Unlike future Coaches polls, I'm not going to be anonymous with my poll for College Football next season. But unlike the coaches, I'm putting out a Top 60 list. Bigger is always better.
Hard to dispute the Gators not being #1 going into 2009. They return 17 starters from last year's National Championship, and they have ESPN's golden child in Tebow. You will be pretty hard pressed to find a poll where Florida isn't #1. The SEC is weak this year and Florida should cruise to the SEC title game.
Bradford, Gresham, McCoy, and a healthy Murray all return in pursuit to finally get a bowl win. The Sooner's Senior class is looking to avoid being the only group of Sooners to lose every bowl game they have been in. This team has some question marks but they are still loaded and are the team to beat in the Big XII yet again.
Might be a tad bit high when you consider all the Trojans have lost, but again its USC. The Trojans will still be a Top-5 team this coming fall. The receiving targets projected QB starter Aaron Corp will have, will be very good for a guy who is getting broken in as the starter. Can the Trojans though live up to expectations for once and win the games they are expected to win?
4. Ohio State
Terrelle Pryor is going to be HUGE in 2009. I would not be stunned if Pryor is the Heisman winner this season. The Buckeyes suffered some big-time losses in Malcom Jenkins and "Beanie" Wells but that won't stop this Big Ten juggernaut. The Bukeyes still have one of the best secondaries in all the land and sophomore Running Back Daniel Herron will give the Buckeyes a new dimension to their running game they haven't seen in quite some time.
5. Ole Miss
This is everyone's pre-season darling going into 2009 and I'm taking the bait as well. The only team in the SEC that can compete with Florida this season, but they won't be able to prove it until the SEC title game as the two teams don't play against one another in the regular season. QB Jevan Snead is one of the best in the nation, and big-time playmaker Dexter McCluster will be causing fits all day for opposing defenses. The biggest element I like about Ole Miss comes down to head coach Houston Nutt. This guy is one of the more under appreciated coaches in all of College Football. The guy knows how to win in the big-time SEC.
Colt McCoy returns for his Senior campaign, and yet again it looks like McCoy will have to be THE man in the running department for the Horns. Last year McCoy caught everyone by surprise with his efficient and balanced QB play. This year won't be as kind unless the Horns get some production in Cody Johnson and Vondrell McGee. The defense should be one of the best in the Big XII.
7. Virginia Tech
It's Tyrod Taylor's team now; there's no Sean Glennon to hold him back now. And that's one of the reasons why the Hokies look like a National Championship contender and the elite team in an improved ACC. But all of that National Championship talk hinges on that opener in Atlanta against Alabama.
8. Oklahoma State
Explosive is the word I think of when talking about the 2009 Cowboys. The skill players on offense are some of the best in the land with QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Dez Bryant. A total of 13 starters return from a team that won 9 games and gave Texas and Oklahoma all they could handle.
Most BCS teams you can rip for not playing a tough non-conference schedule and just relying on the strength of their conference to get them by. You can't rip Oregon this year. The Ducks open up @ BCS-Busting favorite Boise State on the season-opening Thursday night, then host Purdue and last year's only undefeated team in Utah who looks to be a Pre-Season Top 25 team this year. The Ducks have the fire power to go through that slate unscathed with stud RB LeGarrette Blount. The Ducks defense should be very strong led by DE Will Tukuafu who is one of the premiere defensive players in the Pac-10.
10. Penn State
Six of the Nittany Lions first seven home games are in Happy Valley. So expect the Nittany Lions to be very high in the early releases of the BCS polls. Only eight starters return from last year's team and nine if you include star linebacker Sean Lee who has fully recovered from an ACL injury he suffered in 2008's Fall Camp. The Nittany Lions have a good shot to win the Big Ten, it could come down to the November 7th matchup with Penn State hosting the Buckeyes.
Last year ended on a sour note for the Crimson Tide as they were completely exposed by a much more driven and hungry Utah team in the Sugar Bowl. But Bama did establish themselves as a team who will be a force to reckon with again in the SEC. This year's Bama squad will be a grind it out kind of team with only 4 starters returning on offense and 9 on defense. The Bama D should be the best in the SEC led by DT Terrence Cody and ILB Dont'a Hightower.
If anyone thinks LSU is going to drop-off after a 8-5 campaign, think again. QB Jordan Jefferson who is only a Sophomore is going to make LSU a National Title contender again, possibly this season. The Tigers host Florida on October 10th in the daunting 8 p.m. time slot in Death Valley. That will be the game to get a gage on where LSU is heading.
QB Kevin Riley and RB Jahvid Best form one of the better backfields in the Pac-10. The Bears have been a solid team for years now under head coach Jeff Tedford but haven't taken the program to another level getting to a BCS bowl. With USC, Oregon State, and Arizona at home this season, the time is now for Cal to win a Pac-10 title.
14. Florida State
The Noles are amidst controversy in their program stemming from possible academic fraud; but that isn't stopping this year's team from having a great year. Head Coach Bobby Bowden looks to be in the first of his final two years with the school, and he wants to get out on a high note. The Seminoles finally have consistent QB play in Christian Ponder. Ponder is the best Noles QB since Heisman winner Chris Weinke was in Tallahassee.
15. Boise State
Some Pre-Season prognostications have the Broncos as high as #9 going into 2009. I don't see Boise as that high but you always need to have this program on the Top 25. They definitely aren't some nice little story their a legit program and only look to be getting better as they are still a young team led by Sophomore QB Kellen Moore. The Broncos are a BCS-Buster favorite this season even with their youth. Imagine how good they will be one or two years from now.
16. North Carolina
Butch Davis' hard work on the recruiting trail started to pay dividends in Chapel Hill last season, getting the Tar Heels to their first bowl game since 2001. This year's Tar Heels squad is led by the talented defense. Nine starters return led by DT Marvin Austin who was a top recruit in 2007 and is already in his Junior season. Don't plan on North Carolina to be letting up anytime soon because Davis continues to churn out great recruiting classes.
Head Coach Randy Shannon needs to show improvement if he wants to stay off the hot-seat. This is the year to start bringing Miami back to prominance with talented skill players in QB Jacory Harris and RB Graig Cooper. The Hurricanes have opportunities in their schedule to put them back on the map, particularly the Labor Day showdown against Florida State in Tallahassee and a home meeting with Oklahoma.
Joe Ganz graduated leaving a void at QB for the Huskers. Patrick Witt was expected to be the starter but he bolted the program prior to Spring Ball leaving junior Zac Lee as the top gunslinger. Expect solid play from Lee and the Huskers in general this season. Head Coach Bo Pellini got the program back on track with a 9-win campaign and a bowl victory, this year nothing less than an appearance in the Big XII title game will be a disappointment especially with how weak the Big XII North is.
19. Georgia Tech
Paul Johnson's opption attack he brought from Navy last year surprised everyone in the College Football world that the option could be successful in "BCS" football. The Yellow Jackets still have their top rusher in Jonathan Dwyer is one of the best RBs in the nation, and Josh Nesbitt returns with a year of starting experience in the option.
The Horned Frogs despite losing two-game last season still had a Top 10 finish which is uncommon for teams in the "Non-BCS" conferences. TCU year-in and year-out has the elite athleticsm on the defensive side of the ball in the MWC. This year the Horned Frogs D is anchored by DE Jerry Hughes. Hopefully for Hughes he doesn't buckle to the hype like TCU's star DE in 2007 Tommy Blake. One thing of concern for TCU is that they need to get consistent play from QB Andy Dalton.
21. Oregon State
The Beavers return only 10 starters from last year's 9-win team that was one game shy of going to the Rose Bowl. Seven of those 10 are on the offensive side of the ball led by RB Jacquizz Rodgers who burst onto the College Football landscape in a huge upset win over #1 ranked USC. Then the Beavers have two reliable QBs in Lyle Moevao who is the returning starter and Sean Canfield. The Beavers could be seeing themselves in some shootouts this season.
BYU has had three straight 10-win seasons and is looking for a school record 4th this season. QB Max Hall returns who is 21-5 as a starter for the Cougars, and one of his top targets in TE Dennis Pitta returns. The Cougars need to replace last year's national leader in receiving yards in Austin Collie. Guys like O'Neill Chambers and return Mormon missionary McKay Jacobson need to pick up the slack.
23. Notre Dame
The Irish have a favorable schedule that plays well for them this season. Their opener however will be very difficult in Nevada but from there I wouldn't expect to lose another game other than USC. If the Irish can't win 9 games with this schedule, Charlie Weis needs to get canned. Now is the time for guys like Jimmy Clausen, Golden Tate, and Kerry Neal on defense to shine.
Nevada is one of the more underrated teams going into 2009. I've already stated they could possibly be an 11-1 team this season. The Wolfpack have one of the best offenses in the nation running their "Pistol" scheme. If Nevada wins the opener against Notre Dame expect big things.
Last year's only undefeated team in all of College Football has some concerns but still should be a solid team in 2009. The Utes will be led primarily by their defense that returns 7 starters led by safety Robert Johnson and Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. Utah needs to figure out who their QB is going to be. All indications point to the more athletic Corbin Louks who gives Utah a better runner out of the pocket.
The Rest: 26-60
28. Michigan State
29. Texas Tech
34. East Carolina
39. West Virginia
43. NC State
46. Boston College
48. Central Michigan
50. Western Michigan
52. Arizona State
53. South Florida
54. Wake Forest
55. South Carolina
Who are some of your top teams in College Football this season? Post your thoughts in the comments section or shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com
May 28, 2009
Unlike future Coaches polls, I'm not going to be anonymous with my poll for College Football next season. But unlike the coaches, I'm putting out a Top 60 list. Bigger is always better.
May 8, 2009
This year's Tight Ends in College Football are very strong at the top, but after the Top 3 there is a lot of pairity. Many great Tight Ends were lost after last season in Chase Coffman and James Casey just to name a few.
Here's my list of Top 20 Tight Ends going into 2009.
1. Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, Jr.
Gronkowski has already established himself as the best Tight End in Arizona Wildcat history, and according to me is the best all-around Tight End going into 2009. Gronkowski was a 3rd Team All-American last season, and has set practically every Tight End record at Arizona in his two seasons at the school. The Wildcats projected starter at Quarterback, Matt Scott already has a great go-to target in his first season behind Center in Gronkowski.
2. Dennis Pitta, BYU, Sr.
The best overall athlete amongst this year’s Tight Ends. Pitta led all Tight Ends last season with the most receiving yards with 1,083 in a Cougar offense that produced a 3,500+ yard passer, 1,000 yard rusher, and the nation’s stat leader in receiving yards in Austin Collie. Pitta can line out wide and burn opposing teams secondaries. Just needs to become a more consistent blocker.
3. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, Sr.
Gresham opted to return with Bradford for his Senior season to get another crack at the National Title. Gresham was a 1st Team All-American last year, but it will be hard to follow up his performance from last season. I’m afraid that Gresham has peaked in his college career, kind of a questionable move coming back this year.
4. D.J. Williams, Arkansas, Jr.
In his first full season as the starter for the Razorbacks, Williams had 723 yards and three touchdowns in Bobby Petrino’s offense. Williams will now have Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett throwing to him, and a more experienced offense as well. Expect big production from this Razorback.
5. Garrett Graham, Wisconsin, Sr.
When Travis Beckum went down with an injury last season, the Badgers production at Tight End didn’t have a drop-off as many suspected. Graham had a respectable 540 yards last season in a year where the Badgers couldn’t find consistency at the Quarterback position. With Beckum now gone, Graham is the man at Tight End and he’s already the best in the tough Big Ten.
The Rest: 6-20
6. Cody Slate, Marshall, Sr.
7. Ed Dickson, Oregon, Sr.
8. Aaron Hernandez, Florida, Jr.
9. Richard Dickson, LSU, Sr.
10. Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M, Sr.
11. Jason Mastrud, Kansas State, Sr.
12. Jason Harmon, Florida Atlantic, Sr.
13. Tony Moeaki, Iowa, Sr. *injured
15. Bruce Figgins, Georgia, Jr. *Possibly suspended
16. Josh LeDuc, Eastern Michigan, Sr.
17. Andrew George, BYU, Sr.
18. Mike McNeill, Nebraska, Jr.
19. Andrew Quarless, Penn State, Sr.
20. Jim Dray, Stanford, Sr.
Who are your top Tight Ends for 2009? Post your thoughts in the comments ssection or shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Postion Rankings
May 7, 2009
Continuing with the positional rankings, I now give you the Running Backs. You will notice there's actually 41 guys on this list but I just used Big Ten logic, because "40" sounds better than "41".
From evaluating this year's Running Backs there is a lot of pairity in this group and some of the conferences are loaded with very good Running Backs this year.
1. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech, Jr.
Last season, in Paul Johnson’s option offense Dwyer had 1,604 total yards and 13 touchdowns, earning him ACC Player of the Year accolades in only his Sophomore season. Expect bigger things from Dwyer in 2009; in a league that is filled with great running backs Dwyer is hands the best and according to me the best in the nation. Dwyer will put up some great numbers in this, his second season in Atlanta’s version of option attack.
2. Jahvid Best, Cal, Jr.
Another sophomore last season who came out of nowhere to have a great 2008 season; Best finished his first full season as the starter in Berkley with 1,580 rushing yards which was 5th best in the nation. Best is ‘best’ known for his staggering 8.1 yards per carry. He’s a sure fire 1st Down almost every time he touches the ball.
3. LeGarrette Blount, Oregon, Sr.
A JUCO transfer last season out of East Mississippi Community College, Blount was the perfect compliment back to Jeremiah Johnson. Towards the end of last season, Blount emerged as the Ducks feature back. Blount had 1,002 yards last season, and now as the feature back the production should go up. Blount is one of the more entertaining backs to watch at his size of 6’2 240, and the speed he has; he is a freak of nature.
4. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State, Soph.
Burst onto the scene after the Thursday night upset over #1 ranked (at the time) USC. Jacquizz single-handily dominated the Trojans terrific defense for the entire first offense. Every carry he had in that game seemed to go for a first down. It was amazing, and especially for his small stature. Rodgers wore down towards the tail of the end of the season and was even sidelined with an injury in the Beavers 3-0 Sun Bowl victory over Pitt; but “The Quizz” looks to be healthy now and poised to finish the Beavers mission to Pasadena.
5. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State, Jr.
Hunter in his two seasons in Stillwater has rushed for 2,334 yards, which is the best two-year total for a Cowboy behind only the great Barry Sanders. Hunter is one of the many pieces in the Cowboy offense that has big-play capabilities. He was a 1st Team All-Big XII selection last year and is this best RB in the Big XII going into 2009.
6. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma, Jr.
Oklahoma’s chances of winning in the BCS National Championship game last season against Florida were hampered greatly not having Murray who suffered an injury in the Big XII Championship Game against Missouri.
Murray is still recovering from his injury to this day, but is expected to be ready to go this fall. With a healthy Murray the Sooners have one of the most potent Backfields in all of College Football if not the most potent offensively.
7. Graig Cooper, Miami, Jr.
Going into last season, Javarris James looked to be the main man in the backfield for the Canes. James suffered an injury against Florida, and from there Cooper was the man. Cooper was a highly-touted recruit out of Memphis, Tennessee in the Class of 2007. Had 682 yards his first season, and then last year had 841. An explosive back who has been hampered by the inconsistent play at QB for the Canes and the young offensive line. This is the year Cooper bursts out and becomes a household name to all of College Football.
8. Noel Devine, West Virginia, Jr.
An all-around great athlete who still has yet to live up to the unreal hype he received out of Ft. Meyers, Florida. But still, Devine is explosive and a multi-dimensional threat for Bill Stewart’s offense. Devine also is a great kick returner when called upon. With Pat White now gone, Devine’s workload is going to be more significant when this guy plays to his full potential he could arguably be the best player in the land.
9. MiQuale Lewis, Ball State, Sr.
All the attention to the Cardinals last season during their undefeated regular season was geared towards QB Nate Davis who is now in the NFL. Lewis has been a three-year starter for the Cardinals but last year was the first season the Senior-to-be was not hampered by injuries, in 2007 and 2006 Lewis suffered season-ending injuries.
In 2008, Lewis rushed for 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns. Lewis is a solid receiver out of the backfield hauling in 325 yards receiving last season.
10. Chris Brown, Oklahoma, Sr.
Along with a healthy DeMarco Murray, Brown and Murray create the best 1-2 Running Back tandem in all of College Football. Brown rushed for 1,220 yards last season.
The Rest: 11-40
11. C.J. Spiller, Clemson, Sr.
12. Reggie Arnold, Arkansas State, Sr.
13. Harvey Unga, BYU, Jr.
14. Toby Gerhart, Stanford, Sr.
15. John Clay, Wisconsin, Jr.
16. Stafon Johnson, USC, Sr.
17. Evan Royster, Penn State, Jr.
18. Vai Tapua, Nevada, Jr.
19. Curtis Steele, Memphis, Sr.
20. Derrick Washington, Missouri, Jr.
21. Brandon West, Western Michigan, Sr.
22. Damion Fletcher, Souther Miss., Sr.
23. Da’Rel Scott, Maryland, Jr.
24. Joe McKnight, USC, Jr.
25. Ryan Mathews, Fresno State, Jr.
26. Matt Asiata, Utah, Sr.
27. Bryce Beal, Houston, Soph.
28. Michael Smith, Arkansas, Sr.
29. James Starks, Buffalo, Sr.
30. Chris Rainey, Florida, Soph.
31. Daniel Porter, La. Tech, Sr.
32. Shaun Draugh, North Carolina, Jr.
33. Luke Lipincott, Nevada, Sr.
34. Darren Evans, Virginia Tech, Soph.
35. Ben Tate, Auburn, Sr.
36. Darius Marshall, Marshall, Jr.
37. Charles Scott, LSU, Sr.
T-38. Rodney Stewart, Colorado, Soph.
T-38. Darrell Scott, Colorado, Soph.
39. Jay Finley, Baylor, Jr.
40. Jeremy Avery, Boise State, Jr.
Who are your top Running Backs in 2009? Post your thoughts in the comments section, or shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com.
May 5, 2009
This is the first installment previewing the best players by position in all of College Football. Were starting with the most important and most glamorous position of all, the Quarterbacks.
1. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, Jr.
Bradford was the Heisman winner last season as a Sophomore. Led the Sooners offense in 2008 to the most points in FBS history, and accounted for 4,720 yards passing last year. One of the more accurate passers in all of College Football, Bradford is THE best in 2009; and will likely be a #1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft if he decides to leave early.
2. Jevan Snead, Ole Miss, Jr.
Ole Miss has been revived with this former Texas Longhorn at the helm. Snead is a future first-day NFL draft prospect and has many people thinking Ole Miss is a SEC title contender this year.
3. Tim Tebow, Florida, Sr.
Many will probably rip me for not having Tebow 1 or 2 but I don’t drink all the kool-aid with this guy. He’s here in the Top 3 basically due to his accolades as a champion and a Heisman winner, and a product of the talent around him. And if this were a list for best leaders he would probably be at the top, or best shots of a QB screaming a lot (above); but the love for this guy is unreal when there are better natural QBs out there. But again you gotta put him here, for his gawdy numbers and team success. In the NFL he’s a TE.
4. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State, Soph.
Took over for Senior Todd Boeckman last year who was overrated to begin with, and looks primed to have a break-out season in 2009; one of the best athletes in all of College Football.
5. Colt McCoy, Texas, Sr.
Two years ago it looked like McCoy was going to be a bust after losing to the likes Kansas State and Texas A&M with lame duck HC Dennis Franchione at home. But now all of that is forgotten and McCoy is supposedly number two behind Tebow as the best Quarterback. Not in my book.
Can’t deny the improvement he made in 2008 though, was extremely accurate, and is Texas’ best runner. I can’t picture him having that much success on the ground this year though. Don’t be shocked if McCoy has a letdown 2009 season.
6. Max Hall, BYU, Sr.
One of the best schools for producing talented Quarterbacks has another in Max Hall. Hall threw for 3,957 yards last season, him and Sam Bradford will be showcasing an aerial assault in Jerry’s World at the New Dallas Cowboys Stadium on September 5th.
7. Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan, Sr.
Along with Hall, LeFevour is the class of “Non-BCS” Quarterbacks. LeFevour has been very successful for the Chippewas leading them to three consecutive bowl appearances. A future first-round NFL selection in next year’s draft.
8. Robert Griffin, Baylor, Soph.
Griffin is right there with Pryor in the most athletic players in the nation. He was a former track star, how much more athletic can you get? Griffin would be getting more pub if he was on a bigger named program, but it’s refreshing to see a highly-touted recruit go to a program who has had its struggles, and be the guy to revive that program. I commend Griffin for that, and he’s going to lead the Bears to their first bowl bid this year since 1994.
9. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State, Sr.
Burst out onto the scene last season after a huge road-win at Missouri, and led the Cowboys to a 7-0 start and a #9 ranking. Look for more success this season as Oklahoma State looks primed to compete with instate rival, OU as the Big XII’s best team.
10. Jake Locker, Washington, Jr.
Many might be scratching their heads on this one because the Huskies were winless last year. But if you remember, Locker went down with a broken thumb injury on his throwing hand in the fourth game against Stanford and the Huskies season was finished after that. The Huskies flirted with the idea of playing Locker at Safety but that never panned out.
Going into ‘09 with a healthy Locker and new head coach Steve Sarkisian at the helm for UW, expect great things out of Locker out at Montlake; and the first step into reviving one of College Football’s most prestigious programs.
The Rest: 11-40
11. Case Keenum, Houston, Jr.
T-12. Darryl Clark, Penn State, Sr.
T-12. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, Sr.
13. Tim Hiller, Western Michigan, Sr.
14. Rusty Smith, Florida Atlantic, Sr.
15. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada, Jr.
16. Kellen Moore, Boise State, Soph.
17. Matt Grothe, South Florida, Sr.
18. Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon, Jr.
19. Juice Williams, Illinois, Sr.
20. Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech, Jr.
21. Todd Reesing, Kansas, Sr.
22. Patrick Pinkney, East Carolina, Sr.
23. Austin Davis, Southern Miss, Soph.
24. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, Jr.
25. Tony Pike, Cincinnati, Sr.
26. Thaddeus Lewis, Duke, Sr.
27. Chris Turner, Maryland, Sr.
28. Cody Hawkins, Colorado, Jr.
29. Kevin Riley, Cal, Jr.
30. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas, Soph.
31. Lyle Moevao, Oregon State, Sr.
32. Corey Leonard, Arkansas State, Sr.
33. Jacory Harris, Miami, Soph.
34. Omar Clayton, UNLV, Jr.
35. Christian Ponder, Florida State, Jr.
36. Tyler Potts, Texas Tech, Sr.
37. Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, Soph.
38. Jordan Jefferson, LSU, Soph.
39. Diondre Borel, Utah State, Soph.
40. Arkelon Hall, Memphis, Sr.
Who are your top QBs in 2009? Post your thoughts in the comments section. Or shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 2, 2009
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham (5th Season)
2008 Record: 13-0 (Mountain West champs; beat Alabama 31-17 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl)
* = Key game that could go either way
9-3 Utah State (Thurs.) (W)
9-12 @ San Jose State (W)
9-19 @ Oregon (L)*
9-26 Louisville (W)
10-10 @ Colorado State (W)
10-17 @ UNLV (W)*
10-24 Air Force (L)
10-31 Wyoming (W)
11-7 New Mexico (W)*
11-14 @ TCU (L)*
11-21 San Diego State (W)
11-28 @ BYU (L)*
Projected Record: 8-4
OFFENSE (4 Starters Returning)
Brian Johnson leaves Utah with the most wins as a starter at QB. Although Johnson had his share of struggles, his experience and success will be tough to replace. Coach Kyle Whittingham has three players that will continue into spring vying for the starting spot. The player with the most experience is Corbin Louks a junior who has been a change-of-pace Quarterback thus far in his time at Utah. Terrance Cain a JC transfer who set Junior College records for yards and attempts at pass-happy Blinn C.C. Cain is compared as the next Brian Johnson in Utah’s offense. Then in the spring game, early enrollee out of Oceanside H.S. (California) Jordan Wynn had an impressive Spring and coaches feel this a three-man race. Whittingham has compared Wynn to a younger version of former Utah Ute and NFL Draft Bust Alex Smith.
At Running Back, Darrell Mack leaves but Matt Asiata remains who split reps with Mack last season. Asiata now needs to prove himself as the go-to back.
Behind Asiata, is junior Eddie Wide who has seen limited time the past two seasons in the Utah offense, he will see increased reps this season. Along with Wide is a 2008 signee who was highly recruited in Sausan Shakerin who was a Player of the Year in the state of Utah back in 2006 out of Alta High School.
Utah should still be productive in their backfield but there is a lot of question marks going into the fall with this group that it’s got to be one of Whittingham’s main concerns going into the season.
The Utes lost three senior Wide Receivers from their Sugar Bowl team a year ago in Brent Casteel, Bradon Godfrey, and Freddie Brown who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 7th Round of the Draft.
Replacing them is a group of players that the Utes staff feel will be more athletic and talent than last season’s in senior David Reed, junior Jereme Brooks, and senior John Peel. All three have experience in the program. JC transfer Shaky Smithson could have a impact this season after a strong Spring. The problem with all these receivers is that if the Quarterback situation doesn’t get settled who is going to get them the ball?
Tight End is a position the Utes hardly use but they have an experienced player returning this season in senior Chris Joppru.
Offensive Line (Strength)
Three of Utah’s four returning starters on the Offensive end come in the offensive line. Left Tackle Zane Beadles anchors it all, a 1st Team All-MWC selection a season ago. Along with Beadles on the left side is Caleb Schlauderaff a starter for the past two seasons; will be a junior heading into 2009.
The third starter returning is Zane Taylor who played Center a season ago, but is switching to right guard due to expected starter Neil A’asa struggling with injuries. Replacing Taylor at center will be senior Tyler Williams and Tevita Stevens. They will continue to battle it out into the fall.
At right tackle, this is was one of the question marks for the Utes heading into spring practice with the departure of all-conference performer Dustin Hensel. Tony Bergstrom a sophomore had a very good spring practice and established himself as the #1 guy at RT going into ’09.
DEFENSE (7 Starters Returning)
Utah has to replace one of Whittingham’s right-hand men in former DC Gary Andersen who took the head coaching position at Utah State. Replacing Anderson is Kalani Sitake, who has no experience as the Coordinator. Expect Whittingham to get in touch with his old DC ways and assist Sitake along the way.
Defensive Line (Strength)
Paul Kruger left the program early after his Sophomore season to go pro, he was drafted in the 2nd round by the Baltimore Ravens. Replacing him is Derrick Shelby who is moving from the interior of the 4-man front to the edge. Along with Shelby on the edges is returning starter Koa Misi a two-year starter from the Right End spot. Kruger’s younger brother Dave Kruger is a redshirt Freshman who is listed on the two-deep. A guy to watch is Nai Fotu who was a starter at the STUD Linebacker last season but had a season-ending knee injury against TCU. He is now being switched to DE.
The Utes also expect big things from #1 JUCO recruit James Aiono out of Snow College to make an impact right away when he arrives in the summer.
In the interior will be returning starter Kenape Eliapo and Lei Talamaivo. The Utes have one of the best defensive lines in the Mountain West this season.
Stevenson Sylvester will get all the attention from his little pose in the Sugar Bowl last season, but the most productive linebacker in Utah’s linebacking group is senior Mike Wright who was a former Walk-On. Complimenting the two returning starters in Wright and Sylvester will be Kepa Gaison at the STUD spot. Gaison replaced Nai Fotu after he went down with an injury against TCU. Gaison finished the season strong with a 12-tackle performance in the Sugar Bowl.
Utah’s front seven will probably the top rated group in the Mountain West heading into ’09.
The Utes have to replace two NFL draftees at the Cornerback position in Sean Smith (2nd Round, Dolphins) and Brice McCain (6th Round, Texans). Both of the replacements have been in the program, but it will be hard to replicate the production Smith and McCain had the past two seasons as the starters.
Brandon Burton and senior R.J. Stanford will be the starters against Utah State in Game 1, but watch for Kamaron Yancy who was a mid-year JC enrollee who had a solid spring and could see many reps this season.
With the concern in the corners, the Safeties are one of the Utes strengths in Robert Johnson (FS) and Joe Dale (SS) both of whom are two-year starters at their positions and Senior leaders on the team.
The nickel will be played by Damilyn Tanner who was a highly-regarded JC transfer when he signed last season but hasn’t been able to see much time. He’s another possibility at the cornerback position.
SPECIAL TEAMS (Concern)
Louie Sakoda a.k.a. “King Louie” according to the Utah’s Student Body (“MUSS”) will be sorely missed. Sakoda handled the place kicking and punting duties and was clutch for the Utes in many close games last season.
Looking to replace Sakoda at place kicker is senior Ben Vroman who has handled the kickoff duties the past three seasons. He was very inconsistent in spring so other players in Joe Phillips a JC transfer who is only a sophomore and walk-on Coleman Petersen have a shot to take over in the Fall.
Punting duties will be handled by Sean Sellwood a redshirt freshman.
The Utes return game could be explosive with speedy return men in Luke Mathews at Punt returner and David Reed and Elijah Wesson on Kickoffs. The Utes had many issues with fumbles in the return game last season and they should improve on that from last season.
Utah had a very good win against a Alabama who by all accounts was very overrated to begin with, but Utah capitalized on their big moment and finished the ’08 season as the only undefeated team in College Football.
Don’t expect BCS Busting happening up in Salt Lake City this year. Utah is going to go through some struggles.
This Utah team should be very similar to what Utah fans were used to when Ron McBride was the coach for many years. A gritty defensive team and an inconsistent offense that got the job-done but it was done in ugly, grind it out-type fashion. I’m expecting that in 2009 from Utah.
An 8-4 season would be a solid year after the amount of losses they had, and its very attainable considering the Mountain West as a whole will be taking a step back from their record setting season a year ago. So the Utes should still be in the Top 3 or 4 of the league, and have another shot in a bowl game to increase their streak of 8-straight bowl victories which is the longest current streak in all of College Football right now.
Three outright Mountain West Conference titles for the Utes in the past six years. Prior to 2003's outright title, it had been 46 years since Utah won an outright title.
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