20 College Football Teams Having the Best and Worst Offseason so Far
More work typically goes into the college football offseason than the regular season.
Frankly, this is where the coaching staffs make their money. Anything from recruiting, tweaking game plans, keeping kids out of trouble and remaining relevant all happen during the off-months.
Just like the regular season, NCAA teams can be judged on how their offseasons have played out. If players were arrested and a few guys decommitted, obviously that program isn't going to receive a positive grade. However, if a school is tearing up the recruiting process and performed well in the spring game, you can consider it a wonderful offseason.
While there are still a couple of months left for things to turn sour, let's check out how some of the college football programs around the nation are doing so far.
Best: West Virginia
West Virginia found some solid replacements at wide receiver with K.J. Myers and Connor Arlia and Kevin White all performing well in the spring. That trio will help calm the fan base that was desperately wondering who was going to replace Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
The real reason the Mountaineers have had a great offseason is due to transfer quarterback Clint Trickett. He didn't see much playing time for Florida State, but he did learn under two NFL quarterbacks (E.J. Manuel and Christian Ponder). He also shows good poise and gets rid of the ball quickly. What makes things even better is that he will be eligible to play right away.
The Mountaineers' big question was who was going to replace Geno Smith. It looks like that question has been answered before fall camp.
The biggest name to get bitten by the injury bug this offseason was linebacker Jake Ryan. He was more than somebody who produced on the football field. He was also a leader on and off the field. His presence will be missed, as he continues to try to recover from a torn ACL.
That injury is also magnified when you consider the other players the Wolverines have lost this offseason. Backup safety Marvin Robinson and linebacker Mike Jones left the team, while linebacker Kableb Ringer disappeared without playing a down.
When you add everything up, eight scholarship players have left the team since the end of last year's regular season. Whether these were impact players or not, such departures is never good news.
Miami has had a great offseason, mainly because there is a good chance the NCAA will finally get off its back.
Regardless of what happens as far as sanctions are concerned, knowing your punishment is a lot better than being kept in the dark year after year.
The Hurricanes are also recruiting well for their 2014 class. This program is looking a lot like it did back in the day, as many top players have given their verbal commitment.
This program looks to be getting back on its feet one step at a time.
No team in the country that left spring ball with more injuries than Arizona. Injuries are inevitable, but finishing practices with the majority of your team intact is the ultimate goal.
That was the last thing that happened for the Wildcats.
Arizona suffered a lot of injuries on defense, including projected starters Marquis Flowers, Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson. But the injury that will hurt the most was wide receiver Austin Hill's torn ACL. The junior finished last season with 81 receptions for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns.
This program has seen better days.
Kentucky football is relevant again.
OK, let's slow down a little bit. Kentucky is at least making some noise lately and is on track to show the rest of college football that it will no longer be a pushover in the SEC.
The culture has changed since Mark Stoops was hired as head coach. The fans sensed it, which is why more than 50,000 fans showed up to check out the spring game.
No, that is not a misprint.
The building momentum has helped the Wildcats land seven early commitments, including an above-average quarterback in Drew Barker. It may take time before this program is competing with the big boys in the SEC East, but this is the best offseason it has seen in quite some time.
Worst: Florida State
Florida State may actually benefit from the Clint Trickett transfer, as it pretty much forces the Seminoles' coaching staff to play redshirt freshman Jameis Winston.
In case you didn't know, Winston is the next big thing in college football.
One thing the transfer of Trickett does do is remove depth from the most important position in the game. Winston may be the best option, but it only takes one hard hit or one turned ankle and somebody else will need to step in. A successful team must have at least two quarterbacks to rely on, and Florida State doesn't have that.
The Seminoles are also dealing with a bizarre situation with Matthew Thomas. The star 2013 recruit is seeking a release from Florida State, which has drawn mixed reactions throughout the college football landscape. His request has put the school in an awkward position. Grant his request and create a dangerous precedent, or deny it and risk being portrayed as harsh and unreasonable.
UCLA has a great team returning and the expectations are higher than they have been in a while.
Jim Mora has this team on the right track and is set to do big things. However, this offseason has been all about building for the future.
One of the big splashes was the addition of running back Rushel Shell, who transferred from Pittsburgh. Shell, who rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns last season, is an all-purpose back who can do a little bit of everything for an offense. He isn't eligible to play this season, but he gives the Bruins a solid option next year.
The loss of running back Rushel Shell is a major blow for Pittsburgh. He was a nice replacement for Ray Graham and was going to see an expanded workload this season had he decided to stay.
It's not like Pittsburgh has weapons everywhere you turn, and Shell had the potential to develop into something special.
Pittsburgh also had three of its players arrested in a SWAT drug bust, where detectives seized 20 bags of heroin along with other drug paraphernalia. The players were suspended from the team immediately.
Things aren't looking good if you're a Panthers fan.
Butch Jones hasn't even coached a game for the Volunteers and already there are plans to honor him with a statue. Well, not really, but it would seem that way with all of the optimism floating around the Knoxville campus.
More than 61,000 fans, the second-most in program history, attended the Tennessee spring game. The 2014 recruiting class already has 13 commits, including many players with more than 3-stars next to their name.
Don't remind any Volunteer fan that this team hasn't won anything in five years or so. Things are looking up these days. It is safe to say that it's been forever since Tennessee had a reason to be this excited.
Here's an injury, there's an injury. Everywhere there's an injury!
Florida had a lot of players hurt during the offseason. In fact, they piled up so high that the coaching staff was forced to cancel its spring game and just run an ordinary scrimmage.
Yuck. That's not a positive way to begin preparation for the upcoming season.
There is also the media report that Will Muschamp paid a player when he was an assistant with the Auburn Tigers. The Gators' head coach has denied those allegations, but it does put unwanted attention on a program trying to win the SEC.
Injuries and scandal are never a great combination.
Cincinnati has now become Notre Dame.
Not only did the Bearcats snag quarterback Gunner Kiel, but they now have tight end Jake Golic as well. Golic didn't see much playing time for the Fighting Irish, but because he's already graduated from Notre Dame, he will be eligible right away at Cincinnati.
Kiel is the big steal. Once a highly recruited player, he now has a chance to prove himself and could eventually become the future of this program.
Tommy Tuberville still has a lot of work to do to get his team where he wants it to be, but landing a potential elite quarterback is a step in the right direction.
Worst: Virginia Tech
Anything can happen in the ACC.
While Virginia Tech only returns 13 starters, including only four on offense, it has just as good of chance of winning the conference as anyone else. But to seriously compete, the Hokies must get improved play from quarterback Logan Thomas.
Thomas struggled greatly last year and didn't look good in the spring game, often overthrowing open receivers and making bad decisions with the ball.
Virginia Tech can be the dark horse in this conference if Thomas improves. But if the spring game is any indication, this season may be another long one.
Clemson is one team that doesn't have much to worry about and is a serious threat to win the ACC. However, while the offense continues to look sharp and the defense is coming along, it is what the Tigers are doing in the recruiting world that is making the difference.
The Tigers now have seven commitments for the 2014 class, including three top players giving their verbal this month. They easily have one of the best classes in the ACC and are holding their own against some of the marquee programs in the country.
Clemson will continue to move up the totem pole if it can keep finding ways to attract top-tier talent.
A couple of knuckleheads always end up getting into trouble with the law during the offseason. Some don't know what to do with their time and make the news for all of the wrong reasons.
Running back Jeremy Hill was one of those guys, as he is being accused of simple battery outside a Baton Rouge bar. He was suspended from the team, and the future for LSU's leading rusher is unknown.
It seems like every year LSU has a horrible offseason, but always finds a way to put things together when it matters.
Best: Texas A&M
Did you see Johnny Manziel during the Texas A&M spring game?
Along with the reigning Heisman winner, Texas A&M boasts the No. 1 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. The Aggies have received 10 early commitments.
Things just get better and better for Texas A&M.
The injury bug continues to plague the Oklahoma offensive line.
Guard Tyler Evans looks like his football career is over after suffering another ACL injury. Meanwhile, center Gabe Ikard injured his hand, and while his injury isn't nearly as serious, he did miss valuable reps with a new quarterback.
Despite the injuries, head coach Bob Stoops decided he wanted to open a can of worms by calling the SEC overrated. This, of course, sparked controversy between the Big 12 and SEC and didn't exactly do anything positive for the Oklahoma program.
The Sooners have also gotten off to a slow start in recruiting.
Did you hear that noise? Listen a little closer—that is the good old sound of silence.
One person you haven't heard much from lately is USC head coach Lane Kiffin. After last season's disaster and the endless stream of controversy, Kiffin has somehow kept a low profile during the offseason.
This is exactly what the Trojans needed, as it is time to focus on football and not foolishness.
USC can also be happy with the recruiting class it has put together. It only has five commitments, but all are in areas of need.
The Trojans can only hope things will stay this way.
It only took one development for the TCU offseason to go down the drain. That happened when it was announced that defensive end Devonte Fields would be suspended for the first two games.
Missing the opener against Southeastern Louisiana should prove to be no problem, but not playing against LSU is a heart-breaker. Fields was a monster last season, finishing with 10 sacks and leading the defensive linemen in tackles (53).
TCU had a puncher's chance to upset LSU, but those chances are much slimmer with the Horned Frogs' best player unavailable for the game.
Louisville is riding momentum off its BCS bowl victory.
The Cardinals have been able to pick up 14 early commitments in the 2014 recruiting class, including 13 3-star players, according to 247Sports. Five commits came in the month of May, and eight came from the state of Florida. Head coach Charlie Strong is turning this football program into a contender.
The team also has a chance to land former Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt.
Louisville still isn't receiving as much attention as it deserves, but the job it has done so far is mighty impressive.
Texas has a few of its players in trouble with the law.
Wide receiver Cayleb Jones is accused of breaking a man's jaw. The charge was recently reduced from a felony, but his football career remains up in the air after the incident.
Texas should have little problem recruiting. But at some point, these arrests have to stop.
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