Lots of excellent news today on Florida State, its opponents, and the world of college football. Let's start with a piece on the massive FSU commitment, Alphonse Taylor:
At 6-foot-6 and 350 pounds, Taylor -- who has been nicknamed "Shank" since elementary school -- has the massive size college recruiters are looking for in an offensive tackle. He's also a former basketball player who has feet nimble enough to potentially project as a left tackle -- which could ultimately put him in line to make a lot of money one day in the NFL if he continues to progress.
"When coach (Nick) Saban came by, he watched Shank do agility drills for five minutes. He looked at [Alabama Secondary Coach & Area Recruiter] Jeremy Pruitt and he said, 'We haven't offered this guy?'" Davidson coach Fred Riley said. "Look at his feet. Look at his flexibility. He can put his hands flat on the ground."
Alabama and every other SEC school did offer a scholarship to Taylor, despite the fact that he's played only six high school games at offensive tackle. While Taylor said he strongly considered the Crimson Tide, he said he quickly fell in love with Florida State and committed to the Seminoles last month.
"When I went to all these SEC schools, I liked it. But when I went to Florida State, I just had a whole other feeling," he said. "I loved it my first time there. It progressed from there. I took my mom up there, she fell in love with it and I just felt the need to commit."
Starters Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders, both rising seniors, return at the tackle spots for the Seminoles, but the depth behind them is young. Taylor plans to graduate in December and enroll at FSU in January, hoping that an early start and the experience of going through spring drills will lead to early playing time.
"He's got great feet, he's got great technical skills, he's smart," Riley said. "This time next year, he'll have already finished spring practice in Tallahassee and will probably be battling for a starting job, knowing him. He's just that kind of kid. He's got a very, very bright future."
Taylor has a shot to end up as a five-star. Want to bet Nick Saban chewed that assistant out for not offering earlier?Here is some awesome video of FSU commitment Markuss Eligwe. What a good kid. And young!
Virginia's offense improved quite a bit in 2010, even if their schedule-adjusted numbers were not quite as friendly as their raw totals. Their defense, on the other hand, left something to be desired. Defense was never much of a problem under Al Groh, but in London's first year, they traded one problem for another. The Cavaliers ranked a paltry 99th in Def. F/+; only once in the previous four seasons had they ranked worse than 36th.
Generally speaking, the base of talent at Virginia isn't too bad. Former four-star recruits like receiver Tim Smith and offensive tackles Lady Aboushi and Morgan Moses are reaching maturity, and the Cavs bring in a stellar class this fall. Combined with a host of returning starters and a potentially healthy YPP margin, and it isn't impossible to talk yourself into UVa.
Of course, I was attempting to talk myself into them last September too, but the defense got in the way. Unless some of the freshmen and sophomores are ready out of the gates, the Cavs are still probably a year away from becoming a truly interesting factor in the ACC.
-The Tide don't fit the traditional mold of a preseason No. 1, but they're loaded
-Defense is full of pro prospects, could be better than championship 2009 unit
-How good is 'Bama? Nick Saban isn't worried about settling on a starting QB
Yep. Bama is unquestionably the most talented team in the country.
Despite speculation and media reports that there might be a willingness on the part of the NCAA to listen favorably to a USC appeal that had asked that the 30 scholarships lost over three years with a maximum of 75 allowed and a two-year postseason bowl ban be cut in half, USCFootball.com's sources indicate that USC's appeal has been denied completely.
The Trojans football team will be allowed to sign no more than 15 players to scholarships for the next three seasons (against a top limit of 25 for schools not under sanction).
And of even more immediate impact, USC would not be able to compete for the first-ever Pac-12 championship or appear in the first-ever postseason championship game in 2011 as well.
Of further concern, the NCAA's unprecedented additional sanction allowing players affected by the postseason ban this year to immediately transfer to another institution without sitting out a season would still be in play for this year's seniors.
Remember when Idaho was terrible? It wasn’t so long ago: it just almost feels that way. Just because I don’t think these Vandals will be very good doesn’t mean that I believe in the least that Idaho hasn’t turned a corner. The program most certainly has, and if the Vandals slide down to four or five wins – that’s my prediction – it is not a sign that the Akey-led progress has hit a wall. It just means that there are the sort of issues on this squad that most second-tier programs encounter every so often: issues like the offensive line, a change at quarterback and question marks on the defense, not issues like overall talent or depth, which plagued Idaho during its long dry period. In other words, I don’t think Idaho’s growth is over, not in the least. And I do think the Vandals can go 5-7 this fall; it’s just that those five wins wouldn’t be all that impressive, and I don’t Idaho can match up with the strong teams on its schedule. I do think the Vandals are a step ahead of San Jose State, New Mexico State and Bowling Green, and right along the same line as Utah State and Louisiana Tech, give or take. So the Vandals could win four of those five and add an F.C.S. win to go 5-7: In my mind, that’s not an impressive enough mark to justify a higher ranking. This is a fine team, just not a very good team, in my mind.
BCI: Finally, a refreshing take on the 2011 Seminoles. I have no doubt that Fisher has the 'Noles back on the upswing, but I'm not about to put FSU in the National Championship Game discussion quite yet. I still think the 'Noles are a year or two away from entering that discussion, if they ever get there. I mean, we HAVE been hearing this for years now ... However, the schedule does break FSU's way this year. Other than a home game against Oklahoma, Florida State has a manageable non-conference schedule and gets Miami and the two worst Coastal teams -- Duke and Virginia -- from the other side of the conference. Ten wins and another ACC Championship Game appearance seem within reach for the 'Noles this year, but I don't think that's good enough to crack anyone's top 5.
Biggest reason for hope: The hire of offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers.
It might have been the best offseason hire in the ACC, as it should help the Eagles where they needed it most -- at quarterback. Boston College has struggled to find a dependable quarterback, but Chase Rettig showed a lot of promise as a true freshman last year. Rettig should flourish under Rogers' guidance and show significant improvement in his second season as a starter. Not only is Rogers well-respected among his ACC peers, but he’s also got plenty of talent returning to work with. The Eagles return their leading rusher, passer and receiver from a year ago. They enter the fall confident in every starting position on offense, and 10 of the 13 receivers who caught a pass last season return.
Biggest reason for concern: Inexperience up front.
Both the offensive line and defensive line could be liabilities if young players don’t mature quickly. Three starters have to be replaced on the offensive line, including mainstay Anthony Castonzo, who had a league-high 54 starts. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen, and the defensive line will have a new look without Damik Scafe and Brad Newman. While both sides will introduce new full-time starters, there is significant experience returning. Getting the young backups caught up quickly and confident in taking meaningful reps will be the biggest challenge.