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2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 51 to 60
Minnesota RB Donnell Kirkwood
Minnesota RB Donnell Kirkwood
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 12, 2013


2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 51 to 60 - In the Bowl Hunt


Preview 2013 - Rankings

In The Bowl Hunt - No. 51 to 60

2013 CFN Preseason Rankings
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 125 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  
- Preview 2013 - All The Team & Conference Previews
 
60. Illinois
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Receiver

Offense: Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit inherits a wealth of experience, but will there be any production? Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase regressed behind a leaky line that didn’t give him any time to operate, and the backfield didn’t provide enough help for an offense that finished second-to-last in the nation in both scoring and yards. The first step will be to get more out of the line that was the worst in the Big Ten in pass protection and did nothing for the ground game. However, it was a young line that should settle in now. More time for Scheelhaase has to translate into more pop and explosion for a passing game that went absolutely nowhere. Fortunately, three starters are back in the receiving corps, while Donovonn Young leads a quick and young group of running backs.

Defense: Can defensive coordinator Tim Banks get more with less talent? He got ten-cent production out of million-dollar prospects last season, and despite giving up a not-that-bad 388 yards per game, there weren’t enough key stops against any offense that tried hard. The strength will be a linebacking corps that welcomes back a healthy Jonathan Brown and an improving Mason Monheim, but they’ll have to do even more with a questionable line that loses Michael Buchanan, Glenn Foster and Akeem Spence. The secondary will be fantastic – in 2014. It’s a young but talented group full of underclassmen with a world of upside, but it’ll be a rough season as everyone tries to figure out their roles.

59. Wake Forest
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Linebacker

Offense: In an effort to address its woeful offense, which ranked 117th nationally last season, Wake Forest plans to pull out all the stops in order to ignite the running game. More option-based plays, fewer restrictions on the legs of veteran QB Tanner Price and expanding the job description of the wide receivers will all be in play. Heck, if senior RB Josh Harris could simply remain healthy enough to log 200 carries, the Demon Deacons might not have to become so inventive. But prior history indicates that the senior will miss time in the fall. With help from star slot receiver Michael Campanaro, Price wants to recapture his 2011 form, when he calmly flipped 20 touchdown passes to just six picks. Last season, though, he was inaccurate, in part because of an injury-tattered O-line that did not block at an ACC level. Unfortunately, all indications are that Wake will be every bit as overmatched in the trenches as it was last season.

Defense: Eight veteran Deacons return after starting the majority of 2012. If this unit doesn’t improve dramatically, heads could roll by December. Coordinator Brian Knorr will be coaching a D that has no shortage of leadership or experience. The group just has to polish up the fundamentals, tackling and reacting up to their ability. Oh, and it has to rise up when it matters most, on third downs and in the red zone. Knorr will have at his disposal an all-star candidate at each level of the D to go along with a solid supporting cast. Up front, Nikita Whitlock is one of the quickest nose guards in the ACC. LB Justin Jackson will look to build on his breakout campaign in 2012. And FS A.J. Marshall and corners Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel each has an all-league ceiling. Barring injuries, Wake Forest will have no excuses if it repeats last season’s results. Neither for that matter will Knorr or his three positional assistants.

58. Purdue
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Linebacker

Offense: New offensive coordinator John Shoop will look to install more of a pro-style attack that gets the passing game moving, but can the big downfield plays start coming? The offense bogged down way too often last season, and now any hope of getting things moving starts at quarterback. Rob Henry might be an experienced veteran, but freshman Danny Etling is a better fit for the new attack. Akeem Hunt beefed up and should be ready to handle the rushing workload, while a decent receiving corps has upside with a nice mix of reliable veterans and big young reserves. The line needs some shuffling, but there are enough good pieces in place to hope for a decent starting five with a little bit of time.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson was a part of the Florida State defensive staff before signing on with Darrell Hazell, and he has a decent group of starters to build around. The defense finished 11th in the Big Ten and had major problems against any offense with a pulse, but there’s good tacklers in the secondary and decent athletes in the front seven. Hudson will play around with a combination of a 3-4 and 4-3 depending on the situation, but he’ll want to work around a good line led by tackle Bruce Gaston and rising pass rusher Ryan Russell on the end. The secondary is loaded with veterans, but they have to start coming up with stops and more big plays.

57. Kentucky
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Receiver

Offense: Press the fast-forward button. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown is going to crank up the attack and get everything moving. Don’t expect much power and don’t look for much in the way of a thumping running game with a high-octane passing game taking center stage – at least that’s the goal. However, the strength of the offense might be a deep group of running backs working behind a veteran line that should be better. The receiving corps has to be more explosive, and a most importantly, a quarterback has to emerge from the pack of young, maturing options. However things look, the idea is to get the tempo rolling and keep defenses on their heels.

Defense: The defense wasn’t necessarily the problem last season, doing a good job rushing the passer and holding up relatively well against the run. There are athletes across the board for defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot to play around with in his 4-3 alignment, but it’s all going to be a work in progress. The secondary was hit hard by injuries, but on the plus side, several young players got in meaningful work. The line should be the biggest plus with pass rushers Alvin “Bud” Dupree on one side and JUCO transfer Za’Darius Smith on the other, while there’s a good group of veteran tackles with size and quickness in the interior. The linebackers can all move with tackling-machine Avery Williamson and speedster Miles Simpson ready to put up big numbers again.

56. Virginia
Relative Strengths: Secondary, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Special Teams

Offense: Mike London shook up his offensive staff, adding former Colorado State head coach Steve Fairchild as his coordinator and longtime ACC head coach Tom O’Brien as an associate head coach of offense. Their directive from London has been simple—recommit to running the ball. The 2012 squad ranked 37th nationally in passing, yet struggled to score, and turned the ball over too often. UVa would like to get back to basics, grinding out yards from Kevin Parks and hopefully blue-chip rookie Taquan Mizzell in order to set up the pass. The pilot of that passing game has yet to be determined, though sophomore David Watford, who redshirted last year, appears to have an edge. The Cavaliers do have a nice set of hands for the quarterback, from wideouts Darius Jennings and Tim Smith to TE Jake McGee. The O-line is marginal, with massive LT Morgan Moses standing out as an exception. The senior will entice plenty of pro scouts to watch him perform in the fall.

Defense: Not since Chris Long was still an amateur has Virginia had a pass rush capable of disrupting the other guy’s offensive gameplan. Enter Jon Tenuta. The well-traveled assistant is returning to his alma mater intent on making the Cavaliers a more aggressive team. Being aggressive is in Tenuta’s DNA, from as far back as his days as a defensive back, and now he’ll try to pass that gene along to his new pupils. The strength of this D will be in the secondary, where CB Demetrious Nicholson and S Anthony Harris head the return of all four of last year’s starters. The pass defense was erratic in 2012, which can partially be attributable to that sagging pass rush. Much will be expected from the linebackers, specifically middle man Henry Coley, and defensive ends Jake Snyder and Eli Harold. Virginia sort of knows what it’s going to get from the senior Snyder. Harold, though, is a wild card, a second-year athlete off the edge who came to C’Ville in 2012 as a five-star recruit.

55. Utah
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Running Back, Linebacker

Offense: In an effort to reverse his team’s offensive woes, head coach Kyle Whittingham pulled out all the stops in February with the hiring of venerable coach Dennis Erickson as a co-offensive coordinator. The veteran of the Pac-12, among other leagues, is attempting to give the Utes more of an identity by installing a spread offense that uses a lot of up-tempo and no-huddle looks. Erickson’s early fate will rest heavily on the development of second-year QB Travis Wilson who had the training wheels yanked off as a rookie in 2012. He promises to be much more consistent in Year 2, good news for an underrated set of receivers and tight ends. Utah also needs to mine a new feature back, and get improved blocking from the Jeremiah Poutasi-led line. RB John White was a fixture on the ground over the past two seasons, leaving another former junior college transfer, Kelvin York, to hopefully take and run with the baton.

Defense: The Utah coaching staff is a resourceful bunch, one that has shown a penchant through the years for maximizing the talent it attracts to the Crossroads of the West. This fall, however, the coaches will need to retool a defensive line that loses three terrific starters, including All-American NT Star Lotulelei. The first step was to move former linebacker Trevor Reilly up a level to defensive end. The next step will be to ask DE Nate Orchard and DT Tenny Palepoi to deliver their best seasons as Utes. The program might be somewhat blue-collar in the back seven, with LB Brian Blechen and S Eric Rowe popping out as exceptions. The cornerbacks, rookie Justin Thomas and oft-injured senior Keith McGill, are inexperienced, which presents a potential soft spot for a D that has to do a far better job of making red-zone stops than it did a year ago.

54. Minnesota
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Defensive Line

Offense: Enough of this fancy-dancy, tippy-tap stuff; it’s time to get nasty. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover also oversees the line, and he has a good one returning as all five starters from the end of last year are back. The call has gone out for the attack to be more powerful and more brutish, and the pieces are there to do it with the veteran line paving the way for big backs Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams Jr. The passing game needs to be more efficient and more effective, hoping for Philip Nelson or one of the other young options to take charge of the quarterback job and be The Guy to build around. The receiving corps is big and physical – perfect for the new-look attack – but it has to be more dangerous.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys is doing a wonderful job of cranking out decent defenses without a ton of top-shelf talent. The pass rush that was the worst in the nation in 2010 came up with 26 sacks last season and was far more aggressive, and overall the progress showed finishing 33rd in the nation in total defense and 12th against the pass. The holes going into this season might have been patched in a hurry, helped mostly by JUCO transfers De’Vondre Campbell and Damien Wilson at linebacker. Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman has the potential and talent to be an All-Big Ten star to work around, but the ends have to apply the pressure Claeys is looking for. In the secondary, corner is a bit of a question mark, but the safeties should be terrific.

53. Indiana
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary

Offense: The work in progress is starting to come together. Yes, Indiana led the Big Ten in passing partly because the defense was so bad that the O had to keep bombing away, but the attack worked whether it was Cameron Coffman or Tre Roberson under center. Now the Hoosiers have all their quarterbacks back along with a deep and talented stable of running backs and a deeper group of receivers. The young line did a nice job in pass protection, and now it’s maturing into something potentially special with five young, good blockers growing into their own. But it’ll still be the passing game that shines, and with ten of the top 11 pass catchers from last year back, it should be bombs away.

Defense: Everything is starting to come around and improve. There will still be problems against the Wisconsin-like power running teams, and the high-octane passing offenses will still do whatever they please, but the defense showed improvement despite finishing dead last in the Big Ten in yards and scoring allowed. It’s been a process to upgrade the overall athleticism and get tougher up front, and while the front seven will hardly be a rock, there’s better quickness up front and a good group of linebackers to work around David Cooper in the middle. The secondary has a nice array of hitters at safety with Greg Heban and Mark Murphy returning, but overall the D needs to come up with more big picks and game-changing plays. There’s depth and potential, but even if they’re coming at a glacier’s pace, the steps forward will come.

52. West Virginia
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary

Offense: Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and head coach Dana Holgorsen seemed like they had it easy with a loaded attack led by quarterback Geno Smith, receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin and a veteran line that did its job, but the attack sputtered way too much over the second half of the season. The yards were there, but the clutch plays and points didn’t always follow. Now the Mountaineers have to figure out their quarterback situation and hope for all the good receiver prospects to quickly fill in the gaps left by all loss of last year’s terrific stars. Andrew Buie and the running game should be a bit stronger, while the line will be good in time with Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt two veteran tackles flanking solid options in the interior.

Defense: The Mountaineers quickly discovered that life in the Big 12 is a wee bit different. The pieces were in place to be excellent, but the secondary didn’t find a big pass play it didn’t like to give up, while the run defense went bye-bye in an ugly effort in the bowl loss to Syracuse to close out the season. There’s lots of room to play around with the personnel with the ability to go with a 3-4 or a 4-3 depending on the situation, but it’s going to be a work in progress up front to find consistent pass rushers. There’s talent and upside in the secondary, and safeties Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook are fantastic, but the production has to come from the corners.

51. Syracuse
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary

Offense: Former Miami wide receivers coach George McDonald is assuming control of an offense with one central goal this offseason—finding a replacement for All-Big East QB Ryan Nassib. There are two distinct choices for the staff, athletic sophomore Terrel Hunt, the leader exiting spring, and Oklahoma import Drew Allen, the former coveted pocket passer recruit who joins the fray in August. While Syracuse wants what most offenses seek, balance, the focus will clearly be on the running game, especially in the early going. The Orange boasts what could be the ACC’s best backfield duo, powerful Jerome Smith and shifty Prince-Tyson Gulley, which combined for 2,001 rushing yards in 2012. Otherwise, don’t expect to see too much pop or star power out of this blue-collar offensive attack. The heart-and-soul of the unit will be senior C Macky MacPherson, who along with LT Sean Hickey, are Syracuse’s all-league contenders up front.

Defense: The Syracuse D was just average a year ago. Average isn’t going to cut it for the Orange, especially as the team starts play as a member of the ACC. Now that Scott Shafer has been promoted to head coach, he needed to find a replacement for himself at defensive coordinator, a job that went to Chuck Bullough, who wants to dictate the tempo, much the way Shafer did when he was an assistant. Applying pressure, though, could require blitzes from the linebackers and safeties, because the ends are unproven and relatively untested. The Orange, in fact, has concerns on the perimeter of the secondary as well, lacking the stoppers to shut down opposing quarterbacks. The strength of this defense will be up the middle, where the tackles are stout, and the linebackers play with the desired range. At 6-4 and 290 pounds, unit leader Jay Bromley is by far the smallest defensive tackle on the two-deep. Dyshawn Davis and Marquis Spruill will once again set the tone from the second level, flying all over the field in order to leave an imprint on the offense.

2013 CFN Preseason Rankings
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 125 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  
- Preview 2013 - All The Team & Conference Previews