FSU No. 1 in coaches' poll

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
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Surprise, surprise -- Florida State is the preseason No. 1 team in the Amway Coaches Poll.

The Seminoles received 56 of the 62 first-place votes as they enter 2014 looking to repeat as national champions.

Clemson and North Carolina were the only other ACC teams to be ranked, coming in at Nos. 16 and 23, respectively. For those keeping track, that means UNC is the only team from the Coastal Division to be ranked in the poll. This comes after Miami was chosen by the media in Greensboro, North Carolina, last week as the preseason Coastal favorite, in the same poll that saw Duke receive the most first-place Coastal votes. It is worth repeating again: This division race is wide open.

Notre Dame, which begins its football affiliation with the ACC this fall, checks in at No. 17 in the coaches' poll.

Miami leads the ACC contingent in the "others receiving votes" category of the coaches' poll, coming in at No. 34 overall. Right behind the Hurricanes? Duke and Louisville, at Nos. 35 and 36, respectively. Virginia Tech comes in at No. 40 while Georgia Tech is No. 48.

Half of the ACC's coaches vote in the poll: Frank Beamer, David Cutcliffe, Larry Fedora, Jimbo Fisher, Al Golden, Paul Johnson and Dabo Swinney. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly votes as well. Shockingly, all eight of those coaches saw their teams receive votes.

Irish lunch links

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
12:00
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Brian Kelly on deck for tomorrow ...
For all those people fretting that a playoff in college football would somehow water down the regular season, I offer up the blockbuster weekend of Sept. 3. 2016.

Yes, it’s still a couple of years away and we’re supposed to be focusing on what’s right in front of us. But, geez, that Saturday to open the 2016 season could very well provide the most attractive lineup of nonconference games on one day that we’ve ever seen.

For that, at least in large part, we all have the College Football Playoff to thank.

Some of the matchups were already set or in the process of being set. But the real impetus in beefing up all these nonconference schedules was that a playoff was coming.

And, now, with a selection committee holding the keys to those coveted four playoff spots, we’re going to be in store for some terrific nonconference showdowns in the regular season for years to come. Simply, teams that don’t play and win those types of games are going to be on the outside looking in, which makes the regular season as important as ever.

My only knock on that weekend to kick off the 2016 season is that there are too many good games. I want to watch them all.

We’ve all been clamoring for an Alabama-USCmatchup. Well, we’re finally going to get it in Arlington, Texas to open that season.

And if you like your football Southern style, Clemson at Auburn has a nice ring to it. Lewis Grizzard, the late Southern humorist, once said that Clemson was Auburn with a lake. In a lot of ways, they’re virtual clones of each other right down to their break-neck style of offense. Even more enticing, this is a home-and-home series with Auburn traveling to Clemson the next year.

There won’t be a more unique game that weekend than LSU facing Wisconsin in historic Lambeau Field. Perhaps we’ll get to see Les Miles perform the “Lambeau Leap” if the Tigers win.

Have the remote control ready because we also get UCLA at Texas A&M, Notre Dame at Texas and BYU Cougars at Arizona (in Glendale, Ariz.).

That’s just the first weekend, too.

A week later, Tennessee and Virginia Tech will “trade paint” at Bristol Motor Speedway. And two weeks later, Ohio State travels to Oklahoma and Oregon visits Nebraska.

So much for opening the college football season with a tune-up … or two.

Irish lunch links

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
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Quite a Cubs game last night, huh?
Gas up the family station wagon and hit the Holiday Road. The Ultimate Road Trip is back! Over the next couple of weeks we're going to look at each week during the 2014 season and pick the can't-miss game (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games, we'll work in two).

Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.

Welcome to Week 11.

Saturday, Nov. 8
  • Colorado at Arizona
  • Notre Dame at Arizona State
  • UCLA at Washington
  • Oregon at Utah
  • Washington State at Oregon State
  • Byes: California, Stanford, USC
My choice: Notre Dame at Arizona State

Why: I’m really, really intrigued by UCLA at Washington for a few reasons. And it was a tough call between that game vs. the Domers in the Desert. There was all sorts of innuendo flying around when Steve Sarkisian left Washington. And at the center of those rumors was UCLA coach Jim Mora, who has plenty of ties to Seattle and was thought to have been contacted about the vacancy. Whether it happened officially or through back channels is still fodder for debate. But we know a couple of days later UCLA announced an extension for Mora. You do the math.

But the Notre Dame-ASU game has some intrigue of its own. For starters, that was a game last season (played in Arlington) that the Sun Devils lament. I’ve talked a few times with Sun Devils’ coaches and players and they frequently point to that game as the one that got away. So there is a bit of a revenge element.

Second, there was the whole controversy about Notre Dame trying to pull out of its trip to Tempe and the Sun Devils essentially telling the Fighting Irish to stick a fork in it, you’re coming. (You could probably come up with several other creative uses for ‘fork’ on your own).

This is what then-Athletic Director Steve Patterson told the Arizona Republic:
“The school didn’t have the courtesy to have the athletic director call the athletic director at ASU to discuss it. They had their PR guy call (ASU Associate Athletic Director) Mark Brand to give us a message on Friday afternoon while everybody was out of town at the Final Four.

“At least in the little Catholic town I grew up in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, the good nuns wouldn’t have thought that was a very appropriate way to honor your word.”

Shots fired, indeed.

This will be the second of three games between Notre Dame and the Pac-12. The Irish host Stanford on Oct. 4 and wrap the season Nov. 29 at USC. You might recall the Irish have had some success against the league lately. They went 2-0 in 2012, topping Stanford at home in overtime and USC on the road. And then last year season went 2-1, beating ASU on neutral footing, USC at home and falling only to Stanford.

Here’s the thing about ASU. We don’t know yet what the defense is going to look like, but we have a pretty good idea of how explosive the Sun Devils can be on offense. If that defense comes together quickly, there is a good chance the Sun Devils could be a top-20 team. Which means this game could have significant ramifications for the national perception of the league.

You can check out the rest of the road trip here.

Irish lunch links

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
12:00
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Talking season continues ...
Notre Dame begins its football scheduling and bowl arrangement with the ACC this season, and hopes are high the Irish will help the league across the board -- especially when it comes to strength of schedule.

But will the Irish end up helping or hurting? ACC reporters Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna debate.

Andrea says: Jury is out on the Irish.

Imagine this scenario playing out: Oct. 18, Doak Campbell Stadium. Notre Dame and Florida State, putting together an instant classic. The Irish have the Seminoles on the ropes, threatening their perch atop the college football rankings.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsAdding Notre Dame to the schedule makes Florida State's task of repeating as champs that much more daunting.
These two programs have played their fair share of nail-biters. This one would join the list, after Notre Dame kicks a last-second field goal to take down the defending national champions. The loss ends up ruining Florida State's chances of repeating.

Think having Notre Dame as a quasi-partner would go over well in that nightmare scenario?

Not exactly. And while hypotheticals are generally a meaningless exercise, in this case they cannot be ignored. Because we really have no idea what the addition of Notre Dame will do to the ACC this year. The Irish could help, or just as likely, they could hurt the league.

Florida State is but one example, though it is the most important. The Seminoles are playing a much more difficult schedule than a year ago. Not only do they have a neutral-site game against Oklahoma State, they have to play rival Florida, expected to be improved.

Two difficult nonconference games against power-five opponents is challenging enough. Adding Notre Dame into the mix gives Florida State the toughest nonconference slate in the ACC AND the toughest nonconference slate among the other teams expected to be ranked in the preseason Top 5.

Nobody else has to play two power-five opponents and Notre Dame. Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma and Auburn play one power-five opponent each. Notre Dame is not on their respective schedules.

Notre Dame is expected to be a preseason Top 25 team, so that means the Irish certainly have the capability of pulling an upset. And the placement of that game on the schedule is not exactly ideal. After a bye, Florida State has to travel to Louisville for a Thursday night game, the toughest two-game stretch on the schedule.

Now, it is well within the realm of possibility that a one-loss Florida State would make it into the playoffs, but nobody even knows how the committee is going to start evaluating candidates. Nothing can be accepted as a given.

Then there is the bowl partnership between Notre Dame and the ACC. Say Florida State is out of the playoff and into the Discover Orange Bowl. Say the Irish and Clemson finish with the same record. Well, the Russell Athletic or Capital One Bowls would be well within their rights to take Notre Dame over Clemson. Can't imagine that would go over very well, either.

There’s no doubt the partnership looks good on paper. But there may be a time it backfires.

Matt says: The Irish will be a huge plus.

Notre Dame football's affiliation with the ACC moving forward is far from a one-sided affair. Yes, the Irish do get to expand their schedule after finding a safe (and natural) home for their other sports. And yes, the Irish do gain access to a ton of postseason opportunities that simply did not exist for them when they were entirely independent. But the school and the conference are now friends with benefits, and that means that the ACC receives some perks from this relationship as well.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsNotre Dame's partnership with the ACC has already boosted the conference's profile.
For one, Notre Dame is a sudden boost to the league's schedule strength. Getting the Irish once every three years on their slates undoubtedly alleviates some of the stress that conference athletic directors are under to fulfill league requirements each year. And, in years in which ACC schools host Notre Dame, the home team is almost guaranteed to sell out its stadium for that contest, along with gaining the priceless exposure that comes with hosting a prime-time, nationally televised contest. (And when Notre Dame comes to town, sure as you're born, the game will be under the lights. The Irish have not played a road matinee since 2011, at Pitt.) On top of that, the opportunities could be there for one fewer road game, if not exactly an extra home one. Look no further than next year's clash with Boston College, scheduled for Nov. 21, 2015 at Boston's Fenway Park. That is an Irish home game, as the program takes one of its games off-site each year as part of the "Shamrock Series." So it is one fewer road trip for the Eagles next year, and it is possible that others in the ACC could find themselves in similar situations in 2017 and beyond. The Irish "hosted" former league member Maryland in Landover for their 2011 Shamrock Series contest game as well.

Let's not overlook what the semi-addition of Notre Dame has already done for the league's exposure, either. As part of Notre Dame's ACC agreement, the Irish can take an ACC team's place in a non-access bowl if their record is better than, equal to or within one win of the ACC team -- or if the Irish are ranked higher. The Irish would share in the revenues of the non-access bowl. And, well, what do you know? The ACC bowl lineup that starts this year -- the same year that the Irish begin their football partnership with the league -- is deeper and better than before, with the Capital One Bowl and New Era Pinstripe Bowl among the league's new 13 postseason partners. Some coincidence.

Sure, Notre Dame could upset an expected national title contender like Florida State this year and potentially ruin the league's chance at reaching the four-team College Football Playoff, but "potentially" is the key word there. The Seminoles have, after all, opened as 24-point favorites over the Irish, so there really shouldn't be much to worry about. And heck, it's not like Notre Dame hasn't beaten FSU when it supposedly mattered before, only to see the Noles crowned as national champions later. (Lest we forget about the '93 Game of the Century.)

And if the Irish were to win in Tallahassee? Well, chances are they would be having a really good season then. Playoff good. Which would mean one less spot in the ACC bowl lineup for them to take from a team with the same or better record. And, perhaps, give the ACC an even stronger presence in the playoff, which is supposed to reward strength of schedule, meaning a 12-1 FSU team with nonconference wins over Oklahoma State and Florida would, theoretically, still have a very strong case.

A case strengthened by Notre Dame.
video

Who believed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would win the Heisman Trophy before the start of the 2013 season?

Who had former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam as an All-American?

ESPN.com is counting down the top 100 players in college football this week, but there are plenty of other players who might be poised for breakthrough seasons in 2014. Here are 10 players who might become household names before season's end:

Trenton Brown, OL, Florida

Florida's myriad injuries on the offensive line were a big reason it finished last season with a 4-8 record, its worst finish since a winless campaign in 1979. Among the 15 players who suffered season-ending injuries were offensive tackles D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green and guard/tackle Tyler Moore.

If not for the injuries up front, Brown, a transfer from Georgia Military Academy, might have redshirted in his first season at UF. But he was forced to start at right tackle in the final five games after Moore was hurt in a scooter accident. If Brown plays up to his potential this coming season, the 6-foot-8, 350-pound senior might become one of the SEC's best offensive linemen. He's slated to start at right guard and will be a load for interior defensive linemen to try to move.

Greg Bryant, RB, Notre Dame


(Read full post)


video
If there was any doubt that the USC Trojans have the ability to recruit coast to coast under Steve Sarkisian, those questions have quickly been answered in the 2016 class with Michigan two-way standout Daelin Hayes committing to the Trojans on July 26 following a two-day unofficial visit to Los Angeles.

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Georgia fans have had to watch rivals Auburn and Alabama crow after recruiting victory after recruiting victory the past few months, but Bulldog fans got a chance to thump their chest some after landing two of the nation’s best 2016 prospects Saturday after its Dawg Night camp. But will those commitments stay true for the long haul? Plus, Penn State’s James Franklin remains hot on the recruiting trial.


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Video: Rudy's 'Lost Playoff Speech'

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
10:45
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video

In a recently discovered clip from his impassioned locker room speech in the movie "Rudy," Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger lays out his idea for a college football playoff.
Troy AikmanUSA TODAY SportsTroy Aikman played under Barry Switzer in Oklahoma before enrolling at UCLA.
Have you logged on Twitter today? Turned on the TV? Went to the grocery store or picked up your child from the babysitter? Then chances are you know the King has returned.

LeBron James is going back to Cleveland.



That has us at CFB Nation thinking: Which college football players originally left home only to transfer back to put together a successful career? So we racked our brains and came up with a handful of the most successful transfers from the last 25 years of college football. The condition, obviously, is the transfer had to be made back to a school in their native state or at least within 100 miles, give or take a few.

If LeBron ever asks, they can all attest that there truly is no place like (playing at) home.

QB Troy Aikman, UCLA (by way of Oklahoma)

The California native left the Golden State and played his high school football in Oklahoma before enrolling with nearby perennial power Oklahoma, led by legendary coach Barry Switzer. Aikman was promised the Sooners' offense would be more passer-friendly, but when Aikman broke an ankle Switzer went back to the wishbone offense. The Sooners went on to win the national championship under the direction of a freshman quarterback, essentially closing the door on Aikman's Oklahoma career. The Covina, California, product returned to the state and enrolled at UCLA. In his first season with the Bruins, Aikman was awarded with the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. He led UCLA to consecutive 10-win seasons and finished third in the Heisman balloting in 1988. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1989 draft and is a three-time Super Bowl champion.

 Joe FlaccoMarvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco transferred to Delaware to play near his hometown in southern New Jersey.
QB Joe Flacco, Delaware (by way of Pittsburgh)

Technically Flacco did not return to his home state of New Jersey. However, Delaware's campus is less than an hour from Flacco's South Jersey home, making it a closer option than in-state Rutgers, the only FBS program in the state. Flacco played sparingly his first two seasons at Pitt before transferring to FCS powerhouse Delaware. He took the Blue Hens to the FCS national championship and his name is littered throughout the school's record book. He was taken in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft and has a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP award in his trophy room.

QB Scott Frost, Nebraska (by way of Stanford)

Rarely does an elite prep player from Nebraska leave the state, especially during the Cornhuskers' glory years under Tom Osborne. That's what Frost did, though, spending two seasons at Stanford before returning to the nation's heartland. In his first season, he was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. As a senior, he led Nebraska to an undefeated record and a share of the national championship. He was the first quarterback in school history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season.

QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (by way of Michigan)

The second-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2007, Mallett signed with then-Michigan coach Lloyd Carr as the heir apparent to senior Chad Henne. However, spread-option coach Rich Rodriguez replaced Carr at season's end, prompting the traditional pocket passer Mallett to transfer. The Batesville, Arkansas, native moved home to play for the Razorbacks and Bobby Petrino, and he had two exceptional seasons. A two-time All-SEC second-team selection, Mallett threw for more than 3,600 yards in both of his seasons in Fayetteville and led the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl in 2010. He finished seventh in Heisman voting that season.

WR Randy Moss, Marshall (by way of Notre Dame and Florida State)

Transferring was not entirely up to Moss, whose own transgressions cost him the opportunity to play at his dream school, Notre Dame, and under coach Bobby Bowden, who told Sports Illustrated in 1997 Moss was just as gifted as Deion Sanders. Notre Dame denied his enrollment for his role in a fight, and Florida State removed him from the football team after he tested positive for marijuana, violating his probation. Moss transferred to Marshall, which at the time was a Division I-AA school, allowing him to play immediately. In two seasons, he accumulated 174 receptions, 3,529 yards and 55 total touchdowns. He was taken in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft and is considered one of the greatest receivers in league history.

Cameron NewtonChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesGeorgia native Cam Newton won a Heisman Trophy after transferring to Auburn.
QB Cam Newton, Auburn (by way of Florida and Blinn College)

Much like Moss, Newton's transfer issues were self-inflicted. Urban Meyer removed Newton from the Gators' roster following charges of felony burglary, larceny and obstructing justice stemming from an incident in which he stole another student's laptop. He enrolled at Blinn College (Texas) and led the program to the junior college national championship. The following season, Newton was the starting quarterback at Auburn and won a second consecutive personal national title, leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and BCS trophy. He won the Heisman Trophy in the weeks leading up to the BCS national championship. He declared for the NFL draft in the days following the national title and went No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers. He was the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year and is a two-time Pro Bowler.

Honorable mention: Urban Meyer, Ohio State (by way of Bowling Green, Utah and Florida)

So he isn't a player and technically never transferred, but it certainly has a transfer feel to it. He left Florida after the 2010 season, sat out 2011 and then was named Ohio State's coach before the 2012 campaign. An Ohio native, Meyer's first college coaching job was as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. Even as the coach at other programs, he always spoke fondly of former coaches Woody Hayes and Earle Bruce, who hired Meyer away from a Cincinnati high school.

 

This week ESPN.com spent time looking at the future of college football, so here are a few players returning home -- not all are eligible in 2014 -- who could be the next impact transfers.

QB Jacob Coker, Alabama (by way of Florida State)

Coker is immediately eligible and is the favorite to be the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback for the opener. He left Florida State after the 2013 season after losing out on the job to Jameis Winston.

QB Brandon Connette, Fresno State (by way of Duke)

The change-of-pace and red zone quarterback for the Blue Devils' run to the ACC championship, Connette left for Fresno State to be closer to his ailing mother.

QB Tyler Murphy, Boston College (by way of Florida)

Murphy is from Connecticut, but there aren't many FBS programs up in New England, and Boston is only 100 miles from Murphy's hometown. The BC coaches believe Murphy is a better player than he showed at Florida and can help Steve Addazio take the program to the next level.

LB Mike Mitchell, Texas Tech (by way of Ohio State)

A blue-chip prospect in the 2013 class, Ohio State was considered the long-time favorite for the athletic product. He signed with the Buckeyes but only lasted one season before transferring to Texas Tech, which was not a finalist during Mitchell's recruitment.

DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA (by way of Notre Dame)

This situation got a little ugly last summer. Vanderdoes was the center of a signing day controversy as Notre Dame listed him on their list of signees before Vanderdoes publicly committed at his announcement later in the day. Before ever playing a down for Notre Dame, Vanderdoes decided he wanted to enroll at UCLA, but Notre Dame would not grant him a release. He petitioned the NCAA and was able to play at UCLA this past fall.
Our five-man panel used a formula earlier this week to determine that Notre Dame is the No. 9 college football program set up for the next three years. Brian Fremeau and his Football Outsiders team tried something similar, using their own formula.

Using their weighted five-year program ratings — relying on program trajectory as a better indicator than previous-year data — the group lists its top 10 future programs, along with the next five.

The differences are pretty eye-opening. And Notre Dame does not make the list.

That's hardly the biggest difference between the two lists, with other teams appearing on one and not the other, while others see their positions roughly 10 places apart in the separate rankings.

As always, it's interesting to see who excels in different categories, and how each program is set up for the future, as Fremeau and his team project future win percentage and playoff likelihood for the next three years as well.

As for the rest of the links to get you into your weekend ...

Notre Dame mailblog

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
9:00
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The season's getting closer ...

Shaun from Connecticut writes: Matt... Leading up to preseason camp here in a few weeks, what is your opinion and feel on who the starting QB is going to be? Is Golson a lock at the position?

Matt Fortuna: Shaun, I'd say Everett Golson remains the favorite, but having Malik Zaire there to push him is a good problem to have. Zaire is a player who will not go down without a fight, and so far I think everyone has been pleased with Golson's response. It is also pretty telling that Golson went back to work with George Whitfield Jr. after the spring season, and that he went out to help at the Elite 11 recently as well.




Ronald Harjers from Bridge City, Texas, writes: Big Fan of your work, Matt. My question is where is the fire in the Irish. I watched the Irish win the title when I was 18. That team and even the early 1990s teams had that fire in their hearts and eyes. I haven't seen that type of fire in a long time. Do you see this team coming together as one, and fired up! Go Irish, fear the Golden Domers.

Matt Fortuna: Appreciate the kind words, Ronald. While it is difficult to judge such an amorphous concept, I will say that it is hard to argue the determination that the 2012 team showed in making a run to the BCS title game. Just look at two of its defining moments of the regular season: Goal-line stands on four straight plays against rivals Stanford and USC to clinch big wins. That defense was obviously anchored by NFL players with dominant personalities like Manti Te'o and Kapron Lewis-Moore, and those types of combinations don't just grow on trees. I thought last year's defense did what it could under the circumstances, as the injuries seemed never-ending. But it will be interesting to see how everything comes together this year, when there is a new defensive coordinator, plenty of personnel turnover and not many seniors.




Matt Fortuna: Outside of DaVaris Daniels, I'll say Corey Robinson steps up with a big sophomore year. He showed plenty of signs down the stretch last season and has now been in the program for consecutive springs, which should help him fill out his frame. His length allows him to get to balls that few others on the roster can, and the coaches absolutely love his attitude. One guy who often gets overlooked in this conversation is Ben Koyack, who is obviously a tight end but should see much more action come his way with Troy Niklas out of the picture. Koyack stepped up in the second half of 2013, catching nine passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns during the Irish's final six games. That has not gone unnoticed outside of the program, with plenty of preseason hype coming his way via watch lists and All-America teams. If we know anything about Notre Dame tight ends in recent years, it is that they will be used in the passing game often. And 2014 is the senior Koyack's time to shine.




Chris Tanner
Courtesy of Chris TannerNotre Dame fan Chris Tanner visited Doak Campbell Stadium on the FSU campus.
Chris Tanner writes: On traveling back from Florida, we made a stop in Tallahassee. I wanted Irish Nation to start getting excited for October 18th as it’s only 102 days away. Attached is the picture we took outside the stadium next to a statue whose phrase “Unconquered” can easily be revised with a simple place of a vehicle.

Matt Fortuna: Funny stuff, Chris. I'm loving the photo submissions. Keep them coming, fans.
Two more watch lists were released Thursday, and the ACC is well-represented. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is awarded to the nation’s top defensive player by the Charlotte Touchdown Club. The Outland Trophy is given to the nation’s top interior lineman, offensive or defensive.

Here are the ACC and Notre Dame players to make the watch lists:

Bronko Nagurski Trophy

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson: A third-team All-ACC selection last season, Anthony was brilliant in the Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State with 11 tackles and an interception. Anthony is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: Beasley is a disruptive force in opponents’ backfields and registered 13 sacks as a junior. He led the ACC in sacks in 2013. Beasley also is on the Bednarik Award watch list.

LB Kelby Brown, Duke: The Blue Devils under David Cutcliffe are most known for offense, but Brown is a stout defender and one of the conference’s best. He will make a run at 100 tackles for a second consecutive season this fall. Brown is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DB Jeremy Cash, Duke: Cash was an instant-impact player for the Blue Devils in 2013 following a transfer from Ohio State. With another year in the system, Cash is poised for a huge season. Cash is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DL Mario Edwards, Florida State: The former No. 1 recruit nationally was dominant in the national title game. Edwards is now the leader of the defensive line and has just as good a chance as any to win the Nagurski. Edwards is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech: An impact performer as a freshman and a second-team All-ACC selection, Fuller is set to be the next great defensive back at Virginia Tech. Fuller is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DB Anthony Harris, Virginia: An All-ACC selection as a junior, Harris will be looked upon to lead the turnaround for the Cavs on defense. It is a talented unit, and Harris, a team captain this fall, might be the best. Harris is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson: With Beasley constantly seeing double-teams, this opens up the door for Jarrett to be an interior force for the Tigers’ defensive line, which is arguably the country’s best. Jarrett is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech: He helped make a name for himself against Alabama at the beginning of the season, and his strong play continued throughout the season. Maddy is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville: It will be interesting to see how he fares without defensive guru Charlie Strong, but he is as talented as they come. Mauldin is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami: One of the few bright spots on Miami’s defense last season, Perryman is the unquestioned leader of the Hurricanes defense. He could put up a huge number of tackles this fall. Perryman is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

CB KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame: He has started every game in his career and was a FWAA Freshman All-American in 2012. He starred in the Irish’s bowl game with an interception and three pass breakups. Russell is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame: Poised to be one of the best linebackers of recent history for the Irish, Smith started all 13 games as a freshman. He had the third-most tackles for a Notre Dame freshman in school history in 2013. Smith is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

CB P.J. Williams, Florida State: Williams was one of FSU’s best players this spring, and he might be the country’s best cornerback. His stiffest competition could come from the opposite side of the field in teammate Ronald Darby, who surprisingly did not make the list. Williams also is on the Bednarik Award watch list.

Outland Trophy

DL Sheldon Day, Notre Dame: An impact player since his freshman season, Day was second among Notre Dame defensive linemen in tackles last season.

OT Cameron Erving, Florida State: A potential first-round draft pick, Erving elected to stay in school for another run at a national championship. As Jameis Winston’s blindside protector, few linemen nationally hold as much responsibility.

OT Sean Hickey, Syracuse: A workout warrior and one of the strongest players in college football, Hickey is the linchpin to the Orange offensive line.

OG Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech: A two-time ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week, Mason has started 26 of the last 28 games for the Yellow Jackets.

OG Josue Matias, Florida State: Another potential first-round candidate along Florida State’s offensive line, Matias is athletic enough to play offensive tackle, too. He experimented at left tackle this spring.

OC Jake Smith, Louisville: Smith could end up playing right guard, where he started earlier in his career, but he is coming off a junior season in which he started at center. Smith is also on the Rimington watch list.

OG Laken Tomlinson, Duke: A key along the offensive line for the Blue Devils, Tomlinson likely will be a preseason All-ACC team selection. He was a first-team All-ACC coaches selection in 2013 as the Blue Devils’ best lineman.

Clemson’s Grady Jarrett and Virginia Tech’s Luther Maddy were represented on both lists.

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ESPN 300 athlete Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) took time out to talk recruiting and more with WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz on Tuesday at The Opening.
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