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The Feed: SEC Media Days Begins

SEC Media Days
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The headlines in college football…
USA Today – SEC’s top-five storylines entering media days
Sankey, Orgeron highlight opening session of SEC media days
SEC Country – Paul Finebaum picks division winners, SEC champ ahead of SEC Media Days
St Louis Post-Dispatch – SEC issues: ‘Bama invincible? Does East have a pulse? Coaches in peril?
AP – Former Tennessee linebacker Johnson arrested on DUI charge
AP – UNC reinstates suspended player after dismissal of charges
AP – Baylor settles lawsuit with woman who alleged sexual assault
AP – Michigan St dismissed ex-players accused of sexual assault
USAToday – Early look: What to like about No. 1 Florida State in 2017
Bleacher Report – The Next Lamar Jackson: Sophomore QBs with a Shot to Win the 2017 Heisman Trophy
Sports on Earth – Who is the SEC’s Next Non-Bama Champion?
Sports on Earth – Ranking CFB’s Transfer Quarterbacks
Sports Illustrated – The 2017 Freaks List: The top workout warriors in college football
247Sports.com – Five Tide players named to Maxwell, Bednarik watch lists
Sports Illustrated – 10 biggest stories of college football off-season

Curated by Steven Stiefel

With Changes and Additions, the 2017 College Football Season is Already Taking Shape

Preseason College Football 2017

Another preseason unfolds as we move beyond National Signing Day to the start of Spring practices for many teams. Fans pin our hopes for this autumn on the progress our schools make in these February and March days.

Reflections on National Signing Day

The Kickoff ranked Alabama at the top of our 30 best recruiting hauls. Nick Saban and Company signed a total of 28 players, six of them in the Top 30, 14 of them in the Top 10 and two JUCO transfers. We expect that losing to Clemson in the title game won’t do much to affect Bama’s habit of reloading with the nation’s top talents. The six 5-star prospects this year for Bama are OT Alex Leatherwood, RB Najee Harris, OLB Dylan Moses, DW Labryan Ray, QB Tua Tagovailoa, and WR Jerry Jeudy. Last year, the Tide had a mere 25 recruits, including a mere four 5-star players, so watch for the abundance of riches to pay off in Tuscaloosa.

Across the state, rival Auburn claimed the top Junior College prospect, 5-Star Quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who picked them over Florida and Texas A&M. Considering the problems the Tigers have had at the QB position this past couple of seasons, Stidham will be a welcome addition to the team. They also just hired Larry Porter, one of the nation’s top recruiters, away from North Carolina.

Filling out the top 10 in recruiting this year are Ohio State (signing 21), Michigan (30), Southern Cal (24), Georgia (26), Florida State (23), LSU (24), Stanford (14), Oklahoma (27), and Auburn (21).

Out of the Top 30 Overall high school prospects, UCLA got 5-star defensive end Jaelen Phillips, whose father was also a Bruin. The Tennessee Vols signed 5-star offensive tackle Trey Smith, a Parade All-America honorable mention. We listed the Top 30 in the most recent edition of The Kickoff newsletter, as well as the Top high school prospects by position and where those guys committed to play.

Defending National Champs Clemson had the 13th ranked recruiting class with 14 signees, including two Top 30 prospects, WR Tee Higgins and QB Hunter Johnson, both considered 5-star players. Replacing Deshaun Watson is no small feat, but two other highly ranked QB recruits join Johnson in going after the job.

You can see the future of college football taking shape! Get ready to hear names like Tagovailoa, Cam Akers, Davis Mills, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Colby Parkinson, Trey Smith, Wyatt Davis, Cesar Ruiz, Jaelan Philips, Marvin Wilson, Dylan Moses, Jacob Phillips, Jeffrey Okudah, Jacoby Stevens, and Brendon White referenced on future Saturdays. Of course, there’s no guarantee these young men will live up to their hype (or how soon they will begin to make an impact). In the February newsletter, we designated which of these prospects we believe are future stars, program changers, first year contributors, developmental players, and FBS prospects.

When it comes to intra-state rival bragging rights, our February issue also listed the top recruit in all 50 states.

Coaching Carousel

Among the changes on the sidelines to look forward to:

Tom Herman replacing Charlie Strong at Texas. Strong replacing Willie Taggart at USF. Former Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Luke Fickell replacing Tommy Tuberville at Cincinnati. We also get to see how long Ed Orgeron can avoid the same fate as Les Miles at LSU. We’re curious how Former Alabama Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin does as Head Coach at FAU. Former Temple Head Coach Matt Rhule takes over from Jim Grobe at Baylor.

It is fun to imagine the impact these additions and changes will make, especially if our teams did not finish up to their full potential in 2016.

Written by Steven Stiefel

Copyright: tallyclick / 123RF Stock Photo

QBs Give Clemson an Advantage Over Bama in College Football Playoff

trophyAnother great season of college football ended Monday night with Clemson’s last-second (literally) touchdown to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game. Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff college football newsletter, believes quarterback play was the difference for the Tigers.

“Deshaun Watson took a lot of punishment all night long and showed a lot of ability to stay calm and show poise in pressure situations,” Duff said. “He torched the Alabama defense in the fourth quarter by wearing them out. They couldn’t stop him in the second half. Watson played with a chip on his shoulder because he’s from near Georgia but the kid they recruited for quarterback instead of him is now the Bulldogs’ back up punter. Watson deserves all of the accolades he is getting.”

Duff said Alabama switching offensive coordinators a week before the championship game did no favors for Quarterback Jalen Hurts. “Hurts made some good plays but he was off. He looked uncomfortable. When Bo Scarbrough got hurt, it deprived Alabama of their power back to pound the ball and Jalen had to carry the team.”

In the end, Clemson’s fourth quarter 21-point rally was too much for an Alabama defense that had dominated teams all season long.

Although Tide fans ended the night sad and shocked (perhaps having forgotten how it feels to lose a game), Nick Saban’s team is always a threat to be right back in the national championship game next year.

Looking Ahead Part I

Duff said he also sees great potential for USC and Penn State: “The Rose Bowl was a great game at the same level as the national title game. These teams are loaded with talent. If USC was playing Alabama right now, I think they could be very dangerous.”

He said the ACC showed it is moving closer to matching the SEC, but the loss by Ohio State and the performance of the Big 10 conference teams overall this season exposed “a flop. Penn State was the one good team that showed up this bowl season. Wisconsin was not a good matchup with Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl. The Big 10 had 4 good-to-great teams, then a lot of mediocrity. SEC teams might have one week where they play weak teams, but the rest of the season they have to rise and play to the best of their ability to win.”

Duff counts Oklahoma, which defeated Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, among the teams to watch in 2017 because of getting QB Baker Mayfield back.

Georgia is also positioned to do well with Chubb and Michel returning,” Duff said. “He may be a great recruiter, but it remains to be seen whether Kirby Smart can head coach after they went 4-4 in the SEC. I expect LSU will also do well. Auburn must find a quarterback that can work in Gus Malzahn’s system. It’s hard to put my finger on Tennessee, which is losing some great talent but has this Jarrett Guarantano kid who reminds me of Marcus Mariota and is faster than Dobbs. There will be pressure on Butch Jones to demonstrate the Volunteers are beyond rebuilding years and Tennessee hasn’t peaked in what it can accomplish.”

Looking Ahead Part II

The next issue of The Kickoff, due February 6th, will have full National Signing Day coverage. Duff said he loves covering recruiting “because it has all of the fun and intrigue of the regular season – the last-minute decisions and teams sending out their best recruiters to battle for the next crop of great talent. We’ll be listing the Top 10 in every position and following these high school kids and JUCO talent.”

In fact, The Kickoff publishes a total of 23 issues each year, including 6 during the off-season. This fall, the cycle will begin anew.

The Kickoff would like to thank everyone for helping to make our 67th year successful,” Duff said. “We are planning on some big additions for next year with weekly bonus coverage. We look forward to seeing you next season!”

 

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Copyright: munktcu / 123RF Stock Photo

Written by Steven Stiefel

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