Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Linebackers

Linebacker is a position that is often overlooked, but very important nonetheless. In the 2017 NFL Draft there were plenty of talented linebackers selected. There are a lot of linebackers in this class that have potential, but will have to play well to justify a high draft pick. Here are the top prospects heading into the 2017 college football season:

Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Tremaine Edmunds NFL

Tremaine Edmunds (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Edmunds is one of three brothers that have played for Virginia Tech and will look to have a big junior year. He has the most draft potential and has great size at 6’5″ and 236 pounds.

Last year Edmunds finished with 94 tackles. He has a great all around game with 16.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, an interception and three passes defended. If he can improve his coverage skills this season and keep consistent production, he will be a highly sought after prospect.

The Hokies play West Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Pittsburgh. Edmunds will need to step up in the game against Clemson for his team to win and if he does, his draft stock will be improved.

Malik Jefferson, Texas

One of the more highly touted linebackers coming out of high school, Jefferson has played early and often for the Longhorns. With solid size at 6’3″ and 238 pounds, he has all the tools to be the first linebacker selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jefferson has 121 total tackles in his two seasons at Texas. He has great athleticism that makes him a well-rounded linebacker. With 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks, five passes defended and a touchdown scored he makes a lot of plays. Coverage and ball skills are things he will need to work on this season, but what he has already accomplished has made him a top prospect.

Texas has some big matchups this year that will require Jefferson’s best. They play USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. If he can help slow down the USC and Oklahoma offenses, he could be the first linebacker taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Kendall Joseph, Clemson

Joseph may have been overlooked because of all the talent on Clemson’s roster last year, but he will need to be the one making headlines this season. He is a little undersized at 6’0″ and 230 pounds, but makes plays.

Last year was his first season getting a lot of playing time and he broke out. He finished the season with 106 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. If he can have a solid campaign to follow up his breakout season, NFL teams will move him up on their boards.

Clemson plays Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State, which should give Joseph a lot of opportunities to prove what he can do. He needs to produce against these good offenses this season to hold his ranking.

Skai Moore, South Carolina

Skai Moore NFL

Skai Moore (Photo by: cbssports.com)

Moore is a good prospect, but did miss all of the 2016 season with a neck injury. Staying healthy will be key to preserve and enhance Moore’s draft stock. He has average size at 6’2″ and 220 pounds.

In 2015, the last season he played, Moore finished with 110 total tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. He is a good run stopper and coverage linebacker, with 11 career interceptions, but could improve his blitzing ability. If his neck checks out and he has a productive year he will be one of the first linebackers taken.

The Gamecocks have Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Clemson all on the schedule. Moore will be called upon to be at his best this season for South Carolina and will reap the rewards if he answers that call.

 

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College Quarterbacks Trending Up Coming into The 2017 CFB Season

It’s the dog days of college football. We are a few weeks from removed spring ball and a few weeks away from the start of the summer practice for your favorite team. And every year the same question is posed: Which college quarterbacks are trending up?

By the end of the college football year come back to this article, and see which college quarterbacks stayed calm in the pocket or got sacked. Let’s get into the list:

Jake Bentley- South Carolina

Photo By: Gerry Melendez/ The State

By the end of the SEC year there were three young quarterbacks emerging onto the scene, South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, Georgia’s Jacob Eason and Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald. Bentley is on my list because he has proven to me to be a more effective passer than those three in only six games. And Gamecock Central‘s Collyn Taylor agrees with me. When we talked I asked him whose skills are you more confident in between these three and he said Bentley.

“I think I’d be more confident in Bentley’s skills. He was supposed to be in high school last season and came in made some phenomenal throws without a good offensive line. He’s shown he has an SEC caliber arm and can learn on the fly. If he continues to develop like he has been, he could be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference next season,” said Taylor.

Last year, Bentley really only had one bad game. When the Gamecocks visited their upstate rival Clemson, no one played well. But besides that game he shows so much promise.

Coming into the season, he didn’t start but when came in he balled out. The first three weeks Bentley did something USC hasn’t seen since 2014, three wins in a row. Remember, this guy still could have been playing in high school. He started the last seven games and won four of those games. His best game being against the Missouri Tigers. He threw for 254 yards on over 70 percent passing (second game in a row he did it) and two touchdowns.

More than anything he has given USC fans something to believe in. From a pure passing set, he is already one of the best QBs in Gamecock history. With the Gamecocks riding in the “Bentley”, they should be fighting for a SEC East title.

Mason Rudolph- Oklahoma State

Photo By: Sue Ogrocki/ AP

From a university in South Carolina to kid from the Palmetto State, Mason Rudolph has been one of my favorite quarterbacks since I saw him take down 4-Star QB and then-Georgia commit Jacob Park from my high school alma mater, Stratford High.

Last year he backed up his good 2015 campaign with a great 2016 campaign. He increased in completion, attempts, yards, touchdowns and QB rating. And also he had less interceptions down from a 9 in 2015 to only 4 in 2016. He has turned it up and has placed OK State back on the map for more than Mike Gundy telling us he is 40.

Last year his most impressive game had to be when outlasted Patrick Mahomes and Texas Tech and won 45-44. He had a higher completion rate and more yards (less attempts) than future first rounder Mahomes. Rudolph finished the game with 395 yards on 71.4 percent passing and a passer rating of 213.5.

He is definitely one of the better quarterbacks Gundy has had in Stillwater but there is still one obstacle in Rudolph’s way: Baker Mayfield and his Oklahoma Sooners.

Deondre Francois- Florida State

Photo By: Joe Rondone/ Democrat

From one 10-3 quarterback to another, Deondre Francois had one heck of a start to his collegiate career last year. Freshman Francois jumped out the gate in a neutral site game against of the better college quarterbacks Chad Kelly and came out battered, scarred and victorious.

Even since that first game, fans across the nation could tell he would be special. In one year, he is already the premier quarterback in the ACC. He finished the season with 3350 yards, 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He also finished the season out strong winning his last five games.

His most impressive game to me, besides the Ole Miss game, was his first trip to Miami against a good talent in Brad Kaaya quarterbacking the Hurricanes. After the halftime break, he came back down 13-3 to rival Miami. In the third quarter, he led his Seminoles down the field twice for two passing touchdowns in consecutive drives. Both drives starting in Seminoles territory.

Last year he won over the fans and his fellow players and this year he has to win some championships. The ACC is his for the taking and if he can win the ACC he will be in the College Football Playoff.

Trace McSorley- Penn State

Photo By: Abby Drey/ Centre Daily Times via AP

Another 10-3 quarterback, Trace McSorley of Penn State. He and coach James Franklin are restoring the winning ways of Penn State. More or less 2016 was McSorley’s “freshman” campaign. In 2015, he only attempted 40 passes. In 2016, he took college football by storm. He finished with 29 touchdowns, 3614 yards and only 8 interceptions. He probably would not like me saying this but he reminds me of the college-Johnny Manziel/Baker Mayfield QB build. All three are short, true dual threat, accurate and flamboyant. They are big time players and I like that about them.

No better game speaks to that then the 2017 Rose Bowl. It was such a beautiful game. Going back and forth, tooth and nail with the USC Trojans on the biggest stage Penn State has been on in a while. Even though he fell short, he impressed many that night. He finished with 254 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. From 11:44 left in the second quarter to 1:55 left in the third quarter, Penn State scored on seven straight possessions. McSorley had all five of his touchdowns in that span.

Many Nittany Lion fans will remember his three interceptions but he had a adjusted QBR of over 70 and a completion rate over 60 in the game as well.

But the quarterback on the other side of this game might be trending even higher than McSorley.

Sam Darnold- Southern California

Photo By: Mark J. Terrill/ AP

The name everyone has been waiting for: Sam Darnold of Southern California. He didn’t start until Week 4. And since Week 4, the Trojans have not taken an L. Darnold led the Trojans to nine straight wins, which is the second longest active winning streak in college football. In that nine game span, only two games were decided by less than 10 points. He finished the season with 3086 yards, 31 touchdowns and 9 interceptions on over 67 percent passing.

Just like Trace McSorley, his best game was the 2017 Rose Bowl. He had 453 yards passing, five passing touchdowns and one interceptions. His most important passing touchdown came late in the fourth quarter. He drove his team 80 yards down the field in 39 seconds to tie up the game with his fifth passing touchdown. Eventually, Matt Boermeester would hit the 46-yard field goal and win the game.

Coming into his redshirt sophomore year, he is expected to lead the Trojans to their former glory. Also he has the expectations of being the odds on favorite as the best quarterback coming into the 2018 NFL Draft. Let’s see if he can keep trending up this season.

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Cinderella Basketball

Which March Madness Cinderella is Staying?

The Sweet 16 is an amazing accomplishment in it amongst itself. It’s an accomplishment that many college basketball programs don’t see very often. High expectations come with it.

Winning in college basketball is hard, and winning in the NCAA tournament is even harder. Time after time we’ve seen favorite teams go down. Some top teams don’t even make it past the round of 64.

Winning two games in the NCAA tournament and making it to the Sweet 16 isn’t a fluke. The teams in the Sweet 16 deserve to be there because they all won two games (sometimes three if they were in a play-in game). That is a hard thing to do in the NCAA.

We’ve now officially gotten to the point where we find out which teams are for real. We will find out in this next round what the Cinderella teams are made of and if they are here to stay.

Cinderella teams are traditionally defined as teams that are seeded ten or over. All of these teams are not necessarily “Cinderella” teams, but they are by no means the favorite to win or even be here in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the teams that most people didn’t expect to be here and how they might fair along the rest of the way.

Xavier

March Madness Cinderella

Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett goes up to score against Florida State Defender in their game last weekend. (Photo/ Getty Images)

The Xavier Musketeers make their eighth appearance in the Sweet 16 as the highest seed (11) left in the tournament.

A victory over Maryland in the first round and nearly a 30-point victory in the second round over third-seeded Florida State puts the Musketeers a step closer to their third appearance in the Elite eight in program history.

Junior guard Trevon Bluiett, who averages 18.5 points a game, helped Xavier finish 21-13 overall with a conference record of 9-9. That was good enough for an 11 seed after losing to Creighton in the Big East tournament.

They now face their toughest task yet, the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats come in as a two seed and a favorite for many to win the entire tournament. Xavier will look to become the highest seed to ever win the tournament after their two big wins.

Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines are arguably the team with the most momentum and burst into the Sweet 16 as a seven seed. The Wolverines are coming off of a Big Ten tournament championship after their plane skidded off the runway en route to Washington D.C. for the tournament. They are poised, hungry and very good.

They beat Oklahoma State in the first round and a really good second-seeded Louisville team in the second round. The Wolverines had a rocky regular season, but with the leadership of senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. and the outbreaking stardom of sophomore forward Moritz Wagner from Germany, Michigan is in good shape to move onto the next round.

With a matchup against the Oregon Ducks, who lost one of their key contributors Chris Boucher before the start of the tournament, many believe this game to be the one where the underdog prevails.

South Carolina

March Madness Cinderella

South Carolina players celebrate their victory over Duke on Sunday with their coach Frank Martin (Photo/Bob Donnan)

South Carolina advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 1973 with a big win over second-seeded Duke. The Gamecocks look to advance to their program’s first Elite Eight.

With another tough matchup against third-seeded Baylor, the Gamecocks look to their leader, Sindarius Thornwell, to lead them to victory. The Gamecocks are not always your most flashy and good-looking team, but they get the job done.

Baylor may be the perfect opponent for the Gamecocks due to both teams’ scrappy and fast-pace play. That will make an interesting and entertaining matchup.

Wisconsin 

Wisconsin comes in on a high after taking down tournament number one seed Villanova. Many believe the Badgers were underseeded and should have gotten a better seed. Nevertheless, here they are.

With a matchup against the Florida Gators, who are also coming off of an utterly dominant victory over Virginia, the Badgers are actually favored by many despite being the lower seed.

The Badgers look to win their first NCAA championship since 1941, and they very well could.

 

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NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina Winning a Fluke?

Is it a Fluke that South Carolina is Still Dancing?

Everyone is wondering how South Carolina made it to the Sweet 16. In fact, only five percent of brackets had them making it this far, and 2.1 percent of those people picked the Baylor-South Carolina matchup. Not many people expected them to get here. Honestly, this small percentage could just be loyal fans that picked them out of obligation.

In the first round, the Gamecocks defeated Marquette 93-73. In the second round they took care of Duke with a seven-point margin, beating the Blue Devils 88-81. Here are three reasons why it is not a fluke and how they’ll match up with Baylor.

1. Coach Frank Martin has done his Homework

Following the win on Sunday night Coach Frank Martin said he was impressed by his team’s fortitude.

“I am unbelievably proud of my guys and they have become mentally-tough as mentally-tough can be,” Martin said.

This team and their recent wins aren’t a byproduct of luck.

Coach Martin has put in his time. His philosophies on offense and defense have been developed over time. They were implemented at Kansas State University where he was Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2010 and have now carried over to South Carolina.

He preaches an early offense attack. This means that in order to have success in scoring, you have to run and run all the time, not just when you are up.

The other benefit of having a high-energy pace all the time, is that the defense has to foul in order to slow it down. As a result, the Gamecocks have shot 799 free throws this season and made 556 of them.

When asked about his defense, he commented on modeling it after past, legendary Duke teams. He knows that defense leads to his fast-paced offense. He stresses not letting the opposing team set up plays, because then you are already beat. Make the other team work for their points.

2. they are peaking at the right time

The Gamecocks finished off the regular season with back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and Alabama. They also went 4-6 on the last 10 games of the season. Now they are playing some of the best basketball that fans have seen all season.

Despite being down in the first half against Duke, the team rallied to score 65 points in the second half. South Carolina out rebounded the Blue Devils 37-34 and had 10 more shots overall. Duke turned over the ball 18 times while the Gamecocks limited themselves to 11 turnovers.

NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina Winning a fluke?

P.J. Dozier brings the ball up the court for South Carolina (WLTX.com)

South Carolina wants it more. That was evident in their second half effort against Duke. Chris Silva scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half. Duane Notice also scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. P.J. Dozier has also been giving good production for the Gamecocks and freshman Maik Kotsar struggled with Duke but added seven points against Marquette.

The Gamecocks are in fact playing some of the best defense in the country. As many coaches say, “defense propels the offensive end of the floor.”

Sindarius Thornwell has made this obvious as he scored 24 points in the second round against Duke while pulling down six rebounds. It’s the same story for Marquette as he scored 29 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and getting three steals.

If South Carolina can keep up the defensive prowess, than there isn’t any reason they can’t move on past Baylor.

3. Possible Home Court advantage

Anyone who says home-court advantage isn’t a factor, probably hasn’t played in a true home environment. Madison Square Garden is closer to South Carolina than Baylor and fan base is everything in a big game.

Let’s go back to Duke for example. The second round game was played in Greenville, South Carolina roughly two hours from the Gamecocks’ campus. In other words, it was practically a home game and that environment definitely didn’t help Duke.

South Carolina fans have every reason to be at this game. The program isn’t exactly known for its tournament history. Two years ago they didn’t make it to the NIT and last year they lost in the second round of the NIT. Coming into the weekend, South Carolina had not won a NCAA tournament game in 44 years.

Needless to say, South Carolina should have some serious backing in New York.

baylor matchup

Unfortunately South Carolina is a young team, as they have a lot of freshman. The past two games have proved that they can play on the big stage, but will the success continue for another game?

The Gamecocks have in fact taken it upon themselves to keep winning. Coach Martin told his players, “We are not responsible for the drought but we are responsible for this moment.”

His players can be the ones to keep making history.

This is compared to a Baylor team who has been in the spotlight all year long, and rightfully so. They have some very impressive guys but they have also had some scoring droughts.

Jake Trotter commented, “Superior talent allowed them to overcome such dry spells in their first two tournament games, but that won’t be easy moving forward.”

NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina winning a fluke?

Johnathan Motley finishes a dunk for Baylor (Photo courtesy of Houston Chronicle)

Baylor’s lengthy zone can be intimidating and the combination of Johnathan Motley, Manu Lecomte and Jo-Laul Acuil Jr. is also reason for fear. However, South Carolina isn’t necessarily the underdog.

If Baylor can establish a good inside game to pair with their three-point shooting, they will be hard to stop. On the other hand, if Thornwell can have another game for himself with some help then South Carolina is equally as deadly.

Make sure you are watching 7:29pm ET on TBS to see all the action.

 

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National Signing Day 2017: SEC

The SEC dominates National Signing Day seemingly every year. This page will be updated throughout the day. Here are how the teams look right now:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Commitments: 24, 5*: 3, 4*: 19, 3*: 1, Other: 1

Nick Saban has assembled another great class. Athlete Dylan Moses (who will most likely play linebacker), offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and running back Najee Harris are some of the best players for the Tide. Harris is supremely talented, but it is a loaded backfield that may not offer much playing time. Alabama recruited a lot of offensive play-makers this season. There a lot of good recruits still considering Alabama.

Top Prospects Signed: ATH Dylan Moses (5*), RB Najee Harris (5*)

2. Georgia Bulldogs

Committed: 26, 5*: 4, 4*: 17, 3*: 5, Other: 0

Kirby Smart has put together a great first full class for the Bulldogs. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson and Safety Richard LeCounte are among the best players in the class. In the next few years, Georgia should be dominant in the trenches and well on their way to SEC East superiority.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Isaiah Wilson (5*), S Richard LeCounte (5*)

3. LSU Tigers

Committed: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 16, 3*: 7, Other: 0

In Ed Oregeron’s first class, he has helped LSU stay prominent in recruiting. He has a lot of secondary and quarterback help on the way. Corner Kary Vincent is one the best players in the class for the Tigers. Quarterbacks Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan have different styles, but should help out with LSU’s offensive struggles.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Austin Deculus (4*), CB Kary Vincent (4*)

4. Texas A&M Aggies

Committed: 24, 5*: 0, 4*: 9, 3*: 15, Other: 0

The Aggies have a lot of players coming in this class. Quarterback Kellen Mond is a highly touted player and may get a chance to get on the field, with all of the transfers out of College Station. He leads a class with a lot of wide receivers. Linebacker Anthony Hines is going to be a difference-maker for the Aggie defense.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Kellen Mond (4*), LB Anthony Hinds (4*)

5. Auburn Tigers

Committed: 21, 5*: 0, 4*: 11, 3: 7, Other: 3

The Tigers have a good recruiting class, which they will be expecting to help win the SEC West with. Former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham will be joining the Tigers from JuCo and will hopefully solve the issues at the position. Their best offensive line recruit Calvin Ashley is a tackle who will be looking to get on the field from day one.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Calvin Ashley (4*), QB Jarrett Stidham (4*)

6. Tennessee Volunteers

Committed: 27, 5*: 1, 4*: 6, 3*: 20, Other: 0

Butch Jones has put together yet another impressive recruiting class. Five-star offensive tackle Trey Smith is one of the best in the class and will likely start the season as a starter. Linebacker Maleik Gray will help out with some of the losses they suffer on defense.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Trey Smith (5*), LB Maleik Gray (4*)

7. Florida Gators

Committed: 20, 5*: 0, 4*: 13, 3*: 6, Other: 1

Florida has struggled to find good offense, but they don’t have too many skill position players in this class. They need to hit on the ones they did sign. Their best recruit is offensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, which should help the offense out. Wide receiver Daquon Green is going to have to step up and be the play-maker Florida so desperately needs.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Tedarrell Slaton (4*), WR James Robinson IV (4*)

8. South Carolina Gamecocks

Committed: 21, 5*:0, 4*: 9, 3*: 11, Other: 1

Will Muschamp is doing a great job of recruiting for South Carolina. Corner Jameyst Williams is committed, but may be flipped. He will help out a secondary that isn’t near the top in the SEC. Shi Smith will give the Gamecocks a weapon at the wide receiver position.

Top Prospects Signed: CB Jamyest Winston (4*), WR Shi Smith (4*)

9. Kentucky Wildcats

Committed: 24, 5*: 0, 4*: 5, 3*: 18, Other: 1

Mark Stoops helped the Wildcats be one of the most improved teams in the country. The defense wasn’t great, so Kentucky emphasized that in this recruiting class. Secondary players Yusuf Corker and Tyrell Ajian will both be expected to produce in the coming years.

Top Prospects Signed: CB Yusuf Corker (4*), S Tyrell Ajian (4*)

10. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Committed: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 10, 3*: 13, Other: 0

The Bulldogs got a bowl win, but it was a lackluster season otherwise. Coming into the fold will be a lot of defensive players. Brian Cole and Montez Sweat are both JuCo players who will likely help the Bulldogs immediately.

Top Prospects Signed: S Brian Cole (4*), DE Montez Sweat (4*)

11. Arkansas Razorbacks

Committed: 26, 5*: 0, 4*: 8, 3*: 15, Other: 3

Arkansas doesn’t have the best class, but they targeted a lot of offensive players in the class. Brandon Martin is a great JuCo wide receiver that will catch passes from Austin Allen next season. Quarterback Daulton Hyatt is expected to be the future leader of the team.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Brandon Martin (4*), Daulton Hyatt (4*)

12. Missouri Tigers

Committed: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 0, 3*: 20, Other: 3

Missouri doesn’t look like they will be in an SEC Championship Game any time soon. Defensive line has been a huge target for this class. Defensive tackles Walter Palmore and Rashad Brandon both are great hauls for the Tigers.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Taylor Powell (3*), Rashad Brandon (3*)

13. Ole Miss

Committed: 21,  5*: 0, 4*: 8, 3*: 11, Other: 2

Ole miss is usually a lot higher in these rankings as of late, but this year was a down year for recruiting. Wide receiver D.D. Bowie and Linebacker Breon Dixon are both great finds for Ole Miss.

Top Prospects Signed: OLB Breon Dixon (4*), WR D.D. Bowie (4*)

14. Vanderbilt Commodores

Committed: 20, 5*: 0, 4*: 1, 3*: 13, Other: 6

The Commodores find themselves in a familiar position at the bottom of this list. Defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo and linebacker Colin Anderson will need to help make the Vanderbilt defense elite to win football games.

Top Prospects Signed: LB Colin Anderson (3*), DE Dayo Odeyingbo (4*)

 

ACC Signing Day- Here

Big Ten Signing Day- Here

Big 12 Signing Day- Here

Pac-12 Signing Day- Here

 

NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl

The Birmingham Bowl features the South Carolina Gamecocks and the South Florida Bulls. There aren’t a lot of prospects in this game, but some of the players will have a chance to make an NFL roster. Here are the best prospects from the Birmingham Bowl:

South Florida Bulls

Marlon Mack, RB

Projected Draft Range: Third round-fifth round

Mack has had an outstanding career for the Bulls and will be drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. At six feet and 210 pounds, Mack has a good combination of size and speed. His quickness is a great asset and he has good moves once one on one with a defender. At over seven yards per carry this season, Mack also has excellent vision and above average patience to let things open up in front of him. Mack is in the middle of a deep running back class, but as a junior has a chance to stay in college football next season.

Deatrick Nichols, CB

Projected Draft Range: Sixth round-undrafted free agent

Birmingham Bowl

Deatrick Nichols (Photo courtesy: Twitter)

Nichols is also a junior that may elect to leave college early, like Mack. He had four interceptions on the season and seven passes defended. He doesn’t have the chance to go up against elite receivers in the American Athletic Conference, so it is hard to project what his ceiling can be. Nichols has a slight frame at five feet ten inches and 189 pounds, so he will need to bulk up if he wants to withstand full NFL seasons.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Darius English, DE

Projected Draft Range: Sixth round-undrafted free agent

Birmingham Bowl

Darius English (Photo courtesy: kansascity.com)

English has great height at six feet six inches tall, but needs to add some muscle while gaining weight because at 245 pounds he will get pushed around by NFL offensive lineman. English does have good speed and athletic ability which has helped him get to the quarterback for nine sacks on the season. His role on an NFL team would likely be as a situational pass rusher in a NASCAR Formation (multiple defensive ends on the field rushing the quarterback).

 

 

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2016 Birmingham Bowl Preview

The South Florida Bulls will take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl.

South Florida Bulls

The Bulls had a great season and finished at 10-2. Their only losses came to Florida State and Temple. They have wins over three bowl eligible teams: Navy, Memphis and UCF.

Birmingham Bowl

Quinton Flowers (Photo courtesy: foxsports.com)

Quinton Flowers has one of the best seasons in college football, but most people don’t know about it. He has 2,5511 passing yards and 22 passing touchdowns, with only six interceptions. He has added 1,425 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. There aren’t too many guys with the ability to pull that off and Flowers has proven he is one of the best play-makers in the country at the quarterback position.

Wide receiver Rodney Adams has been by far the most productive receiver for USF. His 60 catches is more than double anyone else on the team. He has five touchdowns on the season, but is more of a possession receiver than a big play threat with 12.6 yards per catch.

Marlon Mack has been Flowers’ partner in crime in the running game with 1,137 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. The two make up a dynamic backfield that is on par with any other in the country.

The Bulls give up a lot of rushing yards at 205 yards per game. The pass defense is a lot worse and allows 277 yards per game.

Defensive back Deatrick Nichols will be a key to getting the ball back to the Bull offense and has four interceptions on the year. Linebacker Auggie Sanchez is a tackle machine with four games of over 10 tackles.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Things were not looking great for South Carolina coming into the season, but they made a bowl game at 6-6. Their only losses came to bowl eligible teams, but they were able to beat two of them in the process. They beat Tennessee and Vanderbilt in those big wins.

Birmingham Bowl

Jake Bentley (Photo courtesy: smokeys-trail.com)

The Gamecocks found their future quarterback this season and are now featuring him on offense. Jake Bentley had a good first season for South Carolina, starting six games and winning four. He threw for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns, while only throwing two interceptions. His completion percentage of 63% is a good starting point for him.

Bentley has the luxury of spreading the ball around with three different receivers having over 500 yards receiving. Deebo Samuel, Hayden Hurst and Bryan Edwards all are valuable targets for South Carolina.

Rico Dowdle and A.J. Turner get the bulk of the carries for the Gamecocks. Dowdle has 714 rushing yards and six touchdowns, while Turner has 448 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

The rush defense of South Carolina is bad, allowing 203 yards per game. The pass defense is good though, allowing 204 yards per game.

Darius English has been a menace on defense with 9 sacks. He will have to help stop Flowers and Mack from running the ball as well in this game.

Prediction

The Bulls will move the ball against the bad South Carolina rush defense. Flowers and Mack both have big games and lead South Florida to victory.

 

South Florida Bulls 30 South Carolina 23

 

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South Carolina vs Vanderbilt Preview

College football started off with a bang in Sydney, Australia. But now it is back in the states and our first FBS game will be an SEC East showdown. The South Carolina Gamecocks will travel to Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores.

This should be your modern SEC East football game. Both teams have at least a decent defense and an offense that can only produce around 35 points on a great day. But isn’t football better ugly?

Ugly in a good way though. Ugly as in big hits on defense. Running backs carrying the ball 20 times or more in ball game. Gritty hard-nose football that you really only see in the SEC and that is why this game is so compelling.

Tim Dominick: The State

Tim Dominick/ The State

Both teams have good defense. South Carolina has turned the page from having an offensive-minded coach in Steve Spurrier and have now handed the keys to program to defensive-minded head coach Will Muschamp. Muschamp did inherit a defense that can make some plays. This USC defense definitely has the talent to rival the Gamecock defense of the early 2010s. They have great depth at their pass rushing positions. Linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams should definitely have a breakout season this year at the weak linebacker spot. He has the tools and skills to rush the passer and to guard some slot receivers and most tight ends.

Their defensive ends can definitely get to the passer at a high volume. Marquavis Lewis, Darius English, Dante Sawyer, and Shameik Blackshear all can pressure the passer and make it easier on a Gamecock secondary that needs help.

On offense, the Gamecocks have a bunch of unknowns. They will be starting two new linemen on the right side of the offensive line. USC has a lot of new talented players but most of them are unproven. They still have not settled the quarterback battle. On their first depth chart they listed senior Perry Orth, freshman Jake Bentley, and freshman Brandon McIllwain. South Carolina should have a good running game with the stable of running backs they have in Columbia featuring freshman AJ Turner.

Frederick Breedon/ Getty Images

Frederick Breedon/ Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Vanderbilt, they are already a pretty good defensive team. Last year their defense was in the top 25 of points allowed in the FBS. Around half of that teams defense comes back this year including their All-SEC First Team stalwart linebacker Zach Cunningham. Cunningham had double digit tackles in six games last year and he finished last year on a three game double digit tackle streak. This defense has proven their worth on the field and wants to prove it again this year.

Vandy has settled their quarterback battle and it seems like Kyle Shurmur will be the starter for this game. And he will be protected by familiar lineman but some in different places. Last year’s starting guard Barrett Gouger will be starting at center this year.

Courtesy of Associated Press

Courtesy of Associated PressShurmur will be surrounded by a bunch of familiar targets. Running backs Ralph Webb and Dallas River are retuning to the team. Tight ends Nathan Marcus and Sean Dowling are also retuning. The wide receiving core also returns Trent Sherfield, Caleb Scott, and Latevius Rayford.

I think Vandy’s continuity and experience will be the key determining factor in this game and I see the Commodores winning by less than two scores. The score will probably look like 20-17, 31-17, or 24-10.

 

Top Ten College Rivalries: #9 Clemson vs. South Carolina

And at the number nine spot on my list is…

Courtesy of Rubbing The Rock.com

Courtesy of Rubbing The Rock.com

#9 Clemson Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks. Clemson is winning the series 67-42-4. This rivalry has produced one national championship (Clemson 1981) and one Heisman trophy winner (George Rogers in 1980).

While being one of the great rivalries in college, it is also one of the most underrated. The hate between the both sides is as heated as the hate in many of other the great rivalries. This game was originally played on a Thursday during the State Fair at Williams-Brice Stadium. In 1960 the first Clemson-South Carolina made its way to Clemson. Ever since then the host location has switched between Clemson and Columbia. Since 1960, on every Saturday after Thanksgiving these two foes, the Tigers and Gamecocks, meet on the field to see who reigns supreme over South Carolina.

Joshua Huffines/ Garnet Report

Joshua Huffines/ Garnet Report

This rivalry dates back to 1896 and in the first every match-up between Clemson and South Carolina, the Gamecocks came out on top, 12-6. Due to the riot that happened after the 1902 game, where South Carolina beat a John Heisman-coached Clemson, the teams never played again until 1909. Since 1909, Clemson and Carolina have continued their feud. They have played each other 113 times total. A little known fact about this rivalry is that is the second-longest consecutive games played in a rivalry game. They have played 107 straight games against each other.

Nathan Pretorius/ Tiger News.com

Nathan Pretorius/ Tiger News.com

Just like many rivalries in the country, the tradition of the rivalry makes it unique.  Each school has their pep rally before the game. The fans at South Carolina have a “Tiger Burn.” The Gamecock students share their last words for a paper mache tiger and they set a blaze.

The Tiger fans lay the beloved Cocky mascot to rest at the “Cocky Funeral.” Ever since some South Carolina students tried to steal Howard’s Rock in 1992, Clemson ROTC protects the Rock for a whole 24 hours before any home game against the Gamecocks.

And the actual games have been even better…

From “The Catch” by Clemson wide receiver Jerry Butler in the 1977 game, which sealed the game for Clemson in the last seconds. To “The Catch II”, where Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler connected with Rod Gardner for a 50-yard gain to set up a 25 yard field goal for the Tigers in the last second. But the Carolina fans give this game another title. They named the game “The Push-Off.” Instant replay shows Gardner and Carolina defender fight for the ball, but no flag was thrown.

 

Courtesy of the Independent Mail.com

Courtesy of the Independent Mail.com

Unfortunately, the most famous game in this rivalry is probably the 2004 bout. It was Lou Holtz’s last game he ever coached for the Gamecocks, and in college period. The most memorable part of the game was the brawl. The 2004 competition has been named “The Brawl” for obvious reason. Blood started to boil between both sides when the Gamecocks where standing at the bottom of “The Hill” waiting for the Tigers to come down. Some shoving ensued, but nothing more until late in the fourth quarter. Gamecock quarterback Syvelle Newton was hit to the ground, but the Clemson players kept him from getting off the ground. After some pushing, shoving and punching, the benches cleared. The most iconic picture was taken from a Clemson-South Carolina game was taken when a Clemson player kicked a helmet-less Carolina player.

 

Top Ten College Football Rivalries #10 Power 5 versus Mid Major/ FCS

Here is my Top Ten College Football Rivalries. And coming in at my #10 spot is…

#10- The Power 5 v. Mid Majors/ FCSS

Steve Grayson/ Getty Images

Steve Grayson/ Getty Images

Yes I know that this is technically not a rivalry, but that’s why I only put them as my #10. But really this “rivalry” was not made until 2007. It was the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. It was football royalty, the Oklahoma Sooners, versus the Cinderella, the Boise State Broncos. By the end of the game, the headline was David has slain The Giant. And you know how much America loves an underdog. It was one of the greatest college football endings of all time.

Let’s go back and revisit the last 0:18 and OT of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

It was 4th and 18 on the 50 yard line for the Broncos and in the last drive, Broncos quarterback Jared Zabransky threw a pick six to break the tie and give the Sooners the 28-35 lead.

The play head coach Chris Peterson called was the hook and lateral and it worked like a charm. Zabranksy threw the hook to Drisan James and then he lateraled it to Jerard Rabb and he took the ball up the left sideline for 35 yards and a score. And after the field goal the game was tied at 35-35 and the game went into OT.

Steve Grayson/ WireImages

Steve Grayson/ WireImages

Boise State won the coin toss and elected to give Oklahoma the football first. Oklahoma’s first play was a 25 yard run by no other than current Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson. The extra point was good. The score was now 42-35.

Fast forward to Boise State’s second magical trick play. It was a wide receiver wildcat pass. Zabransky was the original player behind center until he called for motion. He moved to the left and backup wide receiver Vinny Perretta moved behind center. Zabranksy motioned out of the backfield and to the left. Perretta hiked the ball and rolled out to his right. He lofted up a pass to tight end Derek Schouman in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. The score was 42-41.

Coach Peterson elected to go for two. He called up his now famous Statue of Liberty play. Zabranksy, back under center with Ian Johnson in the backfield, had three receivers to his right. He snapped the ball, dropped back, faked the pass with his right hand and then went across his body with the ball in his left hand to hand the ball off to Johnson with the offensive line pulling to the left. He walked in untouched. The two point conversion was good. Boise State won the game 43-42.

That game changed college football forever. And for anyone that thought it was a fluke the next regular season Appalachian State shocked the world.

On September 1st, 2007, the Mountaineers of Appalachian State went to Ann Arbor and beat the Wolverines of Michigan. After a close game throughout, Michigan attempted a field goal for the win. The kick was blocked, and Appalachian State scooped up the ball to clinch the win. The number five ranked Wolverines suffered the worse loss in college football history.

After those two games, FCS and Mid-Majors have never been scared to play Power 5 conferences on any field. Recently, the Citadel Bulldogs went to Williams-Brice Stadium and beat the Gamecocks of South Carolina. The Houston Cougars beat the Florida State Seminoles in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl last season was another example of a non-Power 5 school taking down a powerhouse. When they come on to the field against Power 5 teams, they are playing more than a game. They are playing to show that you don’t have to go to a big team to make a big impact.

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