Steveo’s Salvos – FCS Football preview

Six weeks from this Thursday, the college football season as well as collegefootballfan.com’s season kicks off. On Thursday, September 1, our season starts off with a 7 pm kickoff when Delaware hosts Delaware State in the First State Bowl in a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) rivalry. The Fighting Blue Hens, 4-7 a year ago, host their Intrastate rival DSU Hornets of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference who finished with a 1-10 record. The Hens and the Hornets will be two of at least seven FCS football teams we will see play during the 2016 season. The Hens under HC Dave Brock in his fourth season hope to get things turned around again in Newark to challenge for the Colonial Athletic on the running of Soph TB Thomas Jefferson (Passaic Tech, NJ) who averaged 80.9 yards on the ground last season. A supporting cast of eight all-league picks a season ago surround Jefferson, but will that be enough? The offense rated last in all of FCS football passing for only 67.1 yards a game.   The defense allowed 20.5 ppg and stalwarts DL Blaine Woodson and LB Charles Bell return to lead the defensive charge. As for their opponent, the Hornets best player is DL Gabriel Sherrod who was the one bright spot named to the all MEAC defense in 2015. The Hornets were one of four teams in their league that finished with one win each, all winning conference games. DSU defeated Howard, 32-31, in the last game of the season; Howard clubbed Savannah State, 55-9; Savannah State knocked off Florida A&M, 37-27; the FAMU Rattlers trounced DSU, 41-13. At least the bottom of the MEAC is competitive with one another…

UD fans are looking for a turnaround this season, or this could be their head coaches curtain call.

UD fans are looking for a turnaround this season, or this could be their head coaches curtain call.

We will see Fordham, preseason favorites to win the Patriot League face the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The Rams, 9-3, 5-1 a year ago will be guided by new HC Andrew Breiner. He replaces successful HC Mike Moorhead who is now the new offensive coordinator at Penn State. The success of Fordham relies on their running game led by TB Chase Edmonds. The junior returns as a two -year starter who has gained 3,486 yards and tallied 43 TDs. He averaged 137.3 yards per game in 2015. During his freshman year, we saw him carry the load for this improving FCS football program against Rhode Island, Bucknell, and New Hampshire. He’s the Patriot Leagues’ top NFL prospect. Against Navy, he will be challenged. The Mids return one starter on offense, but they will continue to churn out yardage with their triple option attack despite the graduation of QB Keenan Reynolds who ranked fifth in the Heisman balloting. His replacement, Tago Smith, filled in for him effectively during two games in 2014 and will lead the offense during his senior season. On defense, the Mids return seven starters. Last season, we watched this defense hold Marlon Mack of USF to only 39 yards of offense. He blistered the rest of the Bull opponents totaling 1,381 rushing yards a year ago. The loss to Navy was the only one during the Bulls’ last eight regular season games. Unstoppable runner? Unyielding defense? We shall see…

The Fordham O-line will have to be effective to get Chase Edmonds big runs against Navy's defense in their season opener.

The Fordham O-line will have to be effective to spring Chase Edmonds (22) for some big runs against Navy’s defense in their season opener.

On Saturday, October 22, between our Friday night game in Philly between Temple and USF and the 8 pm kickoff on Saturday at State College between Penn State and Ohio State, we plan to stop for our second game ever at Christy Mathewson Stadium in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for a Patriot League game between Lafayette and host Bucknell. Bucknell 4-7 and 1-5 in the Patriot last year defeated the Leopards for their only PL win, 35-24. It was only one of two games all season in which the Bison scored more than 20 points. The Bucknell offense needs a lot of improvement this season under HC Joe Susan. His defense returns some top starters from a year ago. NG Ben Schumacher reordered 13.5 tackles for losses. Safety Bryan Marine made four INTs. Talk about improving on offense: Lafayette scored less than 10 points in seven of its first eight games a season ago. They may not fare much better this season with Villanova, Fordham, and Army on their slate before this game between two also-ran FCS football programs. The venue’s on the way to PSU, it’s a nice setting, and it could be pretty even match-up between two teams not expected to do much again this season. So the two teams are on our radar screen in what could be an inept but close battle to avoid the Patriot League basement…

We plan to return to Christy Mathewson Stadium at Bucknell to see the Bison host Lafayette before the Penn State-Ohio State game in Happy Valley at 8 pm.

We plan to return to Christy Mathewson Stadium  to see the Bison host Lafayette before the Penn State-Ohio State game in Happy Valley at 8 pm.

The University of San Diego Toreros, the preseason favorites to win the Pioneer League come east to visits Marist in a Pioneer league game. This will be collegefootballfan.com’s first trip to see the Red Foxes play and our first to Poughkeepsie, NY. USD, coached by Jim Harbaugh before he moved on to Stanford, returns a triumvirate of offensive leaders from this team a year ago. QB Anthony Lawrence, RB Jereke Armstrong, and WR Brian Riley who had 44 receptions and eight TDs return from a 9-2 season playing for HC Dale Lindsey. The Toreros look to get a bid into this season’s FCS football playoffs.   Marist sports a 5-6 record from a year ago. HC Jim Parody’s squad looks for improvement on defense as LB/co-captain Jimmy Braun, Lenape Valley Regional (NJ) grad, and CB Cameron Gibson are being relied on for their leadership on the field to turn things around. Junior QB Mike White returns as does his favorite target Juston Christian who caught six TD passes among his 826 yards. We’ll be rooting for the upset in this game. USD won last season out on the left coast, 30-20…There’s a chance this year that we can add another FCS football game late in the year when we head out to the Bay Area for Stanford at Cal. Depending on the kickoff there, we may catch the Sacramento State at UC Davis game for our first Big Sky game ever. Evenly matched at 2-9 from a year ago, the UC-D Aggies beat the Hornets of SSU, 35-21. We may have another FBS option, but it will all depend on our featured game’s kickoff time in Berkeley…We were hoping for a Friday night game at Princeton to catch a game, but nothing looks possible for us now. If the Penn game gets scheduled in the evening, we may see that as our lone Ivy league game this season, but traditionally that’s been a day game…Charleston Southern (10-3) and champion of the Big South in 2015, will open the FCS football season on August 27 when they visit five-time defending FCS champ North Dakota State in Fargo. Two weeks later, they play at Florida State. Five weeks later, they host Bucknell – go figure! Last season, they ventured into the FBS to play eventual champ Alabama and lost, 55-6. HC Jamey Chadwell has the eyes of several major programs on him… Holy Cross and Fordham will finish their Patriot league season playing each other in Yankee Stadium this year on November 19…

In 2014, we attended the 150th meeting played between Lehigh and Lafayette when they played at Yankee Stadium.

In 2014, we attended the 150th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette at Yankee Stadium.

The Howard Bison who finished 1-10 a season ago, must be making a bid to join the Big Ten. Their first two games are at Maryland and Rutgers…Idaho state starts this season hosting Simon Fraser of Canada. U. of San Diego hosts the Universidad de Las Americas Puebla from Mexico…We still see 1-10 Rhode Island opening at 0-12 as intriguing. How low can the Jayhawks go to get a win? Hopefully to make up for this to their fans, the two schools should play each other in basketball this season…Former Rutgers LB and Lenape Valley Regional (NJ) RB/LB, Nick Rafferty transferred to Sacred Heart of the Northeast Conference. He has at least two years of eligibility remaining to play in that FCS football program…Many FCS football teams play at least one FBS school. Other FCS teams like Howard, Idaho State, Morgan State and Savannah State, play two. The must need a lot of money. Then there is Sam Houston State coached by KC Keeler formerly of Delaware and D3 Rowan. He never touches the FBS teams on his schedule, but he recruits a lot of former FBS castaways to play on his teams. Always did. His Bearkats were 11-4 last season. He likes coaching at the FCS level for this reason and probably always will no matter how successful he is if ever offered to move up…Then there’s South Carolina State. They open at Central Florida, at Louisiana Tech, and then go to Clemson. Three FBS schools for some nice paydays. They’ll have to win all their other games to top last season’s win total of seven…Former Montana State HC Rob Ash was HC at three schools for the last 34 years starting at the Alma Mater Juniata, before taking over at Drake where he took them from D3 into the FCS before finishing the last 10 years at Montana State. He finished with a record of 234-126-5. He left college football ranked in the Top 20 head coaches in total wins among active coaches. In 2011, he was awarded the Liberty Mutual FCS Head Coach of the Year. On June 2, he took a position with Bret Bielema’s Arkansas program as an offensive analyst. Three current FBS head coaches played for him at Drake – Chris Ash of Rutgers (no relation), Dave Doeren of NC State, and Charlie Partridge of Florida Atlantic. Maybe he will coach again… Charleston Southern, defending four-time national Champ North Dakota State will host Eastern Washington before traveling to play Iowa in Iowa City. Of course, QB Carson Wentz graduated and moved on to the NFL. However, Frosh Easton Stick replaced him last season when he broke his wrist and led the Bison to eight wins on the way to the FCS football title…New Hampshire will open the season in front of our friend Tom Ables when he will see them face his Aztecs during his 781st Aztec game!…

The UNH Wildcats will be looking for their 13th straight FCS playoff berth starting with their season opener at San Diego State.

The UNH Wildcats will be looking for their 13th straight FCS playoff berth starting with their season opener at San Diego State.

The Red Flash of St. Francis (PA) of the NEC will have to be Road Warriors to begin their season. Their first four games are on the road at Montana, Towson, Columbia, and Albany…CFF.com and FCS football bid farewell to Villanova HC Andy Talley who first coached the Wildcats in 1985. We’ve seen his team perform numerous times. His career at D3 St. Lawrence and at FCS Delaware now stands at 219-152-2. One memory of ours stands out when we saw his St. Lawrence team defeat Wagner College on State Island in a D3 playoff. Our friend Bob Daly played for him them. The Larry QB was Mark Ferrante. He’s been with HC Talley basically ever since. Currently the Wildcats offensive line coach, he will become a HC next season for the first time after Talley steps down. The Cats look to finish strong for their coach whose VU team won the FCS football championship in 2009. A strong defense and the return of QB Zach Bednarczyk will be keys to getting Talley’s team a CAA championship and an FCS football playoff invitation. We wish this great HC the best for his final season.

Ah the memories!  HC Andy Talley's VU Wildcats clobbered UNH in the FCS playoffs on their way to the 2009 FCS Title.

Ah the memories! HC Andy Talley’s VU Wildcats clobbered UNH in the FCS playoffs on their way to the 2009 FCS Title.

D 3 Football: For the love of the game

It was in 1973 when the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) restructured the way it classified college level sports. Prior to 1973 there were two levels of college sports, the highest level was called the University Division and the lower level called the College Division. In 1973 the University Division was renamed Division I (D1) and the College Division was split into two different divisions, Division II (D2) and Division III football (D 3 football).  I remember it well. I was there for the very beginning.  My late father and I drove to Bridgeport, Connecticut on a brisk, fall Saturday morning to see the first ever Division III playoff game between The University of Bridgeport and Juniata College.  I was being recruited by Juniata to play football along with Lafayette College and a few other small schools during my senior year.   The visiting Indians from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania won the first D 3 football playoff game ever held, 35-14, and went on to play in the first official D 3 championship game called the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, in honor of the late, great collegiate coach.  Juniata did not fare well in the Stagg Bowl as they got whipped by Wittenberg University, 41-0, down in Phenix City, Alabama on national TV.  After attending the US Naval Academy for two years, I transferred to Juniata College to major in business and play football in 1976.

The Alma Mater, Juniata College, played in the first Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.

The Alma Mater, Juniata College, played in the first Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.

The D 3 football championship game continues today as the Stagg Bowl and is played annually in Salem, Virginia.  Today, 32 D 3 colleges play in an single elimination format consisting of conference champs and at large bids from all over the country. The D 3 championship, like the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Division II championship, is won on the field.  The D 3 football finale is played on the third Saturday of every December.  My son, Eric, and I attended the title game in 2007 when we saw perennial Stagg Bowl entries Mount Union and Wisconsin Whitewater play for the second year in a row for the D 3 title.  The Purple Raiders of Mount Union located in Alliance, Ohio defeated the Warhawks of UW-Whitewater, 35-16, that day for their ninth D 3 football championship, all under HC Larry Kehres.  The following season, the Warhawks got revenge winning the title game in Salem over the Purple Raiders.  Since that championship game in 2008, the Warhawks won the title five more times defeating the Purple Raiders each time.  The Mount Union Purple Raiders have won it three times defeating the Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks twice and St. Thomas of Minnesota last season.  Larry Kehres’s son, Vince, took over the coaching reigns from his father two seasons ago.  UW-Whitewater HC Lance Leipold led the Warhawks to all six titles and now coaches the FBS Buffalo Bulls entering his second season.

Mount Union is one of two premier D3 football programs in recent years.

Mount Union is one of two premier D 3 football programs in recent years.

The biggest differences between the three divisions is mostly financial. D1 football teams offer the most athletic scholarships to players and enjoy some of the biggest budgets and most elaborate facilities college athletics has to offer. D1 is now divided into the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) comprised of 129 schools vying for rankings, television contracts, and bowl payouts while the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) offers fewer scholarships, doesn’t have the big TV contracts, and determines their national championship in a tournament format entered by 24 teams comprised of conference champs and at-large bids.  The championship game is played now in Frisco, Texas before the College Football Championship played for by the final two FBS teams from among the major conferences. Schools that play D 2 football are considered intermediate level and generally offer fewer athletic scholarships than schools in D 1, and their facilities are usually modest in comparison to D 1 schools. D 3 football programs are perhaps the most unique because D 3 football teams offer no athletic scholarships to student athletes. No athletic scholarships for student athletes? It’s an interesting fact, but one that makes you really respect D 3 football players.

Second cousin Rob Keyes putting a block on a William Paterson defender for The College of New Jersey back in 2007. No flag thrown by the way!

Second cousin Rob Keyes putting a block on a William Paterson defender for The College of New Jersey back in 2007. No flag thrown by the way!

It’s easy to understand why someone would want to take on the responsibility and hard work of being a student athlete when the student athlete is receiving a college education in exchange for their athleticism, but D 3 football players play out of a true love and passion for football. When I transferred to D 3 Juniata College from the US Naval Academy (where I did make what’s now known as the Sprint Football team, not the varsity Navy football team, where players had to weigh in at 158 lbs. to play, I hovered at 165 and never made weight),  I had to sit out a year of ineligibility because of the transfer rules they had back then which were, thankfully and eventually,  changed. Too late for me though.  However, to get back into football playing condition, I practiced with the team while ineligible during pre-season double sessions before the first game and played on the scout team offense every week as one of the primary RBs for our opponents each week.  I got to work as a spotter in the press box for home games.   I worked out in the weight room on my own program during the offseason (everybody did back then) and went out to play club lacrosse to get in shape for football and do some real “hitting” in the spring.   I was elected captain of the team though I’d never played lacrosse before (though my high school in New Jersey was one of about a dozen who played it back then).  In our first game against Allegheny College’s club, I hyperextended my knee over my own defense stick which tore my ACL and meniscus, but I hobbled around on my busted leg denying how serious the injury was to get it back in “shape” for summer break, and then I reinjured what was evidently worse than I thought playing pick-up basketball at home.  I got operated on, was in a cast for six weeks, went through re-hab on my own, worked it out, went to double sessions again in the summer before it gave out on me, worked out more, went out for track to get in shape throwing the javelin next spring, but in the end it never worked back out. I was sorry I could not get back to playing what I always wanted to do in college – play football – because I loved it.  No scholarship. No glory. I wanted to play football badly when I got to Juniata College and knew I could. I just ran into some tough obstacles and didn’t get to where I wanted to be.

Juniata, The Alma Mater, comes down the street from the Kennedy Center on campus to take the field at Chuck Knox Stadium!

Juniata, The Alma Mater, comes down the street from the Kennedy Center on campus to take the field at Chuck Knox Stadium!

Even if a school wanted to provide financial assistance to student athletes at the D 3 football level, the NCAA strictly forbids it. The only exception to this rule is for the two service academies that are members of Division III college athletics, the Merchant Marine and Coast Guard, because all students at these two institutions receive a completely free college education regardless of whether or not they’re varsity athletes. As a matter of fact, I loved having the opportunity of seeing these two schools play one another along the Thames River in New London, Connecticut in 1997.  My kids were young, we stayed at my sister’s in Rhode Island, and we saw the two D 3 football rivals with good records play for the Secretary (of Transportation) Cup.  Coast Guard won 34-16 in what I can describe as a mini Army-Navy game.  The USCGA Bears went on to play in the D 3 playoff to compete for the national championship, but they came up short.  One of these years, I’ll go back to see the Coast Guard – Merchant Marine rivalry played again! It’s a great setting with a great small school atmosphere.

D3 schools like FDU- Florham have sideline spirit like the big schools do.

D 3 football schools like FDU- Florham have sideline spirit just like the big schools do.

Over the last 30 years, I made the effort to see every FBS football team play in person at least once. For the most part, the journey is a finished success, however when a new school is added to the D 1 level, I go see another team I need to see in order to truthfully say, “I’ve seen ’em all”. Simply put attending D 1 football games is a passion. In fact, I even wrote a book about it: “Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan Who’s Seen ’em All”.  Understand though how much of a college football fan I really am. Some have called me the “ultimate” college football fan – granted, a few people have called me crazy (actually my wife is supportive believe it or not) – but many have referred to me as the ultimate fan. However, I don’t consider myself that. I consider myself to be a truly passionate college football fan as are many others.  I’m significantly different though in that unlike most, I don’t focus on just one team like many others do including my good buddy, Tom Ables out at San Diego State, who’s seen all but two Aztec games, home and away, in person since 1946!  I separate myself by being able to say, “I’ve seen ’em all” when it comes to having seen every FBS school play at least once. There aren’t too many other fans that can say that.  However, I’ve seen a lot more than just the FBS teams when it comes to seeing college games over the years played by FCS, D 2, and D 3 football teams as well.  If seeing every D1 team play in person has been a passion, then following Division III football is one of my favorite hobbies. Following the teams of the FCS and D 2 are close behind.

We got to catch up with our good friend Tom Ables, San Diego State's No. 1 fan attending his 771st Aztec game when he came out to Penn State.

We got to catch up with our good friend Tom Ables, San Diego State’s No. 1 fan attending his 771st Aztec game when he came out to Penn State last season.

Overall, to me it’s about the game of college football itself. How it’s played, the spirit involved, the rivalries, the energy surrounding the games, the will to win, the traditions, game history, and the shaping of young lives in whatever fields they follow throughout the course of their lives.  Make no mistake, just because players compete at the Division III football level, it doesn’t mean that they have any less passion for the game, or any less of a desire to win, than any players at the D1 level. I’ve seen a lot of college football over the last three plus decades, and I can tell you that the players and the fans of D 3 football are just as serious about their football as any D1 player or fan.

Check out my book, Tales from the Tailgate, that shares the fun of over 30 years seeing 120 of these teams play for the very first time.

Check out my book, Tales from the Tailgate, that shares the fun of over 30 years seeing 120 of these teams play for the very first time.

Learn more about my adventures through college football, and about my book, “Tales from the Tailgate”, at CollegeFootballFan.com. Click here to order.  Also, come back to this site to read about some games among teams you rarely hear about – like FDU-Florham and Montclair State, SUNY Maritime and Kings Point (the aforementioned U.S. Merchant Marine Academy), and Kean vs. Rowan.  These are all D 3 football programs that we’ll see compete this year just as hard as the big schools do with less size, speed and talent, but with just as much heart if not more.

We watched SUNY Maritime host Mass Maritime in Throggs Neck, NY in 2014. This year we will see them host their rival just east on the Long Island Sound, Kings Point.

We watched SUNY Maritime (gray/blue) host Mass Maritime in Throggs Neck, NY in 2014. This year we will see them host their D 3 football rival just east on the Long Island Sound, Kings Point.

Collegefootballfan.com – Heisman Watch 2016

The Heisman: Most famous individual award in all of sports.

The Heisman: Most famous individual award in all of sports.

It’s enthralling that there is a major individual award of such high stature among the 129 competing teams at the highest level of college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision ( FBS), namely the Heisman Trophy.  (Editor’s note: Coastal Carolina jumps from the FCS to the FBS in 2017 to become the 130th team at that level.  That’s an easy flight to Myrtle Beach when we plan our game to see them compete at that level for the first time).  There are so many teams and players that will never compete directly against one another, and yet the pundits, who basically focus generally on one team each during the season select supposedly the best of the best despite the limited number of players they’ve seen perform. ( Based on talent, stats, leadership, off-field accomplishments, and what we saw amongst 27 FBS teams in 20 different games we saw in person last season, we still say Navy QB Keenan McReynolds should have won The Heisman in 2015.)  In addition, we think there is too much emphasis on just the quarterback and running back positions and not enough focus for the skills of other players on the field of play.  As far as Heisman Watch 2016 goes, we at CollegeFootballfan.com got early seats to see some of the best perform already.

Our solution to this is to take the winners of the awards for the best player at each position. Examples: WR for the Biletnikoff award, QB for Davey O’Brien Award, Outland Trophy for best interior lineman, LB for Butkus Award, etc. and select from among the best of all the position players. Every position has a “watch list” any how.  Certainly no one will heed these words in honor of tradition which is what I usually prefer in most cases (like conference alignments), but in the case of selecting one best player from among so many skilled players, I’m willing to break from tradition.  The best blockers and the best tacklers, the building blocks of football, are rarely valued among the primary skills of the gridiron.  It’s time to start evaluating each skill necessary for what makes a team player successful and determine who brings the most talent from among all the positions that give his team dominance from the talent he brings from his primary skill set.  There is plenty of film the pundits can analyze from among the best player at each position to make the assessment, and in most cases it will likely still be the top RB or QB, maybe an end, but once in a while they may come up with that defensive stalwart or “pancaker”  who led the way consistently for his team’s successful running game.  The analysis would be assessed better than by just watching game scoring highlights of QBs and RBs.  In any case,  the process is  definitely not changing this year, so we’ll carry on with traditional means though we think we have an advantage in this assessment compared to the voters who watch TV highlights every weekend.

Would consistent blocking like this demonstrated by Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley be worth enough to win a Heisman ? Not under today's selection process.

Would consistent blocking like this demonstrated by Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley be worth enough to win a Heisman ? Not under today’s selection process.

At collegefootballfan.com,  we’ve had a head start in the evaluation of talent for the 2016 Heisman selection process.  Though it’s about selecting the best player in 2016, we’ve been very lucky in seeing many of this year’s candidates play last season,  and in some cases, the season before.  Among “Five Favorites” noted in The Sporting News preseason publication, and “three more” identified as outsiders, we’ve attended games played by six already and will add two more major candidates during the upcoming season.  We will see a third play for the third time in three seasons.  We’ve seen many of the” darkhorses” play as well who are at least worth a mention.  In general, we’ve gotten to see a lot of the top talent returning to play college football this season despite all the early entries into the 2016 draft last spring.

Here’s our “spin” and experiences observing these talented players for this year’s Heisman competition (calling it the Heisman “race” seems to give an inside track to the players who only carry the football):

The six “Favorites”

Christian McCaffery, RB Stanford, SO – an early favorite after a sensational freshman year running for 2,019 yards and receiving for 645.  We get to see him play this year at Notre Dame and against big rival Cal in November.

Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson, JR – threw for 4,014 yards and 35 TDs and rushed for 1,105 yards and 12 TDs last season leading the Tigers into the CFP Championship game losing to Alabama, 45-40.  We saw him lead Clemson by Oklahoma in the CFP semi-final in Miami Lakes with a 37-17 win.   Watson completed 16 passes for 187 yards and a TD and carried 24 times for 145 yards a TD in a dominant second half.

Leonard Fournette, RB LSU, JR – In the 2014 American Home Mortgage Music City Bowl, LSU fell to Notre Dame 31-28 on a FG on the last play of the game.  Fournette, a freshman,  was voted game MVP for carrying 11 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns and returning a kickoff 100 yards for another. He got off to a hot start last year before only 31 yards on 19 carries a year ago against Alabama.  Improving his performance against The Tide in Tuscaloosa on November 5 could put him back on the Heisman track this season.

LSU Frosh RB Leonard Fournette (7) scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and on an 89-yard run in the 2014 Music City.

LSU Frosh RB Leonard Fournette (7) scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and on an 89-yard run in the 2014 Music City.

Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma – He completed 26 of 41 passes for 311 yards, one TD and two INTs in the Sooner’s 37-17 loss in the CFP semi-final in the Orange Bowl against Clemson.  It was a close contest until the Tigers dominated the second half.  A showdown against Ohio State at home on September 10 could be a Heisman elimination game for the losing QB in this one.

Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State, JR – In 2014, we saw Cook shine with 23 carries for 122 yards at Syracuse as a freshman in a 38-20 win as he capped off the FSU score with a seven-yard carry for the Noles final TD.  Last season, he tallied 82 yards on 17 carries and scored again against Georgia  Tech in our first trip to Bobby Dodd Stadium, but his performance was overshadowed by Tech’s last  score on the final play of the game for a 22-16 upset victory in an exciting finish.  Cook supposedly has a great line up front to open up the holes this year for what should mean a big season for him and for FSU.

J.T Barrett, QB Ohio State, SR – We will see him return for his final season at QB for OSU in a prime time game at 8 pm on October 22 at a White-out  in Happy Valley against Penn State .  Last season, we saw him lead the Buckeyes to a 42-13 win over Michigan in the Big House.  He ran 19 times for 133 yards and three TDs,  and he threw for 113 yards and another score in the win over their despised and improved archrival under equally despised first-year HC Jim Harbaugh.  In 2014, we saw his debut as a starter replacing injured Heisman candidate Braxton Miller against Navy in Baltimore.  In the 34-17 win, it was a sign of things to come as he passed for 226 yards and two TDs while running for 50 yards in an impressive career start that eventually took Ohio State to a national championship.  A second one this year along with an unblemished record could possibly assure him of this year’s Heisman.

J.T. Barrett will be in charge of the Buckeye offense when they return to Happy Valley this season. White-out?

J.T. Barrett will be in charge of the Buckeye offense when they return to Happy Valley this season. White-out!

Others:

Greg Ward, QB, Houston – We will see him play Navy at Annapolis on October 8.

Luke Falk, QB Washington State – Completed 47 of 66 passes for 478 yards and four TDs in last season’s opener in a 37-34 win over Rutgers whose secondary was depleted because of suspensions for criminal activities.

DeShone Kizer, QB Notre Dame – Picked up the pieces last season after starter Malik Zaire went down with an injury in the second game of the season.  Against Temple he led the Irish to a winning TD pass with 2:09 left to finish off a 76-yard drive for a hard-fought 24-20 win.  He carried his offense with 23 for 36 passing for 299 yards and that lone TD while rushing 17 times for 143 yards and two scores.

QB DeShone Kizer led the Irish over improved Temple last season, 24-20.

QB DeShone Kizer led the Irish over improved Temple last season, 24-20.

Malik Zaire, QB Notre Dame – HC Brian Kelly will have to decide who starts for the Irish this year as Zaire returns from his injury and Kizer returns after leading ND to a 10-3 mark a year ago.  At the American Home Mortgage Music City Bowl two years ago, Zaire threw 12  of 15 complete and duplicated his totals passing and running with 96 yards each on his arm and with his  legs while tallying a TD through the air and one on the ground in the 31-28 win.

Samaje Perrine, RB Oklahoma – Nothing special when we saw him play Clemson last season in their CFP loss; 58 yards on 15 caries and one TD.

Wayne Gallman, RB Clemson – Very special when we saw him play Oklahoma last season in their CFP win; 150 yards on 26 carries and two TDs.

Elijah Hood, RB North Carolina – 13 carries for 118 yards and no TDs against Baylor in the Russell athletic Bowl.  Had some good runs.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR USC – Three receptions for 66 yards and a TD against Colorado last season.

Luke Falk (4) completes one of his many passes to Tavares Martin (12).

Luke Falk (4) of Washington State completes one of his 67 passes to Tavares Martin (12) against Rutgers last season for HC Mike Leach’s Cougars. .

Gabe Marks, WR Washington State – 14 catches for 146 yards and a TD versus Rutgers last year.

Adoree’ Jackson, DB/WR USC – Showed versatility on defense blocking a FG attempt when CU trailed 20-17 to kill the Buffs momentum in last season on our first trip to Folsom Field.

Jabrill Peppers, DB Michigan – 25 kick returns, 18 carries, and eight receptions last season; but against Ohio State, they made the entire Michigan D looked like mince meat.

Our Honorable Mention Player list based on who we’ve seen to keep an eye on this year:

Jalen Hurd, RB Tennessee; P.J. Walker, QB Temple; L.J.  Scott, RB Michigan State; Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State; Jahad Thomas, RB Temple; Daniel Gonzalez, LB Navy; Ben Boulware, LB Clemson; Ray Lawry, RB Old Dominion; Justin Thomas QB, Georgia Tech; Jeremy Timpf, LB Army; Andrew King LB, Army; Donnel Pumphrey RB, San Diego State; Marlon Mack RB, South Florida; Rodney Adams, WR South Florida; Raekwon McMillan, LB Ohio State; Jacobi Owens, RB Air Force

LJ Scott (3) returns for the Spartans at RB this season when we see them visit Happy Valley.

LJ Scott (3) returns for the Spartans at RB this season when we see them visit Happy Valley.

 

The Ultimate College Football Fan

From author Steve Koreivo comes a compilation of stories that any die hard college football fan would love to experience. A college football fan since boyhood, Koreivo describes in detail the first time he got the chance to see a D1 college football game played in person. Over the course of 36 years, Koreivo has attended 507 college football games (and still counting) – and managed to hold his marriage and career together while doing it. In fact, he credits much of his success with seeing many of those games in person to his wife, who he affectionately refers to as Saint Laurie (his friends and family all agree).

Author and Ultimate College Football Fan Steve Koreivo got to tailgate with a lot of great friends from over the years at West Point for his 500th game last November!

Author and Ultimate College Football Fan Steve Koreivo got to tailgate with a lot of great friends from over the years at West Point for his 500th game last November!

It was on an uncharacteristically warm December afternoon in 1972 that Koreivo would be introduced to the “big time” of college football. It was a game between two long, storied rivals – Army and Navy – at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, and it was the game that would mark the beginning of a journey to see every D1 college football team play in person at least once. Each chapter is dedicated to the first time he saw a team (or teams) play in person and includes plenty of personal anecdotes from the life of this epic college football fan. Koreivo uses his first hand experience from each game to immerse you in all the fun, excitement, and football loving adrenaline that he experienced living his stories first hand.

The Army Black Knights of 1972 won the first Division 1 game I attended when they defeated Navy, 23-14.

The Army Black Knights of 1972 won the first Division 1 game I attended when they defeated Navy, 23-15.

And then there’s the tailgating – the rituals filling the parking lots hours before and hours after a game is played. This is where the ultimate college football fan meets with fellow fans to gear up for the big game and break it down after. It’s where camaraderie lives and where some of the best stories about college football are born. Some tailgating parties are much more elaborate than others – and some would barely qualify as parties at all – but as you read Koreivo’s account of his time on the road and at various tailgate parties at different venues, you begin to realize that part of the fun of tailgating for the diehard college football fan is never knowing what to expect.

The more you read Koreivo’s book “Tales from the Tailgate”, the more you feel as if you were right there with him for all those years and all those games. Unlike many other college football fans, Koreivo has his two favorite teams, but he doesn’t hold anything against any of the other teams that he’s gone to see play. Well, there are a handful that he will always root against. He attends for the spirit, the traditions, atmosphere, experiences, and enjoyment of what he calls “this great game.” He’s no Monday morning quarterback and you won’t find any critiques about game play, the way he discusses the game is from the perspective of an observant and true fan of the sport of college football.

Available for digital download and purchase in paperback and hardback, Steve Koreivo’s “Tales from the Tailgate” can be purchased at Amazon.com. As new teams have been added to the FBS ranks since Koreivo has written this book, he’s seen all 129 teams at this level play along with many at the three lower levels of NCAA football. Since his passion for the game doesn’t end when the games are over, you can continue to keep up with Steve Koreivo and all of his football loving insight and history on his blog, CollegeFootballFan.com. On it you can also find a link to order “Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan who’s seen ’em all!”

Click here to order Tales from the Tailgate now!

Check out our book! Lots more to come.

Check out our book! Many more football stories to come.

Steveo’s Salvos – Eighty days to go!

Eighty days to go until our opening kickoff on Thursday night, September 1 when the Delaware State Hornets and the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens mix it up at Delaware Stadium in Newark for the First State Bowl.  UD HC Stan Brock starts the season on the proverbial hot seat for sure.  He is 17-18 overall at Delaware after last season’s poor 4-7 showing after a 6-6 record in his second season.   The proud Delaware football program is not a patient one.  No Fighting Blue Hen HC has survived three consecutive non-losing seasons and returned for the next.  From 1935-1937, Layal Clark had a 5-18-1 record over 3 losing seasons before being canned.  After two seasons with a 4-12 record, UD had seen enough of his successor Stephen Grenda.  He was ousted.  William D. Murray coached in Newark eight seasons successfully going 49-16-1 with only one losing season.  David Nelson coached UD to an 84-42-2 record over 15 seasons finishing on the short side only twice.  Legendary Hall of Famer Harold “Tubby” Raymond coached 36 seasons for an outstanding 300-119-3 record with four bowl wins, a national championship, and only three losing seasons.   His former player, K.C. Keeler, followed in his place and coached the Blue Hens for 12 seasons finishing 86-52 with a national championship, two losses in the FCS title game, and three losing seasons.  Interesting that Murray, Raymond, and Keeler were all gone after a losing season.  Nelson went 9-9 in his final two seasons.  Talk about a hot seat!  We’ll see if Brock gets his 2016 version of the Blue Hens off in the right direction against the hungry, in-state rival Hornets to prove he can continue the historical winning tradition for the Blue Hens.  If not, look for the Delaware administration to start looking for someone to lead them back to their winning ways at the traditional FCS power house…

We witnessed seven Delaware wins under Tubby Raymond, and the we attended the ceremony after his retirement when the school named their playing filed after the coach who posted 300 wins for the Blue Hens.

Stan Brock has to bring back the Fighting Blue Hens winning ways this season, or…?  We witnessed seven Delaware wins under Tubby Raymond and attended the ceremony after his retirement when the school named their playing field after the coach who posted 300 wins for the Blue Hens.

We are set to see California host Stanford in the 119th edition of the Big Game, longest rivalry on the west coast, on November 19. The Bears have the honor be the first FBS team to kick-off the 2016 season on August 27 when they travel to Sydney, Australia to play Hawaii at ANZ Stadium to get this college football season under way…So much for Art Briles coaching capabilities.  We came away from last season’s Baylor win over North Carolina, 49-38, in the Russell Athletic Bowl thoroughly impressed.  Without his top two starting QBs available due to injuries, he improvised using RBs and WRs in the Wildcat to run a very effective offense in an exciting game that we attended.  He improvised and overcame his team’s lack of QB experience to win a game over a quality competitor.  Now that we see how he was sidestepping legal and moral issues to keep his team intact instead of sending out the right message to the many sexual offenders on his squad, we have lost a lot respect for him as a man and as a mentor.  There is football and there is life, meaning teaching these young people right from wrong.  Looking the other way or manipulating a system of unending forgiveness at the expense of others is just going to cause more problems with these individuals and send out the wrong messages to other young people that as long as they can play football, they are allowed to do anything they want.  This is despicable at this level of “higher education”.  Wrong message! Briles and his players have mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, and female family members just like everyone else.  It’s not right to treat other women so wrongly.  These college administrators and coaching staffs have to open their eyes and see that there is more to their purpose than winning and raising money for their schools.  There is still the responsibility of teaching in the courses of life.  It should become an integral part of their high-priced contracts.  That means teaching right from wrong, and there is no thin line here.  This state of tolerance for all these wrongdoings has to stop somewhere. There should be as much negative reinforcement if not more than the positive reinforcement we always seem to hear as an excuse to do nothing and let the wrongdoings continue.   I just hope we don’t see Briles “landing on his feet” coaching in the pros or in front of a camera at ESPN.  He should not be affiliated anywhere in the game of football ever again, or else the difference between what is right and wrong in society will continue to remain an incomprehensible blur…Looks like we’ll add another D3 Friday night game due to its locale and convenience for us before heading to Annapolis the next morning for UConn at Navy.  Montclair State, who is 12-0-1 over the years in games we’ve seen them play in, will visit a hapless FDU-Florham program on Friday, September 9 in the season opener for both squads.  MSU is under HC Rick Giancola in his 33rd season at the New Jersey Athletic Conference power house during his 33 years as HC.  His 226-104-2 record dwarfs that of the Devils’ Brian Surace in his fifth season at FDU with a record of 7-43.  Since the start of FDU football in 1974, the Devils have had only four winning seasons. Their best record was achieved in 1993 when they finished 8-3, 6-1 in the Middle Atlantic Conference.  It was the only season they went to a post season game losing in an ECAC Bowl to Wesley of Delaware, 6-0.  Their non-conference loss that season was to Montclair, 22-12.  They lost to them again the following year, 20-13, on the way to a 5-4 season. With those wins, the Red Hawks lead this short series, 2-0.   FDU-Florham’s next win will be the 100th in school history.  That averages out to be 2.3 wins per season!  We don’t expect #100 to come against the Red Hawks…Here’s what we rate as the Top Ten most entertaining, competitive, inter-conference FBS games scheduled in 2016: 1) Sept. 17 Ohio State at Oklahoma; 2) Sept. 3 Ole Miss vs Florida State in Orlando; 3) Nov. 17 Louisville at Houston; 4) Sept. 3 Wisconsin vs. LSU at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin; 5) Sept. 3 USC vs. Alabama at Arlington, TX; 6)  Sept. 3 Oklahoma at Houston; 7) Sept. 3 Georgia vs. North Carolina in Atlanta; 8) Sept. 10  Penn State at Pittsburgh; 9) Sept. 10  Arkansas at TCU; 10) Sept. 24   Navy at Air Force.  September 3 will weigh heavily on the early season rankings…

Samaje Perine (32) and the OU sooners will host Ohio State this season as we anticipate this as the best inter-conference game of 2016.

Samaje Perine (32) and the OU Sooners will host Ohio State this season as we anticipate this as the best inter-conference game of 2016.

Among Lindy’s pre-season Top 25, including bowl games last year, we saw 12 of their Top 25 in 2015.  For our regular season plans in 2016, only six grace their pre-season picks in their publication that recently reached the newsstands.  Among those we will see will be No. 4 Ohio State when they visit Penn State on October 22.  We will see No. 10 Stanford visit No. 11 Notre Game on October 15 and then visit California at Berkeley at the Big Game on November 19.    Before seeing this Irish host the Cardinal, they will play at our Big Tailgate On October 1  in The Meadowlands when we see them play Syracuse under their new HC Dino Babers.  Defending AAC champ Houston ranked 12th will play the Midshipman of Navy in Annapolis in what should be a hard fought game despite the graduation of Mid QB Keenan Reynolds on October 8.  After an October of watching highly-ranked teams, we will see No. 22 Michigan State for the third year in a row when they visit Penn State on November 26…A lot more preseason stuff to build leading up to our start 80 days from now.  C’mon back!

LJ Scott returns for the Spartans at RB this season when we see them visit Happy Valley.

LJ Scott (#3)  returns for the Spartans at RB this season when we see them visit Happy Valley.

College Football Tailgating – Collegefootballfan.com Style

The first recorded instances of “tailgating” are not believed to have come from sporting events at all, but from the sidelines of war – and that’s not a figure of speech. The very first tailgaters are believed to have been American citizens during the Civil War, when civilians would gather at battlegrounds to watch battles between northern and southern troops. Despite best efforts to remain as far away from the danger as possible, there were many tailgaters who simply never made it home. To say the least, college football tailgating isn’t anything like tailgating during the Civil War – the tailgating of today is much safer, more fun, and friendlier. Continue reading

Steveo’s Salvos – 2016 Schedule, Big Game, Satellite camps, Recruiting May 22, 2016

Only  a little over three months to go before our favorite time of year starts up again!

Only a little over three months to go before our favorite time of year starts up again!

Sorry that our Ops system went down recently.   I’m now getting back into the swing of things…Our 2016 schedule is looking pretty intact right now and we even have plan in place for our bowl season with the announcements of the dates and time for most of them to be played.  Check out our 2016 schedule tab.  We’re now just waiting for a few game time announcements to see if we can finalize attending a few more games.  We see that the Davidson at Georgetown game precludes us from adding that as our fourth game on opening weekend where we have a Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday noon kickoff with Fordham at Navy.  The Wildcats and Hoyas will be kicking off at 1 pm at Cooper Field in D.C.  They’re out!   There’s still a possibility that we can add a game later in the day as Holy Cross will be visiting Morgan State at Hughes Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, home of the Bears.  We are waiting to see if Princeton will host a Friday night game on their soon to be announced schedule to add a game if convenient for a Friday night tailgate. I work nearby now.  On November 5, we’re waiting for the start times of Indiana at Rutgers and Kean at Rowan.  We’re committed to attending the New Jersey Athletic Conference D3 contest if there’s a conflict between the two.  One of my former LL baseball players, Matt Hill, will possibly be the starting NT for the Kean Cougars as a senior this year. We look forward to seeing him play.  There may be a few other opportunities as well as start times are announced for other potential games that can possibly be added…

For the second year in a row, Delaware will start our season for us.

For the second year in a row, Delaware will start our season for us.

The Big Game just got a little more interesting as far as the competition goes.  We look forward to seeing RB Christian McCaffrey of Stanford perform in his final regular season PAC-12 game as he is expected to be a Heisman contender.  Stanford’s Big rival, the Cal Bears, lost QB Junior Jared Goff to the LA Rams in the recent 2016 NFL draft.  However, the Bears picked up an experienced and talented graduate student from Texas Tech who plays QB to possibly replace Goff.   Webb Davis, who has 5,557 passing yards, 46 TDs, and 22 INTs during his college career.  He steps in from the Red Raiders pass-happy attack from behind current starter Patrick Mahomes, a potential pro prospect.  Bear HC Sonny Dykes hired QB coach and Offensive Coordinator Jake Spavital who engineered offenses under Head coaches Kevin Sumlin, Cliff Klingbury,  and Dana Holgerson at Houston, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Texas A&M.  The move caught Davis’s attention as he will now be competing for the starting job at Cal-Berkeley this fall.  It could make our first Big Game a lot more interesting than what we originally anticipated. It’s just a start for HC Sonny Dyke’s program who will also looking to replace his two key receivers from a year ago to be more competitive. In Jared Goff’s three years as a starter for the Bears, his record was 0-9 against fellow PAC 12 teams from the Golden State… Satellite camps: only a few teams were doing them.  Michigan in particular was in the spotlight. Then the NCAA decided they were banned primarily influenced by the SEC.  Then the NCAA said, never mind. They must have finally decided they are for the good of the prospective student-athletes.  And now everybody’s planning to have them. They seem fair to the prospective players for sure, but with social media and today’s technology, aren’t most of the top players pretty much identified without them?  How many diamonds in the rough will actually be found? It seems like another money-making deal by the coaches to me.  Anyway… On June 3, the big satellite camp story here in New Jersey is that Jim Harbaugh of Michigan will be running one at Paramus Catholic HS along with several other college coaches.  Harbaugh’s former recruiting coordinator and current LB coach, Chris Partridge, was the former HC at Paramus Catholic. Michigan Junior RB Jabrill Peppers and Junior OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty played high school ball there at PC for Partridge.  This year, with Partridge’s influence, Harbaugh recruited at least five top players from the Garden State after spanking Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, 49-16.  Harbaugh saw the opportunity and the players from NJ took advantage of it.  So what does new RU HC Chris Ash do to fend off the Michigan influence in the Garden State?  About 20 miles from Paramus on the same evening, he scheduled a satellite camp at the D-3 campus of Fairleigh Dickinson Universtiy in Florham Park. The former Ohio State DC also invited Ohio Stat HC Urban Meyer and Temple HC Matt Rhule to his camp to attract talent away from that crafty Harbaugh.  He’s already gotten the support of many of the head coaches of Catholic high schools in NJ who already attract most of the best talents in the state (that whole scenario is pretty pitiful in my humble observations of the state of HS football in the once very fertile recruiting grounds in the Garden State) who disliked the antics of Partridge when he was HC at Paramus Catholic.  They are encouraging players to attend the camp at FDU and to avoid the PC camp.  What I find difficult to understand, that if RU really wants to find some players in this camp, why would you let the foxes like Meyer and Rhule into your hen house?  I understand they’ll attract more or certain players, but Meyer has more capabilities to attract the top players away from RU he’ll want, and Rhule has done an excellent job over the years finding mid-level talent in NJ and making them better players. He’ll find those diamonds in the rough and make a team out of them.   I think Ash could have gotten the high school coaches’ influences without bringing in these two just from the disdain of Partridge to offset Harbaugh. I think he’s made a mistake by bringing in more competition to take talent from his program.  I’m thinking I may go over to observe this camp located in my local stomping grounds. As a matter of fact, I may even put on my spikes and shorts for a try-out. Many years ago, back when I transferred from the Naval Academy where I played lightweight football (I’m much heavier now) to D-3 Juniata College, the NCAA had a stupid rule that anyone transferring anywhere has to sit out a year before playing.  Eventually, somebody woke up and they decided that if you transferred from an FBS program to a lower level, you could play right away.  Finally, a good decision by the NCAA, but way too late for me.  I was ineligible to play that first year, but I still practiced as part of the sub-squad running plays against the first team defense Mondays through Thursdays (I tore up my knee badly the following spring playing club lacrosse to get in shape for the following fall).   I think the NCAA owes me a year of eligibility.  I still have good hands. I think I can surely hold for PATs, but nobody better fall or run into me, or we’re both going to be in big trouble! With an MBA already, I just have to find someone willing to give me a scholarship to pursue a PHD while holding for PATs.  Ohio State?  Temple?  That’s only about an hour from work. C’mon Matt, I was you play at PSU!

Ohio State and Michigan will be battling it out in Jersey on June 3 not on the gridiron, but on the recruiting trail.

Ohio State and Michigan will be battling it out in Jersey on June 3 not on the gridiron, but on the recruiting trail.

… Speaking of NCAA rules, does it make sense that Alabama (and others in the past) should be offering eighth graders like Jesus Machado a scholarship already? The young LB hasn’t even take a college prep course in high school yet no less a PSAT, not that some schools even consider the SAT any more.  What a waste of time and what pressure to put on a young kid and his family. Verbal offers are non-binding, and written offers cannot be made until senior year of high school.  How about ending this ridiculousness and focus on the kids you need to bring in in 2017? Life is too short to be rushing kids through their teenage years.

Did I mention that our favorite time of the year is only a little over three months away?

Did I mention that our favorite time of the year is only a little over three months away?

Steveo’s Salvos – Bowl schedule 2016-2017 announced, May 8, 2016


 

Last year, we attended the CapitalOne Orange Bowl won by Clemson over Oklahoma, 37-17. Who will we see at this semi-final game at the Chick-fil-A in Atlanta?

Last year, we attended the CapitalOne Orange Bowl won by Clemson over Oklahoma, 37-17. Who will we see at this semi-final game at the Chick-fil-A in Atlanta?

Forty-two (too many) Bowl games have been announced and already scheduled with times and dates. If winning doesn’t matter any more, every FBS team should get a “consolation game.” We’ve picked four of bowls to attend including this year’s semi-final game to be held at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta.  In addition, we will attend the Northrop-Grumman Military Bowl in Annapolis ( a successful Navy team will supposedly go play in the Bell Helicopter Armed Services Bowl in Fort Worth), the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, and the American Home Mortgage Music City Bowl at one of our favorite bowls in a city we love to visit any time. Check out our 2016 Schedule on his website for those we’re attending along with our regular season game plans.  For all bowl dates for this upcoming season, click here.

We've written about a lot memorable college football history already. Check out our book! Lots more to come.

We’ve written about a lot memorable college football history already. Check out our book, Tales from the Tailgate! Click on the cover above.   Lots more to come.

Steveo’s Salvos – 2016 Post-draft Review May 3, 2016

Collegefootballfan.com’s post-draft 2016 observations:

Penn State NT Austin Johnson (99) and DE Carl Nassib (95) apply pressure against Rutgers QB Chris Laviano in their 35-7 win in 2015. Johnson was taken by the Titans in the second round and Nassib was taken by the Browns in the third.

Penn State NT Austin Johnson (99) and DE Carl Nassib (95) apply pressure against Rutgers QB Chris Laviano in their 35-7 win in 2015. Johnson was taken by the Titans in the second round and Nassib was taken by the Browns in the third.

      Last week, we showed pictures of 17 potential NFL draft selections we’d seen play in person during the last two season. It indicates that we’ve seen some of the best talent out there (and more to be shown below). We can say that all seventeen eventually signed with an NFL team. Of the players we posted pictures of, three went in the first round, three in the second, two in the third, two in the fourth, none in the fifth, and three in the sixth. The three remaining signed as free agents with teams within the next 48 hours. RB Devon Johnson of Marshall signed with the Panthers. Injuries during his senior season dropped him down. If the Panthers can get him fully healthy, we say watch out! When we saw him play his junior season against Old Dominion, we saw him run over, through, around, and past people. Thundering Herd fans there told us beforehand that “he’s a horse.” We think the Panther fans will be pleasantly surprised to have picked him up out of free agency. Hunter Sharp, the WR from Utah State had 11 snags in a game saw him play at Air Force. He signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons. And lastly, the San Diego Chargers signed Navy FB Chris Swain. They evidently did some in-depth scouting. Swain’s service selection in the Navy was to become a Marine Corps officer. How likely is it that he will be assigned to duty in nearby Camp Pendleton or somewhere else near the huge navy base on the west coast?  Ooh-rah!  Well see if the US Navy actually complies, but in actuality, it’s a great plug for navy recruiting (not just for Navy football, but for enlisting recruits for naval and marine duty) to have officers serve and play pro football at the same time as long as their priorities are with the Navy. It’ll be better than TV commercials for that branch of the service.

     What do supposed football experts see that the common football fans like me and others supposedly can’t? Take the New York Jets trading up to get Christian Hackenberg, QB of Penn State. Now I’ve seen him play nine games in person during his PSU career as well as games on TV and highlights (and lowlights). His first year was very good under HC Bill O’Brien, known previously as Tom Brady’s QB coach with the New England Patriots. He showed great signs of things to come. However O’Brien left to take over the HC position with the Houston Texans. Under new Penn State HC James Franklin who wanted to run a read-option type of offense at State College, he kept the pro style offense intact based on Hackenberg’s skills. “Hack” had a faulty offensive line to say the least over two years, but I’ve got to say that even when he did have time and wide open receivers, I watched one of the most inaccurate passers of all time play at the collegiate level. Over-throws and under- throws way off the mark in both cases were witnessed all too often. Had anyone even close to his skills and experience been on the bench, he would have been grounded. So what did the Jets see that made them trade up? Either their QB coach Kevin Patullo is supposed to be some kind of miracle worker to develop Hackenberg’s throwing accuracy, or they have some superior sports shrink who is going to get inside Hackenberg’s head to step up in the pocket without any fear of the defenders around him. What we really can’t understand is why the Jets traded up to take him instead of a Connor Cook of Michigan State who went later in the fourth, or possibly Kevin Hogan out of Stanford. Hogan led Stanford to a 36-10 record over four years at Stanford surpassing Andrew Luck’s career total of the most wins there by a QB. He played under a solid coaching staff run by HC David Shaw. His passing stats are superior. He’s gotten his team into major bowl games. He’s a proven leader, and he’s supposedly a very smart, young man – one of the key reasons why Andy Reid picked him to play for the Chiefs in Round 5. His flaw is supposedly his throwing motion. I’ve seen him throw on TV, but I thought if anyone had a worse throwing motion than his coming out of college, I thought it was that of Phillip Rivers when I saw him play collegiately for NC State. I thought this guy would never make it in the pros throwing like that in a big, slow motion. But look how he’s done. I think Hogan has a quick release and doesn’t wind up anything like Rivers used to do. But I’m just a fan, and evidently the people managing this talent at the pro level know a lot more than I do. I’m looking forward to monitor the pro careers of Hackenberg and Hogan over the next few years and find out who’s going to be the better pro. I called a couple of “sure shots” like Jake Locker and Jadaveon Clowney identified by the so-called experts definitive busts after having seen them play in person at Washington and at South Carolina respectively, and I feel good about my accuracy on those calls a few years later. We’ll see what happens with these two taken in the same draft with significantly different results at the college level though I only saw Hackenberg play in person.

     I can’t figure out our other local team, the New York Giants, either. They were all set and salivating to pick Michigan State OT Jack Conklin at number eight. They certainly need to rebuild the offensive line, one of their biggest priorities. However, the Titans pull off a trade to select at number seven right before them and snap up Conklin. So I would figure, hey! we need the lineman who’s next on our list. Laremy Tunsil’s off the field celebrity cast him as a somewhat less than desirable, but who else is on that list? Well there had to be OT Taylor Decker of Ohio State of comparable size, experience, and success in the same conference compared to Conklin, so why not take him? Well, I’m evidently not that smart, so the Giants take Decker’s teammate CB Eli Apple who’s highly thought of at that position, a very good choice, and another area where the Giants were looking for some help. He could become a great pro player, but the Giants never filled that hole in the offensive line later in the draft to give them the new talent they could use up front. This draft seemed to have depth in the secondary positions, but the Giants didn’t fill a gaping need on the offensive line. Decker went later to the Detroit Lions in Round 1. This could be the big mistake by the Giants that gets GM Jerry Reese looking for employment elsewhere if the Giants don’t see significant improvement this year, or even worse, get QB Eli Manning injured during a pass rush.

     We mentioned that the San Diego Chargers selected Navy FB Chris Swain with the knowledge that he’s going Marine Corps which is beneficial to the Chargers in close proximity to the huge Marine Corps bases close to San Diego. Navy QB Keenan Reynolds got drafted as a RB in Round 6 by the Baltimore Ravens. It would be convenient to assign the new Navy Information Warfare ensign to a position nearby in the Pentagon. We’ll see if that works out for the Ravens. Reynolds, the Sullivan Trophy Award winner, is tough, no doubt, but his frame to us doesn’t seem to warrant being an every down player. We see him as a third down situation slot back. Several people have likened him to Slot back Julian Edelman of the Patriots.   He was drafted out of Kent State where he also played quarterback. Reynolds might play the same role for Baltimore if he makes the cut. We think he will if he gets the chance, but that will be the Navy’s call.  All Midshipman owe five years of active duty for their free four-year undergraduate degree from The Naval Academy.

     We like what we saw in LB Trevor Matakevich of Temple when we saw him play last season against Penn State and Notre Dame. He was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Our findings were confirmed when the Pittsburgh Steelers picked him up late in the final round. We think the Steelers do some of the best drafting every year. We look forward to seeing him make the Steelers and show everyone they know what they’re doing once again when it comes to evaluating talent.  It’ll show that we may know what we’re talking about, too.

Prediction: Montana State TE Beau Sandland, drafted in Round 7 by the Carolina Panthers, will some day be a head football coach at a major university.  We precinct this because Sandland played for four years under Bobcat HC Robb Ash.  Before taking over at Montana State, Rob Ash coached at Drake University and at The Alma Mater, Juniata College. His current career record stands as 247-137-5.  During his years at Drake, he coached three players who are now head coaches at the FBS level:  Chris Ash of Rutgers, Dave Doeren of NC State, and Charlie Partridge of Florida Atlantic.  We’ll see if Ash’s coaching capabilities can be reflected in Sandland as well.

Here are some more pictorials of players we watched the last few years and where they are going, why, and what we may expect:

Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley was selected sixth overall by the Ravens to open up holes like this one he did against LSU at the Music City Bowl two seasons ago.

Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley was selected sixth overall by the Ravens to open up holes like this one he did against LSU at the Music City Bowl two seasons ago.

 

OT Taylor Decker (68) of Ohio State seals off the Michigan line for a gig gain. He was selected in the first round by the Detroit Lions.

OT Taylor Decker (68) of Ohio State seals off the Michigan line for a big gain in their 42-13 victory. He was selected in the first round by the Detroit Lions.

We didn't come away impressed by Utah State's defense in their 35-28 loss at Air Force last season. However the pros like what they saw. LB Kyler Fackrell (9) was selected in round 3 by the Packers. Right before him, LB Nick Vigil (41) was selected by the Bengals.

We didn’t come away impressed by Utah State’s defense in their 35-28 loss at Air Force last season. However the pros liked what they saw. LB Kyler Fackrell (9) was selected in round 3 by the Packers. Right before him, LB Nick Vigil (41) was selected by the Bengals.

DT Matt Ioannidis of Temple (Ringoes, NJ / Hunterdon Central HS) making a stop here against Notre Dame, will bring his lunch pail when he shows up to play for the Redskins this summer. Washington picked him up in the fourth round.

DT Matt Ioannidis of Temple (Ringoes, NJ / Hunterdon Central HS) making a stop here against Notre Dame, will bring his lunch pail when he shows up to play for the Redskins this summer. Washington picked him up in the fourth round.

We saw NT Adam Gotsis (96), an Aussie, play in Georgia Tech's two consecutive bowl games against Mississippi and Mississippi State. The Denver Broncos strengthened their defense with him in round 2.

We saw NT Adam Gotsis (96), an Aussie, play in Georgia Tech’s two consecutive bowl games against Mississippi and Mississippi State. The Denver Broncos strengthened their great defense with him in round 2.

Michigan State DE Shalique Calhoun (Middletown, NJ) closes in on Rutgers' receiver Janarian Grant in their win over Rutgers this year. He was selected by the Raiders in round 3.

Michigan State DE Shalique Calhoun (#89 of Middletown, NJ) closes in on Rutgers’ receiver Janarian Grant in their win over Rutgers this year. He was selected by the Raiders in round 3.

Calhoun's Spartan teammate, QB Connor Cook, followed him to the Raiders in the fourth round.

Calhoun’s Spartan teammate, QB Connor Cook, followed him to the Raiders in the fourth round.

We never know where we'll see a potential pro. Princeton TE Seth Devalve (87) was taken by the Browns in Round 4. We saw him in action against Brown here in 2014. We think new Assistant GM Gerry DePodesta who came to Cleveland from the New York Mets (not Jets) and a former Harvard baseball and football player had a hand in selecting the Ivy Leaguer, one of two taken in this draft. The other was Harvard OT Cole Toner taken by the Cardinals in round 5.

We never know where we’ll see a potential pro. Princeton TE Seth Devalve (87) was taken by the Browns in Round 4. We saw him in action against Brown here in 2014. We think new Assistant GM Gerry DePodesta who came to Cleveland from the New York Mets (not Jets) and a former Harvard baseball and football player had a hand in selecting the Ivy Leaguer, one of two taken in this draft. The other was Harvard OT Cole Toner taken by the Cardinals in round 5.

Northwestern DE Dean Lowery (94) seen here in the Outback Bowl on January 1 in a blow-out to Tennessee, was drafted by the packers in round 4.

Northwestern DE Dean Lowery (94) seen here in the Outback Bowl on January 1 in a blow-out to Tennessee, was drafted by the Packers in round 4.

Steveo’s Salvos – Pre-draft April 27,2016

During the past two years, we’ve seen some of the top collegiate players perform in person. Here are some of the players we anticipate moving up to the next level in the upcoming NFL draft:

 

Buckeye defense led by Joey Bosa (97) stopped Navy at the goal line in the 2014 season opener for both teams.

Buckeye defense led by Joey Bosa (97) stopped Navy at the goal line in the 2014 season opener for both teams.

We liked the speed, power, and toughness displayed by Marshall FB Devon Johnson (47) when we saw him play against ODU. He finishes 6th in rushing with 1,636 yards and 17 TDs this season.

We liked the speed, power, and toughness displayed by Marshall FB Devon Johnson (47) when we saw him play against ODU. He finished 6th in rushing with 1,636 yards and 17 TDs during the 2014  season.

PK Roberto Aguayo capped first quarter scoring for the Seminoles against Syracuse when we saw him play in 2104.

PK Roberto Aguayo capped first quarter scoring for the Seminoles against Syracuse when we saw him play in 2104.

Gamecock WR Pharoh Cooper goes high for a 16-yard TD snag against Auburn in 2014.

South Carolina Gamecock WR Pharoh Cooper goes high for a 16-yard TD snag against Auburn in 2014.

We project PSU QB Christian Hackenberg to go in the lower rounds unless former HC Bill O'Brien of the Texans decides to take a chance on him early.

We project PSU QB Christian Hackenberg (14)  to go in the lower rounds unless former PSU HC Bill O’Brien of the Texans decides to take a chance on him early.

Notre Dame WR C.J. Prosise stopped for short gain by LSU defense in 2014 Music City Bowl.

Notre Dame WR C.J. Prosise (20)  stopped for short gain by LSU defense in 2014 Music City Bowl.

Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott tucks the ball against stingy Georgia Tech front seven in 2015 Orange Bowl.

Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott tucks the ball against stingy Georgia Tech front seven in 2015 Orange Bowl.

 

PSU DT Anthony Zettel (98) defends against a Rutgers pass in the dominant Lion win in 2015.

PSU DT Anthony Zettel (98) defends against a Rutgers pass in the dominant Lion win in 2015.

WR Aaron Burbridge (16) of Michigan State had nine receptions among his 80 against Rutgers to be named First Team Big Ten.

WR Aaron Burbridge (16) of Michigan State had nine receptions among his 80 against Rutgers to be named First Team Big Ten.

We look for Temple LB Tyler Matakevich to make a big impact in the pros after seeing him perform against Penn State and Notre dame in 2015.

We look for Temple LB Tyler Matakevich (8) to make a big impact in the pros after seeing him perform against Penn State and Notre Dame in 2015.

USC QB Cody Kessler (6)ran out of his pocket and into the depths of this years draft after we saw him play against Colorado in 2015. .

USC QB Cody Kessler (6) ran out of his pocket and into the depths of this year’s draft after we saw him play against Colorado in 2015.

Utah State WR Hunter Sharp combined on three TD passes on the day in his team's 35-28 loss at Air Force we attended in 2015.

Utah State WR Hunter Sharp combined on three TD passes on the day in his team’s 35-28 loss at Air Force we attended in 2015.

Ezekiel Elliott stiff arms for a some of his 214 yards early in the second quarter.

Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott stiff arms for a some of his 214 yards against arch-rival Michigan last November.

Navy FB Chris Swain (37) could be a surprise pick in the NFL draft.

Navy FB Chris Swain (37) could be a surprise pick in the NFL draft.

OU WR Sterling Shepard brought down with open field tackle in second half.

Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard brought down with open field tackle in second half of CFP semi.

Navy QB Keenan Reynolds (19) scores one of his record setting TDs versus South Florida.

Navy QB Keenan Reynolds (19) scores one of his record setting TDs versus South Florida. Some NFL team will select the 2016 Sullivan Award winner for their roster in this draft.

Clemson DE Shaque Lawson (90) saw limited action due to an injury in the CFP win over Oklahoma, but expect him to go high in this week's draft.

Clemson DE Shaque Lawson (90) saw limited action due to an injury in the CFP win over Oklahoma, but expect him to go high in this week’s draft.

We've seen some a lot memorable college football history from 1972-2007. Check out our book!

We’ve seen some a lot memorable college football history from 1972-2007. Click on our cover to check out our book!