FanSided’s Daniel Flynn ranks the top 10 high school football teams in the country based on the number of top prospects from the 2015 recruiting class each of them has.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has officially announced that Clint Trickett will be the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback for the 2014 season.
In a statement on the team’s website, Holgorsen said, “Clint is 100 percent healthy and is ready to play. He worked hard last season and showed a lot of ability and leadership and deserves the chance to lead the team as a senior. He will be our starter.”
In eight games of action in 2013, Trickett completed 123 of of 233 passes for 1,605 yards and seven touchdowns. Though the Mountaineers went just 2-5 in his seven starts, the former Florida State transfer did lead West Virginia to an impressive 30-21 upset of No. 17 Oklahoma State in Morgantown.
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In this article, Fansided’s Daniel Flynn picks the best options for each of this year’s elite recruits.
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Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen knows a thing or two about developing and grooming gifted dual-threat quarterbacks and turning them into stars. During his short stint as Utah’s quarterback coach, Mullen played an instrumental role in transforming Alex Smith from an unheralded 2-star recruit into the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 NFL draft. A few years later, with the assistance of his long-time mentor Urban Meyer, Mullen managed to work his magic yet again at Florida, where he helped harness Tim Tebow’s unique physical gifts and turn him into a Heisman winner and one of the most legendary figures in college football history.
Unfortunately, since moving from Gainesville to Starkville after the 2008 season, the spread offensive guru hasn’t had the benefit of working with a signal-caller anywhere near the caliber of either Smith or Tebow. The absence of a dynamic playmaker behind center is the main reason why Mullen’s spread offense has failed to truly take flight and it’s why the Bulldogs have gone just 16-24 in SEC play during the past five seasons.
After a rather forgettable and lackluster 7-6 campaign last fall, Mullen knows that 2014 is shaping up to be a crucial season for the direction of his program. Luckily, the coach finally seems to have found a quarterback who is capable of turning Mississippi State into a viable threat in the SEC.
Dak Prescott is a versatile dual-threat quarterback who has the skill-set to flourish as the centerpiece of Mullen’s offensive system. He’s the dangerous and dynamic playmaker that the coach has been waiting for since he first arrived in Starkville.
Prescott thrived in his first year as a starter in 2013, showing plenty of intriguing flashes of his physical ability, which left the Bulldog faithful buzzing about his potential. The 6’2’’, 230-pound junior turned out to be one of the hidden gems of college football’s most talent-stocked conference. In 11 games of action, he threw for over 1,900 yards, ran for over 800 yards and accounted for 23 total touchdowns.
Not only does Prescott wear the same No. 15 as Mullen’s former pupil Tebow did at Florida, he also shares a similar type of compact, powerfully-built frame as the former Heisman winner, which allows him to lower his shoulder and take on tacklers without hesitation. Not only does he have the power and the fearlessness to run over defenders, he’s also got the speed to run right by them, as he displayed on runs like this 47-yard sprint against Auburn last year.
With a big, strong build, an impressive set of wheels, and enough arm strength to create big plays in the passing game on a routine basis, Prescott certainly looks like the complete package. The big question is: Does he have what it takes to be the true bona fide leader that helps elevate the Bulldogs to the next level in the SEC?
Reports coming out of spring practice were resoundingly positive and they only helped to strengthen the optimism surrounding the budding star signal-caller. In an article published by ESPN’s Edward Aschoff, center Dillon Day praised his quarterback’s offseason work ethic.
“He’s the top dog of the team, and not just because he’s the quarterback. In our offseason workouts, the way he works, the way he attacks [working out], the way he tries to motivate other people to get on his level because he’s way up here and he’s trying to bring everybody right up with him.”
It’s that type of drive and determination that separates the gifted players who simply coast on their physical gifts from the premier players who separate themselves from the pack and prove to be the true cream of the crop.
Prescott clearly has the physical tools to become an elite quarterback. It’s up to him to seize the chance and make the most of his ability.
In this day and age, college football has become a sport where we see a host of new breakout star quarterbacks on a yearly basis. Just look at the last four Heisman winners: Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton.
After displaying plenty of glimpses of his potential during his debut campaign, it’s Prescott’s name belongs on the short list of candidates to become one of college football’s next breakout star quarterbacks in 2014.
Following the departures of big-name starting quarterbacks such as Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray and AJ McCarron, the SEC is a league that now lacks a definitively great quarterback. The opening is there for a new star to rise this fall.
With 18 returning starters, including All-Conference-caliber impact players like WR Jameon Lewis, LB Benardrick McKinney and DL Chris Jones, this is shaping up to be the best squad Mullen has had at Mississippi State. It also helps that some of the top teams in the normally brutal SEC West division like Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M have each lost a significant amount of NFL talent, and all three will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks this year.
The window is open for Mississippi State to make a significant move up the ladder, and it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the Bulldogs could even make a similarly surprising run like Auburn and Missouri did in 2013.
Obviously, the real key to success is Prescott. The former 3-star recruit from Haughton, Louisiana seems to possess that “it” factor that you only tend to see in special signal-callers. He’s got the arm, he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the intangibles, he’s got the work ethic and he’s got the natural playmaking instincts to emerge as Mullen’s next great quarterback product.
There appears to be plenty of critical elements—right time, right system and right surrounding pieces—that are converging to make 2014 a potential breakthrough season for Prescott. Though he many not have the national name recognition of players like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley or Bryce Petty just yet, it may not take long before the college football world is buzzing about the Bulldogs’ “top dog.”
One thing’s for sure, SEC defenses better beware of the “Dak Attack” this fall.
No matter how talented or heralded a true freshman player may be, often times, opportunity is the true determining factor for how much playing time the player will see in his first season. Usually, freshmen need to be entering favorable circumstances, where there’s a dearth of proven talent at their position in order to see substantial game action in their first year.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Louisiana RB Elijah McGuire, who arrived on campus last offseason knowing full well that he was facing plenty of competition for carries from his new backfield brethren. The Ragin Cajuns were bringing back their three top rushers from the previous season, including featured back Alonzo Harris, who ranked fifth in the Sun Belt with 881 rushing yards in 2012.
The odds of making an early impact seemed slim for the once lightly recruited prospect from Louisiana’s Vandebilt Catholic High School. McGuire didn’t seem phased by his potential lack of opportunity, though.
It only took a few preseason practices for coaches to realize they had a potential diamond in the rough to polish. During camp, running backs coach Marquase Lovings immediately recognized that McGuire had the special physical skills, coupled with the personality and work ethic it takes to be great.
“Elijah has natural gifts as a running back, something that god gave him—Something that I can’t even coach. He’s got great balance. He has great vision. Those are two things that he brings to the table. He’s a conscientious kid. He’s willing to work at it each and every day. He has a great attitude about life. He’ll end up seeing some time (in 2013). As far as the run game goes, he’ll be involved.”
Lovings’ preseason comments about his young back’s potential role in the offense certainly seem a bit understated now. The 5’11’’, 185-pound freshman ended up flourishing during his dazzling debut campaign. Though he had to defer carries to his veteran backfield mate Harris, McGuire still managed to make the most of every opportunity he was given. Every time the gifted playmaker had the ball in his hands, it seemed like he was creating a big explosive play.
Not only did McGuire display the balance and vision his coach talked about, he also showed off his elusive speed on game-breaking runs like this 42-yard touchdown scamper against Nicholls State and this 70-yard sprint against Arkansas State.
Ultimately, he finished the year with 863 rushing yards on just 103 attempts (his 8.3 yards per rush average ranked fourth in the nation), 22 catches for 384 yards (his 17.4 yards per reception average ranked second in the Sun Belt) and 11 total touchdowns. His performance earned McGuire widespread praise and numerous honors, including a spot on the first team of the FWAA Freshman All-American team and the 2013 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year award.
If “big chunk” plays are the equivalent of home runs in football, then McGuire has to be considered one of the most feared hitters in the country. In just one year at the college level, the former high school quarterback, who led the state of Louisiana with 2,603 rushing yards in 2012, has already proven that he can bring a special type of exciting energy to an offense.
On the field, McGuire is a spectacle to behold. However, it’s all that he’s endured away from the gridiron throughout his personal life which made his breakout 2013 campaign all the more remarkable.
From the second he breathed his first breath on earth, McGuire has faced a long list of obstacles and turmoil that would break the spirit of most kids. After overcoming being born with a hole in his heart, McGuire was raised in a neighborhood on the east side of Houma—a city in Southeastern Louisiana—where he was surrounded by constant drug activity. He lost his father before he reached the age of 12, and his mother has dealt with debilitating vision problems, which sadly prevents her from seeing her son excel out on the field.
When you throw in an ACL tear, which cost him his entire junior year, and a schooling issue, which basically forced him to cram four years of high school into three in order to stay eligible, it just goes to show the type of endurance that has shaped McGuire’s spirit and soul. He’s faced threats away from the field that not even the biggest, scariest would-be-tackler could come close to replicating.
After persevering through so much adversity throughout his maturation process, obviously, arriving at college and seeing a few names ahead of yours on the depth chart didn’t seem like such a big deal. That’s why last offseason, when it looked like there wasn’t much of an opportunity to make an initial impact, McGuire seemed unfazed. Instead, he did what he’s always done. He went about his business in persistent fashion, let his talents shine and let his play on the field do all the talking.
Already an established star in the Sun Belt, heading into his sophomore season, McGuire will no longer catch opposing defenses off guard this time around. Still, that doesn’t mean that they’ll have any better of a chance of slowing him or the Ragin Cajuns offense down in 2014.
After totaling nine wins in each of the previous three seasons, Louisiana has a great chance to top the double-digit win mark for the first time in the program’s history this fall, thanks in large part to the return of the veteran senior trio of QB Terrance Broadway, RB Alonzo Harris and WR Jamal Robinson to lead an offensive attack that averaged 33 points per game last year.
Still, while Broadway, Harris and Robinson will all play a pivotal role in the team’s success this season, it’s no secret that McGuire is the player that everyone will be talking about once again. The dynamic sophomore speedster is ready to step out onto the national stage and soak up the spotlight in 2014.