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 as 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!

Steveo’s Salvos – “Stuff” – April 23, 2016

We’re all set for tickets for all our five Navy games (four in Annapolis and Army in Baltimore) this season and our two Penn State games in addition to Notre Dame vs. Syracuse at MetLife stadium on October 1… Kansas vs. Rhode Island? A winless FBS school Kansas has to reach down into the dregs of the FCS to find a game it can win. FCS program Rhode Island went 1-10 a season ago and 1-11 in 2015. I can’t imagine the gate at Lawrence assuring a lot of money for the Rams to visit. The two schools would definitely draw more fans if it was basketball game even at a neutral site. The Jayhawks would probably get beat by D-3 programs Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater, perennial powerhouses…We’re considering to attend four games during our first weekend of the 2016 season: Delaware State at Delaware (URI’s one win last season), on Sept. 1 at 7 pm in The First State Cup; Army at Temple on Sept. 2 at 7 pm at Lincoln Financial Field; Fordham at Navy on Sept. 3 at noon; and for that evening, we’re waiting to hear if either one of these games will be played not far from Annapolis for a night cap – Davidson at Georgetown, or Holy Cross at Morgan State. We’ve never been to a home game of either host team. Davison would be a first time FCS school for us…

We hope to see UD improve this season or it could be Stan Brock's last season from what we've seen these last few years.

We hope to see UD improve this season or it could be Stan Brock’s last season from what we’ve seen these last few years.

Congratulations to LB Jimmy Braun, former LB for our local Lenape Valley (NJ) High School, who was voted captain of the Marist University Red Foxes by his teammates. HC Jim Paraday made the announcement commenting that Jimmy is dominant in the team weight room. The senior from Hopatcong had 47 tackles last season along with an interception and a fumble recovery. We will see the 6-1, 224 lb. MLB play on October 29 when the Red Foxes of Marist host the San Diego Toreros in a Pioneer League clash at Leonidoff Field… Sorry to hear that Princeton University is dropping its Sprint Football program. Despite a 10-year losing streak, you’d think the school would take on the challenge to turn things around. They say that they don’t recruit as other schools do. Newer members of the Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) entering the lightweight league are actually recruiting players to play at this level. We’ve always said we wished to see more schools attempt to do this as there are plenty of guys around that will make the 172-lb limit who would still love to play college ball after four years of high school. Other Ivy League schools, Michigan, and Rutgers have dropped their programs over the years. Army and Navy currently dominate on the field of play. Penn and Cornell are two originals. In recent years, Post (Connecticut), Chestnut Hill (PA), Franklin Pierce (NH), and Mansfield (PA) have started programs. Caldwell College (NJ) starts up a program in 2017. A lot to schools are looking to increase their male student population by offering Sprint Football as a varsity sport. By adding non-scholarship programs at a cost probably much less than an actual D-3 program, why not? We think it’s a great opportunity for students who still love to play the game at a competitive level and that it adds some spirit to these schools’ campuses. We hope to see more schools join the Collegiate Sprint Football League in the near future. Princeton Sprint Football alumni are trying to keep their venerable program intact. We’re rooting for them to do so and to make it thrive seeing what other schools are doing. Seton Hall, FDU, and Rider – take note! We attended our last Sprint game several years ago as a fundraiser for Newark’s Project Price between Navy and Cornell…

Michigan used to play Sprint football, but the friends I made there last year, were too young and too big to play that level of football!

Michigan used to play Sprint football, but the friends I made there last year were too young and too big to play that level of football!

We were surprised to find out that even Navy, with all graduates having a five-year obligation to serve in the military, actually held a Pro day recently. We ‘d never heard that there had been one before, but only last season, Navy’s Joe Cardona was drafted and became the long-snapper for the New England Patriots playing in all 16 games and in the post-season. He pulls double duty as an instructor at the Naval Academy Prep School in nearby Newport, RI. This year, Navy QB Keenan Reynolds, SB DeBrandon Sanders, FB Chris Swain, and NG Bernard Sarra all performed in front of NFL scouts in Annapolis. Of course, QB Roger Staubach is probably known as the greatest NFL player to come out of USNA. He served his five years in the US Navy before joining the Dallas Cowboys. WR Phil McConkey did the same before playing on a NY Giant team that won the Super Bowl in 1986. Today, 6-9, 320-lb OT Alejandro Villanueva, played at Army West Point before serving five years becoming a captain in the US Army to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers…

Navy QB was tested by NFL scouts, but it looked like they considered him an athlete to play other positions than QB in the NFL.

Navy QB Keenan McReynolds was tested by NFL scouts, but it looked like they considered him an athlete to play other positions than QB in the NFL.

The College Football Playoff board is analyzing and discussing the future dates of its semifinal games. No surprise here. It is all about the money in the end, and when TV ratings dropped last year when the games were televised on New Year’s Eve, the administrators eventually woke up and took notice. Some of their analysis questions the lack of excitement in the two games last season (Clemson over Oklahoma, 36-17; and Alabama over Michigan State, 38-0), but we say forget about it! Play them on New Year’s Day after a night of partying and they’ll get their ratings back up for sure. It continues to be the biggest bowl day of the year from a traditional college football perspective with two games to be played for a national championship. It’s a no-brainer! Tell us what you think.

We saw some memorable college football history from 1972-2007. Check out our book!

We saw some memorable college football history from 1972-2007. Click on our book!

Steveo’s Salvos – Penn State Spring Game Review – April 17, 2016

John Massimilla (Penn State alum and long-time season ticket holder who bleeds Blue and White) and I attended the Penn State Blue-White game on a beautiful afternoon combined with a little tailgating. We both went in with question marks and felt good about what we saw based on the intrasquad game where no one shows much, but from what we saw, along with 65,000 others, we came away feeling more positive after seeing a few things we had witnessed. You have to take the final stats with grain of salt no doubt. The Blue team was primarily comprised of the first team playing against White, basically the second teamers. For example, experienced RB Mark Allen ran eight times for 49 yards against White. However, with a less experienced White line against a more experienced Blue defense, he rushed six times for only 15 yards. Second Team QB Tommy Stevens finished 10 of 17 for 100 yards, but his totals against White were three for three for 52 yards. I can’t understand why first team offense can’t play against the first team defense and second against second. It pits the best against the best if the first team plays the first for their best possible challenge of the spring season. On the other hand, I can only figure it’s to get the younger players more experience against the best players to see what they bring to the table. I guess that is what a coaching staff prefers to see at the end of spring football practice.

RB Mark Allen picks up some yards on the ground.

RB Mark Allen picks up some yards on the ground.

 

John and I came away with basically three positive take-aways after watching the scrimmage.   We both liked new Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead’s strategy running the no huddle during the first few series. The Blue offense looked sharp driving 70 yards during their first possession resulting in a 15-yard TD pass from QB Trace McSorley to WR Chris Godwin. The team offense looked efficient, didn’t waste time, mixed the run and the pass, and they kept the defense off balance and guessing when they lined up quickly. It was well done. Having seen Joe Moorhead’s Fordham Rams play three games in 2014, I felt he would be great addition to the PSU staff. If James Franklin lets him operate on his own, I think this will be great positive for the Nittany Lion offense this season. Blue basically did the same on a 75-yard drive following a safety with WR Saeed Blacknall hauling in a 22-yard TD pass from McSorley. James Franklin and Moorhead must have figured they were satisfied with what the saw and reverted back to a conventional pace.

WR Chris Godwin keeps his feet inbounds for the completion.

WR Chris Godwin keeps his feet inbounds for the completion.

 

McSorley had great stats finishing 23 for 27 for 281 yards and four TDS. More importantly though, the second observation that John and I really came away with was that both McSorley and Stevens have strong, accurate throwing arms. They didn’t attempt any extremely long passes, but the accuracy looked much better than what we’d witnessed from Christian Hackenberg the last two seasons, especially in his short passing game. That will be a big improvement. Fourteen receivers caught passes. They spread the ball around well and receivers consistently caught their passes.

Along with Mark Allen, RB Andre Robinson did the brunt of the ball carrying and finished with seven carries for 50 yards playing against both defenses. Saquon Barkley, the Lions’ leading returning rusher last season was held out the entire game.  They know what the sophomore can do already after last season. The third impression John and I came away with is that we saw improvement along the starting five on the offensive line – Derek Dowrey, Andrew Nelson, Noah Beh, Brendan Mahon, and Brian Gaia for the Blue team – but depth could be an issue and more development will have to take place for others during the summer sessions. We saw very little lateral mobility against the pass rush from their huge tackles Senior Paris Palmer and sophomore Sterling Jenkins. Maybe in straight ahead situations they can open some holes, but pass blocking needs to be a much less straight up with better lateral movement for both. Others are going to have to step up to give this unit more of the depth they need.

Trace McSorley (9 in white) flips a TD pass to his TE Tom Pancoast ( 89 in Blue) as S Koa Farmer (7) defends.

Trace McSorley (9 in white) flips a TD pass to his TE Tom Pancoast ( 89 in Blue) as S Koa Farmer (7) defends.

John and I went to the game with questions and came away feeling a little better about some of the things we saw. We liked the new tempo of the offense that looked sharp and well organized. The skill positions look better than expected. The offensive line is improving under Limegrover but needs more depth.   The defense under Brent Pry replacing Bob Shoop who left for Tennessee will have a work in progress over the offseason as they put the pieces into place to rep develop talent replacing experience along the defensive front. Mike Limegrover coaching the offensive line should be an improvement over John Hand who left for Auburn. Not much improvement was seen under him in a unit known to be needing some better guidance. We think if Franklin lets his current coaches do what they do best, they will have this team well prepared. If he lets them run the game day operations, that is the best thing he can do, and then he can get back on the road and use his talents as a great recruiter. It looks like he made some great improvements this off season with the coaches he brought in.

The PSU Dance Team was getting their work in during the spring game as well.

The PSU Dance Team was getting their work in during the spring game as well.

The Lions open up at home against Kent State of the Mid-American before resuming its forgotten rival Pitt out at Heinz Field. It will be the first of four meetings, but we hope it can be resumed indefinitely. It will be great for both schools for recruiting and adding some heat to their non-conference schedules before both get into conference play. The Lions will then host Temple whom they lost to a year ago for the first time since 1941. The following week they get right into the thick of their Big Ten season when they travel to Ann Arbor to face Jim Harbaugh and his now-despised Wolverines. We will see the Lions host Ohio State and Urban Meyer on Saturday, October 22, and then we will see the season finale at home on November 26 when the Lions host Mark D’Antoni and the Spartans of Michigan State. We’re chomping at the bit, foaming at the mouth and everything else you can think of itching in anticipation of the 2016 season.

John and I prepared our pregame analysis while tailgating.

John and I prepared our pregame analysis while tailgating.

More reviews to come about other programs we will see this year including the Buffalo Bulls under second year HC Lance Leipold, HC of six time D-3 champs Wisconsin -Whitewater, aforementioned Ohio State and Michigan State, Cal, Navy foes Houston and Tulsa, and our opening weekend FCS teams Delaware, Delaware State and Fordham as well as Marist and San Diego later in the season.

Click on our book cover to preview, buy, and write a review. Thanks for your support!

Click on our book cover to buy and relive the first time we saw our first 119 FBS teams play for the first time!

Check back for these reviews to keep up with us about them and other off-season developments about our favorite sport and yours, college football.

 

 

Steveo’s Salvos – Penn State spring football preview, April 15

In 2016, we’ve penned in nine teams that will appear on our schedule more than one time. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we’re hearing about as these teams practice for their upcoming intrasquad spring scrimmages. It’ll give us an idea of what the teams will be focusing on before we get to see them play in the fall. As this is our last spring preview, we will be attending this year’s annual Blue-White game up at State College this Saturday. Look for me in my blue #119 jersey and stop by and say hello.

Penn State looks to head in the right direction this season.

Penn State looks to head in the right direction this season.

Penn State (2 games) – Pennsylvania’s nickname is the Keystone State, and we think that’s appropriate this year because we think this is a keystone season for the Penn State football program. There are a lot of changes going on possibly for the good, but there have also been some things that could cause them to take a step back. Of the nine teams we analyzed this spring, the Nittany Lions are our toughest to figure out.

Offensively, PSU loses Christian Hackenberg after three seasons as their starting QB. Under former HC Bill O’Brien during his frosh season, he was very impressive. Since O’Brien left for the Texans, under new HC James Franklin, things didn’t seem to go as well. Some say it’s because Franklin had adjusted his offensive style to utilize Hack’s strengths as opposed to utilizing his preferred attack having a QB who can run as well as throw. On the other hand, we saw Hackenberg struggle with accuracy. He went down to injury in last season’s Taxslayer Bowl where he left early to be replaced by RS Frosh Trace McSorley who is more akin to the offensive QB play Franklin wants to run. It was short notice and the Lions got back into the game against Georgia, but there was not enough time for the adjustment to be made as the Lions fell, 24-17.

Big things are expected from Soph RB Saquon Barkley this season.

Big things are expected from Soph RB Saquon Barkley this season.

McSorley looks to have a good shot to start this year. He has the most game experience at QB having played in seven of last year’s games basically seeing spot duty. This year Soph QB Tommy Stevens will be his greatest challenger to see some action. RB Saquon Barkley comes in ready for a big season after rushing 1,145 yards for seven TDs last season as a freshman. Soph Mark Allen is expected to step up. The Receiving Corps looks to be in good shape with Justin Godwin returning with 69 catches for 1,101 yards and five TDS a year ago. Saied Blacknall (Manalapan, NJ) is expected to become a primary target in this program along with Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton who grabbed 45 passes for 580 yards and six TDs. The coaching staff is expecting big things from Junior TE Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, NJ) returning with 13 snags in eight starts a season ago. Of course, none of these playmakers can expect to do much without the horses up front to give them that big push. It’s been a group where improvement must come from as they Lions have struggled, though with slight improvement last year. Brian Gaia could move from guard to center while experienced players like G Brendan Mahon and T Andrew Nelson will be looked to for needed improvements. G Ryan Bates, SR JC transfer Paris Palmer, Soph Sterling Jenkins, and Soph Noah Beh can all be looked at as possible replacements to shore up what has been an area of concern for the Nittany Loins during the past three years. The key to this unit’s success will fall into the hands of new offensive line coach Matt Limegrover with 25 years of coaching experience. His last few were under HC Jerry Kill at Minnesota where we saw the Gophers face Mizzou in the 2015 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. They came in with a vaunted rushing attack spearheaded by Limegrover’s front five. We look for him to bring renewed toughness and physicality to the PSU offensive line. In addition to Limegrover, to improve upon this offensive attack overall, James Franklin hired Joe Moorhead, formerly the Head Coach at Fordham the last four years as his new offensive coordinator. We’ve seen Moorhead’s Rams play the last two of three years and we’re very excited about this move. We watched Frosh RB Chase Edmonds there two years ago develop quickly into one of the top FCS RBs in the nation. With Moorhead’s game planning and player developmental skills, we’re anxious to see what he can do with more elite athletes at this level.

We won't be there, but eh Lions will be looking to avenge their first loss in 74 years to Temple in Game 3 on September 17.

We won’t be there, but the Lions will be looking to avenge their first loss in 74 years to Temple in Game 3 on September 17.

Defensively, the Lions will build up front around Curtis Cothran and Antoine White to replace three stalwarts – DE Carl Nassib, DT Anthony Zettlel, and DT Austin Johnson who all graduated. DE Garrett Sickles (Red Bank, NJ) returns and the Lions look to senior letterman Eric Schwan to step up from the other side. The LB corps looks good with returning starters Jason Cabinda (Hunterdon Central, Flemington, NJ), Nyeem Wartman, and Brandon Bell with experience from a year ago. A strong, experienced secondary returns with Juniors Marcus Allen and Grant Haley returning at the corners. John Reid, Christian Campbell, and Amani Oruwariye return for time to play in the secondary. Sorting out and developing that talent will be left with new secondary coach Tim Banks, formerly of Illinois.

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Click on our book cover to preview, buy, and write a review. Thanks for your support!

New coaching talent was hired at key positions on the offense to pump new blood into a struggling offense. The big questions to us still remain with the man at the top. Known for his stellar recruiting capabilities, has he been able to keep up with the Joneses (Meyer and Harbaugh) at the talent level. Granted he has some work cut out for him after facing recruiting sanctions from the Sandusky scandal, but on the other hand his game day preparations seemed to be lacking. Was it due to running an offense he was incapable of, players who were a bit short on the talents side especially on the offensive line, or just gamed day coaching incompetency? He seems to have made some good moves from what we’ve seen in Limegrover and Moorhead, but will he keep tight reins on the game plan or let them do their jobs. It may be the final year of the transition as the team takes on more of what he needs to rebuild this program into a perennial national contender. If these Lions can win eight or nine games with an offense that protects its QB and can open some holes, the future looks bright again in Happy Valley. If we see the same struggling offense as in the past few years, James Franklin may be looking for employment elsewhere where his selling acumen can be better utilized. We’re hoping for the former. We hope to come back with a glint of optimism after this Saturday.

Penn State games we will see this season: Oct 22 vs. Ohio State; November 26 vs, Michigan State

Spring game: April 16

Spring has sprung! We're back.

Spring has sprung! We’re back.

 

 

 

 

Keenan Reynolds named co-winner of prestigious Sullivan Award

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.

Former Navy QB Keenan Reynolds and UConn women’s basketball standout Breanna Stewart were named co-winners of the Amateur Athletic Union’s 2016 James E. Sullivan Award during a ceremony held at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.

The Sullivan Award is presented to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States whose athletic accomplishments are complemented by qualities of leadership, character and sportsmanship. Reynolds is the first Naval Academy athlete to win the award. He finished fifth in this year’s Heisman balloting. QB Roger Staubach and RB Joe Bellino of the Naval Academy were both past recipients of the Heisman.

Reynolds thanked  his family, the Navy coaching staff, his teammates, the Naval Academy Athletic Association, the Naval Academy administration, the Brigade of Midshipman and the entire Naval Academy family for all their support during his football career at Annapolis. He will be commissioned in the Navy after graduation this spring  as an Ensign assigned as an Officer in Information Warfare.

Keenan Reynolds (19) scores against army on a 1-yard run this past season.  He is the first navy QB to start in four wins over arch-rival Army.

Keenan Reynolds (19) scores against Army on a 1-yard run this past season. He is the first Navy QB to start in four wins over arch-rival Army.

 

Steveo’s Salvos – UConn Spring Football preview, April 10, 2016

In 2016, we’ve penned in nine teams that will appear on our schedule more than one time. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we’re hearing about as these teams practice for their upcoming intrasquad spring scrimmages. It’ll give us an idea of what the teams will be focusing on before we get to see them play in the fall.

Connecticut (2 games) – The last time we attended UCONN games up at Pratt-Whitney Stadium up at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, it was in 2010. A lot has changed for the UConn Husky football program since back then. They were still in the Big East and we saw them defeat West Virginia in OT ,16-13, and Pitt on a muddy field, 30-28, under then HC Randy Edsall. Now a member of the American Athletic Conference East, the Huskies have been trying to rebuild under third-year HC Bob Diaco. Prior to UCONN , Diaco was the defensive coordinator under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, and our history goes way back seeing the Cedar Grove, NJ native play linebacker for Iowa against NC State in the Kick-off Classic in Giants Stadium back in 1992.  Time flies as we’re still having fun with this college football obsession. With an 8-17 record in his first two years at the Storrs campus, Diaco improved his team with four more wins last season and went on to the St. Petersburg Bowl ( who doesn’t go to a bowl nowadays?) where the Huskies dropped a close one to Marshall, 16-10.

Looking forward to a Friday night game in November back at "The Rent" for one of our double-header weekends.

Looking forward to a Friday night game in November back at “The Rent” for one of our double-header weekends.

 

The Huskies saw some promise last season with a defense that yielded only 19.4 points per game and pulled off a 20-17 upset at home over eventual AAC champ and No. 8 Houston though the Cougars played without the services of QB Greg Ward. But Diaco has something to build on to try to achieve some more wins in 2016. Despite a low-scoring offense, averaging 17.1 points a season ago, ten starters return from a young offense. With a season played together under their belts and the return of starting QB Bryant Shirreffs who had transferred from NC State two years ago, the Huskies will focus on improving on that side of the ball as the former Fighting Irish DC and linebacker seems to be pulling things together on the defensive side of the ball.

In 2015, the Huskies hosted Navy. We'll see UConn visit the Midshipmen this season on September 10.

In 2015, the Huskies hosted Navy. We’ll see UConn visit the Midshipmen this season on September 10.

Shirreffs completed 168 passes for 2078 yards and nine TDs a year ago, but he’s going to have to work on his accuracy as he threw eight INTs to improve a poor TD/INT ratio. The QB was also the second leading rusher for the Huskies gaining 503 yards and scoring three TDS. Top WR Noel Thomas returns with 54 catches for 719 yards and three TDS. This combo will look to improve upon the passing game. RB Akeel Newsome averaged 4.3 yards per carry tallying 792 yards and six TDs while making 45 catches for 465 yards.   Ron Johnson took the ball into the end zones five times and ran for 224. Four of five interior starting linemen return to take control the line of scrimmage and two TEs, Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers, combined for 38 receptions for 546 yards. The game experience is prevalent on offense and there seems to be good development going on here, but now it’s time for UCONN to take it the offense to the next level. Offensive coordinator Frank Verducci, a Seton Hall grad (they have no football program) with 31 years of coaching experience in college and in the pros, will be the man responsible for pulling the strings to make this revved up offense into high gear.

HC Bob Diaco will most likely be putting some more emphasis on offense this spring to prepare for the 2016 season.

HC Bob Diaco will most likely be putting some more emphasis on offense this spring to prepare for the 2016 season.

Defensively, MLB Junior Joseph returns as the second leading tackler for a year ago with 93 tackles. Safety Obi Melifonwu was among the top defenders and Junior CB Jamar Summers (Orange, NJ) picked off eight INTs last season. PK Bobby Puyol converted 16 of 18 FG attempts last year including 52-yarder in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Justin Wain returns to take care of the punting duties for UCONN.

The Huskies will play their first of seven home games opening against FCS and former Yankee Conference foe Maine on Thursday, September 1. We will see the Huskies on the road and at home this season against two formidable foes in what should be some challenging games.

Bring on the 2016 season!

Bring on the 2016 season!

UCONN games we will see this season: Sept. 10 at Navy; Nov. 4, Friday night vs. Temple.

Spring game: April 16

Last up: Penn State

Steveo’s Salvos – South Florida spring football preview, April 9, 2016

In 2016, we’ve penned in nine teams that will appear on our schedule more than one time. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we’re hearing about as these teams practice for their upcoming intrasquad spring scrimmages. It’ll give us an idea of what the teams will be focusing on before we get to see them play in the fall.

South Florida (2 games) – HC Willie Taggart’s Bulls won seven of their last eight games last season before falling to Western Kentucky in the Miami Beach Bowl, 45-35, but with a young offense that averaged 37.9 points down that stretch, look for his stable of returnees to improve over last season’s 8-5 record and challenge for the American Athletic Conference East Division title. They started their turnaround after 1-3 start with a 45-24 victory over Syracuse, and that is who we plan to see them play on September 17 up at the Carrier Dome for what could be an offensive explosion for both programs. The one foible among those final eight games of 2015 was their game at Annapolis where we saw the Mids roll to a 29-17 victory.

Among the Bull’s key returnees is Junior QB Quinton Flowers who passed for 2,296 yards, 22 TDs, and eight INTs. He was also the second leading ground gainer on the team with 991 yards and twelve TDs. Leading the rushing attack was RB Marlon Mack who ran 210 times for 1,381 yards and eight TDs. Mack was not alone in the attack and the backfield looks well stocked with Darius Tice who ran for 460 yards and D’Ernest Johnson who ran for 307. He also snagged 26 passes out of the backfield for 356 yards and four TDs. Experience also returns at WR with Rodney Adams returning as last season’s leader with 45 grabs for 822 yards and nine TDs. Ryshene Bronson can also add more to this year’s game plan than his 17 receptions for 258 yards. Three offensive lineman moved on after their senior season of a year ago, so that’s where the offensive focus will be on development before next season’s opener at home against Towson. The experience of Taggart’s team may be enhanced with former NFL QB Shaun King hired this offseason as a new member of the coaching staff. We saw Hill play QB for Tulane against Army back in 1995.

QB Quinton Flowers will need some new pass blockers this season to help the Bulls tack on a few more wins to last season's eight-win total.

QB Quinton Flowers will need some new pass blockers this season to help the Bulls tack on a few more wins to last season’s eight-win total.

Defensively, five of the Bulls’ six leading tacklers return led by LB Augie Sanchez who tallied 117 with 8.5 tackles for loss. DT Deadrin Senat is the only returning starter from among the front four. The returning secondary is very good. S Nate Godwin was third in tackles with 63. CB Deartick Nichols made 62 stops with 8.5 TFLs and recorded four INTs. Safety Devin Abraham was among the top tacklers and picked off three foe passes. Junior Emilio Nadelman returns to do the kicking chores converting on 15 of 23 last year with six from beyond 40. He may take over the punting duties this season as well.

 Augie Sanchez returns at MLB for the Bulls after posting 117 tackles last season.

Augie Sanchez returns at MLB for the Bulls after posting 117 tackles last season.

The South Florida Bulls come back with lots of young talent at the skill positions. Some new linemen on both sides of the ball need to gain experience quickly. After Towson, the Bulls host Northern Illinois before they head up to Syracuse for their only non-conference game on the road that we will attend. They will return home to host Florida State before getting into the thick of the AAC competition for which they should be well prepared. We will see them come up to Philly on October 21 to meet Temple at the Linc in a key AAC East matchup. The Bulls surprised the Owls last season with a 44-23 win on their season-ending hot streak. Will it be a reversed situation this year with the Owls at home? The Bulls should be an exciting team to watch this season. We look forward to the two games we will see them compete in.

South Florida games we will see this season: Sept. 17 at Syracuse; Oct. 21, Friday night at Temple.

Spring game: April 16

Next up: UCONN

RB Marlon Mack looks for running room last season against Navy who held him to a season low of 29 yards.

RB Marlon Mack looks for running room last season against Navy who held him to a season low of 29 yards.

Steveo’s Salvos – Temple spring football preview, April 3, 2016

In 2016, we’ve penned in nine teams that will appear on our schedule more than one time. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we’re hearing about as these teams practice for their upcoming intrasquad spring scrimmages. It’ll give us an idea of what the teams will be focusing on before we get to see them play in the fall.

The Owls swarmed the Lions defensively in last season's opener when they defeated PSU for the first time in 74 years.

The Owls swarmed the Lions defensively in last season’s opener when they defeated PSU for the first time in 74 years.

Temple (3 games) – Under third-year HC Matt Rhule, the Temple Owl football program saw vast improvement in 2016. Finishing 10-4 with a 7-1 record in the Eastern Division of the American Athletic Eastern Division, the Owls surprisingly won the division title before falling to 8th-ranked Houston in the conference championship before going to the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl where they fell to Toledo. It was the third bowl game in the past seven years for Temple. Prior to 2009, their previous bowl trip was in 1979. Things seem to be looking up for the revitalized program under Rhule who improved the record from 2-10 to 6-6 to 10-4 in his first three years as a Head Coach. A former Penn State linebacker, last season he coached his team to its first win over his alma mater last since 1941, 27-10, in their season opener. Collegefootballfan.com was there to witness it in front of a packed house at Lincoln Financial Field. We returned later in the season to see the Owls give eventual No. 11 Notre Dame all it could handle before suffering its first loss of the season, 24-20. With a solid corps of seniors returning to Temple last season, Rhule, a skilled organizer and program builder, knows he has his work cut out for him this year as he stated before spring drills that he and his staff would have to “do a lot of teaching”.   He remains optimistic during his subsequent interviews seen on the Temple football website. His team has a solid core of experience, senior leadership, and hungry underclassmen ready to step in to have a team that will still compete at a top level this upcoming season. We will get to see them in their opener for the second straight season when we see them play at the Linc again to host Army on Friday, September 2.

The Irish got by the Owls, 24-20, in a game moved to prime tome based on the Owls 8-0 start.

The Irish got by the Owls last season, 24-20, in a game moved to prime time based on the Owls 7-0 start.

Most of his experience returns on offense. QB P.J. Walker (Elizabeth, NJ) returns after a stellar season throwing for 2,973 yards and 19 TDs/ 8 INTs. His back-up Frank Nutile (Don Bosco Prep, Wayne, NJ) is ready to step in again if called upon. WR Ventell Bryant will be the top returning receiver from a year ago with 39 grabs for 579 yards and three TDs, but a lot of young talent will be joining him on a squad with solid senior leadership on offense. WR Romond DeLoatch and TE Kip Patton will be bringing back some stats and experience to build on on the receiving end. Senior RB Jahad Thomas, last year’s leading rusher and a high school teammate of Walker’s, tallied 1,262 yards and 17 scores on the ground. Being the fastidious teacher he is, Rhule has his top back “working on his reads” this spring to be a more effective runner to pick up more yardage than he did a year ago. Soph Ryquell Anderson returns with 51 carries a season ago after seeing action in all 12 games. FB duties could fall to a combination of RS-Junior Nick Sharqua who saw action at FB and LB last season and RS-Soph Rob Ritrovato who saw action in the Penn State game last year before suffering an injury that shelved him for the season. Rhule feels good now with his depth at FB and his team’s overall “backfield flexibility “. The O-line will be looking for Senior Center Brendan McGowan, a first-year starter, to unify the horses up front including returning starters Leon Johnson (Bound Brook HS, NJ) and Dion Dawkins (Rahway, NJ). Also, Jordan Jones steps up after a red-shirt year following his transfer from East Stroudsburg U.

LB Avery Williams looks to be a leader on defense among some experienced players from a squad that had ten seniors start the season a year ago. NT Averee Robinson will return to effectively plug up the middle. DE Avery Ellis and LB Stephaun Marshall (Montclair, NJ ) will be counted on for their experience and their time to step up. Rhule expects Soph Chappelle Russell to make an effective switch from RB to LB to shore up his corps of backers. RS Frosh LB Dishaun Grimes is expected to step up to see some playing time as well this season. The coaching staff expects to see a carry-over from a season ago saying that the defense “better be physical.” They are building depth with the young players who have been waiting in the wings. There are a lot of battles to be fought for spots at number two and three on their depth chart. A lot of players in the secondary can switch between corner s and safety positons. The young talent will be seeing a lot of reps during the spring and early fall sessions S Khiry Lucas returns after sitting out last season with an ACL injury. Among those expected to vie for more action in the secondary this season include CBs Artrel Foster, Cequan Jefferson, and Nate Hairston. Delvon Randall and Jyquis Thomas are expected to see action at Safety. PK Austin Jones returns after putting 113 points on the board in 2016. He converted 19 of 24 FGs from 30 yards and beyond.

Hopefully we can get some better seats for some of the sideline action when we see the Owls play at the Linc this season.

Hopefully we can get some better seats for some of the sideline action when we see the Owls play at the Linc this season.

What we like about Temple is how this coaching staff develops the players it has and develops them to play better. He sees the value of more teaching and sees his senior leadership more “focused” than in the past. Rhule is always aware that he needs to develop his younger players for both current depth and his program’s future. He’s building to get his team to “want to compete at a higher level” despite the losses of experienced players. He looks to improve and build by not only trying to recruit better players, but to teach them how to be better football players by enhancing their skills. This is a program worth watching to see how it continues to grow and improve under its HC and we look forward to seeing them compete against some interesting competitors also ramping up under relatively new coaching staffs three times this season. These should all be fun to attend.

Temple games we plan to attend this year: vs. Army in its season opener at the Linc, Friday, September 2; vs. AAC East foe South Florida, who they lost to last season, 44-23, on Friday, October 21 at the Linc ; and at Connecticut, an AAC East foe they defeated, 27-3, on Friday, November 4. The Owls will be our Friday night team of the year.

Spring game: April 16 at Chodoff Field at Edberg-Olson Hall, 1 pm. (footnote: Dr. Chodoff was Temple’s team physician who passed away this past March 21)

Next up: South Florida

Jahad Thomas (5) will be expected to increase his rushing output by working on his read capability before the 2016 season starts.

Jahad Thomas (5) will be expected to increase his rushing output by working on his read capability before the 2016 season starts.

 

 

Steveo’s Salvos – Stanford spring football preview, March 29, 2016

In 2016, we’ve penned in nine teams that will appear on our schedule more than one time. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we’re hearing about as these teams prepare for their upcoming spring practice sessions. It’ll give us an idea of what the teams will be focusing on before we get to see them play in the fall.

Stanford (2 games) – In our entire history, we’ve only seen the Cardinal play one football game when we watched them lose a tight game, 34-27, at Boston College’s Alumni Stadium back in 2002. Not only do we get to see them play twice this season against two of their biggest rivals on the road, but we get to see RB Christian McCaffrey, a top Heisman Trophy candidate, perform two times. Coming off a 12-2 season, 8-1 in the PAC-12, and ranked No. 3 in the final 2015 polls, HC David Shaw and his staff will be looking to replace 11 starters from that highly successful team. But give credit where credit is due. Entering his sixth season at the Palo Alto school, Shaw has recorded a career record of 54-14 as HC for the Cardinal since replacing Jim Harbaugh when he left for the pros. Entering this season, he’s only lost one staff member, DL coach Randy Hart, and replaced him with Oklahoma’s Diron Reynolds. David Shaw has built a strong foundation for a program that recruits, develops, and retains great talent. He brings in a top 20 recruiting class this year (13th by some standards) which may help him short term but should definitely keep the Cardinal in the national championship hunt in the near future.

We look forward to seeing RB Christian McCaffrey play in person following his sophomore season when he was named AP National Player of the Year. He ran for 2,019 yards and eight TYDs while gaining 645 yards on the receiving end with five TDs on 45 receptions. We expect to see him build on those numbers. However, the question will be who is going to be handing off and throwing to him with the graduation of last year’s QB Kevin Hogan, the winningest signal –caller in Stanford history. Hogan leaves behind three PAC 12 titles and two trips to the Rose Bowl where he and McCaffrey shone in the devastating 45-16 win over Iowa last season.   The two leading QB candidates match in size at 6’5”, 230 lbs., but not in style as RS Soph Keller Chryst is adept in the pro-style offense and RS Junior Ryan Burns’ skills are best at running the triple option. The diversity gives Shaw some opportunities to mix in two different style formations against any particular defense where he sees an advantage. It also gives him the opportunity to change styles during a particular game if the defense is adept at stopping one or the other.  And he can run McCaffrey in either and throw to him in the other. It will give him great opportunities to keep defenses off balance which we’ll get to see when the Cardinal visit Notre Dame in mid-October and Cal-Berkeley in The Big Game on November 19 in their traditional PAC-12 season ending rivalry. Looking forward to both! C Graham Shuler returns up front as a starter, but three new O-line talents will have to pick up where others moved on. Shaw may have to develop some of that talent quickly from his incoming list of freshmen.

Defensively DL Harrison Phillips is a force who returns from injury last season to bolster the play of Soph returner Solomon Thomas. Luke Kaumatule, 6-7 295 lbs., moves from TE to shore things up along the defensive front.  MLB Blake Martinez leaves behind some big shoes to fill. Experience abounds in the secondary which was the Cardinal rebuilding project in 2015. CBs Alijah Holder and Quenton Meeks return with great experience from a year ago. Safeties Kodi Whitfield and Dallas Lloyd in his fifth season will play tightly in deep coverage.

The Cardinal will be rebuilding in some key areas, but with a great coaching staff and underclassmen that have been itching for a chance to play and opportunities to allow McCaffrey to be their key playmaker, we think Stanford will be a force to be reckoned with in the PAC 12 and will challenge on the national scene. The Notre Dame game will be a key for both teams when we see them clash. The schedule starts off with some true tests with Kansas State and USC in the first two games to be played in Palo Alto, but then they head to play UCLA at the Rose Bowl and will have other key contests like ND on the road; Arizona, Oregon, and rival Cal among them. There will be challenges for the Cardinal, but we think they will rise to the occasion again this season. It will be a great year for collegefootballfan.com to see Stanford play not once but twice this season.

Stanford games we plan to attend this year: at Notre Dame on October 15; at California on November 19

Spring game: April 9

Next up: Temple