One of my favorite things about college football is that the landscape is always changing year after year. Sure, there are the powerhouse football programs that are dominating almost every season, but even in that the names are new and the circumstances are different.
NFL has free agency now days which helps, but the variety is not as much as it is in college football.
College football from the 2014 season loses some quality seniors and still more underclassmen and we kind of start over for 2015.
Just at the Quarterback position we lose Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota and we lose the previous Heisman winner in Jameis Winston. A lot of fans will say we aren’t losing much with Winston because of his off the field issues.
Besides those top guys, Blake Sims of Alabama, Dylan Thompson of South Carolina, Jake Waters of Kansas State, Brett Hundley of UCLA and Taylor Kelly of Arizona State to name just a few, will also be moving on to the next phase of their lives.
But, don’t worry college football fans, there will be plenty of talented guys to come along and replace these guys. Only the most hardcore football fans had heard of JT Barrett and Cardale Jones of Ohio State going into this past season.
Listed below are some of the talented guys that I expect to make the most headlines next season. These are not necessarily in order as far as who will have the biggest seasons.
Patrick Towles – Kentucky: Towles played a little bit as a true freshman in 2012 on a 2-10 Kentucky Wildcats team before redshirting in 2013 in head coach Mark Stoops first season. In 2014, Towles seemed to surprise many people with his play at Quarterback for the Wildcats and particularly early on. The Wildcats started their season at 5-1 and were the talk of the town before losing 6
straight games to finish up at 5-7.
Obviously, football is a team game and Kentucky is a young team which showed, but they improved from a 2-10 record in 2013 to a 5-7 record in 2014.
Towles is the NFL prototype Quarterback measuring 6-5, 240 and has that running ability somewhat like an Andrew Luck. In his first year as a starter, Towles threw for 2,718 yards and 14 Touchdowns and that should improve dramatically next season as the Wildcats also improve.
Towles comes by his arm strength naturally as his grandfather is Hall of Fame Pitcher Jim Bunning.
My early prediction is that Towles has an outstanding 2015 season and declares for the NFL and just may be the first Quarterback taken. Backing up Patrick Towles is redshirt freshman Drew Barker, an outstanding Quarterback from Burlington, Kentucky.
Joshua Dobbs – Tennessee: Dobbs didn’t see the field until the 8th game. The Tennessee Volunteers were 3-4 on the season without Joshua Dobbs. The Vols finally inserted Dobbs when they were getting blown out by the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Volunteers got better immediately but they still lost 20-34 to the Crimson Tide. Dobbs passed for 192 yards and 2 Touchdowns and ran for 75 more yards in his first action of the season.
Dobbs started the rest of the year and the Vols were now 3-5 on the year. In the 5 remaining games, the Volunteers won 4 and lost only to SEC East champion Missouri. Dobbs first start was against South Carolina and he led the Vols from behind in a 45-42 win.
In 5 starts for the Volunteers, Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and 9 Touchdowns.
When Joshua Dobbs took over as the Quarterback in game 8 of the season, things were completely different for the Volunteer offense. Dobbs is listed as 6-3, 215. Clearly, he is an outstanding runner and very dangerous out of the zone read offense. But, Dobbs also has a really nice arm and seems capable of making any throws necessary.
Dobbs is majoring in Aerospace Engineering so he takes this stuff seriously.
Missouri has won the SEC East the last 2 seasons, but people had better be careful when playing the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers.
Mike Bercovici- Arizona State: There was talk last year that Bercovici was transferring to UCLA, but he stuck around and thankfully for the Sun Devils that he did. Bercovici was long term starter Taylor Kelly’s back up the last couple of years. Kelly injured his foot against Colorado in game 3 and Mike Bercovici got his chance.
The Sun Devils got murdered in his first starting opportunity by UCLA. But, the following week Bercovici brought his team from behind in amazing fashion. I first saw Mike Bercovici in the Sun Devil Spring Game and it was said that he was a better passer than Taylor Kelly. He is.
In Bercovici’s first complete game in 2014, he threw for 488 yards and 3 Touchdowns. But, he also threw 2 Interceptions which were deadly to the Sun Devils and the UCLA Bruins blew them out. In the next game. Bercovici redeemed himself with a 38-34 come from behind win over the USC Trojans. In the exhilarating game against the Trojans, Bercovici hit one of the nation’s best Wide Receivers Jaelen Strong on a last second play for the win.
That play will be known forever as ‘Jael Mary’ and there are even tee shirts available.
The Sun Devils will not have Jaelen Strong next season and that will be a huge loss. Arizona State Sun Devil Running Back DJ Foster has not decided if he is coming back yet. Foster ran for over 1,000 yards a year ago and caught 62 passes and if he is back the Sun Devils will be dangerous again.
The 6-1, 200 senior to be, Bercovici, out of Calabasas, California, has the strong arm and the experience to get it done in 2015 for Arizona State and will be one to watch for next season. The Pac 12 returns Kody Kessler from USC, Anu Solomon from Arizona and Jared Goff from California, but Bercovici could be a threat to all of them.
Luke Del Rio – Oregon State: If the name Del Rio sounds familiar, it’s because Luke Del Rio is the son of Jack Del Rio the former USC Trojan Linebacker and long time NFL player and coach. Del Rio is the Defensive Coordinator for the Denver Broncos which explains why Luke Del Rio is from Highland Ranch, Colorado. Coming out of high school, Del Rio was recruited by several big schools and it was thought at one time that he might sign with Oklahoma State. But, he chose to walk-on at Alabama.
At Alabama, the rumor had him doing really well on the depth chart. But, Alabama head coach Nick Saban chose to hire former USC coach Lane Kiffin as his Offensive Coordinator. Supposedly, Del Rio chose not to walk-on at USC because of Kiffin and now Kiffin was at Bama.
Del Rio did not have to sit out due to the transfer rules because he was a walk-on and he picked the Oregon State Beavers as his next destination.
Luke Del Rio participated in Spring Practice with the Oregon State Beavers and earned the back up spot for the team for the 2014 season.
Sean Mannion was a 4 year starter for the Beavers and he threw for 13,600 yards and 83 Touchdowns. He’s gone. Also gone is long time head coach Mike Riley, who shockingly left Oregon State for the vacant Nebraska job. In his place will be former Utah State and Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen who left the Badgers in almost as shocking fashion. The shocking thing about Andersen, in my humble opinion, is that he left right after getting beat 59-0 by Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game. I’m just not feeling a leaving a job mentality with so much work to be done.
Del Rio has almost zero experience with only 18 passes thrown in 2014 which went for 141 total yards. Del Rio has to beat out several competitors for the starting job.
If he does win that job, look for the sophomore Luke Del Rio to have a big season for the Oregon State Beavers.
Cyler Miles – Washington: The Washington Huskies finished about where I expected, but many thought that the hiring of Chris Peterson from Boise State would somehow take them to another level. Let me just say now that I try to keep my blog as unbiased as possible and I have nothing against Boise State in spite of my feelings about their home stadium’s blue turf.
Coach Dirk Koetter was the man that made the Boise State program what it is today. Koetter was scarfed up by Arizona State where he completely bombed. Koetter’s replacement was Dan Hawkins and he took the Broncos to further heights. Hawkins was well desired throughout the country, but was hired by the Colorado Buffaloes of the Big 12 Conference. It was a disaster.
Chris Peterson took over for Hawkins and maintained the Boise State program like it had been. When the Washington Huskies lost their coach, Steve Sarkisian to USC, the Huskies promptly hired Chris Peterson. The jury is still out on Peterson, obviously, but I was not ready to move up the Huskies in the rankings because every other Boise State coach had flopped so far at different destinations.
For those that thought Sarkisian was a bad hire for the Trojans because he only went 34-29 at Washington I do wonder if they had seen the Huskies before he arrived and what they looked like when he left. Sarkisian replaced Tyrone Willingham who had posted an 11-37 record for the Huskies and Willingham’s last team had gone win less.
Peterson had taken over the 9-4 Huskies who had lost outstanding 1,800 Running Back Bishop Sankey and good Quarterback Keith Price.
Cyler Miles replaced Price at Quarterback and had a pretty good season throwing for just a shade under 2,400 yards in spite of missing 2 games. Bishop Sankey was replaced by committee in 2014.
Miles is a 6-4, 225 strong armed Quarterback from Centennial, Colorado. If Miles remains healthy, and has a little bit of luck on his side, he could have a huge year in 2015.
Luke Falk – Washington State: I have been watching Washington State football coach Mike Leach for years and every season his offenses put up huge numbers and 2015 will be no different. Starting Quarterback, senior Connor Halliday, was sailing along breaking records until he broke his leg against Southern Cal.
Freshman Luke Falk entered the game as Halliday’s replacement and threw for 346 yards and 2 Touchdowns. The following games he threw for 471 yards and then 601 yards. In his final game against Washington, he threw for 355 yards. Similar numbers to what Connor Halliday was doing as will the guy that replaces Falk in a few years. But, the guys on Sports Center and the Pac 12 Network will be talking about Luke Falk and Washington State pretty often so you read it here first.
Jake Coker – Alabama: Jacob Coker was supposed to be the Alabama savior last year at Quarterback, but Blake Sims rose to the occasion. Coker got limited action during the 2014 season, but he is still a 6-5, 230 Quarterback with a lot of mobility and a very good arm. Anticipation for Coker with Bama fans should be the same as last season.
In 2014, Coker threw the ball 59 times and completed 38 passes for 403 yards and 4 Touchdowns. The best thing about Coker’s stats is that he didn’t throw any Interceptions. Coker should win this job hands down, but that’s what everyone said last year until Blake Sims stepped up.
Jeremy Johnson – Auburn: Auburn Tigers starting Quarterback Nick Marshall was suspended for the first half of the opening Auburn game against Arkansas and Jeremy Johnson got the start.
Johnson completed 75% of his passes with 12 completions in 16 attempts which were good for 243 yards and 2 Touchdowns. The 6-5, 230 Johnson is a really accurate passer and can make the deep throws as well. Johnson is never going to be mistaken for Nick Marshall with his feet but he is a much better passer.
Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn will have to tweak his offense just a little bit going from Marshall to Johnson, but the Auburn Wide Receivers could be happy.
Chad Kelly – Ole Miss: As most serious fans realize, Chad Kelly is the nephew of Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills. From what I have seen of Chad Kelly, he is no Jim Kelly but he was better with his feet than I expected when I saw him. Kelly also has a nice arm.
It’s his attitude that gives him problems so I am not sure that he will see the field at Ole Miss. He just transferred to Oxford and has already had a run in with the law.
As a college football fan, I am pulling for Kelly to get his act together. Even if he does, he still has to beat out DeVante Kincade or Ryan Buchanan for the starting nod which may not be easy. Kincade will be a sophomore next year and played a little as a freshman, enough to complete 16 passes in 20 attempts. He threw for 127 yards and a Touchdown and he ran for 95 yards and another Touchdown. Kincade is a dual threat type of Quarterback and Buchanan is more of a classic drop back kind of guy. Buchanan only threw 22 passes last year and completed 12 for 75 yards. Kincade is 6-0, 205 and Buchanan is 6-3, 210. Spring Practice and the early Fall workouts will be huge for the Quarterback position at Ole Miss.
Ole Miss fans are glad to just have Bo Wallace out of the picture even though he won a lot of games for them.
Kyle Allen – Texas A%M: Allen was the number ranked pro style Quarterback recruit in the country coming into last season. The other Aggie Quarterback, Kenny Hill, took off with an amazing start against South Carolina and put up huge numbers.
Hill has had run ins with the law and was suspended for a game after the Alabama loss last season
and Kyle Allen found his way onto the field. Hill has since transferred (possibly to TCU) leaving Allen as the only scholarship Quarterback on campus.
It’s always tough to put a true freshman Quarterback in the starting lineup no matter how good they are. But, Allen threw for 1,322 yards and 22 Touchdowns when forced into duty.
The Aggies should have super star recruit Kyler Murray coming in this summer. Murray is pretty small, but a very talented player and could actually challenge for a starting spot. Internet rumors have Murray possibly going somewhere else or being a high Major League Baseball draft pick. Depth and injury could become an issue for the Aggies in 2015. But, Kyle Allen could be one of the SEC’s best Quarterbacks for 2015.
Malik Zaire – Notre Dame: My blog said that Zaire was better than Golson way back in the Spring. Now, Zaire is going to start and the talk is that Everett Golson will graduate in May and transfer to another school.
Zaire has only thrown the ball in 2 games and is still really green. Notre Dame is taking a huge chance here, but I suppose they are done with Everett Golson.
I have been very impressed with Zaire’s arm strength, plus he is a very strong runner at 6-0, 210.
As much as Zaire impressed me, he has still only thrown 35 passes in a real game and completed 21 of them for 266 yards and a Touchdown. He ran for 187 yards and 2 Touchdowns. That’s not a comfortable amount of experience at the Quarterback position for the Irish going into 2015, but Zaire has shown a lot of talent.
The 2015 season will be boom or bust for Malik Zaire and the Irish. For the sake of head coach Brian Kelly’s job, Zaire needs to be really good.
After leading the Irish to the 2012 title game, Kelly has gone 17-9 and the Irish faithful are going to start getting restless.
Seth Russell – Baylor: See Washington State. An Art Briles offense is going to produce robot type players at Quarterback. Seth Russell will put up very similar numbers as Bryce Petty and even Robert Griffin III.
That’s just the way it is at these schools. Russell Seth and Chris Johnson got to play some this past season with the injury to the back of starting Quarterback Bryce Petty. Another thing about Briles and Leach is that they never play the back up quarterbacks unless an injury to the starter even if they are putting up 60 points or more.
Seth Russell is a 6-3, 215 junior to be from Garland, Texas who threw for 804 yards in 2014 and 8 Touchdowns. Russell will have to beat out 6-5, 225 Chris Johnson from Bryan, Texas. Johnson only threw 4 passes last season but he completed every one of them for 45 yards. I haven’t seen much of Johnson, but he supposedly has a strong arm and is very athletic so he may put up a challenge to Seth Russell. Whoever starts for the Baylor Bears will have a big season in 2015.
Paxton Lynch – Memphis: This is a potential super star in the making. In the history of football, there has been a few tall Quarterbacks over the years with mostly negative results. But, none of them were quite like this new breed that is coming along like Lynch who is really tall, yet really mobile as well.
I have blogged about Lynch already being a central Florida kid that nobody really wanted or knew about this recruit and everybody needs a Quarterback. Lynch is that tall guy with the super arm and he runs like a deer. Lynch had a really strong sophomore season and should have a much better junior season.
Lynch is listed as 6-7, 230 and he will fill out as he physically matures but you don’t want him getting too big with his mobility.
Lynch is not exactly unknown at this point, but how often is Memphis on ESPN. Lynch threw for 3,031 yards as a sophomore and 22 Touchdowns and is poised for an even bigger season in 2015. Paxton Lynch should put the Memphis Tigers in the national spotlight next season and I can’t wait to see it.
Deshaun Watson – Clemson: Clemson had injury problems last season at Quarterback. Watson won the starting job eventually but was injured and when trying to come back he was injured again. If he is healthy, Watson could be the next super star at Quarterback. No kidding, this guy is really good.
He was the top dual threat Quarterback recruit in the country coming out of Gainesville, Georgia last year and certainly measured up to that from day one. But, he will need to stay healthy over the next few years. Watson is 6-2, 205 with an extremely strong arm and very athletic feet.
In 2014, Watson threw 137 passes and completed 93 for 1,466 yards and 14 Touchdowns. Watson is more than a capable runner even though he only ran for 200 yards last season.
Clemson lost it’s security blanket when Cole Stoudt used up his eligibility, so injury is no longer an option for Deshaun Watson. Look for Watson to have a huge season.
Thomas Sirk – Duke: Anthony Boone was Duke’s Quarterback the past 2 seasons for some of the best teams to ever come out of Duke. Thomas Sirk was inserted into the games in goal line situations last year to possibly save Boone from injury in spite of the fact that Boone was pretty mobile, too.
Sirk is a 6-4, 215 junior to be from Glen St Mary, Florida. Obviously, he is mobile after rushing for 238 yards and 8 Touchdown in being the Blue Devils short yardage QB. He also threw for 67 yards and 3 Touchdowns on 10 out of 14 passing.
The question for the Spring and beyond is will Thomas Sirk be able to hold off any competition. Third team Quarterback for last season was Parker Boehme a redshirt freshman from Jacksonville Beach, Florida may have something to say about the situation. He had even less opportunity to show his skills than Sirk and threw 2 passes in an actual game.
Another possibility could be redshirt freshman Nicodem Pierre. The former 4 star recruit from Miami looked very impressive in high school. He is extremely mobile with very quick feet and looks to have the necessary arm strength.
Plus, the Duke Blue Devils have a commitment from dual threat Quarterback Quinton Harrison.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is an outstanding football coach and to make things more interesting, there is a chance that Duke could get a transfer Quarterback along the lines of Braxton Miller from Ohio State.
John Franklin – Florida State: I am going out on a tiny limb with this pick. First of all, Franklin has to win the starting Quarterback job at Florida State. Sean McGuire played last year when Jameis Winston couldn’t go.
Franklin was a freshman last season right out of high school and redshirted. This Spring will show us if Franklin or McGuire will be the starter next year for the Seminoles if the competition doesn’t extend into the first of Fall.
McGuire played the entire Clemson game and led the Seminoles to an Overtime win over the Tigers. The Clemson Tigers had the #1 ranked defense in the country and McGuire threw for 304 yards and a Touchdown.
But, I would suspect the athletic ability of John Franklin will be too much for Jimbo Fisher to keep on the bench. For the first time in 3 seasons, the Seminoles will be without Jameis Winston but look for somebody to step up.
Justin Thomas – Georgia Tech: Thomas started all of last season, but nobody really knew about him. This guy is an incredible athlete and a fun player to watch.
Next season, national eyes should be on Georgia Tech and Justin Thomas after they finished at 11-3 last season.
Thomas was like a magician running the option attack. Thomas ran for 1,086 yards and 8 Touchdowns while passing for 1,719 yards and 18 Touchdowns.
If you get the chance next season, tune into the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and watch Justin Thomas.
Kyle Bolin – Louisville: With Will Gardner being a junior going into next season, and sophomores Bonnafon and Bolin it will be tough for anyone to earn the starting spot. Gardner has been a good player for Louisville when healthy and will be hard to beat out. Gardner is a 6-5, 225 Quarterback from Douglas, Georgia and threw for 1,669 as a sophomore. The problem Gardner had was injuries in 2014 and will he be able to play a full season for the Cardinals. Because of Will Gardner injuries, true freshman Reggie Bonnafon got significant playing time. Bonnafon got enough time on the field to throw for 864 yards.
Kyle Bolin was thrown into the fire against Kentucky and he responded with a 21 completion out of 31 attempts for 381 yards passing and 3 Touchdowns in leading the Cardinals past in-state rival Kentucky, 44-40.
Bolin finished with 716 yards passing on the year. This Quarterback competition over the Spring and going into next Fall should be interesting. Bolin looked very impressive against Kentucky, but not quite as much against Georgia in the Belk Bowl. Can he beat out Will Gardner and Reggie Bonnafon for the starting position? Tune in and see next Fall.
Brad Kaaya – Miami: The true freshman out of California showed well for being so young.
But, the Hurricanes continued with their struggles and it may take a couple more years for them to dig out of the hole they have been in for several years.
Nobody really expected Brad Kaaya to show up and start immediately for the Canes, but the highly recruited 4 star Quarterback out of West Hills, California was pretty much the starter as soon as he stepped foot on campus.
He wasn’t too bad considering his youth and lack of experience. Kaaya threw for 3,198 yards and 26 Touchdowns.
The 6-4, 210 Kaaya should do nothing but get better as he matures which is not good new for Miami’s opponents.
Football never stops for a football addict such as myself and already looking forward to next season.