Three-Point Stance: Miami rising, five 2017 contenders, giving thanks
Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s Three-Point Stance is here with a tip of the cap to the Miami Hurricanes, an early look at 2017 title contenders and the college football developments for which I am most thankful.
1. MIAMI ON THE MIND
While I typically expect Miami-area recruits to mention varying levels of interest in the Hurricanes, I was very surprised to hear just how many prospects were talking about The U in Orlando this past weekend at the Rivals 3 Stripe Camp presented by adidas.
In addition to big-time running back commitment Lorenzo Lingard and 2020 commitment Avantae Williams, it seemed like every top player at the event had Miami in the mix or on their short list. Dennis Briggs, Jamien Sherwood, David Reese, Ed Montilus and 2020 standout Leonard Manuel were just some of the prospects that spoke highly of the 'Canes. This is in stark contrast to past RCS Orlando events when Miami was mentioned by just a handful of prospects.
I wrote last week that Miami is probably 5-10 years away from making the playoff, but I could be way off if this recruiting momentum continues.
2. FIVE FAVORITES TO WIN THE 2017 TITLE
Last week, following my article about power programs returning to the national title conversation, several people asked me what team is closest to winning the national championship in 2017. I told you before the season last year that Clemson would win it all, so the pressure is on for me to follow that prediction up with another winner. We are still months away from that pick, but here is a very, very early look at five favorites for 2017.
Alabama – Stunner, right? The offense should be better due to Jalen Hurts’ expected development, a great group of running backs and a nasty offensive line. The defense is the bigger question mark after so many key personnel losses. But this is Alabama. The Crimson Tide reloads year after year and my expectation is that the team's defense will be just as nasty as new names emerge. I don’t see any other team else in the SEC that can challenge Nick Saban's squad in 2017.
Ohio State – Despite their youth, the Buckeyes were one of the most talented teams in the country last year. This year's team will be dangerous if J.T. Barrett can step up in the passing game and key players step up on defense to replace departing stars.
Oklahoma – Despite losses at running back and wide receiver, the Sooners have an easy path to the playoff. I don’t worry about the Oklahoma offense at all, it’s the team's defense that needs to step up. I think they will.
Florida State – I believe in quarterback Deondre Francois as a leader and the return of safety Derwin James will make a massive difference on defense. It will be tough to replace Dalvin Cook, but the freshmen running backs will complement Jacques Patrick very well. No team will have more true freshmen impact a national title run than the ‘Noles. The one problem? The team's opener against Alabama gives Florida State little margin for error if it loses to the Tide.
USC – Many have the Trojans first or second on a list like this because of quarterback Sam Darnold, but the team lost a lot in terms of personnel and I still question how good the team can be on defense. Darnold is great but, even with his talent, I could see USC dropping a couple of conference games if the team isn't focused.
3. GIVING THANKS
I was recently reflecting on things in college football that I am most thankful for – the things that happened in the last several years that have made my job that much more exciting. Here’s what I came up with:
Jim Harbaugh hired at Michigan – Harbaugh was introduced as the next head coach at Michigan on in Dec. 2014 and college football has been more interesting ever since. I never thought he would give up his drive and obsession for a Super Bowl title for college football, but Michigan is home and clearly his passion. Since then the Wolverines are recruiting more nationally, Harbaugh is needling everyone whenever he can and I got to write about sleepovers and satellite camps. He’s injected more life into college football.
Urban Meyer resurfaces at Ohio State – Everything changed in the Big Ten when Meyer was introduced as Ohio State's head coach in Nov. 2011. Meyer taught the rest of the conference to recruit aggressively, ruffled some feathers, recruited nationally and won a national title. Without this move, where is the Big Ten today?
Deshaun Watson signs with Clemson – Dabo Swinney was the program's interim head coach way back in 2008 and deserves a ton of credit obviously, but Watson signing with Clemson in 2014 clearly shifted the landscape of college football. While there have been many exciting quarterbacks since Vince Young was at Texas, Watson is the only one who could take a team on his back and will them to the national title – and he did just that.
Lane Kiffin keeps finding work – Kiffin has been controversial at every stop so when USC fired him and Nick Saban hired him as his offensive coordinator, excitement ensued. From helping to lead Alabama to a national title to being dismissed by Saban prior to this year’s title game, it never gets boring with Kiffin. The only disappointment? He didn’t land a big gig like at Oregon or even Houston this offseason. We have to hope he has success at FAU so he can be back in the national spotlight again at a Power Five program.
The College Football Playoff – The College Football Playoff has changed everything. Ohio State would have never played for it all in 2014 without the playoff. It’s been nice to see teams such as Florida State, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Washington get a chance that they otherwise would not have had prior to the playoff. And it’s only going to get better.