Sunday, August 3, 2014

College Football Preview 2014: Independents

The independent ranks lost two members for 2014 with Idaho and New Mexico State finding landing spots back in the Sun Belt. This is basically addition through subtraction, and will likely increase the overall independent profile for 2014 for the time being. With Navy bolting in 2015 for the AAC, that's merely temporary. Heading into 2014, three of four independents will likely be bowling, and it should be another strong showing in the mid to lower tier bowl circuit for two of the three.

Projected Order of Finish
1. Notre Dame
2. BYU
3. Navy
4. Army

Coaches on the Hot Seat

Best Coach
Bronco Mendenhall, BYU

Worst Coach

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Projected 2014 Record: 9-3
Head Coach: Brian Kelly (37-15 (5th season)
Lot's will depend on the ability of Everett Golson to rebound the offense to the form that the Irish showed in their championship run season of 2012. Back from suspension, Golson has the job all to himself, and he will need to shine brightly, and early on. The run game is looking for a new starter, but eventually the job should fall to former five star Greg Bryant, but he redshirted last season as he struggled with injury and struggled even more trying to figure out the playbook. Sophomore Tarean Folston holds the starting job heading into camp. DaVaris Daniels is the lone member of the receiving corps to return as a starter, but there is talent and depth, it's just a matter of who wins out in camp. Three starters return on the line in LT Ronnie Stanley, C Nick Martin, and RG Christian Lombard.
The front seven is thin on defense, with just two starters coming back in DT Sheldon Day and LB Jaylon Smith. Smith will have to step up and lead in the middle of the field as just a sophomore. KelVarae Russell is back at CB, while Austin Collinsworth returns at SS. The remainder of the secondary is also being rebuilt heading into camp, and it looks like the Irish will be young, and thin there as well.
Senior Kyle Brindza returns as the combo PK/P once again for the Irish, and with the rebuilding defense, his skills will be more important than ever.
Opening Game
8/30 Rice

Brigham Young Cougars
Projected 2014 Record: 9-3
Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (82-34, 10th season)
With Taysom Hill back at QB, anything is possible for the BYU offense, as Hill can carry a game with both arm and legs, even if his receiving corps is being completely overhauled for the 2014 season. BYU will be deep and loaded with transfers in that corps, but there is little to go on but hype and expectation so far. All of the new WRs will be juniors in Terenn Houk, Mitch Matthews, and Kurt Henderson, but Cody Hoffman is gone, and that's a huge hole to fill. Jamaal Williams will be a huge benefit after rushing for over 1200 yards last season, and will be the primary back, no committee. The line returns three starters from a group that struggled at times with inconsistency and injuries in 2013. LT De'ondre Wesley, LG Solomone Jaku, and RT Michael Yeck all return.
BYU really could use some improvement from the D, but that may be a tough go, with only DT Remington Peck. LB Alani Fua, and LB Bronson Kaufusi returning. The secondary, however, should be a bit more loaded with three of four spots taken up with returning starters in CB Robertson Daniel, S Craig Bills, FS Skye PoVey.
Moose Bingham looks like a lock to take the open PK job as a sophomore, but the Punter job is locked up with Scott Arellano coming back off of a solid 2013 campaign.
Opening Game
8/29 at U Conn

Navy Midshipmen
Projected 2014 Record: 9-3
Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (49-30, 8th season)
Navy has a top flight trigger man at QB in Keenan Reynolds, who rushed for 31 TDs last fall and scored 188 points on the season. He rushed for over 1300 yards as the leader of this option offense. THe line will be key, with four starters returning in LT Bradyn Heap, LG EK Binns, C Tanner Fleming, and RG Joe Zuzek. Navy will go with a committee at the all important FB spot, which will be led by senior Noah Copeland. Geoffery Whiteside will return to start at SB, and will be joined by DeBrandon Sanders who steps up from second string to start this fall after rushing for over 500 yards last fall. The receivers will both be new in Jamir Tillman and Brendan Dudeck.
Navy's weal point on D was against the run last fall, but that could change with the return of two starters on the line in DE Paul Quessenberry and NG Bernard Sarra. They will be joined in the front seven by returning LBs Chris Johnson and Jordan Drake. The secondary wasn't half bad in 2013, and has three returning starters in CBs Brendan Clements and Kwazel Bertrand, who will be joined by FS Parrish Gaines.
Nick Sloan returns at PK, but basically has only connected on two thirds of his career tries. That must improve at some point. Pablo Beltran is a four year starter at Punter, and had a decent 41.4 yard per punt average last fall.
Opening Game
8/30 Ohio State at Baltimore

Army Cadets
Projected 2014 Record: 2-10
Head Coach: Jeff Monken (1st season)
The Rich Ellersen era unfortunately ended after last season, and it's not like he didn't try, and even had some success. The success dried up, and in came Jeff Monken, who had some decent successes at Georgia Southern, and understands an option offense.
First task is finding a QB between Angel Santiago and AJ Schurr, who both have starting experience. I suggest picking one and going for it rather than using the dreaded two QB system. Larry Dixon is the FB, and he will likely finish his season in Army's top ten rushers list. Terry Baggett is a big play runner, and will compliment the pitch out game perfectly. Tony Giovannelli is the other starter at RB, and is a solid pass catcher as well. The big news is the return of RB Raymond Maples, who missed most of last season due to injury. Xavier Moss caught 35 passes last fall, and is the one returning starting WR. The line will be largely rebuilt, with only LG Steve Shumaker and RT Justn Gilbert returning.
Army wasn't purely horrible on D last fall, but couldn't stop the run. They may have just as many issues doing so with only two returning starters coming back in the front seven, and both are on the line in DE Mike Ugenyi and NT Richard Glover. There are no returning starters at LB, which is a huge hole to work out in camp. The good news is that the secondary returns intact, and the Cadets were incredibly strong against the pass, ranking 14th nationally. Josh Jenkins and Chris Carnegie return at the corners, while Geoff Bacon and Hayden Pierce are back at the safety slots.
PK Dan Grochowski will be the starter at PK, and if the offense can get him close, he could be a strong weapon after hitting 8 of 11 last fall. Punter Alex Tardieu was just awful at times in 2013, and yet he still has the job for lack of a better option. Bad punts and a rebuilding defense up front could be terrible news for the 2014 Cadets.
Opening Game
9/6 Buffalo

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