NCF Nation: Travis Johnson

Big East signing day superlatives

February, 8, 2013

Time to put a little bow on signing day coverage in the Big East. Who fared best? Worst? Read on to find out.

Biggest winner on signing day: There weren't many Big East schools waiting on decisions from ESPN 150 talent on signing day itself, so the big winner has to be Rutgers, for simply finishing with the top recruiting class in the Big East. Again. Rutgers hoped to add a few more players Wednesday, but that did not happen. Still, the Scarlet Knights put together a solid class filled with solid prospects, including four-star quarterback Chris Laviano and cornerback Nadir Barnwell.

Best closer: UConn came on strong in the final few weeks of recruiting, flipping Boston College quarterback commit Tim Boyle, one of the highest-rated players in the class. The Huskies also got a late commitment from three-star receiver Brian Lemelle, who had offers from many other BCS schools. Only one major question mark: Quarterback Richard Lagow, committed since June, has not signed with the Huskies yet.

Biggest surprise: Cincinnati getting four-star tight end Travis Johnson. After Johnson decommitted from Miami, many believe he would end up staying close to home in Tampa and playing for USF. Ultimately, he wanted the opportunity to leave home and ended up with the Bearcats, which continued their recruiting push into Florida, signing 11 from the state.

Who flipped/biggest loss: Louisville wanted to add two more to its class on signing day, but the Cardinals missed on both. ESPN 150 linebacker Jermaine Grace chose Miami over the Cards, and three-star linebacker Lamar Robbins stuck with his pledge to USF. Still, Louisville ended up with five four-star prospects, including two excellent receivers in James Quick and Richard Benjamin.

Big East recruiting recap, Part 1

February, 7, 2013
National signing day is in the books. Let's take a look at how some of next season's Big East schools fared. (Andrea Adelson will have Part 2 for you later in the day.)


Needs filled: Defensive linemen. The Knights brought in four defensive linemen, including a pair of top-50 defensive end prospects in four-star Seyvon Lowry (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and three-star Blake Keller (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee).

Holes remaining: Wide receiver. UCF did not sign a single receiver prospect this year, although it had landed four in the Class of 2012.


Needs filled: Tight end. The Bearcats brought in three tight ends, including ESPN 300 four-star prospect Travis Johnson, their highest-rated pickup this year. Cincinnati had landed no tight ends in the Class of 2012.

Holes remaining: Offensive linemen. Cincinnati signed two offensive linemen, one year after landing just three.


Needs filled: Tight end. The Huskies signed four tight ends after losing their top two (Ryan Griffin, John Delahunt) to graduation.

Holes remaining: Defensive backs. UConn signed just two true DBs (one safety, one cornerback) a year after signing just three. The Huskies lose two starting corners (Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Dwayne Gratz) from this past season, too.


Needs filled: Defensive linemen. The Cougars signed four defensive linemen last year and added five more this year. You can never have too many bodies up front, especially when jumping to a new conference.

Holes remaining: Running back. It's hard to find holes over a two-year recruiting period that netted 52 total new players, but just two from the Class of 2013 were running backs, one fewer than last year.


Needs filled: Wide receiver. The Cardinals' top two commits of this class are receivers: ESPN 150 prospect James Quick (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) and ESPN 300 recruit Richard Benjamin (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Bay Tech). They return their top four pass-catchers from this past season, too, with all having notched at least 40 receptions in 2012. (They also bring back quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the reigning Big East offensive player of the year.)

Holes remaining: Running back. Louisville did not land any running backs this year, and it signed just one in the Class of 2012.
Three keys for today's matchup between San Jose State and Bowling Green in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.

1. Fales' safety: Quarterback David Fales makes San Jose State's offense go, completing more than 72 percent of his passes and regularly eclipsing 300 pass yards. But the Spartans must protect Fales from a ferocious Bowling Green pass rush led by defensive tackle Chris Jones, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Jones averages more than a sack a game, tying for fourth nationally, and Bowling Green ranks ninth nationally in sacks (3.08 per game). San Jose State has faced some top pass-rushing teams like Stanford and Utah State, which recorded an astonishing 13 sacks against Fales in a 49-27 win. If the Spartans suffer similar breakdowns against Jones and the Falcons, they'll have a hard time keeping Fales on the field.

2. On the run: Both teams boast elite pass-rushers -- Bowling Green's Jones, San Jose State's Travis Johnson -- and quarterbacks who can put up big passing totals. The game could come down to which team runs the ball better. Falcons freshman Anthon Samuel ranks 44th nationally in rushing (87.8 ypg) but faces a Spartans defense ranked 19th nationally against the run (123.7 ypg). San Jose State received a big boost from running back De'Leon Eskridge in the regular-season finale against Louisiana Tech (217 rush yards, 3 TDs). Anything resembling that performance will help against a Bowling Green defense ranked 14th nationally against the run (116.7 ypg).

3. Measuring up: Bowling Green has made strides under coach Dave Clawson, improving its wins total from two to five to eight. But the Falcons are looking for a signature victory after dropping their first five games against ranked opponents during Clawson's tenure. They gave Florida a good test in the opener and enter the game on a hot streak, winning seven of eight to close the regular season. Bowling Green has dropped its past two bowl games, including a heartbreaker to Idaho in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl. The MAC is improving as a league and Bowling Green has a chance to be in that elite mix, but it needs to punctuate the season by playing its best game against a good team on a bowl stage. Bowling Green needs an efficient performance from the offense (no turnovers or penalties) and a stout effort from the defense.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 7, 2011
Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference.


Offense: Nick Fanuzzi, QB, Rice. Fanuzzi had career highs with 405 yards passing, 30 completions and 439 yards of total offense, while throwing three touchdowns and leading Rice to a 41-37 win over UTEP. Fanuzzi helped lead the Owls to the third-highest offensive output in school history with 671 yards.

Defense: Curnelius Arnick, LB, Tulsa. Arnick had a career-best 19 tackles, including 12 solos and one tackle for loss, as well as one pass breakup in a 24-17 road victory over UCF.

Special teams: Tracey Lampley, PR, Southern Miss. Lampley returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown in a win at East Carolina. It was his first punt return for a touchdown since his freshman year in 2009.


East Division

Offense: Donte’ Harden, RB, Ohio. Harden had a school-record 322 all-purpose yards (184 rushing, 75 receiving and 63 return yards) and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 35-31 win over Temple.

Defense: Jerrell Wedge, LB, Miami (Ohio). Wedge had nine tackles and a fumble recovery in a 35-3 victory over Akron.

Special teams: Rob Hollomon, KR, Kent State. Hollomon averaged 35.7 yards on three kick returns in a 24-21 win over Central Michigan.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish threw six touchdown passes, the second-most in MAC history, to lead Northern Illinois to a 63-60 shootout victory at Toledo. Harnish also rushed 16 times for 133 yards to account for 398 yards of total offense.

Defense: Dan Molls, LB, Toledo. Molls had 17 tackles and one tackle for loss in a 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois

Special teams: Tommylee Lewis, KR, Northern Illinois. Lewis became only the 13th player in NCAA FBS history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game when he scored on back-to-back kickoff returns for Northern Illinois in a 63-60 win at Toledo. Lewis brought the opening kickoff back 100 yards. After Toledo scored, he returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for the score.

Mountain West

Offense: Waymon James, RB, TCU. Rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 12 carries in a 31-20 win at Wyoming. James, who had a career-long 74-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, had 117 yards on five carries in the final period.

Defense: Jon Davis, DB, Air Force. Davis tied a career-high with 12 tackles as Air Force captured the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the second consecutive year with a 24-14 victory over Army.

Special teams: Parker Herrington, PK, Air Force. Kicked a career-high three field goals in a 24-14 win over Army. Herrington improved to 10-of-10 on the season inside 40 yards.

Sun Belt

Offense: Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Aplin accounted for five touchdowns in leading Arkansas State to a 39-21 victory at FAU. Aplin rushed for 49 yards and four touchdowns and completed 24 of 37 passes for 244 yards and another score.

Defense: Devon Lewis-Buchanan, LB, ULL. Lewis-Buchanan had a career-high 12 tackles, including 11 solo, in a 36-35 win over Louisiana-Monroe. He also had three tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win.

Special teams: Brett Baer, K, ULL. Baer perfectly executed an onside kick late in the game against ULM, allowing Ladarius Green to recover the kick at the ULM 39 to set up the game-winning score.


Offense: Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech. Cameron completed 19 of 33 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in Louisiana Tech’s 41-21 win at Fresno State.

Defense: Travis Johnson, DE, San Jose State. Johnson tied a school record with four sacks in a loss to Idaho. One of his sacks resulted in San Jose State’s first safety in seven years. He had a total of 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Special teams: Stanley Morrison, WR, Utah State. Executed two successful fake punts in a 35-31 comeback win at Hawaii. In the second quarter, he rushed for 8 yards on fourth-and 4 and then in the second half, he threw a 23-yard pass on fourth-and-5 to Joe Hill for a first down.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 17, 2011
Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players of the week are picked by a national media panel.


Offense: J.J. McDermott, QB, SMU. McDermott was 20-of-31 and passed for a career-high 358 yards and two touchdowns as SMU defeated UCF, 38-17. McDermott improved to 5-0 as a starter and it marked his third straight 300-yard passing game, tying the SMU record.

Defense: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall. Curry had nine tackles, which included four tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, to go with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a win over Rice.

Special teams: Richard Crawford, PR, SMU. Returned a punt 92 yards in a win over UCF, the second-longest punt return in league history. He totaled 141 punt return yards for the game, the second-best single-game effort in SMU history.


Offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Nelson completed 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, while adding a team-high 87 rushing yards on 12 carries to lead BYU to a 38-28 win over Oregon State.

Defense: Brandon Ogletree, LB, BYU. Forced turnovers on each of the Beavers’ first three possessions of the third quarter, intercepting a pass and causing two fumbles.

Special teams: Jon Teague, PK, Navy. Teague made two field goals against Rutgers, though his 34-yard attempt was blocked with under five minutes to play.


East Division

Offense: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce broke five school records in a 34-0 win over Buffalo after running for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Pierce and Matt Brown each rushed for 100 yards.

Defense: Roosevelt Nix, DT, Kent State. Forced an early fumble that led to a Kent State field goal and posted career-highs of six tackles and four solo stops in a loss to Miami (Ohio). He also had two tackles for loss, a pair of quarterback hurries and broke up a pass.

Special teams: BooBoo Gates, KR, Bowling Green. Gates had four kick returns for 152 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown return in the fourth quarter in a 28-21 loss to Toledo.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Ran for a career-high 229 yards on 14 carries and passed for 203 yards on 14-of-27 passing for a total of 432 yards of total offense in the Huskies 51-22 win over Western Michigan.

Defense: Desmond Marrow, DB, Toledo. Had a team-high 10 tackles in a 28-21 win at Bowling Green. Marrow added a career-best three passes defensed.

Special Teams: Scott Kovanda, P, Ball State. Punted seven times for 327 yards and a 46.7 average in a 23-20 win at Ohio. Kovanda pinned Ohio inside the 20-yard line four times and had a career-long 67-yard punt.

Mountain West

Co-Offense: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State. Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Martin carried the ball 20 times for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-13 win at Colorado State. His 65-yard TD run was the longest of the season for Martin. Hillman ran 27 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-27 win at Air Force. Both of his touchdowns came in the final period after the game was tied with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.

Defense: Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State. Crawford recorded five tackles in a win at Colorado State, including two sacks for losses totaling 14 yards. He also recovered a fumble.

Special teams: Chris McNeill, WR/PR, Wyoming. McNeill returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, threw a 28-yard touchdown pass and also completed a 2-point conversion pass in a 41-14 win over UNLV. The punt return for a touchdown was the Cowboys’ first since 2004 and the first in the Mountain West this season.

Sun Belt

Offense: Kolton Browning, QB, ULM. Went 23-of-31 for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Troy. He also added 33 yards on nine carries on the ground to top the 300-yard mark in total offense.

Defense: Lance Kelly, LB, ULL. Had a game-high eight tackles, a tackle-for-loss, a fumble recovery, a pass break-up and an interception in a win over North Texas.

Special Teams: Mitchell Bailey, RB, ULM. After ULM took a 15-10 lead on Troy late in the third quarter, Bailey forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that the Warhawks recovered on the 17-yard line. Two plays later, Browning threw a touchdown pass to Colby Harper to stretch the ULM lead and the Warhawks never looked back.


Offense: Chandler Jones, WR, San Jose State. Scored three touchdowns three different ways in a 28-27 win over Hawaii. He scored on a 20-yard reverse, off a fumbled kick return, and caught a 37-yard pass with 36 seconds remaining to win. Jones came into the game with just one career touchdown.

Defense: Khalid Wooten, CB, Nevada. Recorded six tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass in a 49-7 win over New Mexico.

Special teams: Travis Johnson, DE, San Jose State. Blocked two kicks in San Jose State’s win over Hawaii. One was on an extra-point attempt, which was picked up and returned by Duke Ihenacho for the Spartans’ first-ever 2-point defensive PAT. He also blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt with 3:22 remaining.