5 Underclassmen Whose Coaches Are Failing Them
Whether it's forcing a player to perform in a system that doesn't suit him or failing to account for the immaturity of many of the talented college athletes under his direction, a college football coach can be as responsible for the failure of a player as the player himself.
There are a lot of things that a coach can do that affect a player on and off the field. And while everybody is quick to blame a player when he fails to reach his potential, sometimes a coach's inability to reach a player or utilize him effectively is just as responsible for the failure.
Here are five underclassmen who need their coach to make adjustments that will allow them to reach a new level of success.
Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech
When will head coach Paul Johnson just throw away the whole triple-option playbook? Sure, it gets yards and it's cool that one BCS program actually uses it as a base offense. But it won't produce a national title, not in today's college football world.
Justin Thomas is the future for Georgia Tech at quarterback. The problem is that he is extremely small and likely isn't going to last long taking hits in this style of play. Listed at 5'11", 169 pounds, Thomas isn't the type of quarterback you want running around and getting banged up every week. Georgia Tech needs a bigger quarterback who can better withstand the pounding that comes with running the triple option.
Watching his high school film, it is clear that Thomas is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He could be an effective running back, receiver or quarterback in the right system. It is hard to believe the triple option is going to be kind to Thomas once he is given the keys to this dying offensive scheme.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
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Most would be satisfied with Colt Lyerla's production the last couple of seasons. Oregon fans are certainly happy with 11 of his 32 receptions going for touchdowns, as he helps add a different dimension to the high-flying Ducks offense.
But you get the feeling that Lyerla, who came to Oregon as a highly touted outside linebacker, isn't getting the most out of his abilities on offense. Quick question: If Lyerla were to play defense, would the Ducks' offense be any less explosive? No? Then why doesn't Oregon make this move?
Lyerla has the athleticism and change-of-direction skills that you usually don't see from somebody who is 6'5".
Once he makes the leap to the NFL, Lyerla should have plenty of opportunities to play on either side of the ball. But if we are talking about right now, Lyerla would be more valuable defensively for both the team and himself.
Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida
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We can start by blaming the coaching staff for not providing any talent around quarterback Jeff Driskel. This isn't to say Driskel doesn't deserve part of the blame. But it would help if he had at least one receiver who was capable of catching a cold, let alone a football.
Then there's the Gators' pro-set offense for which Driskel is ill-suited. At this point in his career, he isn't the most accurate passer. He's more of an athlete who can hurt you with his legs.
To take better advantage of Driskel's strengths, Florida should run more read options and designed quarterback runs to open up the field. Right now, Driskel is being forced to adapt to the playbook in place, and you could see the inconsistent results that produced last year.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease should be able to tweak things during the offseason to help his quarterback. In the meantime, let's not let Driskel shoulder all of the blame for his struggles.
Quan Bray, WR, Auburn
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There is no reason Auburn should have ranked 114th in the country in scoring offense last year. There is also no reason that Quan Bray should have only touched the ball 16 times. Easily somebody who should be a household name by now and competing for individual awards, Bray is left wondering what in the world happened in his first two seasons.
Bray was one of the top recruits of the 2011 class, and when you see this video, you will understand why. With size, quickness, change-of-direction skills and elusiveness, Bray simply has it all as either a wide receiver or running back. Put this kid on the field and let him make plays for your struggling offense.
Bray, whose 14 receptions for 94 yards makes him the leading returning receiver, thinks he discovered the problem last year, as he recently told
The defense last year, they probably always knew what was coming. Now that we have this tempo and things going, we've always got them on their heels and they don't know what's going to hit them.
For Bray's sake, let's hope things change with new coach Gus Malzahn, and Bray can become the star everybody thought he was going to be.
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame
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It is hard to nitpick the job the Notre Dame coaching staff did last year. Leading a team to a national title game when nobody even had you ranked in the preseason deserves a little more than a pat on the back.
But the way Everett Golson was handled throughout the season was not good.
First, a two-quarterback system rarely works and can cause more problems than it is worth. When you pick a quarterback as a starter, he should be your guy no matter the outcome. This wasn't the case last year with Golson, as he was often pulled after making a mistake. He's a young quarterback, I get it, but that couldn't have helped his confidence, which happens to be extremely important at his position.
Golson told Lou Somogyi of 247Sports that he feels like a new quarterback heading into the offseason. If this is the case, Brian Kelly and his staff are lucky. The Notre Dame quarterback easily could have lost his way after being pulled in what seemed like every game last season.
This does have a chance to result in a happy ending, but pulling him every other quarter simply can;t continue.