College Football 2015 Musings

I truly intended for my next article to be some new analysis of the 2015 Draft and team roster improvements around the NFL. That is still on my agenda, but while doing some early 2016 prospect research I came up with some College Football observations that I just had to put on paper.

I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself over the latest whining from ALABAMA Head Coach NICK SABAN, calling urgently for a more level playing field between the major conferences primarily when it comes to player acquisitions at the collegiate level. His major concerns were basically related to the recent failed recruitment of former Notre Dame QB EVERETT GOLSON, who eventually selected to attend FLORIDA STATE over Alabama and others. I agree with some of Nick’s points, but my sympathy for his plight is rather low. There are multiple advantages in the rules structure of the SEC where he lives and prospers. And to those who say Saint Nick is slipping I would remind them that his 2015 recruiting class was ranked First by most recruiting outlets and according to 24/7 Sports he landed the most 5-star recruits in the country with 6.
7 D-1 Conferences landed fewer than that, including the BIG 10 and BIG 12. I luv the irony in those latter two landing only 1 5-Star each, since those two conferences are clearly math-challenged as currently constituted.
Just as an aside to those of you wise enough to not immerse yourselves in college recruiting this year 24/7 Sports only classified 35 players as 5-Star recruits. That number is typical for most recruiting class. ‘BAMA with their 6 was followed by Florida State & Southern Cal, with 4 each.
Conference rankings of 5-Star players for the Big 5 Power COnferences were as follows:
SEC/18, PAC-12/8, ACC/7, BIG-10/1, BIG-12/1.
As we all know 5-Star recruits are not the be-all and end-all for successful college players and programs. It can be pretty tough predicting what 18-year olds will be doing at age 21 & 22. But I thought you might be at least mildly interested in some of the numbers above.

New MICHIGAN HC JIM HARBAUGH is clearly busy rebuilding the talent base in Ann Arbor and a big part of that effort has been concentrated on the QB position, which seems logical. SHANE MORRIS would be considered the incumbent coming out of 2014, but that matters not since he wasn’t HARBAUGH’s guy. Most think he will be patient and not push 4-Star recruit ZACH GENTRY this season. But HARBAUGH also has a pair of transfers circling the field. JAKE RUDOCK ex-Iowa is eligible this season and former Houston starter JOHN O’KORN is scheduled to be eligible in 2016. I say, don’t expect too much in HARBAUGH’s first year with the Wolverines, but clearly the rebuild has begun and might show up as early as 2016 on the playing field. The QB Whisperer is back in action in Michigan.

The college landscape is littered with transfers again this year, but only a handful would be considered as potentially seriously impactful for their new teams this season. Here are my potential big 5 for the 2016 NFL Draft, though for some questions still linger on and off the field of play.
JEFF DRISKEL/QB/LA TECH The big guy never got it together at Florida, but the switch to a mid-major setting gives him one last chance to re-establish his glitz and pro potential.
NOAH SPENCE/DE/EASTERN KENTUCKY The former sack master at Ohio State takes his act to another smaller program. He will have to keep his nose very clean and really dominate his new level of competition to regain serious NFL scouting interest, but Edge-Rushers are a big deal in the NFL.
DEVONTE FIELDS/DE/LOUISVILLE The former TCU star still may be burdened with legal entanglements, but if any coach will give him extreme benefit of the doubt it has to be Bad Boy Bobby Petrino. He is a sack master deluxe out on the grass.
WAYNE LYONS/CB/MICHIGAN The former Stanford Cardinal is heading to the Big 10 for former Stanford HC JIM HARBAUGH’s program. Some of this truly seems like soap opera stuff doesn’t it?!
BLAKE COUNTESS/CB/AUBURN You win some, you lose some and COUNTESS has Top 100 potential if he holds up well against SEC offenses. He’s clean off the field and has a golden chance to boost his Draft status with this move.

It looks to yours’ truly as if the 2016 Draft QB crop for the NFL is going to be rather weak. I don’t even see a WINSTON or MARIOTA for the 2015 college season, never mind the next LUCK. But I will give you a guy to keep on your radar. After seemingly transferring around the world, former 5-Star recruit GUNNER KIEL looks to have settled in under TOMMY TUBERVILLE at CINCINNATI. Last year KIEL passed for 3254 yards and 31 TD. On the down side he completed under 60% (59.7%) of his throws and lobbed up 13 INT. I would expect those numbers to improve in his second year in the program, and given the fact that his top 7 receivers from last season are back! In case you’ve lost track of KIEL he was last listed 6’4 and 210 lbs., with a strong arm. He’s a Junior, and if his numbers mount up I could easily see him throwing his hat into the pro ring next Spring. Just as a comparison, I think he has significant similarities to BLAKE BORTLES.

Count me among the many who think this could be the year that AUBURN, under HC GUS MALZAHN, could jump past ALABAMA in the SEC West. Despite the loss of QB/NICK MARSHALL many pundits think that projected new QB/JEREMY JOHNSON/6’5/230 could be more explosive as the trigger man for the Offense than MARSHALL was. And there can be no question that the Defense will be vastly improved under new Defensive Coordinator WILL MUSCHAMP, who did not work out as HC at Florida, but there is little luster lost from MUSCHAMP’s reputation as a top defensive coaching guru. He alone will be counted on the help the team step up from a poor defensive showing last season. MALZAHN has a Top 10 recruiting class coming in, some 2014 injured vets returning healthy and a couple of significant transfers rolling into town to add to a solid group of lettermen.

An interesting program to watch in 2015 could be SOUTH ALABAMA. The fairly new D-1 program enters it’s 7th season in the big time with Head Coach JOEY JONES firmly in control. Many bemoan the loss of 32 seniors from the 6-7 2014 team, but help is on the way. 10 players have transferred in from the disbanded UAB program. A big key to their success may well lie on the arm of UAB transfer QB/CODY CLEMENTS. This program has also become a landing spot for Alabama bred players who didn’t work out at SEC schools. Several more are on their way. And as many coaches will tell you too many seniors, like this team had in 2014, can sometimes hinder a program more than help it. Senior-itis can be a debilitating malady.

Now I’m gong to get back to those NFL rosters and depth charts to prepare more NFL pre-Training Camp info and opinions for you.