College Football's Fascinating People Of 2014
Penn State head coach James Franklin
College Football's Fascinating People Of 2014 - Who are the most interesting people in the college football world?
Okay, so the Dos Equis man's title is safe for another year. College football, though, still harbors some very interesting characters, both on and away from the field.
A select handful of players, coaches and administrators are going to generate maximum attention and headlines over the next 12 months. Everyone has a story. The following people have angles so compelling that they warrant being talked about long before the opening kickoff of the new season.
No. 11 to 20. Fournette, Mariota, Jack
No. 21 to 30. Marshall, Urban, Kiel
10. Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino
As long as Petrino keeps winning and engineering high-powered offenses, he's going to have job offers. Get used to it.
Petrino's tarnished reputation, from poorly planned job exits to reckless motorcycle skills, has helped make him a pariah within the coaching ranks. While he has no chance in popularity contests, he is going to win a lot of games, which is why AD Tom Jurich called him after Charlie Strong left for Texas. Petrino will have a short leash in his second tour of duty with the Cardinals. Or not, depending on how quickly he can turn Louisville into a contender as the newest member of the ACC.
9. QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
On New Year's Day, Knight was almost as anonymous as the Sooner punter. By the morning of Jan. 3, he was one of the buzziest names on the college football landscape.
Inconsistency slowed Knight in his first season of action, but it didn't quash the staff's excitement about its young playmaker. The switch turned on for the redshirt freshman against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, of all spots. He torched the Tide for 348 yards and four touchdowns on 32-of-44 passing, essentially ending any quarterback competition for 2014 before it could even get off the ground. The expectations are suddenly huge for Knight, who's being counted on to blossom into the next prolific quarterback of the Bob Stoops era.
8. QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame
Golson's career in South Bend suffered a false start last season, but he's back to recapture the momentum he'd built toward the end of his rookie year in 2012.
Academic issues felled Golson in 2013, but it appears as if he maximized his time away from the field. The fourth-year Irish quarterback not only got his books in order, but he also matured, added muscle and sharpened his passing skills with the help of noted QB guru George Whitfield. Golson will still have to beat out teammates, like up-and-comer Malik Zaire, but that seems like a formality right now. Golson figures to be an instant upgrade for a Notre Dame attack that tolerated having Tommy Rees behind center last season.
7. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Winston experienced and achieved more in one season than most quarterbacks do in five. Can Jimbo Fisher keep such a precocious superstar motivated and focused throughout 2014?
Winston isn't Johnny Manziel, but there are similarities between the two standout quarterbacks. Freshmen Heisman winners. Larger-than-life personalities. Off-field distractions. Unlike a year ago, Winston will have a target on his chest, for opposing defenses and fans, from the moment the Seminoles line up across from Oklahoma State on Aug. 30. Different set of challenges, to be sure, but Winston gave no indications during his incomparable debut that he is easily flustered by adversity. For the second straight year, Archie Griffin is in danger of having company in the multi-Heisman club.
6. Penn State head coach James Franklin
It was only a matter of time before some bigger school scooped Franklin out of Nashville. That Penn State landed one of the nation's hottest young coaches was a shocker.
Bill O'Brien returned to the NFL after growing tired of Happy Valley, opening the door for the Lions to take its next major step toward a full football recovery. Franklin was revelatory for three years at Vanderbilt. He'll have a chance to be even better at Penn State. He's one of the top young recruiters, motivators and program-builders in America. And every day that passes brings the Nits closer to getting out of the NCAA hoosegow. Franklin can be a mega-star back in his home state.
5. QB Jeff Driskel and OC Kurt Roper, Florida
As pupil and mentor, respectively, Driskel and Roper will dictate the fate of head coach Will Muschamp in Gainesville.
If Driskel, now a senior, is unable to light a fire under the perennially necrotic Gator offense, AD Jeremy Foley will be interviewing Muschamp's successor in December. Every bit as important as the quarterback is Roper, who was hired away from Duke to retool an attack that ranked 113th nationally in scoring. The stakes are extremely high for the trio, each of whom hopes to use this fall as a catapult to a bigger and better career path in 2014.
4. Soon-to-be Alabama QB Jacob Coker
For a guy who's thrown exactly one career touchdown pass, Coker sure has been a popular topic this offseason.
As soon as the buzz started that Coker might want to transfer out of Florida State in order to get out from Jameis Winston's shadow, he became the hottest free agent in college football. Coker is a rocket-armed 6-5, 230-pounder who put a genuine scare into Winston last summer in the race to replace EJ Manuel. Even better, he's on track to graduate this spring, which means he'll have a shot to immediately succeed AJ McCarron for a second time. Coker was also the heir apparent to McCarron at St. Paul Episcopal School (Ala.) four years ago.
3. Texas head coach Charlie Strong
Every college coach feels pressure. Few feel it the way the guy leading Texas does.
Strong left the relative coziness of Louisville for the cauldron that is Longhorn football. His detractors, especially the Mack Brown sympathizers, are out there, and they will not remain tight-lipped for long. Strong has entered college football's high-risk, high-reward district, with an opportunity to be the guy who guides UT out of its four-year malaise. As the first African-American coach of any Longhorn men's program, he also gets a pioneering chance to obliterate lingering stereotypes left over by past generations.
2. Johnny Football's Successor at Texas A&M
Turns out Johnny Manziel is a shade under six-feet tall. His shoes are enormous, however, and someone in College Station must fill them in 2014.
There's no tougher job in football than replacing an iconic, beloved quarterback. The good news for Aggie fans is that their program has recruited the position well in recent years. There's a star about to be born at Texas A&M, with an offseason of practices, studying and conditioning to decide who gets first dibs on succeeding Johnny Football. Senior Matt Joeckel can't be dismissed, but sophomore Kenny Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen are the clear-cut future for Kevin Sumlin's fast-paced attack.
1. The 13 members of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee
Just because college football has a four-team playoff beginning this year does not mean that controversy has been eradicated from the process. Limiting the noise is now the responsibility of an eclectic committee in charge of selecting the playoff participants in December. Buckle up.
Barry Alvarez, Lt. General Michael Gould, Pat Haden, Tom Jernstedt, Jeff Long, Oliver Luck, Archie Manning, Tom Osborne, Dan Radakovich, Condoleezza Rice, Mike Tranghese, Steve Wieberg and Tyrone Willingham comprise an esteemed group of individuals with arguably the most important job in college football in 2014. Getting the first team or two into the fold ought to be academic. After that point, it figures to get tricky, putting the committee deeply under the microscope in its debut on the job.
No. 11 to 20. Fournette, Mariota, Jack
No. 21 to 30. Marshall, Urban, Kiel