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2009 Preseason Rankings - No. 21 to 30
Clemson RB C.J. Spiller
Clemson RB C.J. Spiller
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 2, 2009


Preview 2009 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 21 to 30 ... Conference Contenders

Preview 2009 - Preseason Rankings

Conference Contenders - No. 21 to 30


These teams will be in the hunt for their conference titles.

There's one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings: these are based on how good the teams are going into the season and NOT how they're going to finish. Some teams have easier schedules than others, some get tougher road games and some will need a little bit of time to jell meaning they might be better than their final record might indicate. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 120.

CFN 2009 Preseason Rankings

- 2009 Preview
|
1 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
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61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120

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2008 Preseason Rankings | 2007 Preseason Rankings

21. Georgia Tech
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Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths:
Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses:
Quarterback, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: More opportunities in the passing game. While the triple-option remains the bread-and-butter of this attack, the coaching staff realizes there are a handful of chances to burn defenses on long balls through the air. And it plans to exploit them whenever possible. Forget the dink and dunk passing game. Georgia Tech wants to really make defenses pay, when they sell out to stop the run. Even if that means just two or three connections downfield between Josh Nesbitt and Demaryius Thomas, it’ll be enough to get the team in scoring position and keep defenses on their heels.
What to look for on defense: The hunt for new leaders. Georgia Tech didn’t just lose a handful of starters with the departures of Vance Walker, Darryl Richard, Michael Johnson, and Jahi Word-Daniels. It also lost some of the vocal leaders and catalysts for the defense. The Yellow Jackets will need someone new to step into those voids and help keep the momentum going. In particular, DE Derrick Morgan, LB Sedric Griffin, and S Morgan Burnett are being looked at as the new leaders for a unit that’ll have a bunch of underclassmen on the two-deep.


22. Miami  
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Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths:
Defensive Line, Running Back 
Relative Weaknesses:
Secondary, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The different ways that sophomore WR Travis Benjamin gets used. One of new coordinator Mark Whipple’s first priorities will be to invent as many interesting ways to get the bll in Benjamin’s hands. One of those electrifying, undersized speed merchants, he can change the momentum of a game with one timely block and just a hint of daylight. As a rookie, he showed flashes taking handoffs, catching passes, and returning kicks. As a second-year player, he’s capable of forcing opposing coordinators to design gameplans to specifically stop him.
What to watch for on defense: The progress of the run defense. 310 yards against Florida State. 472 yards against Georgia Tech. 219 yards against NC State. Was this Miami of Florida or Miami of Ohio? The Hurricanes were bullied by more physical teams, finishing at the bottom of the ACC against the run. Hope can be found in the shift inside of disruptive former end Allen Bailey, and the returns of Marcus Forston and Micanor Regis for a second season. The ‘Canes should be much improved in this area. They sure can’t be much worse than last year.


23. Pitt
- Preview | Offense | Defense
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Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The replacements. Now that LeSean McCoy has foregone his final two years of eligibility, Pitt needs to locate its next workhorse in an offense that leans pretty heavily on the run. Although none are going to be McCoy right away, the Panthers have recruited the position very well, providing hope for the future. True freshman Dion Lewis took part in spring drills, wowing the staff with his quickness and maturity. Sophomore Shariff Harris is a 215-pound plower and the most experienced of the contenders. Redshirt freshman Chris Burns is a blend of the other two competitors and a blue-chip recruit from 2008. One of the three backs is going to get a chance to carry the ball 20-25 times a game.
What to watch for on defense
: Constant pressure. At any level, if you can get a consistent push up front, everything else has a way of falling into place. Pitt will have such a luxury this season, thanks to the presence of three All-Big East-caliber players on the defensive line. Tackle Mick Williams and ends Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard have all displayed a knack for collapsing the pocket, meaning opponents can forget about throwing multiple blockers at any one Panther. It’ll be tough for opposing quarterbacks to complete passes when they spend so much time trying to escape this rush.


24. Clemson
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The race to replace Cullen Harper under center. The program is fortunate to have two really talented young hurlers, but who gets the ball when Middle Tennessee State visits Sept. 5? Sophomore Willy Korn was considered the future from the moment he left Byrnes (S.C.) High School, but redshirt freshman Kyle Parker has been Barack to his Hillary, parlaying a great offseason into a dead heat...at worst. Most observers feel Parker is in the poll position, but nothing is set in stone until the two complete their duel later in the summer.
What to watch for on defense: Sacks. With Ricky Sapp, Da’Quan Bowers, and Kevin Alexander at defensive end, Clemson ought to be treating the quarterback like a piƱata, right? It should, but it didn’t last fall, finishing last in the ACC in sacks. It’s the lone glaring weakness on a defense that figures to be among the league’s best again in 2009. New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele prides himself on crafting physical defenses that can really bring it. Tiger fans hope he’s the right guy to light a spark under this pass rush.


25. South Florida
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The growth of QB Matt Grothe. Every staff member in Tampa is labeling the quarterback a new man, who’s finally become a better student of the game. Let’s see it. For the last three years, he’s tended to rely exclusively on his athletic ability, which has been at the root of many of his mistakes. A more cerebral Grothe, however, would presumably make better reads and fewer errors. You hope so if you’re a Bull because the program can’t a fourth consecutive season with 14 interceptions.
What to watch for on defense: The defensive line. George Selvie is the headliner, but he’s hardly a solo act. Just about everyone is back from last season, which means South Florida will be home to one of the nation’s nastiest front fours. If opponents dedicate too many resources to No. 95, any number of Bulls, including Terrell McClain and Aaron Harris, are capable of making them suffer. South Florida will set the tone up front, making life so much easier for the linebackers and defensive backs.


26. Michigan State
- Preview | Offense | Defense
| Depth Chart

Relative Strengths:
Linebacker, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses:
Offensive Line, Defensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. It’s not that Brian Hoyer was bad, he was a solid Big Ten quarterback, but he didn’t make the team better in a disappointing senior season. Sophomore Kirk Cousins is the type of passer who could make the offense more explosive, while Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol has an all-around game that could give defenses fits. The coaching staff is toying around with the idea of a QB rotation, and in this case, it might not be a bad thing.
What to watch for on defense: The emergence of the linebacking corps. A bit underappreciated last season, this undersized, overactive group did a nice job of cleaning things up against the run. LB Greg Jones deserves to be an All-American, while Eric Gordon is a strong running mate. There will be some adjusting throughout the season with Jones likely to see time in the middle and on the strongside, but there are good players to toy around with to find the right combination.


27. TCU

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Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Special Teams
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver

What to watch for on offense:
As many as five backs in the running rotation. Helped by running quarterbacks, TCU ran for 2,863 yards and 39 touchdowns. However, there will be production coming from some of the receiver, QB Andy Dalton, and five running backs, Ryan Christian, Joseph Turner, Chris Smith, Jai Caveness, and Edward Wesley, who could rotate in and out when needed.
What to watch for on defense: Daryl Washington. The Horned Frogs only use two linebackers, at least technically, with a weak safety serving as a hybrid, and they lose two great ones in first-team All-Mountain West performers Jason Phillips and Robert Henson. And in comes Washington. The star reserve and spot starter from last year made 63 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, and 5.5 tackles for loss. Now, one of the best athletes on the team is going to be all over the place with his increased role.


28. Oregon State
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Secondary, Defensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The quarterbacks. Who doesn’t like a good tussle between a pair of senior hurlers, right? Well, the staff could do without it, but then again, two experienced players at the position isn’t such a bad thing. Lyle Moevao is the incumbent, an unpolished rogue of a player, with a knack for getting the job done and getting the most out of his teammates. Sean Canfield, on the other hand, looks as if he’s been preparing for this job his whole life. He stands tall in the pocket, practices good fundamentals, and was heavily recruited out of high school. However, he’s been a disappointment, struggling to produce. Canfield gained ground in the spring while Moevao rested his surgically-repaired shoulder. Now, he’ll need to prove he can close the deal in August.
What to watch for on defense: The young safeties. Of course, it would be great to have Al Afalava and Greg Laybourn back for another season, but the program is still excited to turn loose its next wave of playmaking safeties. Lance Mitchell, Cameron Collins, and Suaesi Tuimaunei aren't even household names around Corvallis, but they just might be by December. The trio is an example of Oregon State’s recent recruiting successes, going to places like California and Hawaii to sign big, physical athletes, who look like they belong in the USC secondary. While there’ll be a drop-off, it won’t be as steep as many believe.


29. Arizona
- Preview
| Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Secondary, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: More from the running game. Instead of becoming a three-ring circus, which most expected when Sonny Dykes came on board in 2007, the Wildcats have been surprisingly balanced on offense. And it’s going to continue. Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin offer an exciting one-two punch out of the backfield. The offensive line has traded finesse for ferocity, attracting a slew of 330-pounders capable of manhandling opposing linemen. Heck, if mobile Matt Scott winds up winning the quarterback derby with Nick Foles, don’t be surprised if a little read-option doesn’t make its way into the playbook. Obviously, Arizona won’t abandon the passing attack, but with so much talent in the running game, why not leverage it?
What to watch for on defense: Tons of speed. Yeah, they’re all football players, but it’s the athletes that make this Wildcat defense so difficult to navigate. They swarm tackle like it’s the good old days in Tucson, bringing pressure, taking good angles, and rarely allowing the opposition to break free into space. The linemen, even the 295-pound tackles, are explosive. The linebackers move laterally like defensive backs. And the defensive backs are suffocating. With veterans back at every level, Arizona just might be tough enough this fall to challenge USC as the Pac-10’s premier defensive unit.


30. Kansas
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Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: A monster year from QB Todd Reesing. The senior is already coming off a record-setting passing season, but this year could be even more amazing. Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier return after combining for 189 catches for 2,452 yards and 22 touchdowns, while Johnathan Wilson is a nice No. 3 target and Jake Sharp is a good receiving threat out of the backfield. And then there’s the need to throw just to stay alive. If the secondary isn’t appreciably better, Reesing will have to throw to keep the team in most games.
What to expect look for defense: More quickness and athleticism in a 4-2-5 alignment. The KU linebacking corps was fantastic last season, but now it’s undergoing a wholesale change. The replacements aren’t nearly as big, but they’re very quick, almost like beefed up safeties, and they can all run. The secondary has good speed, and the defensive front should be excellent off the ball and into the backfield. There might be problems against more physical teams, but the D should handle itself well against most spread attacks.

CFN 2009 Preseason Rankings
- 2009 Preview
|
1 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 120

-
2008 Preseason Rankings | 2007 Preseason Rankings