Monthly Archives: August 2013

A look at Rustin’s first AP ballot

By Rustin Dodd

Note: The Eagle’s Rustin Dodd has a vote in the Associated Press college football poll this season.

There seems to be one consensus when filling out a preseason college football poll: Roll Tide. That’s the painless prediction, anyway, the one that is guaranteed to be nearly universal when the preseason Associated Press Top 25 is released Saturday.

Alabama is No. 1. And the Tide, which is playing for an unprecedented fourth BCS title in five years, will have to be knocked out before someone ascends to the top spot.

The rest of the poll offers plenty of intrigue and questions, something that became obvious when I sat down to submit my preseason poll. My ballot is now in, one of 60 that will be tabulated each week. I’ll explain my picks in one moment, but first, here’s how my preseason ballot shook out.

1. Alabama

2. Oregon

3. Ohio State

4. Stanford

5. Georgia

6. South Carolina

7. Texas A&M

8. Clemson

9. Oklahoma State

10. Louisville

11. Florida

12. Notre Dame

13. Florida State

14. Texas

15. LSU

16. Michigan

17. Oklahoma

18. TCU

19. Boise State

20. Nebraska

21. UCLA

22. Kansas State

23. Wisconsin

24. Fresno State

25. Southern California

The explanation

One of the most pressing questions: Who should be No. 2? I went with Oregon, a selection mostly based on the idea of pure talent winning out. The Ducks are loaded – quarterback Marcus Mariota is back after accounting for more than 3,500 total yards last season, and junior running back De’Anthony Thomas is one of the nation’s most breathtaking players. Even with the loss of Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles, new coach Mark Helfrich has the roster to get the Ducks back to the BCS title game.

Oregon must go to Stanford in November, but if they can escape Stanford Stadium, they should be on the right path to Pasadena for the BCS Championship. And this gives them a slight edge over Ohio State, which was the logical choice for No. 3. Quarterback Braxton Miller is a Heisman candidate, and Urban Meyer has a track record for doing big things in his second year on the job. (Remember: He went undefeated at Utah in 2004 and won a BCS title at Florida in 2006)

Stanford, which returns 10 starters on defense, slots in at No. 4, and Georgia, with returning quarterback Aaron Murray, could be Alabama’s biggest threat in the SEC title picture.

That, of course, could also be South Carolina and it’s cache of headliners (That Jadeveon Clowney kid seems pretty good), or perhaps even the soap opera at Texas A&M. It’s hard to know what to do with the Aggies, but until Johnny Manziel is no longer allowed to suit up at quarterback, we’re keeping them in the top 10.

Next comes the three-team pack of 8. Clemson; 9. Oklahoma State; and 10. Louisville – three programs on the rise. It’ll be hard to judge Louisville in the American Athletic Conference, but here’s the thought process on Oklahoma State: If they’re really the Big 12’s best team – as they were selected in the preseason ballot – they’re probably one of the nation’s 10 best.

Moving on. Florida (11) and Notre Dame (12) look like two programs that could take a slide backward this year, while Texas (14) and LSU (15) probably both have top-10 talent and could be slightly underrated here. (The caveat being, of course, that LSU has earned the benefit of the doubt, while Texas is battling to regain it.)

Oklahoma (17) is a bit of an enigma right now, but the last time they were ranked this low to begin a season, they won a BCS championship. TCU (18), meanwhile, could potentially make a move, but the Frogs must first prove they can compete week in, week out in the Big 12.

The rest of the poll is a little muddied. Boise State (19) is in transition, but still returns quarterback Joe Southwick. UCLA (21) brings back breakout signal-caller Brett Hundley (4,000 total yards last year), K-State (22; unranked in preseason coaches’ poll) must move on without Collin Klein, and Wisconsin (23) must do the same without Bret Bielema.

Finally, there’s Southern Cal (24) and Fresno State (25), two West Coast programs with a whole different set of circumstances. The Bulldogs could challenge Boise State in the Mountain West – QB Derek Carr and a stout defense return – and they could be dark horses in the BCS picture. And then there’s USC. Last year at this time, the Trojans were about to be anointed No. 1 in the preseason AP poll.

One year later, they will likely be hanging on near the edge of the rankings. That says something about USC, of course. But it might say just as much about the wisdom on preseason polls.

Notes from KU’s opening news conference

By Rustin Dodd

In an ideal world, receiver Nick Harwell would be eligible to play this fall at Kansas. In the most promising of scenarios, Charlie Weis would have been able to slot Harwell, a former standout at Miami (Ohio), into a starting spot in a depleted receiving corps, and Harwell would have finished out his collegiate career as a graduate transfer after grabbing a degree at his previous school this summer.

But on Wednesday afternoon, as the Jayhawks reported for fall camp, Weis acknowledged that this is not an ideal world. Harwell, who was dismissed from Miami last spring for off-field reasons, will be forced to redshirt this season after not being able to complete his final six hours. Harwell had hired an attorney and challenged the school’s decision, but the fight proved unsuccessful.

“The bottom line is he was never allowed to finish his last six hours,” Weis said.

Harwell has arrived in Lawrence for the beginning of fall camp, but Weis has marked him down as a redshirt and he’ll be eligible as a fifth-year senior in 2014.

During a lengthy opening news conference, Weis also announced that injured linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore would redshirt after undergoing a procedure on his knee earlier this summer.

Here’s a sampling of news and notes from Weis’ opening news conference, which included an updated depth chart for the start of fall camp.

• Weis announced that junior college transfers Pearce Slater (offensive line) and Kevin Short (defensive back) were the only players that didn’t report on time for fall camp. Slater is expected in by the end of the weekend, while Short is finishing up his final junior college course and could have that completed by the weekend. The low number of juco no-shows is slightly remarkable, considering the high number of junior college players that Kansas had in its 2013 recruiting class. Juco players are typically a risk when it comes to eligibility matters, and Weis credited a three-person staff that included assistant coach Rob Ianello, chief academic administrator Paul Buskirk, and David Reed, KU’s associate athletic director for compliance.

• The depth chart included a number of surprises, but one of the most intriguing came at the running back position, where junior Brandon Bourbon will fight for playing time at a new hybrid running back-receiver position. Weis previously said that junior Tony Pierson would take on a bigger role in the passing game, and he was listed on Wednesday as the starter at the “F” position, the new hybrid spot. But Bourbon was listed second-team at the “F” position, and Weis said the switch stemmed from his concern that Bourbon would get buried at the halfback position. For now, senior James Sims is listed as the starting halfback, while senior Taylor Cox and sophomore Darrian Miller are listed as co-No. 2s.

• Senior Aslam Sterling leads a new-look offensive line as the starter at left tackle. Weis called Sterling the “the most changed player” in the program, citing his weight loss and body transformation. The other listed starters on the offensive line: left guard Ngalu Fusimalohi; center Pat Lewandowski; right guard Mike Smithburg; right tackle Riley Spencer.

• Junior tight end Jimmay Mundine appears entrenched as the starting tight end (“It’s gonna be tough for anyone to beat him out,” Weis said), but Weis was also complimentary of true freshman tight end Ben Johnson, a graduate of Basehor-Linwood.

• Senior Christian Matthews and junior Justin McCay were listed as the No. 1s at the Jayhawks’ two primary receiver positions, but the receiving corps could feature some of the most intriguing battles of fall camp.

Senior Josh Ford was listed as the backup to McCay at the “X” receiver position, while sophomore Tre’ Parmalee was listed behind Christian Matthews. Junior college transfers Rodriguez Coleman and Mark Thomas could also be in the mix, but all players will only have about 10 days to make their case. Weis is planning to use Aug. 17 as a deadline for moving players up and down the depth chart before gearing up for the season opener against South Dakota on Sept. 7.