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FSU paid a heavy price when it beat Citadel

Clemson will visit Florida State on September 20, and the most important thing that the Seminoles had to do last Saturday against The Citadel was to make sure that their players would be in full health after the game, but price per head agents saw that this didn’t seem to work.

FSU beat the Bulldogs, 37-12, but the Seminoles paid a price as three of their defensive linemen had no choice but to pull out due to lower leg injuries thanks to the Bulldog’ cut-blocking system.

“When you play these kinds of teams [triple-option offenses] they’re constantly cutting those knees and ankles,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Those guys that cut and chop like this, it’s crazy. I’d rather play more conventional teams.”

Nile Lawrence-Stample, Eddie Goldman, and Justin Shanks ended up leaving the game and were not able to return to action.

In the first half, Goldman – who after the game was in crutches and wearing a boot – left the field after going down. The player doesn’t just weigh 320 and is 6-foot-4, but he happens to be one of the team’s defensive linemen with the most experience. If the player is out of action for a lengthy amount of time, all of the defense could be affected.

“He’s a threat to O-linemen, so obviously they wanna double team him,” said Reggie Northrup. “That frees me up to go make plays.”

Derrick Mitchell Jr – another defensive lineman – was able to make it all the way through without being injured, and after the player’s teammates went down, he knew that he had no choice but to intensify his game.

“I wasn’t going to go out there and play conservatively,” said Mitchell. “I feel like when you do try and play conservative because of things like that, that’s when you get those injuries.”

If the player’s injuries prove to be serious, the Seminoles will use the services of freshmen Giorgio Newberry, Demarcus Christmas, and Derrick Nnadi. This change could end up being be very tough for other teams, but many price per head agents believe that

Florida State, being the No.1 team in NCAA football, should be fine.

“I feel like coach Odell Haggins and coach Sal Sunseri do a good job distributing the reps among the first and second string,” said Mitchell. “We all just rotate, first and second string, no matter what.”

Now the Seminoles hope that there will be enough time for Shanks, Goldman, and Lawrence-Stample to fully recover before their ACC showdown in two weeks.

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Picking this week’s games

I went 5-5 against the spread in my season debut. Here’s to a stronger week two. Now for my 10 plays of the week, lines courtesy of (picks in bold):

Arizona -8 at UTSA

Boston College +4.5 vs. Pittsburgh

Washington State -4 at Nevada

Navy -3 at Temple

Michigan State +11.5 at Oregon State

Missouri -4 at Toledo

Auburn vs. San Jose State 65.5 total (OVER)

Notre Dame -4 vs. Michigan

UCLA -23.5 vs. Memphis

Hawaii +10.5 vs. Oregon State

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Thoughts from week one


There’s nothing like an 18-hour college football Saturday. Here are a few thoughts on the Heisman race and the rest of it….

Todd Gurley made the biggest splash of the weekend by rushing for 198 yards and three touchdowns — with another TD on a 100-yard kickoff return — against Clemson. However, I think it’s pretty silly to say that it’s his Heisman to lose or that he is even the front runner right now. For one thing, it’s really no one’s Heisman to lose when it’s this early in the season. If it was early November and Gurley was still producing like he did against Clemson, then it might be his to lose. Point being, you can’t build a Heisman resume off just one game. And in determining the front runner, it’s important to take into account a long view of the season. How does the schedule set up? What kind of numbers is he likely to have when the votes are due? How will his team perform throughout the season? All those factors are why I have Marcus Mariota as the current front runner. Of course, if doesn’t play well on Saturday against Michigan State, that calculus will change a bit.

— More on Gurley. I’ve been high on him since he came out of high school. At that time, Georgia had a rather overhyped, average back named Isaiah Crowell. All the pundits had convinced themselves that Crowell was an elite back. So when he was suspended for a drug charge, the lament was that Georgia’s running game was in trouble. I didn’t think so as I had seen tape of Gurley and knew that he had rare speed for his size (10.75 100m in high school) as well as very good athleticism. Plus, there was also the very talented Keith Marshall coming to Athens. When I tweeted that both were better than Crowell, people didn’t want to believe it. I’d say it turned out well for Georgia.

— It was a good weekend if your surname was Hill. Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns in a thrashing of South Carolina. BYU’s Taysom Hill put up 405 yards of total offense and five combined touchdowns against Connecticut. Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill had 278 all-purpose yards in his FBS debut. Arizona’s Austin Hill returned from injury to catch three passes for 110 yards, including a 92-yard touchdown reception. Bronson Hill of Eastern Michigan rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries against Morgan State. And, okay, call it a stretch, but LSU’s Kenny HILLiard rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against Wisconsin.

— Great players make great plays at crucial moments and that’s what Jameis Winston did against Oklahoma State when he hurdled his way to a decisive 28-yard touchdown against Oklahoma State. But Winston was rather ordinary for much of the game against the Cowboys and his passer rating was below 140 for the second-straight outing. The Heisman talk is now centered around guys like Gurley, Hill and Mariota. Just goes to show you how tough it is to win that second trophy. But there’s plenty of time for Winston to get back in the conversation (though he won’t win, of course).

— I have to admit, it was pretty funny seeing the ‘Kiffin Cam’ during the Alabama-West Virginia game. The body language coming from the Alabama offensive coordinator on the sidelines was priceless — the slumped shoulders, the blank stare, the Why do bad things always happen to me? look after a poorly-executed play. Saban, of course, defended his coach, noting that the Tide had 538 yards of offense against the Mountaineers. Of course, this misses the point as Kiffin is the king of producing meaningless yards.

— Oregon’s offense has a bit of a new twist. It’s using more two-back sets and utilizing Byron Marshall as a wide receiver in some situations. Marshall lined up all over the place and caught eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns against South Dakota. The combination of Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman gives the Ducks a formidable and versatile backfield.

— Navy is a machine. That is not a fun team to play. But it certainly is fun to watch.

— As expected, Auburn’s offense was still explosive despite missing Nick Marshall for parts of its game against Arkansas. But I think it was pretty impressive for the Tigers defense to hold the Hogs to 328 total yards. Arkansas’s talented running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams combined for just 102 yards.

— UCLA certainly looks to be a long way from contending for a playoff berth right now, but the Bruins have to be excited about their pass rushing situation. Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa was impressive against Virginia after returning from an injury that kept him out all last season. Also noteworthy was the play of lightning quick sophomore linebacker Deon Hollins. Both are going to be tough for opposing lines to handle from here on out.

— Hawaii looks much improved in Norm Chow’s third year. I thought quarterback Ikaika Woolsey showed some promise against Washington while 245-pound running back Joey Iosefa was a real load. It appears the Warrior offense is finally getting untracked, as its 424 total yards against a stout Washington defense comes on the heels of 624 and 608-yard efforts to close out last season. I’m hoping Hawaii can find some success this season to hold off the drive to eliminate its football program.

— Finally, this catch by Nebraska wide out Jordan Westerkamp was so impressive, one of my straw poll voters put him on his Heisman ballot this week:


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Weekly picks

I was pretty solid picking games against the spread last year. Time to get started for week one of the 2014 season. All lines courtesy of Docsports. These are the 10 games I think are the best plays of the week:

Texas A&M +10.5 at South Carolina — This should be a shootout and I think the total of 61 will be surpassed. A&M freshman Speedy Noil should have a fine debut as the Aggies upset the Gamecocks in a close one.

Texas A&M 38, South Carolina 34

Arkansas at Auburn (57.5 total) — I like the OVER on this game as we should see a lot of points, with Auburn scoring the vast majority of them.

Auburn 45, Arkansas 24

Fresno State +22 at USC — The Trojans are installing a new scheme and have been hit by some key injuries on defense. I think Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Connette, the Duke transfer, will give USC enough trouble to keep this one from getting out of hand. Look for a big game from Buck Allen.

USC 35, Fresno State 17

Colorado (-3) vs. Colorado State — The Buffaloes will be much improved in Year 2 under Mike MacIntyre and we’ll see the first signs of that against their in-state rival.

Colorado 28, Colorado State 21

Nebraska (-21.5) vs. Florida Atlantic — Big Red should be improved this year behind Ameer Abdullah. I like Tommy Armstrong’s potential.

Nebraska 45, FAU 17

Washington (-17) at Hawaii — The Huskies are as talented as they’ve been in 15 years and should roll in this one despite starting a young quarterback.

Washington 41, Hawaii 17

LSU (-5) vs. Wisconsin — Too much athleticism and talent for Wisconsin to handle in this one.  The Badgers will keep Leonard Fournette in check, but that will open things up for quarterbacks Jennings and Harris.

LSU 24, Wisconsin 17

California at Northwestern (60 points) — I like the OVER on this. The combination of Cal’s offense and its (lack of) defense should ensure a lot of points being scored.

Northwestern 45, California 41

Arizona (-23.5) vs. UNLV — New quarterback Anu Solomon will have a big game throwing to his stellar receiving corps and the Running Rebels will have a tough time against the Wildcats defense.

Arizona 55, UNLV 21

Penn State (+2) at UCF — Christian Hackenberg picks up where he left off last year and James Franklin wins his debut as Nittany Lions head coach.

Penn State 27, UCF 17

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HP’s Top 10 Teams

Here are my preseason top 10 teams:

1. Auburn

2. Oklahoma

3. Florida State

4. Oregon

5. Ohio State

6. Baylor

7. Alabama

8. LSU


10. Michigan State

On the cusp: South Carolina, Stanford, Clemson, Kansas State, Washington.

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A decade of Heisman Pundit

My, how the time flies.

Ten years ago this month, I got the ball rolling here at Heisman Pundit.

What started out as a way to blow off some intellectual steam and get a few thoughts down for posterity — mostly for the amusement of family and friends, I thought — turned into something much bigger.

I never figured so many people would share my fascination with Heisman voting trends, not to mention its history and tradition. That so many have stopped by over the years to take in (or take on) my opinion on the subject is rather humbling.

Not coincidentally, the last decade has seen the Heisman grow in popularity and visibility. I like to think no one has done a better job of stoking that interest and evangelizing on the trophy’s behalf than HP. It’s something we truly care about.

And now, more than ever, coverage of the award focuses on all the historical trends and data that go into the making of a Heisman winner. I think it’s safe to say we blazed a trail in this area. The 10 Heismandments are now industry standard and, from what I can see, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery.

As usual, we’ll be using the month of August to preview the season and survey the field of candidates vying for the Heisman. But we’ll also be taking a look back at some of the more memorable HP moments of the past 10 years. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks again for all your continued support.



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The fastest players in college football, 2014

tyreek hill 2

It’s time for my often-imitated, never-duplicated annual list of the fastest players in college football.

There are few subjects in sports more debated — and more misunderstood — than speed. While almost every major sport puts a premium on it, they seem to be unable to settle on a standard by which to accurately measure it.

Football programs at all levels and the media that cover them rely mostly on the 40-yard dash to quantify who is, and who is not, fast. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with the idea that speed over 40 yards is a valuable asset. The problem is that it is not measured with any semblance of accuracy.

You know the old saying: “To err is human?” That definitely applies to the timing of the 40-yard dash. Almost every 40-yard dash time you’ve heard attributed to a player was timed by hand, meaning a human digit had a significant influence on its outcome. Even so-called electronically-timed 40-yard dashes require a human to start the clock once the runner begins the race on his own accord.

Studies have shown that such hand-based methods are prone to error and wipe away, on average, at least .24 seconds off the real time of a race. So that “official” 4.35 you think your favorite player ran at the combine? Yeah, it was probably more like a 4.59.

What’s more, 40-yard dashes are run under widely disparate conditions. For instance, wind gauges are not used. Some 40s are run on a track, others on grass and still others on artificial turf. Some runners use spikes, while others run in sneakers. This extra bit of unrecorded variation adds even more unreliability to 40 times. Nonetheless, this is rarely taken into account when 40 times are discussed.

Luckily, we have an accurate standard by which to measure speed. It’s called Fully Automatic Time, or FAT. This electronic timing method has been required in track for record purposes since 1977. No track time is officially counted as a record — whether on a personal or world level — that is not recorded with FAT. Furthermore, the governing bodies of track and field require wind readings and standardized running surfaces at sanctioned track events. The goal is to create uniform conditions so that times all over the world can be compared and contrasted with confidence.

So why doesn’t football use FAT for the 40-yard dash? As Rob Rang reported last year, the NFL tried it at the 2012 scouting combine. But the results were kept secret and the FAT timing was dumped in 2013 in favor of a combination of hand and electronic times. Clearly, marketing and hype takes precedent over accuracy at the NFL combine. No one wants to rave about a running back who just ran a 4.7, right?

College football strength coaches don’t use FAT times when they time their players, either, though all it would take is a walk over to the track offices to pick up the equipment. Hand times may be for your mama, but FAT is still apparently too accurate for the hype-filled world of strength and conditioning. Bigger, stronger and faster is the mantra in those circles. A better one would be bigger, stronger, faster and not accurate.

Forget the NFL and strength coaches. We still have the ability to reliably quantify the fastest players in college football because scores of football players also ran track in high school and continue to do so in college, giving us quality data with which we can rank their speed.

And so we get to the 2014 edition of college football’s fastest players, which first started at back in 2005. To make this list, I weighed a variety of track marks, including the indoor 55 and 60-meter dashes, the outdoor 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes, the 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles and the long jump (for those wondering, it usually requires a good bit of foot speed — or turnover, as it’s called — to jump a certain distance). I also take into account when the races were run, whether a player has been injured and how often they competed. It’s important to note that some of these players were not full-time track competitors when they ran their marks, or did so while cross-training with football (a very difficult thing to do). Also, I assume that the wear and tear of football dilutes the importance of times more than a couple years old. Wind-legal marks took precedent over windy ones and such factors as times run in cold-weather states and altitude were considered. When push came to shove, the 100 meters served as the most leaned-upon standard, though a phenomenal mark in another event certainly carries a lot of weight. The sources for these marks were TrackandField and the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, which puts out its own annual list of top football/track participants.

So this is really a list of the players in college football who are quantifiably the fastest. Could there be players not on this list who are faster? Sure, but without valid track marks you won’t be able to make that case, save with anecdotal evidence.

Before we get to the players, keep in mind that this list does not measure football ability, but merely one vital facet of athleticism. It’s no different than measuring height or wingspan on a basketball player. The players who make this list are really, really fast — the cream of the crop in this category — but that doesn’t mean players who didn’t make it aren’t fast, too.

Finally, let’s dispense with the notion that there is ‘football’ speed and ‘track’ speed. The ability to start and stop and change direction are attributes unto themselves and not elements of being fast. Neither is the unique ability to maintain one’s speed in full football regalia. Face it, what most people see as speed on the track not translating to football is really just a matter of a player not being very good.

On to the 2014 list:

1. Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Junior, Oklahoma State — Hill, a native of Douglas, Ga., signed with the Cowboys out of Garden City Community College and enrolled in the spring. He’s already been tabbed the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. He ran his marks as a 2012 senior in high school, with his 200 meter time coming up just shy of the nearly 30-year-old prep record. You can’t run 20.1 in the 200 meters at any time without being a phenomenal physical talent. For those who disagree with Hill being on top of this list, think of the fastest current football player you know and ask yourself: Could he run 20.1 in the 200m?  The answer is probably no. So, despite being a couple years old, his times are elite enough to carry over and make him this year’s fastest player in college football.

10.19 (100m), 20.14 (200m) 

2. Raheem Mostert, RB, Senior, Purdue — Mostert had an excellent track season this past spring, winning Big Ten titles in the indoor 60-meter dash and the 100 and 200 meter dashes. He ran a wind-aided (+2.6) 10.15 in the 100 at the NCAA East Regional Championships before going on to finish 13th in that event at the NCAA Championships. On the gridiron, he had 11 carries for 37 yards and averaged 23.5 yards on kickoff returns, including one touchdown, in 2014.

6.63 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 20.65 (200m)

3. Devon Allen, WR, Redshirt Freshman, Oregon  — Figuring out where exactly to put Allen on this list was difficult as he’s an elite hurdler who only dabbles in the sprints. Ignorance of track and field in the modern college football media is a sad fact, which means few fully appreciated Allen’s recent accomplishments. Here’s the thing, folks: It’s one thing to be a college football player who runs track — there’s a slew of those players every year and only a handful do so at a high level. But it’s another thing to have the physical capability to train for football in the fall (and take all the physical punishment that comes with it) then come out in the spring and switch one’s body to an entirely different discipline and still perform at a world-class level. The Oregon freshman not only won the NCAA title in the 110-meter high hurdles, he did so in a meet-record time of 13.16, beating out runners who spent the fall preparing for track, not getting hit on the football field. He then went on to win the same event at the U.S. Championships. To give you an idea of how fast 13.16 is, consider that it would’ve been among the top 10 times in the world in 2013. He’s rare. You can’t run that time without being very, very fast. However, given that there is also an element of precision and timing to the hurdles that has less to do with raw speed than technique, I’ve placed him in a very respectable third on this list. But he could very well be the fastest. Look for Allen, who redshirted last season, to be one of Marcus Mariota’s main weapons this fall.

6.85 (60m), 10.56 (100m), 20.98 (200m), 13.16 (110m HH)

4. Kolby Listenbee, WR, Junior, TCU — Listenbee ran some blazing times this past track season, posting a best of 10.23 in the 100 meters (though he went as low as 10.12 with a heavy wind). He caught two passes for 23 yards for the Horned Frogs in 2013.

6.70 (60m), 10.23 (100m), 20.92 (200m)

5. Levonte Whitfield, WR, Sophomore, Florida State — Whitfield was No. 1 on last year’s list and his drop to No. 5 this year is less about him and more about what others have done since then. He still has an argument for being the fastest of the bunch and he certainly has made the greatest impact on the football field thus far. Whitfield caught five passes for 89 yards, rushed three times for 110 yards and averaged an astounding 36.41 yards (with two touchdowns) on 17 kickoff returns. Of course, his touchdown return against Auburn in the national title game with under five minutes to go was one of the biggest plays of the season and sparked the Seminoles to a win in that contest (watch him destroy the pursuit angles in the tape). His best speed marks came as a senior in high school and he did not run track in the spring, so I’m docking him ever-so-slightly here. The rigors of football are not to be underestimated and undergoing a training regimen that isn’t focused solely on speed is a factor. But being fifth on this list is no shame. He’s still amazingly fast.

6.64 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 20.98 (200m)

6. Thurgood Dennis, CB, Senior, Wisconsin Eau-Claire — Dennis makes his second appearance on this list after a fine season on the track. He blazed to personal bests of 6.68, 10.28 and 20.86 to cap off an athletic year that saw him notch 34 tackles and six pass breakup for the Division III Blugolds in the fall.

6.69 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 20.86 (200m)

7. Broderick Snoddy, RB, Junior, Georgia Tech — Snoddy rushed for 150 yards on 24 carries in the fall for the Yellow Jackets and then showed off his track skills in the spring by blazing to times of 6.67, 10.28 and 21.07.

6.67 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 21.07 (200m)

8. Khalfani Muhammad, RB, Sophomore, California — Muhammad led the Bears with 445 rushing yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman. He also caught 14 passes for 184 yards and a score. The true sophomore was the California state champion in the 100 meters and 200 meters as a senior in high school.

10.33 (100m), 20.73 (200m)

9. Damiere Byrd, WR, Senior, South Carolina — Byrd caught 33 passes for 575 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Gamecocks. He didn’t run track in the winter or spring, but he did run a 6.66 in the 60m the previous track season, which is a really fast mark to go with his best high school and college times.

6.66 (60m), 10.41 (100m), 21.21 (200m)

10. Kailo Moore, RB, Sophomore, Mississippi — Moore rushed for 69 yards and caught three passes as a true freshman last fall for the Rebels. He then posted a fine season on the track, notching personal bests in all three sprint disciplines.

6.79 (60m), 10.43 (100m), 21.14 (200m)

Just missed the cut

Dallas Burroughs, WR, Junior, Boise State — 10.34 (100m), 21.07 (200m)

Sheroid Evans, CB, Senior, Texas — 10.39 (100m), 20.82 (200m)

Miles Shuler, WR, Junior, Northwestern — 6.85 (60m), 10.39 (100m), 21.31 (200m)

Ronald Darby, CB, Junior, Florida State — 6.77 (60m), 10.41 (100m), 21.05 (200m)

Isaiah Brandt-Sims, Athlete, Freshman, Stanford — 6.64, 10.59, 21.38

Kenrick Young, WR, Freshman, Utah — 10.76 (100m), 20.81 (200m)

Please feel free to make your case in the comments section for who should be on this list. There’s a lot of information out there that isn’t always easy to find. So, I’ll be glad to adjust accordingly.

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