CanesTime Post-Spring Preseason Top 25

This is it, the period every college football fan fears. The time of year where there's no national signing day to look forward to, and no more spring games for fans to analyze the performance of their fourth string center. But hang on guys, we'll be there soon enough. Until then, why not take a look ahead and handicap the field for this year's college football season?

1. Southern Cal Trojans – After a down year (by their standards at least), the Trojans look poised to make a run back to the top of the college football world. Led by standout senior quarterback John David Booty and a legion of stud tailbacks, it will be hard to stop the men of Troy this year on offense. It might be scarier on the other side of the ball, however, where the Trojans boast one of the hardest hitting defenses in the country. Included in the returning 10 starters is standout safety Taylor Mays, a 6'4 220 pound safety that hits anything that moves.

2. Michigan WolverinesChad Henne, Mike Hart, and Mario Manningham return to form the most potent trio of offensive weapons in the country. They suffered a big loss (literally) on defense in Allan Branch, as well as their top corner, Leon Hall. But their explosive offense should be able to carry their defense. First year defensive coordinator Ron English returns for his sophomore campaign. English helped to immediately turn around a previously shaky unit in 06, where his squad boasted the #1 rushing defense in the country.

3. Texas Longhorns - If the boys from Ann Arbor are the best trio of weapons in college football, then these guys got next. Colt McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and Limas Sweed give the Longhorns one of the most potent offensive units in the nation. The secondary must be rebuilt, but if there's a surplus of anything in the Lone Star State, it's fast athletes that can cover.

4. West Virginia Mountaineers – Fresh off of his hustling of Alabama, Rich Rodriguez returns to Morgantown to find his wallet fatter and two of the most exciting players in college football returning to his backfield. Pat White and Steve Slaton return to roll over anyone in an opposing jersey this year. After carving up the Big East the past 2 years on the ground, act III promises to be even more exciting. 9 starters return on defense, led by hard-hitting safety Quinton Andrews.

5. Florida Gators – With the departure of Chris Leak, Urban Meyer now has free reign to fully unveil his spread option offense. With Meyer's style of players slowly beginning to filter in (Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin), along with an arsenal of weapons at wide receiver, expect the Gators offense to be elevated to the next level. Speedy tailbacks Chevon Walker, Kesthan Moore, and Brandon James are all in the fold to be catching pitches from Tebow in the fall. While experience might be a problem on the defensive side of the ball, talent is not. Tony Joiner look to step up in the secondary after showing flashes of playmaking ability last year. Speedy rush end Derek Harvey (10 sacks in 06) will be joined by the #1 defensive line class of '07. The success of the 2007 edition of the Gators depends on how quickly the defense can gel.

6. Wisconsin Badgers – After making quite an impression in his first year as head coach in Madison, the pressure is on Brett Bielema to produce another stellar season. Luckily for him, sophomore P.J. Hill will be roaming his backfield. As a true freshman, Hill rumbled for 1,569 yards on the ground with 15 scores. Junior Tight End Travis Beckum might be the best in the nation, grabbing 61 passes last year as a sophomore for 903 yards and 3 touchdowns. A converted linebacker, this 6'4 220 pound speedster with soft hands is a nightmare for opposing defenses, and should give whoever wins the quarterback job a comfortable safety valve. The Badgers also return 7 starters from a unit that ranked 5th overall in total defense.

7. Virginia Tech Hokies – Some things never change, and 2007 will be no exception for this edition of the Hokies. 8 starters return from the #1 overall defense in the country, including monsters Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi at linebacker. Junior Quarterback Sean Glennon showed flashes in his first year as starter, throwing for 11 touchdowns and 2,191 yards. But Glennon doesn't need to be spectacular, as the main man in the backfield for the Hokies is running back Branden Ore. Ore quietly danced his way to 1,187 yards as well as an amazing 16 touchdowns. 17 total starters return to this squad that went 10-3 in 2006.

8. LSU Tigers – With two huge losses on the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers hopes of a successful season lays on the shoulders of senior quarterback Matt Flynn and newly acquired offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. Crowton should have no problem replacing the departed Jimbo Fisher, who bailed for FSU. At Oregon, Crowton's spread offense finished 9th in the country in total offense. With weapons such as Jacob Hester and Early Doucet on the roster, the Tigers should see almost no drop off in production. The smothering defense will be led by lockdown corner Chevis Jackson and standout linebacker Ali Highsmith. Both are only two of the returning starters that contributed to a top 5 ranking in both total and scoring defense last season.

9. Oklahoma Sooners – The injury to Adrian Peterson last year proved that there will in fact be life after AP in Norman. After taking over for Peterson in week 7, Allen Patrick ripped off 761 yards on the ground, averaging an impressive 4 and a half yards per carry. With big time wide receiver Malcom Kelly and running back Demarco Murray big plays for the Sooners on offense will come often. It's all up to Joey Halzle to orchestrate this talented offense with 9 returning starters. Overall, the 2006 Big 12 champs bring back 17 total starters to a team with a very favorable schedule.

10. Tennessee Volunteers – Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe had it rolling last season, as the Vols ranked 12th overall in passing offense, scoring 28 points a game. Led by senior Quarterback Erik Ainge, the Vols seemed poised to put up big time numbers again. Under the direction of Cutcliffe, Ainge passed for close to 3,000 yards in 2006, completing 67% of his passes. In the backfield with him will be running back LaMarcus Coker, the all everything back that ripped off 717 yards in his freshman season. After losing half of their starters on defense, they'll need to find replacements quick if they expect to make a run in the SEC East. But with their firepower on offense, they have a chance to make some noise.

11. Texas A&M – With 17 returning starters, the Aggies are loaded and have the pieces in place for a serious run at the Big 12 title. The Mountaineers aside, Texas A&M boasts the most dangerous ground game in college football. Led by the thunder and lightning combo of Jorvorskie Lane (19 rushing td's in 2006) and Mike Goodson (847 yards as a true freshman), the Aggies present defenses with the difficult task of shutting down a spread option attack with 3 legit playmakers. Leading the high-octane offense will be dual-threat JR Quarterback Stephen McGee. McGee, who rushed for 831 yards in 06, chipped in with 3,126 total yards to go with 16 touchdowns. The fate of the 2007 depends on how well the defense can improve, a unit that ranked in the middle of the pack for every defensive category last year.

12. Arkansas Razorbacks – One thing is for certain if you're playing Arkansas this year: they will run through you, over you, and around you on offense. The most dangerous tandem of running backs in the country will be lining up together in Fayetteville this fall. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones aim to improve on their outstanding 2006 campaign where they rushed for a combined 2,842 yards and 20 touchdowns. At receiver, the Razorbacks trot out 6'6 redzone terror Marcus Monk, who hauled in 962 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

13. Ohio State Buckeyes – Ok, so the Buckeye sports program has spent the past year getting ravaged by the University of Florida, but luckily for the fans in Columbus enough talent remains for their to be optimism about the 2007 season. It starts with sophomore tailback Chris Wells, who showed excellent speed and burst as a true freshman, averaging 5.6 yards a clip. Junior linebacker James Laurinaitis anchors a hard-hitting defense. In the secondary, shutdown corner Malcom Jenkins, 4 interceptions last season, will lead a strong secondary into 2007.

14. Louisville Cardinals – While the departure of offensive genius Bobby Petrino will hurt, the acquisition of spread offense guru Jim Kragthorpe should help the Cardinals remain potent on offense. Future 1st round picks such as senior quarterback Brian Brohm and 6 foot 7 wide receiver Mario Urrutia highlight the offensive side of the ball. Points will not be a problem for the Cards, but stopping other offenses will. Louisville hopes that big plays can be provided by aggressive linebacker Malik Jackson (9 sacks) and physical freak defensive end Peanut Whitehead (6'6 250lbs). If the defense improves quickly, the Cardinals schedule sets up favorably for a Big East title.

15. Nebraska CornhuskersArizona State transfer Sam Keller figures to be the leading candidate to run Bill Callahan's pass happy offense next season. With him in the backfield will be Marlon Lucky, the talented sophomore who juked his way 728 yards on the ground. Up front, Nebraska's history of notoriously monstrous offensive line will be preserved as all 5 starters return to a group that helped block and protect for the nations 9th overall offense. All Big-12 linebackers Corey McKeon and Bo Rudd anchor a defense that must replace its entire starting defensive line.

16. Georgia Bulldogs – After sitting at 6-4, the Bulldogs closed out the season strong with 3 straight quality wins over Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. True freshman quarterback Matt Stafford started out slow, but matured quickly. Throwing for 519 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception in his final three games, Stafford helped the Dawgs close out the year on a high note. On offense, the talented trio of Danny Ware, Kreg Lumpkin and Thomas Brown must step up in order to improve last year's 71st ranked rushing offense. The defense will no doubt be strong once again, with big time defensive tackle Jeff Owens blowing up the line of scrimmage.

17. California Golden Bears – While Marshawn Lynch received all the attention, Justin Forsett quietly averaged 5.6 yards a carry in 2006. The entire Cal offense appears to be heading to another explosive season. Led by speedster and punt returner extraordinaire Desean Jackson, the Bears offense has the ability to put up 6 from anywhere on the field. Super talented quarterback Nate Longshore hung up an impressive 3,021 yards through the air as well as 24 touchdowns. The latest in Jeff Tedford's long line of QB protégé's Longshore appears to be heading for another year of arena league type numbers. But it's up to Longshore's buddies on defense, a unit that ranked 91st overall, to step up and give them a chance to win some games.

18. Rutgers Scarlet KnightsGreg Schiano officially has his program rolling. While playing out of conference powerhouses like Ohio, Howard and Buffalo might not be the best idea, it helps the Knights stock pile much-needed wins. After a miraculous 11-2 season, everyone now wants to know is Rutgers for real? As long as bulldozer running back Ray Rice stays healthy and the offensive line can find some replacements, the answer will be a resounding yes. Mike Teal is a smart, accurate passer and the perfect quarterback to help distrubute the ball to weapons Tiquan Underwood and Tim Brown.

19. Auburn TigersKenny Irons is gone. So what? Enter Brad Lester. The backup galloped for 510 yards last season and found the end zone 9 times playing behind Irons. Quarterback Brandon Cox finally reached his potential in 2006. The senior passed for 2,148 yards, 14 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. This year, however, he must find weapons to throw to after losing two of his top three receivers. Quentin Groves headlines the swarming Tigers defense. Last year, he got to the quarterback 9.5 times as well as recording 11 tackles for loss.

20. Penn State Nittany LionsDerrick Williams and Deon Butler head one of the most explosive receiving corps in the country. Luckily for them, strong-armed quarterback Anthony Morelli will deliver their passes. In his first year as starter, he found the endzone 11 times through the air, and passed for 2,442 yards. While finding a replacement for running back Tony Hunt might be hard, the 4 returning starters on the offensive line and strong defensive back 7 should make the Nittany Lions a dangerous team this season.

21. Clemson Tigers – After a 7-1 start, the Tigers crumbled last year due to injuries. They finished the year with a disappointing 8-5 record, dropping four straight. But back and healthier than ever are two of the most talented running backs in the nation: Cj Spiller and James Davis. Despite injuries to both, they still managed to combine for an impressive 2,125 yards and 27 touchdowns. On defense, the strength of the Tigers is their linebackers, where they saw all three starters record over 75 tackles. If a quarterback is found that is capable of managing the game and not making crucial mistakes, the Tigers smash mouth running style and stout defense could carry them a long way.

22. Florida State Seminoles – Never short on talent, poor offensive coaching and o line play has plagued the ‘Noles over the past few seasons. Enter two guys who know a little something about offense: Jimbo Fisher and Rick Trickett. Fisher, the former offensive coordinator at LSU, promises to bring a wide-open, balanced attack to Tallahassee. With athletes such as running back Antone Smith and wide receivers Decoddy Fagg and Greg Carr, the ‘Noles should expect to see a dramatic jump in points. The o line returns four starters, which is where Trickett comes in. The former offensive line coach at WVU, Trickett has a pretty good idea about how to get a running game going. 9 starters come back to a defense that was decimated by injuries, and if the ‘Noles can find any form of consistent quarterback play then they will find themselves in Jacksonville come December.

23. Miami Hurricanes – Gone is Larry Coker, and so is the losing attitude, Canes fans hope. Last year The U ranked 4th overall in rush defense, and 7th overall in total defense. 8 starters return from that squad, including future NFL stud Calias Campbell. At 6'8, 270 pounds, Campbell bulldozed his way to quarterbacks 10.5 times last year as a sophomore. But, defense is not the problem with Miami. A putrid offense is. Enter three new coaches. New head coach Randy Shannon hopes the additions of Jeff Stoutland, former offensive line coach at Michigan State, Patrick Nix, previously the offensive coordinator for Georgia Tech, and Tommy Richardson, the previous running backs coach at Memphis, can all come in and turn around a woeful unit that ranked 87th in the nation in total offense. The cupboard is not bare, though. Running backs Javarris James and Craig Cooper expect to tote the rock behind standout tackles Reggie Youngblood and Jason Fox. The Canes must find steady play at the QB position as well as better offensive game plans if they aim to not waste another great year from their defense.

24. Oregon Ducks – The Ducks can flat our score with the best of them. Checking in with the 9th overall offense in the country last year, Oregon players found themselves and their hideous jerseys in the endzone many times last season. Junior John Stewart sprinted his way to 1,029 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. But it is the aerial attack, not the ground game, that gets the Ducks rolling. Jaison Williams highlights the arsenal of speedy wideouts. Throwing to them will be either Brady Leaf or Dennis Dixon. But no matter who is under center, the Ducks will score points. The question is, can they not allow them? Oregon was 89th in total defense, a number that must improve even slightly considering the power of the Ducks offense.

25. Kentucky Wildcats – You might not know about him yet, but it's only a matter of time until senior quarterback Andre Woodson becomes a household name. Standing at 6'5, 230 pounds, Woodson is an imposing figure with an arm strong enough to match his stature. Last season, Woodson and the Wildcats torched SEC opponents, finishing 9th in the country in passing offense. Woodson's final numbers read 3,515 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. But before he hears his name called by the NFL, Woodson aims to make a name for his Wildcats this season in the SEC. He'll have some help, as lightning fast all purpose back Rafeal Little returns to the backfield after accounting for over 1,000 all purpose yards. Catching bullets from Woodson will be wide outs Keenan Burton and Dicky Lyons. Thanks to their talent on offense, the Wildcats can beat any team in the nation. However, they must fix a defense that ranked in no better than 100 in every statistical category last season.

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