Tag:Nick Florence
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:01 am
  •  
 

The biggest shoes to fill in college football



Posted by Tom Fornelli


With teams having already started or starting spring practice over the next few weeks. there are a lot of players across the country who will be charged with replacing someone who has come and gone before them. It's an annual rite of spring in college football, when the senior quarterback from last season is putting the finishing touches on his final semester as a college student, and the sophomore who isn't even sure what he's majoring in yet realizes he's going to be majoring in Playbook 101 for the next few weeks.

Of course, while roster turnover is a common occurence in college football, there are bigger shoes to fill than others, and in this post we take a look at the ten biggest pairs looking for a new owner this spring.

10. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

Ryan Broyles began re-writing the Oklahoma record books the moment he stepped on the field in his first game as a Sooner. He caught 7 passes for 141 yards against Cincinnati, both of which were freshman records. Four years later he finished his career having caught more passes than any other receiver in FBS history, pulling in 349 passes for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns.

In other words, he's not the type of player that Oklahoma can just replace with anybody. This spring receivers like Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds and Trey Metoyer will try to replicate Broyles' production in Norman. Whether it will be one of them doing it, or a group effort, Oklahoma will need it to happen if the Sooners want to win the Big 12 and contend for a national title.

9. Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Understandably, USC fans were extremely excited by the news that Matt Barkley would be returning for his senior season, and many have pegged the Trojans as a title favorite because of it. What you don't want to do, however, is overlook the fact that the man who was in charge of protecting Barkley's blindside these last few years won't be back.

Though that's how life generally works for offensive lineman like Matt Kalil. As large as they are, they're often overlooked. Kevin Graf, Jeremy Galten, David Garness and Nathan Guertler will all be competing for the unenviable task of being the man in charge of making sure nothing happens to the most valuable piece of the USC offense.

8. Mark Barron, S, Alabama

One of the problems with having a defense as strong as the one we saw in Tuscaloosa last season is that you're bound to lose players to the next level, and the Crimson Tide have no shortage of beasts making their way to greener pastures. Still, the Tide have a knack for churning out defensive lineman and linebackers, but safeties like Mark Barron don't come along all that often.

Barron made 231 tackles for Nick Saban in his four seasons, including 13 for a loss, while picking off 12 passes. Barron was the type of player that could defend the pass and the run, and he won't be easily replaced. Can Robert Lester or freshman Vinnie Sunseri step up and be the next stud in the Alabama secondary?

7. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Based purely on production, there may be no larger shoes to fill in the country than Luke Kuechly's. There may not have been more than 3 plays run by opposing offenses in which Kuechly wasn't in on the tackle. Kuechly finished 2011 with 191 tackles. The next highest total on the Boston College defense belonged to Kevin Pierre-Louis, who had 74.

As our own Chip Patterson put it, "for Boston College, replacing Kuechly is like any other team replacing 2 1/2 players." Though it's been proven that it can be done, as Kuechly himself once had to fill the shoes left behind by Mark Herzlich. Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto -- who has a name that would be hard to replace -- will be the two linebackers looking to repeat the feat.

6. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Many casual college football fans never truly appreciated how amazing a player Morris Claiborne was for LSU in 2011 simply because opposing offenses weren't dumb enough to test him all that often. Throw in some Honey Badger exploits with a bit of Les Miles being Les Miles, and Claiborne gets a bit lost in the gumbo. Still, Claiborne truly was the definition of a shutdown corner for LSU, playing a pivotal role on one of the best defenses in the country.

While Tyrann Mathieu will be back in 2012, he's not the cover corner that Claiborne was, so it will be up to Tharold Simon to fill the role. One he seems capable of considering he led LSU with 10 passes broken up in 2011 playing mostly as a nickel back.

5. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

I won't lie to you. Even when Mark Ingram will still in Tuscaloosa running through SEC defenses, I always felt that Trent Richardson was the best running back on the Alabama roster. Now both are gone, and Richardson will be harder to replace than Ingram was simply because Trent can't replace himself.

Can Eddie Lacy be the next Heisman finalist in the Alabama backfield? He showed some promise in 2011, and in an offense like Alabama's, the opportunities will be there. Still, even if Lacy is extremely talented, there are only so many shoes capable of doing this.

4. Brandon Weeden/Justin Blackmon, QB/WR, Oklahoma State

A bit of a cheat, I know, but the truth is that Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon felt like extensions of one another for the past two seasons in Stillwater. Their success was as a duo. I mean, Blackmon caught 40 touchdowns over the last three seasons, which accounted for 53% of the 75 touchdown passes Weeden threw with the Cowboys.

Now we know that Oklahoma State is going to continue putting points on the board without them, but will the offense ever be as prolific when the combination is Clint Chelf or Wes Lunt to Tracy Moore? We'll get our first clues this spring.

3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

Maybe you think that LaMichael James isn't all that hard to replace given the weapons Oregon has in the backfield. I can see your point, but I can also point out that James nearly doubled Kenjon Barner's rushing total (1,805 yards to 939) in 2011. I mean, this is a man who rushed for 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per carry in 2011, yet we didn't think it was so amazing based simply on the fact we'd already seen him do similar things in the previous two seasons.

We just got used to it.

Yes, Barner and DeAnthony Thomas are extremely talented backs, but the fact is there's no easy way to replace a back who accounted for 5,888 all-purpose yards and 58 touchdowns in three seasons as a Duck, all at the speed of light.

2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Will it be harder to fill RG3's shoes, or his socks? Neither will be easy. While we all know how talented Griffin was as a quarterback for Baylor in 2011 and the two seasons before it, it's his impact on the program that will leave the biggest impression. Baylor went from a perennial bottom-feeder in the Big 12 to a team that can call itself the home of a Heisman Trophy winner.

Nick Florence will be the favorite to replace Griffin this spring, but he'll never be able to have the impact on the Baylor program that Griffin did. Instead he'd be much better served to focus on replacing the production on the field. Something that won't be easy, either, but given Art Briles' history with quarterbacks and the way Florence performed in place of Griffin against Texas Tech, it may not be that far-fetched, either.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Andrew Luck didn't win the Heisman Trophy like Robert Griffin did, but that doesn't diminish the impact he had on the Stanford program. In the three seasons before Luck showed up in Palo Alto, Stanford was 10-26, including a 1-11 season in 2006. In Luck's three seasons the Cardinal went 31-8, played in two BCS bowl games and became a national program.

Stanford is essentially the school Notre Dame used to be, and it's all thanks to Luck. Of course, the question now is whether or not Stanford can maintain the success they had under Luck with a new quarterback. Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo will all enter spring practice looking to replace the most important player in the history of Stanford football, and that's a list that includes John Elway.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.

Get CBSSports.com College Football updates on Facebook 
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:13 am
 

Big 12 Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Tom Fornelli


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Texas Fight

"Texas Fight! Texas Fight! And it's goodbye to A&M." The opening lyrics to the Texas fight song took on a whole new meaning this weekend as Texas and Texas A&M may have met for the final time in the regular season as the Aggies prepare to join the SEC in 2012. While Texas A&M claims it would like to continue the rivalry, Texas doesn't seem as willing to do so, and the Longhorns said goodbye to their hated rival in a rather unfriendly fashion on Thursday night, coming back in the second half and winning the game on a Justin Tucker field goal as time expired. Will this game ever be reborn? I'd like to think so, but at the moment the Aggies will have to deal with being on the wrong end of the scoreboard indefinitely.

LOSER: Mike Sherman

The Aggies finish the 2011 regular season with a record of 6-6 after beginning the season ranked in the top ten of both major polls. In those six losses the Aggies found themselves outscored 83-0 in the third quarter of those games. Something that reflects incredibly poorly on the coaching staff, with Mike Sherman being the main target. On Friday morning there was an open thread for the day's games on A&M blog I Am The 12th Man with the title of "Who Should Replace Coach Sherman?" We can't be sure if Sherman is going to lose his job, but it seems pretty obvious what the fans want to see, and with the Aggies starting anew in the SEC, the school may feel it's time for a fresh start in the coaching staff as well. 

WINNER: Nick Florence

I can't lie. When the second half of Baylor's game against Texas Tech began with the Bears up 31-28 and I found out that Robert Griffin was going to miss the rest of the game I didn't like Baylor's chances. Well, Florence proved me wrong rather quickly, throwing for 2 long touchdowns in the third quarter and rushing for a third in the fourth. It was Florence's first game-action of the season and first time on the field since mop-up duty against Kansas in 2010. Still, by the way he played, you'd think he'd been starting for the Bears the last three years. Now Baylor fans have to think that if Griffin leaves for the NFL after this season they won't be in very bad shape with Florence around.

LOSER: Robert Griffin's Heisman chances

With Trent Richardson having a monster game for Alabama as the Tide seemingly locked up a berth in the title game and Andrew Luck throwing for 4 touchdowns on Saturday night, Griffin missing the entire second half -- and possibly next week's game against Texas depending on the severity of the injury -- against Texas Tech had to be an end to his Heisman chances. He'll probably still appear on enough ballots to warrant an invite to New York for the ceremony, but I just don't see how he'll be able to win now.

WINNER: The Norman Wind

I don't know if you can fully credit the gusts of wind blowing through Norman on Saturday morning for how the game turned out, but if it wasn't the most consistent factor at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium then I don't know what was. The game saw 8 turnovers and both team's quarterbacks combine to complete 35 of 73 (48%) of their passes. It was not pretty.

LOSER: Oklahoma State

The Cowboys had the weekend off, but that didn't stop them from possibly losing ground in the BCS this weekend. There were a lot of things that Oklahoma State needed to happen, but not enough of them did. Yes, Oklahoma beat Iowa State which means that a win over the Sooners will mean a lot more in the eyes of the pollsters if it happens next week, but Alabama and Stanford also managed to win on Saturday, with Alabama winning the Iron Bowl in a rout. Something that may have clinched a trip to New Orleans for the Tide. At this point the Fiesta Bowl and a Big 12 title may be all Oklahoma State has left to play for, not that accomplishing that would be a disappointment, but it's still not a title shot.

WINNER: Big 12 football in general

There's not much argument from around the country that the SEC is the best conference in all of college football. That's what tends to happen when the last five national champions call one conference home, but that doesn't mean the Big 12 isn't pretty damn good. We already know the BCS computers love the conference, and there's a reason for it. At the moment it's entirely possible that four Big 12 teams (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Kansas State) could finish the season with 10 wins. The only other conferences that can do that this season are the SEC (which already has 5) and the Big Ten. The difference of course being that the SEC and Big Ten have 12 teams and the Big 12 only has 10.

LOSER: Big 12 fans

I already talked about the death of the Lonestar Showdown earlier in this post, but that wasn't the only rivalry that came to an end in the Big 12 this week as Missouri and Kansas wrapped up their Border War rivalry on Saturday in Kansas City. That's a combined 238 years of history going out the window this weekend. Which, to be frank, sucks.

At the moment both rivalries seem dead, but I hope that as a few years pass and cooler heads prevail against the anger that exists between these schools and is currently feuling their "divorces." The sport of college football is just better off with these rivalries in the long run, because not everybody can play for a BCS bowl or a national championship every season, and these games tend to serve as those for many fan bases around the country.
Posted on: November 26, 2011 11:17 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Baylor 66 Texas Tech 42

Posted by Tom Fornelli

BAYLOR WON. Oh the points, there were so many of them on Saturday night in Cowboys Stadium. I mean, how often does a team score 42 points and lose a game by 24? What makes all of this even more unbelievable is that Baylor played the entire second half of this contest without Robert Griffin who missed the final 30 minutes after suffering a head injury late in the second quarter. Griffin still managed to account for 168 total yards and 3 touchdowns before leaving, but his replacement, Nick Florence, managed 165 total yards and 3 touchdowns of his own in his place. Though the real workhorse for Baylor on Saturday was Terrance Ganaway, who carried the ball 42 times for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Seth Doege threw for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns for Texas Tech, but his 2 interceptions played a huge role in this game as well. Eric Ward caught 16 passes for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns. As you can tell, there was a lot of offense in this one, as both teams combined for 1,049 yards.

WHY BAYLOR WON. In a game like this, where neither defense seems all that interested in forcing the other team to punt, turnovers are going to play a huge role, and they did in this one. The biggest reason Baylor won this game is that it turned the ball over twice while Texas Tech turned it over 4 times. You can't afford to give possessions away in a game like this, and Texas Tech did too many times.

WHEN BAYLOR WON. This was a game in which no lead felt safe, but when Nick Florence scored from a yard out to make it 59-42 with just over 9 minutes left it was basically done. There was no way Texas Tech could be counted on to stop Baylor three times.

WHAT BAYLOR WON. For the first time since both schools joined the Big 12, Baylor beat Texas Tech. That wasn't the only landmark for the Bears in this game either, as Baylor has now won 5 Big 12 games for the first time since joining the conference and has a chance to reach 9 wins before the regular season ends. Which means a 10-win season is still in play, which would be a huge accomplishment for Art Briles' team.

WHAT TEXAS TECH LOST. There will be no bowl game for Texas Tech. For the first time since 1992 the Red Raiders will finish a season with a losing record. Not exactly what Tommy Tuberville was hoping for in his second season in Lubbock, but the Raiders just suffered so many injuries down the stretch that I'm not sure what more he could have done.

THAT WAS CRAZY. There are so many things from this game that I could cite as insane, but how about this one: Baylor scored 31 points in the first half with Robert Griffin in the game. It scored 35 points in the second half without him. Who would have thought that would be possible? 
Posted on: November 26, 2011 9:29 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 9:30 pm
 

Robert Griffin leaves Baylor game

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Baylor and Texas Tech spent the first 30 minutes of their game trading touchdowns, but in between those score Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin took a few blows as well. In particular, one forearm to the head as he slid that caused his helmet to bounce off the turf. Griffin had to leave the game for a play before coming back in and running for a touchdown on his first play back.

Well, there must be something more to the injury, because when the Baylor Bears came out for the second half, junior Nick Florence was under center and Griffin was standing on the sideline. While Baylor wouldn't go into details, it did say he's out for the rest of the game.

There has been no official word on Griffin's injury from the Baylor sideline, but given the blow to the head in the first half, you have to believe that Griffin may be suffering from a concussion.

Which, aside from being a huge blow to Griffin and Baylor, would also be a blow to Griffin's Heisman candidacy. He accounted for 168 total yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half.

When we hear anything further about Griffin's injury, we'll let you know.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com