Tag:James Rodgers
Posted on: August 11, 2011 9:10 am
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Pac-12 team

Posted by Bryan Fischer

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here is one writer's choices for the preseason All-Pac-12 team.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Andrew Luck, RsJunior, Stanford

For those that know him, Luck's decision to return to Palo Alto and pass up millions as the sure-fire first pick in the NFL Draft wasn't surprising. Following a season in which he passed for 3,338 yards and tossed 32 touchdowns against just eight interceptions, the native Texan just wanted to complete his degree - in architectural design. The Heisman runner-up does a pretty good job on the field of designing plays that end in a completion (71% of the time last year). He's not bad at running the ball either but earns his spot on the first team as the top signal-caller in the Pac-12.

Also watch for: The conference of quarterbacks is a pretty appropriate for the Pac-12 considering there are a number of players who can give Luck a run for his money. USC's Matt Barkley is a possible first round pick as well and has a talented receiving corps at his disposal. Oregon's Darron Thomas will put up big numbers through the air and on the ground and could take the top spot by beating Stanford. Arizona's Nick Foles and Utah's Jordan Wynn are also in the conversation.

RUNNING BACK

LaMichael James, RsJunior, Oregon

The Doak Walker Award Winner as the nation's best running back last season, James is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He was the NCAA's leading rusher last season with 1,731 yards and is in position to break just about every Oregon record left in the books. He's not the biggest back but he does deliver the most production on the field.

Chris Polk, Junior, Washington

Polk burst on to the scene with a 1,000 yard season his freshman year and ever since then has been in the conversation for all-conference honors. He can catch the ball out of the backfield (4th leading receiver last year) and it will be tough to stop him from having another big season with the Huskies' offense revolving around him.

Also watch for: Stanford's Stepfan Taylor was Toby Gerhart's replacement last year and should be able to build on a very good breakout season. Newcomer Rodney Stewart from Colorado is a bright spot for the Buffaloes and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin should put up some good numbers in the school's Pistol offense.

WIDE RECEIVER

Robert Woods, Sophomore, USC

Woods wasn't even supposed to be the best receiver at his high school but he nevertheless turned into a Freshman All-American and was the Trojans' most consistent pass catcher. He should surpass his total of 792 receiving yards easily this year as Barkley's favorite target.

Jermaine Kearse, Senior, Washington

The speedy Kearse averaged 16 yards a catch last year in route to a 1,000 yard season as the Huskies most consistent receiver. He doesn't get the attention nationally that he deserves but with a talented receiver group around him in 2011, he could be freed up to torch a few secondaries even with a new quarterback.

Also watch for: Arizona's Juron Criner is 1c as far as Pac-12 receivers go. Marquess Wilson out of Washington State is the best receiver no one has heard of and sophomore Kennan Allen is a dynamic playmaker for Cal. If healthy, Stanford's Chris Owusu is in the mix, as is Oregon State's James Rodgers.

TIGHT END

David Paulson, Senior, Oregon

Expected to take on a bigger role in the offense, Paulson has a great pair of hands and managed to sneak behind linebackers fairly often last year to average 17.4 yards a catch.

Also watch for: This position is surprisingly deep and even newcomer Ryan Deehan from Colorado could emerge as the top guy in his new conference. Oregon State's Joe Halahuni has to stay healthy but is a big target and Stanford's Coby Fleener will put up good numbers with Luck throwing to him all season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Center Garth Gerhart, RsSenior, Arizona State

Named to the Remington Trophy Watch List, Gerhart is one of only three returning centers in the conference and is looking to step out of his older brother's (Heisman finalist Toby) shadow.

Guard David DeCastro, RsJunior, Stanford

The anchor for a line that only gave up 13 sacks all season, the Lombardi Award candidate is excellent in space while pass blocking.

Guard Ryan Miller, Senior, Colorado

Miller can play either guard or tackle and the mammoth 6-foot-8, 295-pounder is excellent in space and one of the top guards in the country.

Tackle Matt Kalil, RsJunior, USC

A possible first round draft pick if he chooses to leave early, Kalil has the size and the pedigree (older brother Ryan is a starter for the Carolina Panthers) to be the next great Trojan left tackle.

Tackle Tony Bergstrom, Senior, Utah

Bergstrom has started every game the past two seasons and did not allow a sack during the regular season.

Also watch for: Oregon guard Carson York is a key player for the Ducks and Bay Area tackles Jonathan Martin (Stanford) and Mitchell Schwartz (Cal) give defensive ends fits all game long.

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

End Junior Onyeali, Sophomore, Arizona State

Not the biggest end on the field but he's a terror off the edge. With the quickness and speed of a linebacker, he's not someone the offensive tackle enjoys blocking.

End Datone Jones, RsJunior, UCLA

He missed all of last year with a broken foot but seems back and better than ever. He can play the run just as well as the pass and is the anchor for the Bruins' line.

Tackle Alameda Ta'amu, Senior Washington

The rock of the Huskies defense, he closed out the year strong. He ends up commanding double teams due to his size (6-foot-3, 337 pounds) and ability.

Tackle Justin Washington, Sophomore, Arizona

Washington has the quickness of an end but he's inside and makes his presence known. He had six sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss as a true freshman last season.

Also watch for: Colorado's Will Pericak and Josh Hartigan are a great tandem from Boulder and Washington State's Travis Long is under the radar but excellent as well. USC's Nick Perry and George Uko are both primed for a break out year.

Linebackers

Vontaze Burfict, Junior, Arizona State

There's talk of him being more mature and a better leader which is actually a bit scary for opponents considering he is one of the quickest, most instinctive linebackers in the game and someone you don't want to get hit by.

Shayne Skov, Junior, Stanford

Turned in a great sophomore campaign and is relentless with his pursuit of the play. He's an intense tackling machine who always seems to find himself around the football.

Mychal Kendricks, Senior, Cal

An experienced outside linebacker, he's sliding inside in the Bears' scheme this year. Athletic enough to be a disruption when dropping into coverage, Kendricks can also be found in the backfield. Often.

Also watch for: Patrick Larimore is the Bruins middle backer and their defensive stopper. Chaz Walker out of Utah and a healthy Chris Galippo from USC are both solid playmakers at times.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Corner Cliff Harris, Junior, Oregon

Though he's suspended for the opener, the ball-hawking corner will immediately give a boost to the Ducks secondary with his ability to cover receivers.

Corner Trevin Wade, Senior, Arizona

He had an off year last year but is the anchor of the secondary for the Wildcats and has good size and a knack for knocking away the ball.

Safety Delano Howell, Senior, Stanford

Howell has seen just about everything you can possibly throw at him and reads and reacts like the best of them. He's not just a cover guy either as he's a very good tackler.

Safety, T.J. McDonald, Junior, USC

One of the bigger players roaming the secondary, McDonald is following in his All-American father Tim's shoes. He's more comfortable in year two of Monte Kiffin's system and should see his level of play rise as a result.

Also watch for: Oregon's John Boyett is tough to face playing with Harris and Tony Dye at UCLA is a bright spot for the Bruins' defense last year.

Specialists

Kicker Erik Folk, Senior, Washington

The strong legged Folk is perfect on his PATs for his career and is seems to always come through despite any pressure in late game situations.

Punter Bryan Anger, Senior, Cal

Annually in the running for the Ray Guy Award for best punter, Anger has a big leg and usually can pin opponents deep in their own territory.
Posted on: August 4, 2011 9:44 am
Edited on: August 4, 2011 3:58 pm
 

James Rodgers cleared for 'limited' practice

Posted by Chip Patterson

Oregon State star wide receiver James Rodgers has had a tumultuous 10 months since suffering a season-ending knee injury against Arizona last October. Rodgers has undergone two knee operations and a difficult recovery process, but the redshirt senior has finally been granted permission from doctors to return to the field.

"After consultation with the physician, James Rodgers has been cleared to practice in a limited fashion for a to-be-determined amount of time," head coach Mike Riley announced in a prepared statement.

Riley said that there would be more meetings with the physician and more information in the coming weeks, but for Beaver fans any positive news is encouraging regarding Rodgers' health. The wideout was granted a fifth year of eligibility after missing the final seven games of the 2010 season. James brother, Jacquizz, led the Beavers in rushing last year picking up 1,258 yards and 14 touchdowns. James will be wearing Jacquizz's number (No. 1) in 2011, and has the potential to have an equally impressive impact if he can stay healthy. Rodgers serves not only as a dangerous deep threat but is also is the focal point of Oregon State's return game when healthy.

Oregon State will kick off fall camp Aug. 8.
Posted on: July 26, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 11:21 pm
 

Media Day Tidbits: Pac-12 North

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- Following a video production that would have made Steven Spielberg proud, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott kicked off the conference's inaugural Pac-12 Media Days from Los Angeles Tuesday morning. Though he didn't make bold proclamations about the state of NCAA affairs like some of his peers, Scott did extoll the virtues of the league on the heels of landing a big new media deal.

"The last 12 months have brought monumental change to the Pac 10 conference, now the Pac 12," Scott said. "The conference moniker, Conference of Champions, has been well earned and embraced over the years. And this past year was no exception.

"This is a new era for the conference as we embrace the future, and the addition of Colorado and Utah very much helped us secure a landmark media agreement that's going to provide for unprecedented exposure nationally for the conference.

Scott focused on the accomplishments of the conference both on and off the field, noting that two players were finalists for the William Campbell Trophy, the so-called "academic Heisman." Of course, he also mentioned the fact that the league put two teams in BCS bowls and is returning two returning Heisman finalists.

"The Pac 12 brand of football, if I can describe it that way, is as dynamic as any in college sports. Year after year we seem to produce the best quarterbacks and the most sophisticated offenses in the country," Scott said. "All five of the quarterbacks that are here with us today uphold the standard of play that legends before them set."

Plenty of coaches and players also talked about their teams heading into the league's first year, here's some highlights from Pac-12 North:

Cal:

- "This is always a favorite time of the year because the players have been working hard all summer long and now it's timed to get back to work," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "The chemistry, I'm really excited about this team with the leadership, the work ethic, the team chemistry. I'm really pleased with how they've come together and their work ethic. Very eager to compete."

- The Bears failed to go to a bowl last year but, according to Tedford, they were a handful of plays away.

"Last season we fell short of that, and we're not hiding from that," he said. "We understand that there is a very fine line between winning and losing, and we're six points away from being 8-4 last year."

- Tedford said he will be more involved with play calling this season as a result, hoping to improve a Cal offense that floundered down the stretch last season.

"Offensively we need to improve. We were not close to the consistency that we needed to compete at a high level," Tedford said. "Zach Maynard has been named the started and he earned it."

- With the departure of the team's leading rusher Shane Vereen, Tedford is counting on one of his incoming freshmen to compliment his inexperienced returnees at the tailback position.

"We recruited four tailbacks and I'm excited to see what they can do," he said. "I really think we'll have one back or two be solid contributors."

- Tedford said it would be a little bit different playing two Thursday games and one on Friday. The Bears are also playing the majority of their "home" games at AT&T Park due to construction on Memorial Stadium.

"Wherever those lines are, that's what were going to focus on," he said.

- The 10th year head coach was also asked about Will Lyles since the program purchased a scouting package from the now infamous high school scout.

"I'm not concerned one bit," Tedford said. "I wouldn't know Will Lyles if he were in this room."

Oregon

- Ducks head coach Chip Kelly knew right away the questions about the program's NCAA investigation were coming early and coming often.

"I know the one everybody is waiting to have answered but we sent out a release earlier," Kelly opened his remarks to the media with. "We've cooperated fully with (the NCAA) and will continue to cooperate them."

For more on Chip Kelly's comments on the Lyles situation, click here.

- Kelly's appearance wasn't completely about the cloud hanging over his program. Fresh off a BCS National Championship game appearance, the Ducks head coach is experiencing quite the roster turnover and focused on other issues.

"I looked at our roster coming in here and I think we have 11 or 12 seniors, and we'll have 47 either freshmen or red shirted freshmen," he said. "It's a good time for us. We're excited. We start on August 8, and we have an interesting game to start the season on September 3rd that has every one of our players attention, and we'll work as hard as we can to prepare for that game on September 3rd against a really, really good LSU team."

- Luckily for Oregon's explosive offense, the Ducks aren't hurting for talent despite being young.

"LaMichael (James) is the returning Doak Walker Award winner as the nation's number one running back," Kelly said. "I've always believed that to win football games you have to be able to run the football. And we've led the Pac-10 in rushing in the last four years. Total offense the last four years, scoring offense the last four years, and LaMichael's a huge part of that."

- Kelly said he hasn't made any decisions on suspended players Kiko Alonso and Cliff Harris. Both players are working out with the team but their status for opener and beyond is still up in the air.

- Incoming recruit D'Anthony Thomas, "Can flat out run," according to Kelly and the coaching staff will figure out a way to incorporate him into the offense. Lache Seastrunk is one of the players that's a possibility to be the third string running back behind James and Kenjon Barner but nothing is set in stone because no one grabbed hold of the position in spring practice.

Oregon State

- "We're excited to be here at the dawning of the Pac-12 conference," veteran coach Mike Riley said. "But we're going to really, really have to grow a lot through fall camp and through our season. We had five guys that had off-season surgeries and missed spring practice. So as we get back into this thing, we'll have to grow a lot and be ready to compete all the way down the stretch, get better every day."

- As someone who has just about seen it all over the years, the new format with two divisions and not playing everybody every year will take a bit of getting used to for Riley but he was excited about the changes.

"I've been in the conference a long time now, 11 years, and I've seen the competition rise to where every week is like the Super Bowl," he said. "So I think it's going to be really, really competitive."

- The Pac-12 put on a seminar with their head of officiating on Monday in order to better educate the media about some of the new rules going into effect in 2011. The one rule that has drawn the most criticism is the new celebration rule, which Riley says is just something the players will have to adjust to.

"It's going to be an emphasis for the officials early," he said. "Whether or not you agree with the rules, this is what it is. I think it's going to be to a point where you're going to have to be really careful."

"You've got to deal with it," senior safety Lance Mitchell said. "When it affects the team, it's just bad all around and you have to keep it under control."

- One of the key players for the Beavers is all-everything athlete James Rodgers, who is coming off his second knee surgery but should be able to contribute this season.

"The one thing you can never do with James is count him out," Riley said. "He's been deemed ahead of schedule but I'm going to play this conservatively."

- Rodgers' brother, Jacquizz, was the team's leading rusher for the past few years but left early for the NFL, a decision Riley said was a good one despite the criticism "Quizz" took. Though there's some talent at the position to replace him in the offense, it will be a wait and see approach until one player separates from the pack.

"We don't have a number one back that can replace Quizz today," he said "I think if we look at that group it will probably be running back by committee."

- Riley expects the team to be very solid on defense and expects Jordan Poyer and Michael Doctor to be key contributors among others.
He also said key contributor Joe Halahuni will be ready going into the fall camp after having surgery in April.

Stanford:

- So what's David Shaw's deal? Apparently, it's much like Jim Harbaugh's, the man he replaced in Palo Alto.

"The differences are minimal because our biggest differences are we have different personalities," Shaw said. "We have the same goals and same competitive drive. We like to teach. I see myself as a teacher and that's the environment we've created down there."

- For Shaw's Heisman Trophy front-running quarterback Andrew Luck, not having much a transition between the two head coaches has been invaluable.

"It's definitely nice not to have to learn a new scheme, a new offense," Luck said. "Coach Shaw recruited me. He's been instrumental in my growth as a football player and ever since I've been on campus.  So continuity was definitely something that a lot of the players were hoping for when the coaching change was being made. It's definitely been easier for me, I think.

- Luck was sporting a rather large beard for his media day appearance and according to him, the first time he's grown one. Though he's not sure if he's keeping it, the humble star did make news by announcing that he would indeed be leaving Stanford after this season.

"I'm viewing this as my last college football season and approaching it as such," he said.

- On the opposite side of the ball for The Cardinal, Shaw will be using to co-coordinators on defense with Derek Mason and Jason Tarver.

"We do have co-coordiators," Shaw said. "The mix of those two guys are phenomenal. They're like an old married couple, they finish each others' sentences."

- Wide receiver and ace return man Chris Owusu missed six games due to injury last year and will be a key part of the offense this year with an inexperienced group of receivers - if he can stay healthy.

"I haven't said anything to Chris except play every game," Shaw said. "We need Chris Owusu to play every game. We've got a talented but inexperienced receiving core around Andrew."

Washington

- If there was one person in the room who was really excited to be a part of the inaugural Pac-12 Media Day, it was Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.

"Being a Southern California guy and being raised in this thing when it went from Pac-8 to Pac-10, to Pac-12, it's just exciting," Sarkisian said. "I think for us as the University of Washington and our program as we're growing, we couldn't be in a better conference at you a better time for the exposure needed for us and for this conference."

- Sarkisian talked at length about the Huskies' brand of football as the team moves on from the Jake Locker era.

"I think we've got a football team that you saw at the end of last season starting to play a brand of football that we believe in, that is one that is physical that believes in running the football and playing sound defense," Sarkisian said. "We're fortunate to have veteran leadership as we grow but we're still a very young football team. We've played 16 true freshmen last fall. And we've got veteran leaders."

- There's not much that can get a head coach going than talking about his quarterback and the former signal-caller-turned-coach had no problems praising starter Keith Price but cautioning that they would take it slow in his first year as the starter.

"He's a kid that comes to work with a smile on his face," Sarkisian said. "But the reality of it is we're not going to be able to rely on that quarterback position like we were able to with Jake for two years. It's going to be more on relying on Chris (Polk), and Jesse Callier of running the ball, then utilizing the one-on-one matchups on the outside with the Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, Kevin Smith, and maybe the emergence of a newcomer in Kasen Williams.

- With someone new behind center, many expect Polk to carry the offense on his back, something he accepts but realizes he can't really do if the team is to be successful.

"It's not necessarily on my back, because the game of football is not based off individual performances," Polk said. "So if our O-line's not working and the running game's not working and the passing game's not working."

- A few players, such as Semisi Tokolahi and Sione Potaoa'e, might be limited once the Huskies break for fall camp but the team should be close to full strength once the pad comes on.

"For the most part we're healthy," Sarkisian said. "We look good. Our guys are transforming their bodies and look great."

Washington State

- Washington State was picked last in the North Division but if there is one encouraging sign for the Cougars, it's on defense with some players who are young but have starting experience.

"There's a good chance that we'll start just one or two seniors on defense," head coach Paul Wulff said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to take a big step on defense."

- Wulff signaled out running back Rickey Galvin, wide receiver Kristoff Williams and linebackers Sekope Kaufusi and Alex Hoffman-Ellis as players who he expects to make the leap to key contributors.

- Despite being at the bottom of the conference standings for awhile, Jared Karstetter said that the Cougars are being taken more serious by other Pac-12 programs.

"Yeah, I think we were more competitive especially the end of last year," he said. "Any sort of lack of respect that we feel as a team, I think that we just use that as motivation to go out there on game day and compete and prove ourselves.

- Wulff talked at length about the type of player he recruits and specifically said the staff is looking for players with their head on straight.

"We've gone about our business to recruit the right type of person," Wulff said. "Great football players that can help you build a team. We go after guys that fit our profile."

- With a good quarterback with plenty of experience behind center in Jeff Tuel and an improved defense, Wulff thinks the team can build on last season and move up in the pecking order.

"I know through spring football, we were executing things we'd never done," he said.
Posted on: June 10, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Mike Riley 'encouraged' by Rodgers' progress

Posted by Tom Fornelli

There are a lot of questions about Oregon State heading into 2011, but perhaps none asked more than what the status for wide receiver/returner James Rodgers is. Rodgers tore ligaments in his left knee during an Oregon State win over Arizona on October 9th when he was pulled down from behind after scoring a touchdown. He's had two surgeries on the knee since, and his status for 2011 has been up in the air.

However, in a recent talk with The Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley did give Beaver fans a reason to be somewhat optimistic. While Riley himself isn't sure what Rodgers' availability will be this year, he is encouraged by what he's seen lately.

“James is on a treadmill, jogging, walking without a limp," Riley told Eggers. "He can jog out on the field. I’m encouraged, although conservatively. I don’t want to put any unreasonable or unknowledgeable expectations. The doctor thinks he’ll be ready to play football this season. He thought James might be a little late getting into camp, but he didn’t put any more restrictions on it than that.” 

If the doctors feel that Rodgers should be able to play this season, that's always a good sign. Though it should be noticed that Riley did not go into detail as to when this season Rodgers would be ready. All we can speculate with a fair amount of certainty at this point is that Rodgers won't be able to participate in camps before the season. 

Posted on: May 19, 2011 12:33 pm
 

Oregon State fires head trainer

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Barney Graff had been the head trainer for the Oregon State football team since 1997, when Mike Riley first came to Corvallis and brought him into the program. Now, after 14 years with the school, Riley dismissed his trainer amid questions and complaints about his performance. In a nutshell, Oregon State football players just weren't sure they could trust him, and had been letting Riley know that for the last couple of seasons.

"I think I can say we're just going a different direction with this medical situation," Riley told The Oregonian. "We're going to have new leadership, and a new culture."

That new culture being one where the players have confidence in what the trainer is telling them. While Riley wouldn't throw his former trainer under the bus publically and go into any further detail, according to the report, there had been quite a few complaints about Graff at Oregon State for a while. The first came in 2005 when outside linebacker Andy Darkins had to give up his football career after playing a number of games with a torn right biceps.

There were also the shoulder problems of quarterbacks Sean Canfield, Lyle Moevao and running back Jacquizz Rodgers. There is also the shattered knee of James Rodgers. Now, obviously, there's no way to really know that Graff deserves any of the blame for these or any injuries that have been suffered at Oregon State. I don't care how great of a trainer you are, football is a sport in which people are going to get hurt. That being said, if the players don't trust your trainer, and they're not being quiet about it, then you just don't have a choice. You have to replace him. Because if they don't trust the trainer and you keep him around then eventually they're not going to trust you, and if you can't earn your player's trust, then good luck getting them to buy into what you're trying to do with the program.

So regardless of Graff's abilities as a head trainer, this is just a move that Riley and Oregon State had to make. 
Posted on: March 2, 2011 11:49 am
 

James Rodgers has second surgery

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Oregon State already knew it would be down one Rodgers when star tailback Jacquizz Rodgers took his 3,877 career rushing yards and 46 touchdowns to the NFL a year early. But Mike Riley and the Beavers still expected to be able to rely on receiver/returner extroadinaire (and Jacquizz brother) James Rodgers, the preseason All-American who was lost for 2010 with a Week 5 knee injury against Arizona. Despite playing in a higher percentage of the season's games than typically allowed for a medical waiver, Rodgers was granted a fifth year of eligibility in January thanks to having not taken a redshirt year.

But will Rodgers even be able to use it? The answer is in doubt after the Oregonian reported that Rodgers has undergone a second surgery on the knee:
Rodgers' mother, Tasha Williams, said by phone Tuesday that as far as she knew, the surgery went well ...

It has been the elephant in the coaches' offices at the Valley Center this winter: will Rodgers be able to play again? Will he be the same player who was one of the top receiver-kick returners in the nation? And if he can't play, will he end up being a GA, or an unpaid volunteer coach this coming season instead of the team's go-to offensive threat? ...

Nothing is for certain except the fact Rodgers faces a long rehabilitation process to try and get back on the field.
We obviously wish Rodgers the best of luck in his recovery efforts, but certainly not as hard as Riley's wishing; without James (and with Rodgers nursing his own injuries), the Beaver offense cratered down the 2010 stretch run, scoring 20 or fewer points in four of their last five games. With neither brother on hand, Riley (who the Oregonian notes has already made comments that might indicate he's not planning on having James available) could have a hard time finding enough playmakers to keep the heat off of quarterback Ryan Katz.

It's not a stretch to say the difference between a return to the Beavers' typical form under riley and a second straight bowlless disappointment might be how well Rodgers' knee recovers this offseason.



Posted on: January 14, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 3:20 pm
 

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason Top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).

So earlier today we named five that are in his Top 25 that might slip out or could otherwise disappoint, and right now we'll name five more teams we think can crack that Top 25 next season. Without further ado (and in no particular order):

1. Baylor - The good news for Baylor: dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III is back along with most of the offense, and while he loses starting tailback Jay Finley to graduation, Finley's backups Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi provide an intriguing balance of power and speed -- they both return. In addition, RG3 gets his top five receivers back (all of whom caught at least 40 passes this year), and three-year starting lineman Philip Baker will be the anchor at center for a mostly intact offensive line. Yes, Baylor still looks wretched at times on defense (53 points to Oklahoma and 55 to Oklahoma State aren't exactly solid efforts), so there's no telling whether the Bears' losses on that side of the ball are addition by subtraction or not, but one thing's for sure: there'll be points put up in Waco in 2011.

2. Illinois - This spot would likely go to fellow "Leader" Penn State if it weren't for the fact that PSU's replacing Evan Royster, two leading receivers, its two best offensive linemen, and there's really no telling who's starting at QB in 2011. Oh, and most of the Penn State defense -- including two of three starting LBs -- is graduating too. Contrast that with Illinois , who found a star quarterback in freshman Nathan Scheelhaase this year and returns four of five starting offensive linemen. The Illini won't miss early declarant Mikel LeShoure much with Jason Ford (who's basically a human truck) waiting to take over at tailback. The defense will definitely miss Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget on the interior, on the other hand; those guys were anchors of a stout rushing defense and their backups are unremarkable. Still, Illinois' 2011 schedule looks primed for some upsets, and nine wins is hardly out of the question. If Wilson and Liuget were returning, Illinois would probably be in Dodd's Top 25, but it's not as if no borderline-Top 25 team has ever exceeded expectations after losing two juniors to the NFL.

3. Utah - Everything's going to come crashing down once Utah joins a "real" conference, right? Maybe not. If QB Jordan Wynn recovers from December shoulder surgery in time for the season (which he should, but six months of rehab can turn into nine without the patient doing anything wrong), he'll be a third-year starter with a reasonable set of returning players. Senior wideout/returner Shaky Smithson is sure to be missed, but this is college football; so it goes. And while Utah's schedule looks daunting, it really could be worse; the Utes miss both Oregon and Stanford in inter-divisional play, and neither BYU nor Pitt should be as tough of matchups as they'd have been over the past couple years. In addition, the schedule's pretty top-heavy, and it's easily possible that Utah wins at least five of six down the stretch. Head coach Kyle Whittingham keeps proving predictions wrong by not bolting for a paycheck elsewhere, and now he's got a chance to lead his Utes into battle in a real conference and destroy the "mid-major" label that's been dogging the program -- even through multiple BCS bowl wins! -- once and for all.

4. Oregon State - Meanwhile, in the Pac-12 North, the Oregon State Beavers have a chance to make noise. Yes, Oregon and Stanford are the class of the division and should remain so for the near future, but don't sleep on the passing skills of QB Ryan Katz , especially now that he'll have his first full season as a starter under his belt. With the game slowing down for him and with Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers both returning at WR (to say nothing of Joe Halahuni coming back at TE), Katz should be able to more effectively use his NFL-caliber arm to put some points up in Corvallis. The offense will miss Jacquizz Rodgers desperately, and while deserved, his jump to the NFL will likely cost the Beavers a win or two. So while the defense struggled in 2010 and stands to lose several seniors, it may not matter in a Pac-12 with several struggling offenses and an OSU attack that should set 30+ points per game as a goal. Scheduling a road date at Wisconsin might not have been the wisest idea, though. Still, look for a push from Oregon State to hit that eight-win mark, which against a schedule like this could mean a spot in the Top 25 when it's all said and done.

5. Tennessee - Dodd ranks eight SEC teams in his Top 25 (26, really, but whatever). We're not sure all will end up ranked at the end of the 2011 season, but one thing seems clear: of the four teams he left out -- Kentucky , Ole Miss , Tennessee , and Vanderbilt -- Tennessee's the closest thing to a contender of the four. No, the SEC East shouldn't spend its entire season on fire like last year, where South Carolina took the division trophy in a five-loss season, but Florida 's going to be experiencing major upheaval and Georgia will be missing A.J. Green (again). With Tyler Bray coming off a successful freshman campaign and returning starting RB Tauren Poole and deep threat wideout Justin Hunter , we could see the Vols make some noise. On defense, the only major loss is leading tackler Nick Reveiz ; Herman Lathers made strides along with the rest of the defense down the stretch, and the secondary returns intact. If there's ever a time to make a run in the East, it's -- well, okay, it was 2010. 2011's not a bad opportunity for the Vols either, though.



Posted on: January 10, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Quizz is done with quizzes

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Today is just not a good day to be an Oregon State fan.  Not only do you have to watch your hated rival play for a national championship tonight, but now you're getting the news that one of the best players on your team won't be coming back to Corvallis next season.  Running back Jacquizz Rodgers will be announcing his decision to forego his senior season at Oregon State and enter the NFL Draft.




The school will announce Rodgers' decision this afternoon in a teleconference at 2pm PST.

If there's any good news for the Beavers, though, it's that at least James Rodgers will be back next season.  Even if he doesn't have his brother around with him.

Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 1,184 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.  All told, in his three-year career with the Beavers, Rodgers tallied 4,933 yards rushing and receiving, with 51 touchdowns.  That, my friends, is a lot of production to replace. 
 
 
 
 
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