks into Lexington, and the Wildcats shocked them 31-28.  Not to be outdone, Oregon State lost a double-overtime thriller to Washington, just one week after knocking off previously undefeated Arizona.   

2nd:  Michigan QB Denard Robinson cannot take the punishment of a full Big Ten schedule.  Although Robinson is the most explosive player in college football, Rich Rodriguez has no other legitimate weapons on offense, making Robinson a one-man show.  Robinson is on pace for around 250 rushes this year–if his body can take it.  They need more production and more carries from their running backs to take some pressure off Robinson (RB Vincent Smith is second on the team in yards and carries and currently has nearly half the rushes (70) that Robinson has accumulated this season.  More importantly, Robinson, who is listed 6’0″ and only 188 lbs. does not have the body to take that many hits in the thick of the Big Ten schedule.

Wisconsin's bruising running back, John Clay took it to Ohio State this past weekend (google images)

3rd:  John Clay is the real deal.  The Big Ten’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, along with Wisconsin’s massive offensive line smacked Ohio State right in the mouth this weekend, en route to this season’s biggest upset as they took dominated the Buckeyes 31-18.  Clay led the Badgers’ ground assault with 104 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries (5.0 yards per carry).  Behind arguably the most physical offensive line in the country, the 255 lb. junior proved to be too much for a Ohio State defense that features seven players who could be playing in the NFL in the very near future.  Clay and fellow tailback James White will get another opportunity to shine on national television this upcoming weekend when they travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes.  If he has a similar performance against Iowa’s stout defense, Heisman voters will be forced to take notice.

…and 1:  Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert will get his first major test of 2010 this weekend when Oklahoma comes to town.  At 265 yards per game, Gabbert ranks 20th in the country.  Statistically, the Sooners defense has been far from stellar this season, but a closer look shows that Bob Stoops’ squad has brought their A-Game in their only two legitimate contests so far this season.  The Sooners shut down Florida State in week 2 and rattled Texas QB Garrett Gilbert in the Red River Rivalry game a couple of weeks ago.  Look for OU to come after Gabbert, who has battled through a hip injury.  The Sooners will bring it this upcoming weekend, and they will look to ruin Mizzou’s homecoming weekend on the national TV game of the week.

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.

2010 Heisman Race: Entering Week 3

In the preseason, College FootBlog put a list together of Heisman candidates and five Heisman Dark Horses.  Just two weeks into the 2010 season, a couple of those players have lost a lot of momentum, and as is the case every season, there are others who have played their way onto the Watch List. 

In this edition of College FootBlog, we take a look at five players who have increased their stock and five more who could be on the outside looking in, based on where things stand after week 2.

Who’s Hot?

Terrelle Pryor (QB/Ohio State):  Pryor had a big week against Miami last weekend, and that may have him as the candidate to beat.  He will still have a couple of big tests against Iowa and Wisconsin.  Solid performances in those two games could easily seal the deal for the junior QB.

Michigan QB Denard Robinson leads the nation in total yards (google images)

Denard Robinson (QB/Michigan):  Many were surprised to see Robinson take the starting job away from Tate Forcier, but after his second huge game last weekend against rival Notre Dame, the sophomore quarterback leads the nation in total offense with a staggering 442 yards per game.  If he can continue to rack up wins for Michigan, and if he can generate big yardage against Ohio State to end the season, he could be the next sophomore to bring home the prestigious award.

Ryan Mallett (QB/Arkansas):  Mallett has thrown for a little 701 yards and six TDs in the first two games of the season, but his true test(s) will come when he is in the thick of SEC play.  His fourth game of the season against Alabama will likely determine whether or not Mallett stays on this list.

Kellen Moore (QB/Boise State):  The Broncos took a week off after the win against Virginia Tech.  Despite leading his team to a fourth quarter comeback victory, Moore’s Heisman hopes and BSU’s hopes for a BCS National Championship took a huge blow when Va Tech lost to James Madison last weekend.  Oregon State’s opening week loss to TCU also hurt Moore’s chance to play in front of a national audience.

John Clay (RB/Wisconsin):  The bruising running back has been solid so far this season, rushing for 260 yards and four TDs.  As we mentioned in our Heisman Dark Horse article, his true test will come in back-to-back weeks, when the Badgers host Ohio State (Oct. 16) and Iowa (Oct. 23). 

Who’s Not?

Mark Ingram (RB/Alabama):  The reigning Heisman winner already had the odds against him before the season started because he shares the backfield with teammate Trent Richardson.  A knee injury later, and Ingram is effectively out of the race because he has been held out of the first two games.

Christian Ponder (QB/Florida State):  We had him listed as a dark horse candidate, but Ponder received a lot of media attention after he was named the ACC’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  Last weekend was catastrophic to his chances of making the trip to New York, Oklahoma entered the game with something to prove after struggling against Utah State.  Ponder was held to 113 yards passing and two interceptions against the Sooners.

Quizz Rodgers (RB/Oregon State):  Week 1’s loss to TCU hurt the electric running back’s chances, as he only managed 75 yards rushing.  A couple big games could get him back in the hunt because he did not play poorly and managed to find the end zone. 

Dion Lewis (RB/Pitt):  Like Rodgers, Lewis had a rough week one, losing to Utah.  And like Rodgers, Pitt’s explosive back only managed 75 yards and a touchdown in week one.  He will get a couple more shots to throw his hat back in the ring, when Pitt takes on Miami and Notre Dame in the next few weeks, but after the Utah game, he has some catching up to do.

Jake Locker (QB/Washington):  Although his stats have been great (555 yards passing and five TDs through the air and another touchdown on the ground), Locker’s team will have to finish with at least a .500 record for him to get any support from the voters.  The Huskies lost their opener against BYU and must take on Nebraska next, where they are 4 point underdogs.

Heisman Dark Horse Part 5

In the fifth and final breakdown of our Heisman Dark Horse Candidates, College FootBlog takes a look at our last impact player who is not getting the Heisman hype of the usual suspects–Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor, Jacquizz Rodgers, etc.  In case you missed it, we covered Florida State’s Christian Ponder, West Virginia’s Noel Devine, Miami’s Jacory Harris and Wisconsin’s John Clay in our previous four dark horse articles.

Here’s a question for all of you college football buffs–Which Heisman finalist from last season finished third in the nation in total yards with the following stats:  3,579 yards passing with 30 TDs and only eight INTs, with another 506 yards rushing with eight more TDs rushing…..no, it wasn’t Colt McCoy….not Tim Tebow, either.

Most people outside the Big 12 didn't notice that Jerrod Johnson put up over 4,000 yards of offense last season (google images)

In our final edition of 2010’s Heisman Dark Horses, we take a look at why Johnson is still not getting the hype this season, and more importantly, what needs to happen for him to get some love from Heisman voters this fall.

Johnson Needs at Least Two Signature Wins in 2010:  Despite shredding one of the most dominant defenses in the nation (Texas), last season, the Longhorns ultimately prevailed in a 49-39 shootout at College Station last season.  Two weeks before that, Johnson was stifled by a dominant Oklahoma defense that held him to 115 total yards, as the Sooners thrashed the Aggies 65-10.  Johnson will get his shot at redemption against both OU and Texas, and he will also get a shot at yet another top-tier defense when Nebraska comes to town on November 20th.  If he wants to be taken seriously, he must perform in all three games, and really needs to lead his team to victory in two of them.

Will it happen?  Unless the Aggies’ defense improves tremendously, it won’t happen.  Despite getting the Sooners and Huskers at home this season, there are no real signs of significant improvement in a defense that gave up 33.5 points per game last season.  A&M finished 105th in the nation in total defense, so there is really nowhere to go but up, but in an offensive conference like the Big 12, first-year defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will have his hands full.

Unless the Aggies can produce an average defense, they will be a .500 team again this fall, and by all indications, that’s what they will be.  Unfortunately for Johnson, quarterbacking a .500 team will leave him at home again in 2010, instead of making the trip to New York.   On the flip side, if DeRuyter can work his magic and keep A&M in the game against OU, Texas and Nebraska, it will not only give the Aggies a chance to win, but it will give Johnson an opportunity to lead his team to huge, upset victories, which will only bolster his chance at a Heisman Trophy.

Johnson Must Put Up the Same Stats as Last Year, If Not Better:  If Johnson can match or break his 4,000 total yards he put up in 2009, that will force Heisman voters to keep him on their radar.  If those numbers drop, it will effectively kill his Heisman hopes because winning the Big 12 South will be next to impossible for the Aggies to pull off in 2010.  Even though OU and Texas must replace key contributors from the 2010 roster, each program has loaded up in recruiting for the last several years, and each team will make a case for a Big 12 Championship, which will likely leave A&M on the outside looking in when the dust settles in December.  If Johnson can maintain the pace he had last season, facing three of the top defenses in the nation, he deserves to be a Heisman finalist.

Will it happen?  His overall numbers should be very close to the 2009 stats.  How much better or worse they will be depends on how he performs against the big three Big 12 opponents mentioned above.  Despite the difficulty of facing Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, the rest of the 2010 opponents aren’t exactly defensive juggernauts–the Aggies open with FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin and the out of the other remaining opponents, six of them finished 60th or worse in total defense last season, including 119th ranked FIU on September 18th.

Look for the A&M coaching staff to leave Johnson in for the long-haul against the inferior defenses to help pad his stats this year for two reasons:  1)  Having a Heisman hype around Johnson will bring some much-needed attention to a program that consistently loses recruiting battles against intra-division foes OU and Texas and 2)  The coaching staff is well-aware that touchdowns could be hard to come by in the NU, OU and Texas games, so Johnson will need to rack up as much as he can against the weaker defenses.

Given the weak out of conference schedule and the likelihood that Johnson should put up arcade numbers against those defenses, A&M just needs to get upset victories against Nebraska (which would not be a shock at all) and either Texas or OU, which could happen, but not with last year’s defense.

College FootBlog wants your feedback.  Who else deserves to be on our list and why?

Heisman Dark Horse Part 4: John Clay

In Part 4 of our Heisman Dark Horse candidates, College FootBlog takes a look at Wisconsin running back John Clay.  In case you missed it, we have highlighted three other dark horse candidates, Florida State QB Christian Ponder (see link), West Virginia RB Noel Devine (see link) and Miami QB Jacory Harris (see link).

Each of these candidates has two things in common–they have put up big numbers last season, they appear to be poised for an even bigger season in 2010, and finally, the major media outlets are not giving any of them the attention that the bigger names like Mark Ingram or Terrelle Pryor are receiving.

John Clay and his massive offensive line will look to improve on last season's impressive statistics (google images)

Wisconsin’s punishing running back John Clay certainly qualifies for this criteria.  Despite entering the 2010 season as the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and rushing for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009.  Two other factors point to even bigger numbers in 2010, with the emphasis on “BIG.”  Clay enters two-a-days a few pounds heavier, as he is reportedly tipping the scales at 255 lbs., versus the high 240’s that he played at last season. 

The other key factor that will only help Clay’s quest to become the third Heisman Trophy winner in Wisconsin history is the stacked offensive line.  Senior LT Gabe Carimi anchors an O-line that returns all five starters from a season ago that averages 6’5″ and 325 lbs.

In order to be in a position to get the invite to New York a couple of key factors must work in Clay’s favor.  College FootBlog uncovers these factors and breaks down the likelihood that Clay will be in the running for the coveted award at season’s end.

Clay Must Get His Carries Against the Weak Teams:  The Badgers again have somewhat of a laughable non-conference schedule, with only Arizona State as a decent opponent.  The other games are against UNLV, San Jose State and Austin Peay.  In last year’s soft schedule, Clay only carried the ball 15 times against Northern Illinois and just 12 carries against lowly Wofford.  In the Wofford game, Clay rushed for 70 yards on those limited carries, but could have gone for much, much more, and he left the game without scoring a touchdown when the Badgers took full control over the game.

Will It Happen?  Yes, but head coach Bret Bielema will have the difficult task of balancing stats vs. risk of injury this season, but even though Clay is not as much on the national scene as he should be, he is recognized in the Big Ten as a legitimate threat for the Heisman.  Bielema knows that more carries (particularly against weaker opponents) will get Clay closer to 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, which would force the Heisman voters’ hands when they turn in their ballots.  Look for Clay to get a minimum of 20 touches against each opponent this season, regardless of the score.

Clay Must Show Up in Conference Showdowns:  Clay’s numbers would have been even more impressive, and perhaps the national media would be much more on board with his Heisman run this fall, if he had produced against conference foes Ohio State and Iowa.  In 2009, the bruising running back only managed 134 yards and zero TDs combined against the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, while averaging under 3.3 yards per carry.  Once again in 2010, Clay will go against OSU and Iowa in back-to-back weeks, and each game has a great shot at being nationally televised.  If he can eclipse the century mark in yards in each of those teams, who will each have dominant defenses again this fall, he will be on everyone’s radar.  If he is neutralized in either (or both games like last year), he can probably kiss the Heisman goodbye.

Will It Happen?  The numbers should improve, and he will likely go for 100+ yards in at least one of those games.  We also believe that behind that massive offensive line, he will get into the end zone at least once in each game.  If he does rush for 100+ yards in one game and if he can get to 75-80 yards in the other game plus a couple of TDs, he will be right in the thick of the Heisman talk.  Getting 100+ yards against two of the best run defenses in the country two weeks in a row is a tall order for any running back and O-line combination, and the odds will be against Clay again this season.

If Clay can get more carries, especially against the weak opponents on his schedule, and if he can go for 100 yards against Iowa and/or Ohio State, don’t be surprised if the Big Ten finally endorses him–he wasn’t even voted as the preseason offensive player of the year, despite winning the award last season–and the voters will take notice as well.

Look for College FootBlog’s fifth and final Heisman Dark Horse Candidate later this week.

2010 College Football Big Ten Preview (#1-#5)

As the summer months approach, we get closer and closer to August, which, at least to the college football fanatic, means that two-a-days are just a couple of months away, and the CFB season will be underway.  Last week, we broke down each division of the ACC, and this week, we take a crack at the Big Ten.

Yesterday, College FootBlog released our Preseason Rankings for Teams 6-11 (see link) in the Big Ten.  In today’s edition, we break down our top five. 

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will look to build off his MVP performance in last year's Rose Bowl (google images)

1.  Ohio State:  Look for quarterback Terrelle Pryor to build off his Rose Bowl performance last season.  Running backs Brandon Saine and Boom Herron will follow another strong and experienced offensive line.  Brian Rolle leads the defense along with All-Big Ten Second Team selection Thaddeus Gibson anchoring the defensive line.  The Buckeyes have a difficult trip to Iowa City, but an improved Pryor and the Buckeye running game could simply be too much for the Hawkeyes to handle, even in Iowa City.  Pryor’s athleticism coupled with head coach Jim Tressel’s dominant defenses should be too much for the rest of the Big Ten. 

2.  Wisconsin:  Look for running back John Clay to put together an even better season than a year ago, when he rushed for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns.  If he does as expected, he will make the trip to New York for the Heisman presentation at season’s end.  Bret Bielema put a 10-win season together, which was capped off by a dominant performance against the Miami Hurricanes in the Champs Sports Bowl.   This could be the season that puts Bielema over the hump, but in order to do so, he will have to out-slug Iowa at Iowa City on October 23rd.

3.  Iowa:  Running back Adam Robinson returns after a solid 2009 campaign, and quarterback Ricky Stanzi and favorite target Marvin McNutt return as well.  The losses on the offensive line, most notably, last year’s Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Bryan Bulaga may have a negative effect on the ‘Hawks ground game.  Kirk Ferentz is one of the most talented coaches in the country and will have another great defense, but unless Stanzi is more consistent this year, Iowa will have a very difficult time winning out, although they do get Ohio State and Wisconsin at home this year.

4. Penn State:  Joe Pa’s squad should be solid again this year, but replacing quarterback Daryll Clark will be a tall order.  Running back Evan Royster and a seasoned offensive line that, coming out of spring ball looks to have four seniors and a junior should help the starter at QB, which appears to be sophomore Kevin Newsome going into summer workouts.  Defensively, the Nittany Lions lose Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Jared Odrick all three starting linebackers, but as usual, Paterno has more than adequate talent in the wings.  A strong running game another stout PSU defense should keep PSU in the hunt this season.

5:  Michigan State:  Quarterback Kirk Cousins returns for the Spartans and will try to build on his 2,600-yard, 19 touchdown performance from last season.  Defensively, MSU returns senior linebacker Greg Jones that adds CB Johnny Adams after missing last season.  Head Coach Mark Dantonio is now entering his fourth year in East Lansing but he is 0-3 in bowl games so far.  Dantonio has recruited some solid players and they are beginning to fill starting roles.  He must improve on last year’s 6-7 record, and that seems likely with Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue all at home this season.  The Spartans also have hated Notre Dame in their backyard this year as well and will look to take advantage of the new coaching regime for the Irish.

Check back next week for more articles and predictions for the upcoming CFB season, and let us know your feedback!