Francois Back For Round Two

The role of the quarterback of a football team is not an easy one.  It seems the weight of the entire team rests on the shoulders of just one man.  Facing the jump from high school to college and college to pro can be daunting and exciting all at the same time for up and coming players.  So, taking on the role of starting quarterback as a freshman can show you how developed a player really is.  While reviewing last year’s stats and game tapes, it is pretty undeniable that Deondre Francois deserved his spot as starting quarterback for Florida State University.

As practices began, in 2016, it was clear there was going to be some rivalry at the quarterback position.  Sean Maguire, who had played the backup to the previous two quarterbacks, was looking for his moment to shine.  Maguire played in the Clemson game back in 2014, while Jameis Winston was suspended, and for a short bit in the Rose bowl in 2015.  In the 2015 season he played in eight games and was the starting quarterback in five of them.  His most notable act was breaking his ankle in the Peach Bowl and coming back out to play the rest of the game, in its entirety, while injured.

Maguire was set to come back for his final season and battle it out with Francois for the starting position, but when he injured his foot during fall camp it left the position wide open for Francois.  Francois was a threat all over the field.  His accuracy and precision were on track, he had great instincts and he was able to run and throw.

As a redshirt freshman, Francois was named rookie of the year in the ACC conference, for 2016.  Now, returning for his second season as starting quarterback for Florida State, does Francois have more to offer?  How have his skills improved over the past year?  Jimbo Fisher has made it clear that Deondre Francois will continue at the helm of his team.  Making at least one preseason decision for Fisher an easy one.

Last year Francois was sacked 34 times.  Though he continually got up and kept going, this is something that, as fans, we hope was corrected in the off season.  Strengthening the offensive line, as well as getting rid of the ball a few seconds earlier, will be critical in getting the number of sacks to a reasonable amount for 2017.

Deondre Francois came to Florida State in 2015 and played in 2016 as a redshirt freshman.  Everything was new, the plays, the coaches, his teammates.  This year, he has a year of experience under his belt.  This will surely make for a more calm and collected player, as well as giving him the time to work on his more technical skills.  He already knows the plays, he has already been on the big stage.  Now it is just about fine tuning the skills and ability that he already possesses.

 

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Who Gets the Spot… Miami Hurricanes’ Quarterback Spot Is Up For Grabs

Down here, in sunny Miami, Florida, four guys vying for the honor to call themselves the Miami Hurricane’s starting quarterback.  The quarterback of a football team is such an important role.  He is the captain of the ship.  The appointed man needs to be quick and impulsive, but still patient and has good instincts.  He needs to be able to launch the ball 50 yards down the field or scramble through the offensive line to pick up the last few yards needed for a first down.  By his peers, he is the most protected man on the field, but with his pads he is the least protected.  The quarterback of a team is the central point that the entire rest of the team predominately will be built around.

Whenever a team loses their quarterback, it is never a safe bet as to how the team will perform the following year.  A team can have great talent and still miss the mark if the right guy is not leading the team.  Not to say that every position doesn’t have its role and is not equally as important, but the quarterback is involved in every single offensive play in the entire game, barring a kick.

Without further ado, the guys up for the job are as follows: Evan Shirreffs, a three-star athlete from Jefferson, Georgia is a redshirt sophomore. Malik Rosier, a redshirt junior, out of Mobile, Alabama, played in six games last season as the teams primary backup to Brad Kaaya.  N’kosi Perry, a true freshman out of Ocala, Florida, is also a contender for the open position.  Lastly, Cade Weldon, also a true freshman, out of Tampa, Florida is looking to take on the role.

Teams like Miami, are very marketable for freshmen quarterbacks, just coming into college.  Without a definite decision on who will play the position, it gives incoming freshman an opportunity to play on the biggest stage of their lives.  Some would say redshirting a season and getting comfortable with the plays is important.  I say “some guys got it and some guys don’t”.  You can’t tell me that true freshman Deondre Francois, Florida State, or Jalen Hurts, Alabama, did not look like they belonged out on the field last year.

With any of these candidates there will be trials and there will be things that they excel at and things that will need to be learned in time.  Nonetheless, I do not envy Mark Richt for having to make this decision, with what seems like four very possible candidates.  Richt has told the media that he will look to identify his starting quarterback after the second scrimmage.  However, if he has a candidate in mind he is being very hush hush about his thoughts, making sure that as far as all the fans and media are concerned all four possibilities look to be on an even playing field.

The question will be, once Richt is allowed into the practices, will one quarterback excel from the pack?  Will one person stand out, or maybe even two?  Will the first couple games be trial and error for the Miami Hurricanes?  In my personal opinion I would doubt all four of these guys play.  I would assume one of the true freshmen will redshirt this season.  But until the season starts, it is all just assumptions.

Whoever gets the starting role, I am sure will be deserving.  If they have to shuffle quarterbacks against Bethune Cookman to see who they are going to continue on starting throughout the year, than that is alright.  But, best believe, they better have their quarterback situation figured out by Week 3 when they take on Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium, in Tallahassee.

So who gets the job?  Guess we are just going to have to wait and see.

Jimbo Fisher Knows Best

For years, the battle for supremacy, in college football, between the ACC and SEC conferences has gone strong.  There were years like 2014, when the SEC was so good, fans were waiting for the conference play to see who would end up with the victory.  I stand firmly behind my statement that Arkansas was the best unranked team in the country that year and they went 7-6.  They played fantastic football, they just happened to be in a conference where every game, week in and week out, was against one of the toughest competitors of the year in college football.  Somebody had to lose and they continually did, by the smallest of margins and gracefully.

But, enough about that.  Until last year, it seemed the SEC was the conference to beat, for the last several years.  Alabama had been almost unstoppable (except by Ole’ Miss… two years in a row) and teams like LSU, Ole’ Miss, and Auburn have all had their years in the sun.  However, as of last year, it looks like there’s a new conference to look out for.  Or well, an old conference coming back for redemption.  No one can argue that the likes of Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, and Miami are some forces to be reckoned with.  No team is looking forward to playing any of these teams and they certainly aren’t saying to themselves “we can relax that week”.

No one is saying the SEC has lost their edge, though it does seem Alabama is doing a lot of holding the line, as of late.  LSU, Auburn, and Georgia all may have their claim to fame this year.  But I think it is safe to say that the SEC is no longer standing alone as the best conference in college football.

After the 2016 bowl games, where the ACC went 8-3 and the SEC went 5-5, it’s safe to say things could get very interesting this year.  Jimbo Fisher went out on a limb to say he believed he was coaching in the best conference in football this year, and I may just have to agree with him.  Either way the match ups this year will be intense and make for great Saturdays to come.  Florida State will play Alabama along with Georgia Tech playing Tennessee in week one, and in week two Auburn will take on defending national champion, Clemson.  There will be no shortage of ACC vs SEC match ups to watch.

Not to say that Florida State playing Alabama at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on September 2, is the deciding factor, but it will definitely set the tone for the upcoming year.  Last year we saw many teams come out and play big games on week one, after several years of boring week one football.  That being said, Florida State and Alabama just upped and anti and took on the challenge.  Depending on how the season goes, it would not be hard pressed to think these two teams could end up in the top four and battling it out for the national championship.

Only time will tell which conference will reign supreme this year, but there is one thing we know for sure…  when college football is on it makes it a great time of year!

KimmyGold’s Way Too Early College Football Top 25

Back in May, my dear friend, Antwan Staley, asked me to make a “Way too early college football top 25 list.”  So, I accepted the challenge.  Knowing full well some things have changed and some players may have moved on, here is my original prediction for the way I thought the 2017 college season should begin.

  1. Alabama-Alabama returns a good amount of starters, including its, sophomore quarterback, Jalen Hurts.  With the number one recruiting class in the country and what seems like a never-ending bench, Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide start my list at number 1.
  2. Ohio State-With such an extremely young team, last year, and almost every starter returning; Ohio state will be a force this year.  They had a fantastic season in 2016 as they finished 11-2 and played in the Fiesta Bowl before losing to eventual national champion Clemson.  This year brings all the same faces with an extra year of experience.
  3. Florida State-Rightfully the Seminoles start near the top with a pretty full line up of returning starters and a great finish to their season, last year (10-3).  They also have second year, sophomore quarterback, Deondre Francois, returning.  If this team can make the necessary adjustments to their offensive line, other teams may be hard pressed to get a win out of Florida State this year.
  4. USC- After a 1-3 start to begin the 2016 season, the Trojans won their last nine games to finish the year.  With many returning players, including quarterback Sam Darnold, based on last years’ performance and bowl game, USC is likely to be a tough competitor this year.
  5. Oklahoma-Quarterback Baker Mayfield is coming back, so is most of the team.  The end.  Just kidding, that might have been the end until earlier in the month, when coach Bob Stoops retired and gave offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley a chance to lead the Sooners.  This will be an adjustment and we will see if he can man the ship as well as his predecessor.  (This list was written before that occurred)
  6. Clemson-As the defending national champions, typically I would rank the Tigers higher, however, they lost a good amount of their offense, including their Heisman trophy candidate, quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Having to rebuild their offense leaves them still in my top ten, but down at number six.
  7. Penn State-Penn State was a surprise last year as they won the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2008.  But with 18 of their starters coming back, and their obvious ability to work as a strong unit, this team is going to be one to beat.
  8. Wisconsin-With a tough schedule ahead, the Badgers look to return to the Big Ten Championship Game for the second straight season.  With 15 returning starters, and guys like Chris Orr returning from his injury, it should be within their reach.
  9. Washington-Looking to mimic their performance from last year, Washington has a good shot to do so.  With quarterback Jake Browning back for his junior season, they will still need to replace some key contributors, after losing them to the draft.  However, with the talent on their coaching staff and a solid quarterback to workout around, Washington could have what it takes to make its way back into the top four.
  10. Oklahoma State-With some good play makers already in place with this team, the Cowboys are setting their sites on winning the Big 12.  With a solid list of returners, including quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington, this is not far fetched.
  11. LSU-With new coach, Ed Orgeron, at the helm (for his first full season), LSU looks to have a great season.  After four games, Orgeron became the interim coach and did an excellent job of pulling his team together.  The Tigers have the talent, it’s going to be about putting the right players in the right places and playing together as a team.
  12. Georgia-With Kirby Smart in his second year with the bulldogs, it looks to be a standout season.  With almost their entire defense returning, the focus will need to be on the offense.  They look to take the SEC east title this year from Florida, and it seems there is reasonable possibility to do so.
  13. Stanford-As a consistent team in general, this is no surprise.  However, with their quarterback suffering an injury in their bowl game last year, it remains to be seen if he will be able to return or if they will need to figure out a replacement.  While that is up in the air, they have to replace running back Christian McCaffrey.  McCaffrey played several positions, so with his departure, there is more than just one hole to fill.
  14. Auburn-With what seems like almost their entire starting line up coming back, not to mention Jarrett Stidham sliding over from Baylor, as quarterback, the Tigers are looking to give Alabama a run for their money in the SEC.  They look to be consistent, considering almost all these guys have gotten the chance to play together for a full year already.
  15. Miami-With Mark Richt in his second year as head coach in Miami, we’ve seen good things brewing.  However, with the loss of their quarterback, Brad Kaaya, it will be interesting to see who claims the starting job.  Their defense, on the other hand, looks to be well rounded, based on the statistics from last year and eight returning starters.
  16. Michigan-With only five returning starters on the entire team, Michigan has a lot of rebuilding to do.  Their 2016 season was impressive, but with so much new talent, there is the question of whether they can essentially build a new team.
  17. Kansas State-Kansas State always stands out in the Big 12.  With 16 returning starters, from a team that won nine games last year, they are looking to repeat that and more.
  18. Louisville-With the return of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, I wish I could rank this team higher; but after watching their collapse at the end of the season last year, I am not sure this team can get itself back together to have another all star beginning like they did last year.  The bench seems a little shallow, which does not leave much room for injuries.
  19. South Florida-Trying to be the fourth football power house in Florida, South Florida makes this list at number 19.  With Charlie Strong (formerly from Texas) coming in to take over a solid team, this year should be a good one for the Bulls.  With plenty of returning starters, including quarterback Quinton Flowers, they are ready to put their team up to the test.
  20. Florida-With having one of the best defenses in the country last year, to cover up their lack of talent on offense, the Gators will have an uphill battle this year.  They only have five defensive starters returning and even with nine offensive players, their offense needed work to begin with.  Without fixing their offense or rebuilding their defense, Florida may just fall off this list quickly, after their season opener to Michigan.
  21. Pittburgh-With Pittsburgh bringing back the majority of its starters, they might be able to handle some business in the ACC Coastal.  They had some close calls last year, but they also were the only team to beat otherwise undefeated Clemson.  If they can figure out what they did that game to win, they can do well this year.  The talent is there, but they will need to replace quarterback Nate Pterman.
  22. Texas-With Tom Herman (formerly at Houston) as new head coach for the Longhorns, this could be what they need for a turnaround.  The have returning sophomore, quarterback Shane Buechele who stood out last year, even as a true freshman.  With a year of conditioning under Buechele’s belt and the experience of Tom Herman, this team may be able to get back to the glory days.
  23. Washington State-With quarterback Luke Faulk returning and most of their defense, it is possible they will do well this year.  They will need to rebuild their offense and they play a tough opponent in USC very early on.  Only time will tell whether this team will have what it takes to stay on this list.
  24. Virginia Tech-With many of their offensive players returning, they still need to fill some key roles in the receiver and tight end positions.  There is also a battle going on in the quarterback position.  Virginia Tech is looking to have a repeat or better of their 10-win season.
  25. Tennessee-Tennessee is a wild card for me.  They had several very close games last year, all decided by missed field goal attempts.  It doesn’t look like they have brought on a new kicker, so they may be able to shake some things up if their kicker got a lot of practice in the off season.  They will also need to figure out a new quarterback and running back situation, with the departure of Joshua Dobbins and Alvin Kamara.

So, here we have it, KimmyGold’s “Way too early college football top 25 list”.  As the season approaches, it is very exciting to see how these teams, as well as many others will take shape.  August 26, we’re off to the races.

Can Alabama deliver?

For what seems like forever, the Alabama Crimson Tide have been at the top of every football enthusiasts’ college football rankings.  They may not have won the championship in 2016, but let’s be realistic.  Since Nick Saban took over (2007), the Crimon Tide have made it to the big dance (National Championship) five times and won the trophy four of those times.

Alabama has set themselves up nicely, with a top recruiting class (number one in the nation according to ESPN) and an extremely deep bench.  You may not like every decision these coaches make, but you can’t seem to argue with success.  This year, the team has six returning offensive starters, five on defense, and one on special teams.  This leaves them with some holes to fill, but with such a deep bench already, it’s pretty safe to say that Saban won’t have a problem filling those holes with guys who would have likely started last year, had they opted to go to a smaller school.

Their schedule this year is really a mystery.  After the season opener, it starts off slow with games against Fresno State, Colorado State, and Vanderbilt; that is after what could be the biggest game of the year.  Alabama will take on Florida State in what is arguably going to be the best match up of the year.  Alabama fans have been dying for this match up since the 2013 SEC Championship, when Bama attempted a 57 yard field goal that was run back by Auburn to win the game with one second left on the clock.  Auburn would go on to defeat the Missouri Tigers 59-42 in the SEC Championship and play in the BCS National Championship against Florida State.  Florida State ultimately won the National Championship 34-31.

As a Florida State fan and alumni, I cannot count the number of times, after that game, that I heard an Alabama fan say “You wouldn’t have won if you had played us”.  To which I kindly replied “We would have played you, if you could have beaten Auburn”.  Let’s be honest, this is why we all watch and love college football, for the edge of your seat, nail biting, hold your breath, jump out of your chair, scream your head off moments.  And well, it looks like Alabama and Florida State fans are finally getting what they were looking for.  The players are now different, but the coaches and the pride are still the same.

Does Alabama have what it takes to have another undefeated regular season?  Are they set to go all the way to the national championship again this year?  Only time will tell.  Later in the season they are still set to face off against teams like LSU,  Auburn, and Tennessee.  I think its safe to say, they have all the components in the right places.  If they fire off on all cylinders, it’s hard to imagine many teams standing in their way.  I think game one of their season is going to be a great indicator of the season to follow.