CFN 2013 First Look Rankings
No. 61 to 70
2013 CFN First Look Rankings
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It might seem way too early, but considering the
returning starters and all the other factors before
Signing Day and spring ball, where does everyone
stand? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for
2013. The First Look Ranking is based on how good
the teams appear to be at the moment.
61. South Florida (3-9)
One of the nation’s biggest disappointments last year, new head coach Willie Taggart has a strong team in place to turn things around right away. The offense has to start scoring and the mistakes have to stop, but more than anything else, the Bulls have to find one thing they can do at a high level.
Taggart’s teams can run the ball, but top back Demetris Murray is done, leaving Marcus Shaw to be the main man for the attack. The quarterback situation is hardly settled after Matt Floyd’s rough performance against Pitt at the end of the year, but he’s the most experienced option. The line will be fine in time, and Andre Davis heads a good enough receiving corps to expect a big improvement right away in the passing game.
The defense that was so spotty should be unstoppable up front with Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch combining with Ryan Giddens to terrorize quarterbacks. Top tackler and pass rusher Sam Barrington is gone at weakside linebacker, but DeDe
Lattimore is a nice piece to work around in the middle. Corner Kayvon Webster was a good tackler, but he’s finished, making Kenneth Durden the main man on the outside in the veteran secondary. The miserable return game needs a lot more out of Marcus Shaw and Andre Davis.
62. Pittsburgh (6-7)
With the move to the ACC, Pitt needs to shed its underachiever label. Among the most talented teams in the Big East over the last several seasons, it never seemed able to put it all together – the loss to Ole Miss in the bowl didn’t do much to show that things are quickly changing under Paul Cryst. But there’s enough talent returning to make some immediate noise in the Coastal.
The defense that finished 17th in the nation and was so terrific against the pass should be an instant problem for the new league with nine starters returning. Aaron Donald and Tyone Ezell form a solid tackle tandem on the interior, while safety Jarred Holley is the only starter gone in the back seven. Free safety Jason Hendricks is back after leading the team in tackles, while Donald should be a sure-thing all-star with his pass rushing ability.
The offense got a terrific season out of quarterback Tino Sunseri, but now it’ll be a battle to see who’ll get the first look this spring. The line was disastrous in pass protection, but three starters are back to try making it right. The running game is in good hands with Rushel Shell sure to get more of the workload with Ray Graham done, while Devin Street should be more of a threat as the main man for the passing attack.
63. Illinois (2-10)
Let’s just say things could’ve gone better in Tim Beckman’s first season. After finished second-to-last in the nation in total offense and scoring offense, former Western Michigan head man Bill Cubit was brought in to take over the attack and provide a boost. But after losing nine straight games and going 0-8 in the Big Ten, it’ll take a massive overhaul across the board.
For good and bad, nine starters return to the miserable offense, led by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for yet another season as the starter. The running game never got going, but Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson are good backs who need room to move. That could be a problem behind a mediocre line that loses tackle Hugh Thornton and center Graham Pocic. All the top targets are back for Scheelhaase.
The defense had the talent, but didn’t do anything with it. Linebacker Jonathan Brown has to be healthy to help bail out a line that loses tackle Akeem Spence early to the NFL and has to find replacements for Michael Buchanan and Glenn Foster. Four starters are gone from a five-man secondary that didn’t give up a ton of yards, but got torched by anyone who wanted to throw. Punter Nick Immekus is going to be a key factor again.
64. Iowa (4-8)
After a disastrous 4-8 season with a second half collapse, the pressure is on head coach Kirk Ferentz to come up with a big year. While he’s not going to be fired if he has another down season, the six game losing streak set the tone for a program that needs to at least get back to a bowl game and become a player in the Legends race.
The offense that was so miserable and so inefficient gets six starters back with three starters back up front and, hopefully and finally, the running back situation will be healthy and settled. Pounder Mark Weisman is back to be the workhorse, but the passing game that was so painfully inefficient needs production out of Jake Rudock or another option to take over for James Vandenberg. Kevonte Martin-Manley will be the No. 1 target and C.J. Fiedorowicz should be among the nation’s top tight ends.
While there are question marks about the O, the defense should be terrific with nine returning starters led by great tackling linebackers Anthony Hitchens and James Morris. The non-existent pass rush that finished last in the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for loss needs more out of Dominic Alvis and the ends. Micah Hyde is gone, but the rest of the secondary is back.
65. East Carolina (8-5)
It was a decent bounceback year after a rough 2011, but one loss to UCF kept the Pirates out of the Conference USA championship. This year’s team has the talent and the ability to get to the title game – helped by losing UCF out of the East – with 15 starters returning including eight on an offense that threw the ball well but struggled a bit for the ground game. Quarterback Shane Carden returns along with leading rusher Vintavious Cooper and all the key receivers. The defense loses end Michael Brooks off the front three, but the lost pieces are replaceable and top pass rusher Derrell Johnson is back on the outside. Corner is the one concern losing both Jacobi Jenkins and Leonard Paulk.
66. Connecticut (5-7)
Will the offense ever work? The Huskies had several chances to win close games, but they didn’t have the firepower to come up with the big plays needed to get over the hump. Paul Pasqualoni has to get the running game going after his O finished 117th in the nation on the ground.
Eight starters return on offense with Lyle McCombs a good back to feed to get more production, but the line has to be far better. With four starters returning up front, there could be a night-and-day improvement. Chandler Whitmer held down the starting quarterback job late, but he wasn’t efficient and he needs to get the downfield passing game going.
The defense that led the Big East and was seventh in the nation against the run loses linebacker Sio More and star end Trevardo Williams, but Yawin Smallwood is a player at one inside linebacker spot, and the safety tandem of Byron Jones and Ty-Meer Brown is solid. Angelo Pruitt has to be the new star pass rusher up front.
67. Duke (6-7)
After a stepping-stone season with a bowl appearance and a 6-2 start, there’s hope for the Blue Devils to maintain a little bit of consistency with 15 starters returning and enough firepower to keep the offense, at least the passing game, moving.
The problems were mainly on defense, finishing last in the ACC in scoring defense and pass efficiency D, getting torched for 41 points or more in six of the final seven games. Leading tackler Walt Canty is gone along with two other starters in the secondary, but three starters are back up front including tackles Sydney Sarmiento and Nick Sink. It’ll be a young linebacking corps in the 4-25, but C.J. France will put up decent stats.
Quarterback Anthony Boone has to step in for Sean Renfree to air it out for David Cutcliffe’s passing game, but he’ll miss having Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott to throw to. The line gets four starters back – only losing center Brian Moore – and Juwan Thompson, Josh Snead and Jela Duncan are decent backs to try balancing things out. The special teams will be a plus with kicker Ross Martin and punter Will Monday back, but Vernon will be missed as a punt returner.
68. Washington State (3-9)
Call last year a feeling out period under Mike Leach. It wasn’t a shocker that the running game finished dead last in the nation, and it wasn’t a stunner that the O line was 124th out of 124 teams in sacks allowed, but the offense didn’t really work, the defense was mediocre and inconsistent, and it took an inspired effort in overtime to get a win over Washington to salvage a rough year with high spots few and far between. That all might change in a relative hurry with 20 starters returning.
Is Connor Halliday ready to take over the starting quarterback job? He was the main backup by the end of last season and will get a long look, but the starter needs time to work behind a veteran line that gave up almost five sacks a game, but gets all five starters back. Teondray Caldwell will try to get the running game going, but it’s a Leach offense; it’ll be about the passing game. Dominique Williams rose up in his redshirt freshman season and could be the No. 1 target, but Isiah Myers and Gabe Marks are promising playmakers who’ll see plenty of passes their way.
The defense might not have been great, but it camped out in opposing backfields on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the best pass rusher, Travis Long, is gone, but outside linebacker Cyrus Coen is a good one and strong safety Deone Buchannon a big hitter. In all, nine starters are back on defense with enough depth to create a few good position battles.
69. Maryland (4-8)
2013 was cruel. Just when it seemed like Randy Edsall had a decent team in place with a 4-2 start, the quarterbacks started going down and they started going down hard. With linebacker Shawn Petty at the helm, the Terps ended up losing six straight games to see a promising season go into the tank.
Eight starters are back on the nation’s worst offense, but will there be a quarterback ready to go? Perry Hills tore his ACL early enough in the season potentially take his starting job back, but it’ll be a fight for the No. 1 gig. The concern is up front with two starters gone, but that’s about it. Super-soph Stefon Diggs is back to do a little of everything, while Brandon Ross, Justus Pickett and Albert Reid should do more for the running game.
The defense has to go on without Joe Vellano wreaking havoc up front, and not having end A.J. Francis around won’t help. Outside linebackers Kenneth Tate and Darin Drakeford are gone, as is Demetrius Hartsfield and safety Eric Franklin, but there’s plenty of young talent to play around with. However, it’s going to be a work in progress, especially against the run.
70. Tulsa (11-3)
Can the defending Conference USA champion reload? The Golden Hurricane was phenomenal when it came to getting into the backfield with a defense that led the league in yards allowed, but only three starters are back. Fortunately, linebacker Shawn Jackson is a good leader to start with and Demarco Nelson is a solid free safety who’ll be one of the team’s biggest statistical producers. The offense that led Conference USA in rushing is a different story with nine starters back. Quarterback Cody Green and running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas will make the attack fly, but the two lost starters – tackle Jared Grigg and center Trent Dupy – are on the line. Trey Watts is a special returner who’ll once again be a difference maker.