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BUCKEYES AIM TO RETURN TO THE TOP IN 2016
After a disappointing 2015 season which saw the Buckeyes fall to both of their rivals, Penn State and Michigan, en route to an 11-2 season and an Outback Bowl win, Ohio State is gearing up to return to national prominence and give the city of Columbus its ninth national title. Almost everybody returns on a team that's certainly the most talented group coach Speyer has had in his tenure this far. The question is, can talent and potential turn into results? Here is a group by group breakdown of the 2016 Buckeyes.
Quarterback: JT Barrett (99 Ovr, Jr.)
In his third year behind center for the scarlet and grey, Barrett will attempt to become the only signal caller in school history to capture two national championships. As a freshman Barrett was efficient and ofttimes excellent while leading the Buckeyes to a 14-0 record. But as a sophomore the righty from Texas took a step backwards, struggling to throw the deep ball and forcing way too many passes which resulted in interceptions. The Buckeyes will ask a little less of Barrett as a deep passer this year understanding his limitations, but will expect him to distribute the ball on intermediate routes better and maybe also run the ball a bit this year.
Running Backs: Dontre Wilson (95 Ovr, Sr.), Ezekiel Elliot (92 Ovr, Sr.), Aaron Jenkins (85 Ovr, So.)
An annual Heisman candidate, Dontre Wilson returns for his fourth and final season with the Buckeyes. It's likely, however, that the speedster from DeSoto will be featured in more of a slot role than ever this year. That's not to say that Wilson won't get his carries, it just mean that most will come on sweeps and options as a motioned receiver. This was the expected role for Wilson last year, but all things changed when Ezekiel Elliot broke his collarbone in the season opener. Now healthy and stronger, Elliot assumes to have the breakout season many were hoping he would have a year ago. Aaron Jenkins will provide a spark as a spell back, and will also make an impact in the slot and as a returner from time to time.
Receivers and Tight Ends: Daquel Newell (85 Ovr, RSo.), Jalin Marshall (93 Ovr, Sr.), James Clark (89 Ovr, RJr.), Marcus Baugh (91 Ovr, Sr.), Thaddeus Dawkins (86 Ovr, So.)
The receiving core is an extremely talented and speedy bunch. Though not the most polished of threats, Daquel Newell will be the first receiver on the field, because at 6'4 with 96 speed he's Ohio State's best possession receiver. Marshall and Clark are more of a slot guys, but have the experience and speed to make a major impact. The tightends on this team are downright mismatches, too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties. Hell, they might be too fast for safeties as well. Theddeus Dawkins is a physical specimen at 6'7 with fantastic receiving abilities and could be the breakout player on the offensive side.
Offensive Line: Evan Lisle (89 Ovr, RJr.), Marcus Porter (88 Ovr, RSo.), Brent Tate (89 Ovr, RSo.), Kyle Dodson (90 Ovr, RSr.), Charles Slaughter (88 Ovr, RSo.)
Perhaps the most improved unit for Ohio State is its offensive line, which replaces three starters yet features much better talent with a group of three fantastic sophomores. Porter, Tate and Slaughter were all members of Ohio State's 2014 "Block-O" class, in which six fantastic offensive linemen were signed. Slaughter and Dodson should form a dominate right side for the running game, as both tip the scales at over 330 pounds.
Defensive Line: Joey Bosa (90 Ovr, Sr.), Michael Hill (92 Ovr, Sr.), Billy Price (91 Ovr, RJr.), Ray Sutton (88 Ovr, Jr.)
Despite replacing three starters in Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt, Ohio State once again features a dominate defensive line. Bosa has been a star in a reserve and alternate role for years, and can play both inside and out. Sutton was Ohio State's most coveted recruit in year one, and should be an absolute terror as a pass rusher. The one concern for Ohio State is how this team defends the run. Much like last season, the starters are composed of four pass rushing specialists. And if you remember correctly, Ohio State's defense was shredded by the run in losses to Michigan and Penn State a season ago. With reigning Heisman champ Alex Collins and Derek Green on the slate, this unit must be improved in that area for the Buckeyes to win it all.
Linebackers: Taylor West (90 Ovr, Jr.), Mike Mitchell (94 Ovr, Sr.), Trey Johnson (89 Ovr, Sr.)
One of the best position groups that OSU has recruited in recent years has been the LB corps, and thats starting to pay dividends in Columbus. West was the top linebacker in the country in 2014, and has started every game for three years as a Buckeye. He will be asked to do more as a leader of the Silver Bullets this season. Mitchell returns for a second year and a starter, and Johnson, once regarded as a top recruit, will finally get his shot as a starter. Much like with the defensive line, this group is filled with depth too.
Secondary: Eli Apple (94 Ovr, Sr.), Vonn Bell (93 Ovr, Jr.), Cam Burrows (96 Ovr, Sr.), Gaereon Conley (91 Ovr, RJr.)
The leaders of the Silver Bullets this season is the secondary, and its easy to see why. All four starters are returning contributors, and Apple, Bell and Burrows have all started for three years. Bell won the Thorpe as a sophomore in 2014 and looks to return to form as a top playmaker and turnover machine.
Oklahoma Sooners 2016 Preview
QBs: Easily the most talented and deep group on the team, the Sooner signal callers will be vital to making the pistol option attack work in Norman. Senior Trevor Knight is seen by many to be the obvious starter, but coach Dick Landry has shown a tendency to use tough running Junior Issac Harvey when the going gets tough.
HBs: Seniors Corey Williams, and Keith Ford (96 & 95 ovr) have been the workhorse before and figure to be as well this year. The "thunder and lighting" combo has given opponents trouble, especially in the triple option schemes coach Landry draws up.
WR and TE: Senior TE Ricky Stanford (95 ovr) chose to stay for his senior year, and he will lead a young wr and te corp. Three junior wrs rate in the mid 80s for the Sooners.
OL: This isn't the strongest group, but they don't have to be in the option attack. They are young and should they gel, they will become the cornerstone of the program in the next several years.
DL: With all four starters rated over 88 this unit will look to control the LOS and give free roam to the Sooner LB corp. Senior End Marques Hampton (91 ovr) leads the way.
LBs: The deepest position group on the field for the Sooners features a rotation of five players who will see serious playing time for the Sooners.
Sec: Seniors Brain Johnson and Jon Stephens (91 ovr each) lead a talented, fast, and athletic secondary.
Coach's take: "We just want to take care of the little things and not worry about the record. Each week we are going to compete and try and improve. Maybe if we accomplish that we can get ourselves out of the Mac and Cheese bowl and represent Sooner Nation where it belongs, in the BCS."
Three seasons, three total losses. The Aggies lone loss last season came to a tough Arkansas squad. Returning starter Matt Davis had a rough season as the reigning Heisman winner. He threw more picks than TDs and had his worst game against the rival Razorbacks. The season was still a success though, with coach HipHopp leaning more on the running game later in the year. This season there is once again upheaval in the divisional setup of the SEC. The lone user divisional foe is SEC newcomer Donkalion at Auburn who looks to turn around a Tiger squad that had fallen on hard times. The Aggies wont meet Arkansas or LSU unless they make it to the SEC championship which is never a given. A big test will be a late season trip the The Farm to play the defending champion Stanford Cardinal followed by a trip to Bama under a new head coach. The talent level is still high and Matt Davis looks to be a leader with lots of new faces around him. Mike Evans finished his senior year and went in the first round of the draft. The D-Line also lost a first rounder in sack master DE Julian Obioha. The OLine also took some hits but younger guys look ready to step up. All in all, the Aggies are ready to Gig' Em!
Matt Davis returns looking for redemption from a disappointing Junior season. He forced too many passes deep into coverage and let games get away from him. Coach HipHopp has stated that he wants to emphasize shorter passes and lean heavily on the running game as always.
Running Back: Trey Williams and Tra Carson have both graduated. Junior James White has been chomping at the bit and looked good in mop up duty last season. He has good speed and strength and should be a great all around back. True Freshman and 5 star athlete Shelton Arrington will be his primary backup. He could have excelled at HB or WR and should be a real threat when he gets in the game. He will get solid minutes in the two back sets and will be primed to take over for White in a a few years.
Wide Receiver: Mike Evans was automatic, but he's making big bucks now. Still there is a ton of experience returning with multiple Seniors including William Jenkins, Eddie Pope and Joe Gardner. Coach HipHopp hopes to get the WRs more involved this year as the entire passing game struggled last year.
TE: Always a key position on HipHopps teams. 2nd team preseason All American Darrick Tanner returns for his Junior season and should produce yet again. Junior speedster Steve "The Joker" Miller will be fighting with stud True Freshman Drew McCray for TE2 minutes. Miller is the pure receiving threat (with still no blocking ability) while McCray is rock solid in all facets. Not a speedster but solid receiver and blocker.
OL: The only returning starters are the two stud guards and Germain Ifedi is the only Senior. The youngsters are talented though and there is enough solid depth to keep them fresh.
DL: Two new but talented starters at DE will lead the rotation including super freshman Jess Rucker whose raw speed should be a weapon tearing up oposing backfields. DT returns Polo Manukainiu and a deep cast of strong and fast bulls.
LB: Junior Darian Claiborne will lead this unit with his exceptional speed along with fellow returning starter Brett Wade. These two both had 60+ solo tackles last season and they have solid depth behind them.
CB: Noel Ellis resisted the urge to be drafted in the 7th round this year and will lead a strong group of corners including Sr Tavares Garner.
S: Safety is always a strength for HipHopps teams and returning Junior starters Kam Miles and Josh Bracken will be all over the place. Weldon will man the Nickel Safety slot in the 4-2-5 and will look to wreak havoc.
LSU TEAM PREVIEW
QB: Hayden Rettig Junior(R) will be leading the Tigers into this next season. Coach Witness stated Rettig has never started a game for us but he's been around our system for a while. Great arm strength and accuracy should have a good year with all the wr's returning from last year championship run help lighting the load for him.
RB: Kyle Miller Soph highly recruited a year ago jumped right into the rotation early. With stud Jeremy Hill graduating this past spring Miller will have big shoes to fill with a heavier workload, but dont sleep on back up speedy back Roy Taylor have yet to get a carry but with 95 speed who can catch him?
WR and TE: Key target Travin Dural Senior(R) had a good year taking over the #1 spot on the depth chart. Speedy guy should be connecting with Rettig to help get this Tiger Offense pumped up leading a very beefy recieving core. De'Sean Smith Junior(R) had a good run towards the end of the year and in the BCS game with clutch plays look forward to another year with this guy around.
OL: The entire group of guys returning with nothing but experience. These guys got a scheme down and its working well.
DL: Same as OL a bunch of returning verterans with experience. Greg Gilmore Junior(R) big body in the middle will be a wrecking ball this upcoming season.
LB: Ronnie Fiest Senior(R) after a great year last season he's back to finish out strong and #1 on top. Defensive captain Louisiana native is hoping to put his home state on the map.
CB: Tre'Davious White Senior playing in his 4th adn final season should be exciting to see this year. After a great freshman run soph and junior years was so-so. Now being the #1 guy he will lead a stacked depth chart of corner's.
S: C. Davis Freshman(R) the guy will be making his first start this upcoming season. Listed at 6'7 who play defense that long but deep down inside defense is where he wants to be.
2016 Michigan Wolverines Preview
The Wolverines wrapped up their 2015 campaign with a Bowl victory over UCONN to end the season 9-4. This was under the watchful eye of Interim coach Sean Hoke. Forward to 2016, where Coach Hoke loses the interim tag and becomes the full fledged coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Although 9-4 left this team with a lot of questions as to their future, there were some signature wins that could help a program grow. The two most notable were PSU and tOSU. Close victories to say the least, but key building blocks for a new coaching staff.
On offense, Coach Hoke has the luxury of returning a veteran offensive line, a SR QB and a SR RB. This should help the Wolverines put points on the board in bunches. Derrick Green is a "MAN" at RB. At 6'-0, 225lbs, Derrick is a smash mouth, downhill type of runner. He is not as cheesy speedy as the other BIG10 elite backs but makes up for it in toughness. He is poised to have a big season, fueled by the lack of national recognition by the media. QB Shane Morris will need to continue improving on his ball protection heading into the season. With the lack of game changing WRs, he will be relied on to play mistake free football. This may not be such an unreasonable task since he will still have the services of TE Jake Butt. Jake made some game saving plays last season and will most likely need to again this season.
Defense will be some what of a mystery this season for the Wolverine coaching staff. D-line will be solid with 6 SRs rotating through at DE/DT. DE Taco Charlton will finally get his chance to show his athleticism. At 6'6", 276lbs, he could be a menace in the pass rush. There are some fresh faces at LB. JR MLB David Adams and RSFR Buck Grant will split duties at MLB. Royce Jenkins-Stone and Mike McCray will control the outside. In the defensive backfield, look for FS Jeremy Clark and SS Dymonte Thomas to lock up deep middle.
Season Prediction - 9-3 (6-2)
Oregon Ducks 2016
The Ducks return Heisman runner up Jarvis Lumpkin for his sophomore season. His athleticism at the quarterback position is unmatched in the collegiate game, but it's his passing ability that will have to lead the Ducks to a solid season.
Thomas Tyner is back for his senior season and is the next in line in a great group of running backs that Coach Jandy has had during his tenure. Unfortunately, Calvin Davidson, the "Thunder" to Tyner's "Lightning," was lost for the season during spring training camp. This will be the second season in a row that the young back has missed. While the fans and coaches feel for Davidson, he does not feel sorry for himself. He's using his lost time as motivation to come back stronger than ever for the 2017 campaign.
The receiving corps possesses a lot of speed, but not a ton of size. While all of the top 3 receivers are big bodies, there aren't any huge targets like 6'5" Dwayne Stanford was last year. Time will tell how this unit is able to mesh.
The offensive line certainly isn't the best that Coach Jandy has had, but it is definitely the youngest. It returns zero starters from last year's unit and does not have a senior to provide leadership. There will likely be some growing pains this season, but with everyone returning next year, there is a very bright future ahead.
Just like the offensive line, the defensive line does not have a senior that the young players can look to for guidance and leadership. Three words describe the D line: young, talented, and inexperienced.
Brett Bafaro anchors a linebacking squad that lost all 3 starters from a season ago.
While senior leadership is lacking on both of the lines, the secondary has an abundance of it. The Amaoko twins lead a strong cornerback unit, and both safeties are returning starters that are back for their last year as a Duck.
This year's Oregon Duck team is very young and inexperienced. However, they possess immense talent, and time will tell how they are able to grow.
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