College Football is back! And not a moment too soon, as scandals have ripped through the college football scene during the offseason. Ohio State saw the loss of both its head coach and star quarterback, while Auburn has come under continued scrutiny regarding the now-departed Cam Newton. It's been all about the Hurricanes over the past couple of weeks, and we're not talking about Irene. Booster Nevin Shapiro alleged giving impermissible benefits to as many as 72 current and former players at The U from 2002-2010. At least 12 'Canes have been declared ineligible by the school in the hopes that the NCAA will rule swiftly on any suspensions or repercussions. Penalties for the university itself range from loss of scholarships to bowl bans to even the revival of the death penalty. While the latter would be supremely harsh, the NCAA does not want to lose face in what has already been a tumultuous offseason. As a result, the Miami program remains in limbo.
Hopefully, though, the on-field product will trump these past transgressions as we gear up for another fascinating run toward the BCS national championship. Without further ado, let's take a look at the premiere of this year's College Football Barometer.
Jeremy Wright, RB, Louisville - Wright was recently listed as a co-starter with teammate Victor Anderson, despite Anderson coming into fall camp as the favorite to snatch the starting job. Wright averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2010 as the backup to Bilal Powell, who is now in the NFL. Anderson has also been unable to stay healthy the last couple seasons, as his lone 1,000-yard season came as a freshman in 2008. With instability at the quarterback decision to boot, the running backs should play an integral role for the Cardinals in 2011. And Wright has all the makings of a potential star.
Cole Beasley, WR, SMU - The high-flying Mustangs offense has lost star receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson over the last two seasons, leaving Beasley to fill the void in 2011. Beasley was no slouch himself last year, though, catching 87 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback Kyle Padron is back after an All-Conference USA honorable mention nod in 2010, with Beasley as his top target. Although he will draw more attention, Darius Johnson returns on the opposite flank and was serviceable last season to the tune of 78 receptions for 845 yards and six touchdowns. Likewise, the impressive Zach Line will be rushing the football for the 'Stangs as well, giving SMU a balanced attack in which Beasley can thrive.
James Franklin, QB, Missouri - Blaine Gabbert was a first-round pick of the Jaguars, and his younger brother Tyler recently transferred to Louisville. That leaves the Mizzou starting quarterback job to Franklin, a dual-threat sophomore QB who is an elite athlete. He is raw and inexperienced and has big shoes to fill. However, he has no competition and will pilot a Top-25 squad from the opening week. With the three leading receivers from 2010 (T.J. Moe, Michael Egnew and Jerrell Jackson) returning, Franklin has a bevy of options to choose from, and can always tuck the ball himself and run for a first down. There could be some growing pains, but Franklin has high upside for the Tigers.
Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia - New coach Dana Holgorsen brings the spread offense to Morgantown, which should yield increased opportunities for Bailey and rest of the Mountaineers wide-receiving corps. Bailey is the No. 2 wide receiver behind Tavon Austin, who should draw plenty of attention from opposing defenses. Bailey was productive even with Jock Sanders in the picture last season, hauling in 24 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns.
Damaris Johnson, WR, Tulsa - Johnson has been suspended indefinitely for his role in a possible embezzlement scandal involving his girlfriend. Johnson is going to be virtually impossible to replace, as he has led the NCAA in all-purpose yards each of the last two seasons. Johnson's girlfriend, who works at a local Macy's, is accused of selling more than $1,500 worth of merchandise to Johnson for just under $13 on one occasion. She is also accused of only charging him 34 cents for merchandise totaling $1,283. Certainly a crushing blow for Tulsa and fantasy owners alike.
Jacory Harris, QB, Miami - Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about booster Nevin Shapiro's allegations implicating as many as 72 former and current players at the University of Miami in a scandal. The player with the most to lose from a fantasy perspective is certainly Harris, Miami's senior quarterback who has struggled with interceptions at times. Harris has battled sophomore Stephen Morris in training camp, and it was a dead heat before Harris was declared ineligible by the school. It is unclear if or how long Harris will be suspended by the NCAA. However, even if Harris misses just one game, he could still end up behind the 8-ball if Morris excels in the season opener against Maryland.
Orleans Darkwa, RB, Tulane - Darkwa has been battling a toe injury this summer. More specifically, he has a partial ligament tear in said toe, never a good thing for a running back who takes a beating and needs to make continual cuts and plants. He had five consecutive 100-yard rushing games late last season, but is questionable for the opener against Southeastern Louisiana. It is probably best to roll with another back besides Darkwa in Week 1, but it will be tough to replace his 10 rushing touchdowns from a season ago.
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State - Moore has been a stud throughout his career at Boise State, including finishing fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy last season. In his career, he has passed for more than 10,000 yards, with a 99:19 TD:INT ratio. However, it bears noting that he lost his top two targets in Austin Pettis and Titus Young to the NFL. Boise State has become a program that can replenish its ranks, but there could be a grace period while Moore gets used to his new go-to options in Tyler Shoemaker and Geraldo Hiwat at wide receiver.
Montel Harris, RB, Boston College - Harris will miss at least one game due to a recent left knee arthroscopic procedure. The leading rusher in the ACC last season, it will be interesting to see if Harris loses explosiveness due to the injury. He expects to be ready for Week 2, but could be at less than 100 percent. Likewise, it's the same knee he hurt last year, which ended his season in November. Harris still managed 1,243 yards and eight touchdowns in 2010, after accumulating 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2009. Andre Williams will see the lion's share of touches in his absence.
Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU - Jefferson has been suspended indefinitely for his role in a bar fight on Aug. 19. An arrest warrant was issued by the Baton Rouge Police Department for Jefferson for second degree battery, which is a felony charge, for allegedly kicking a man in the face during the skirmish. Jefferson had a down year in 2010, but tossed 17 touchdowns in 2009 as a freshman. The Tigers will turn to Jarrett Lee under center and remain a Top-5 team overall, but Jefferson's season could be finished before it even began.
Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas - Be sure not to mistakenly draft Davis, an absolute fantasy beast who will miss the entire 2011 campaign due to a broken ankle suffered in practice in mid-August. Davis was simply monstrous in 2010, rushing for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he didn't even begin the 2010 season as a starter. Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo Jr. should get the majority of the carries in his place for the Razorbacks, but it's safe to say the Arkansas offense will not be as potent in Knile's absence.
James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State - His brother is in the NFL, but James was granted a medical redshirt and remains in Corvallis for the Beavers. Still, he had two surgeries on his left knee in less than five months and won't be ready for the Sept. 3 opener against Sacramento State. Rodgers had previously been saying he would not miss any time, so obviously this news is disconcerting. Rodgers also prides himself on his explosiveness, something that could be limited or taken away completely this season due to his troublesome knee.