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September 30, 2010

College Football Report - Dropping the Labels - Part 2:

Part II of Label Breaking:

Quarterbacks were meant to throw:

What quarterbacks were some of college football’s current best looking up to as kids? By the looks of it, it wasn’t Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or even Brett Favre.

For Denard Robinson, Taylor Martinez, Cameron Newton and Colin Kaepernick, it may have been Donovan McNabb and Vince Young may as role models when they were kids.

Michael Vick was the first in a new generation of quarterback, a player who not only could pass at a high level, but also had the elusiveness of a running back and speed of a wide receiver. Since Vick, there have been many to continue the trend. West Virginia’s Pat White and Texas’s Young ran through opponents for years at their respective universities, while Tim Tebow ran over opponents on his way to two National Championships at Florida.

No year until now, however, has there been such a heavy dose of quarterbacks who offer multiple threats to defenses than in 2010. Three players – Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Auburn’s Cam Newton – rank within the top 10 in rushing in the nation through four weeks, another, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, ranks 13th.

All four have given new meaning to the term play-action and have given their team’s new hope following down times of their programs.

Michigan looks like a Big Ten contender with Robinson at the helm. The sophomore is averaging 172 yards on the ground and set a Michigan quarterback record with 258 yards on the ground against Notre Dame.

With Martinez running the offense, Nebraska looks poised to make their last season in the Big 12 one of its best ever. Just a red-shirt freshman, Martinez brought in 137 yards and three scores in a hostile environment against Washington.

Auburn’s Newton has rushed for over 170 yards twice on the season, including 176 last week in an effort to beat the No.12 team in the country at home against South Carolina. Newton’s five total touchdowns accounted for all of the Tigers points.

The Kaepernick led pistol offense has put Nevada on the national scene and given the Wolf Pack a spot in the top 25 poll for the first time since 1948. Kaepernick’s 148 yards and three scores on the ground gave the Wolf Pack a win over PAC-10 opponent Cal this season.

Perhaps the two most impressive things about the quarterbacks, though? Their ability to throw and win. All four are currently completing at least 60 percent of their passes and have gotten their teams off to 4-0 starts on the season. Denard ranks No. 7 in the country in completion percentage (71.3) while Newton sits tied for No. 4 nationally with nine touchdown passes.

All are giving new meaning to what a quarterback can do for a team. Whether or not they can keep up the ridiculous rate of all-purpose yards they’re on pace for, remains to be seen. One thing is certain, however, they’re all a rush to watch.

Freshman need time to develop:

Remember the days when a red-shirt wasn’t given just to an injured player? Me neither. Every year it seems more and more freshman are finding the field on opening weekend. In the past, freshmen have played, though. Who can forget the memorable season Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne posted as a freshman with over 1,800 yards rushing. Or Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson rushing for 1,925 yards and 15 scores as a true freshman. Perhaps the most memorable was Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett, who rushed for 1,237 yards and 18 scores, but it was his thinking of one season of college football was enough that makes him most memorable.

Now, however, freshman players have become the norm and players rarely take redshirts. One of the strongest recruiting pitches coaches now offer high school players is the chance to compete early. In an age of instant everything. Success and winning comes at no different demand. Coaches will play the best players, no matter how old they may be.

Last season, Alabama running back Trent Richardson received half the carries Heisman winner Mark Ingram brought in and still managed 751 yards and eight scores on the ground. Pittsburgh’s Dion Lewis brought in a Big East freshman record 1,799 yards on the ground and 17 touchdowns. It wasn’t just offensive players, though. Boston College linebacker Luke Keuchly finished second nationally with 158 total tackles. Arizona State freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfacit finished second on the ASU roster with 69 stops and received all PAC-10 honors.

This season, were seeing the trend pick up right where it left off. On Oklahoma’s opening day roster, nine true freshmen made the two deep depth chart. On just the Florida Gators two deep defensive depth chart, six true freshmen were listed.

Four running back’s on BCS teams currently lead their teams in rushing. Ronnie Hillman of San Diego State ranks third in the country with 532 yards through four games. Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell (above) ranks first in the Big Ten with seven touchdowns.

Quarterbacks are getting into the action as well. Penn State quarterback Robert Bolden has started for the Nittany Lions since day one. A first under head coach Joe Paterno. BYU quarterback Jake Heaps is the Cougars fulltime starter. While Memphis true freshman, Ryan Williams, is the fulltime starter for the Tigers.

As long as the players prove to succeed on the field, I say play them. Who knows, maybe redshirts will be just for the injured in the future of football.

Photo Credit: Mike Mulholland/ the Grand Rapids Press

FCS Games are pushovers:

Playing an FCS school seems like the perfect scenario. A lot of teams schedule games against lower division FCS schools early in the season. A sort of “walk through” before a big game, or a time for younger players to gain some experience. Or so they used to be.

Of the 78 games played between Football Bowl Subdivision teams (FBS) and Football Championship Series teams (FCS) 14 were separated by a touchdown or less, with six FBS programs falling to lower division teams. As far as how it looks to fans and BCS rep’s, that’s 14 close games too many. Four of the six losses came from teams in BCS conferences – Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Mississippi and Kansas.

No other FBS vs. FCS game sticks in minds of college football fans more so than Michigan’s opening day loss to Appalachian State in 2007 (left). The No. 5 Wolverines fell to App State 32-42 that day.

The current risk-to-reward for FBS schools playing a FCS program seems to outweigh the latter. If an FBS team wins, good they were supposed to. A loss, however, devastates a season and perhaps any chance at a BCS bowl. For the FCS school, it’s a win-win situation. The teams collect on an enormous payout from the opposing schools and take off with a signature win or a loss that doesn’t count toward their season of FCS play.

I’m sure a team like Mississippi is wishing Louisiana Monroe, an FBS team, would have been on the schedule as a push over game rather than Jacksonville State at this point. At least a loss to LA-Monroe would have been more acceptable.

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All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.