NCF Nation: Wesley Carroll

Florida International Golden Panthers (8-4) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd (6-6)

Dec. 20, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

FIU take by college football blogger Matt Fortuna: FIU's 8-4 this season was the best in school history, and it will look to punctuate that mark with a bowl win in its second-ever bowl appearance after beating Toledo last season in the Little Caesar Bowl. The Golden Panthers' Sept. 9 win at Louisville was its first against a BCS automatic qualifying opponent in school history.

Quarterback Wesley Carroll lost his job to Jake Medlock but won it back after Medlock injured his shoulder at Louisiana-Monroe. Carroll, a fifth-year senior, stepped back in and completed 16 of 34 passes for 213 yards and three scores, leading FIU to a 28-17 win.

T.Y. Hilton has been the most explosive player for the Golden Panthers, though he has been hampered by a hamstring injury. Hilton has 950 receiving yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for another 101 yards on just 16 carries. His seven receiving touchdowns tied the school's single-season record. Hilton has also returned a punt for a touchdown and added a 77-yard kickoff return in the regular-season finale. FIU finished the season tops in the nation in punt returns.

FIU's banner season included wins over in-state opponents Florida Atlantic and Central Florida, and the Golden Panthers finished with tied with Florida State for most wins in the state this season.

Marshall take from college football blogger Kevin Gemmell: Needing to win their final two games to become bowl eligible, Marshall clutched up with a win on the road at Memphis before pulling out a 34-27 overtime win at home over East Carolina.

Defensive lineman Vinny Curry is a beast that makes the defense go. He has 11 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss this season (second best nationally). Marshall still ranks in the lower half of the nation in rush defense, yielding 155 yards per game. But Curry makes offenses work for every yard.

In the secondary, senior defensive back Rashad Jackson has had a nice season with nine pass breakups and four interceptions -- including a pair in the ECU win.

Quarterbacking is once again an issue with true freshman Rakeem Cato and A.J. Graham splitting time. But Graham was hurt in the season finale, and with bowl eligibility on the line, Cato orchestrated the overtime victory. Cato has more touchdowns (13), but also has 10 picks on the year. Graham has a 7-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Tron Martinez paces the offense on the ground with 591 yards and an average of 4.1 yards per carry. In the overtime win against East Carolina, he scored the winning touchdown and also showed some versatility out of the backfield, catching three balls for 34 yards.

Quarterback transfers to watch

March, 3, 2010
As spring football begins to hit its stride (most teams will open this month), it’s important to look at some of the key contributors that were sitting on the bench last year. I’m talking about the transfers, the guys who left schools from automatic qualifying conferences to help a non-AQ find success.

There are a lot of major transfers on non-AQ teams that are eligible to play this season, but none are more important than the quarterbacks. Several teams are looking to replace starters or just get some new blood under center.

Here’s a look at my top five quarterback transfers from AQ teams:

Wesley Carroll, FIU: Carroll comes to FIU after a pretty fantastic start at Mississippi State and is the favorite to replace graduated starter Paul McCall. Carroll started nine games as a true freshman in 2007 (played in all 13) and was named SEC freshman first-team. He started four games as a sophomore for the Bulldogs before deciding to transfer after he lost his job to junior college transfer Tyson Lee. During the FIU spring game last year, Carroll completed 11-of-17 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. FIU had a down year in 2009, mostly because of injuries, but with a couple key transfers and two strong recruiting classes, this could be the year the Golden Panthers reverse their fortunes.

Taylor Cook, Rice: The Owls will actually have two transfers vying for the starting quarterback position this year. Cook came over from Miami last year and sat out, and Nick Fanuzzi, who started eight games last season, transferred from Alabama after the 2007 season. Fanuzzi put up nice numbers last year, but didn’t have a lot of help. Cook enters the spring with a nice pedigree but doesn’t have any collegiate experience. Cook actually entered Miami’s 2009 spring practices as the No. 2 quarterback before opting to transfer.

Phil Bates, Ohio: Bates came over from Iowa State and was actually a wide receiver as a true freshman before switching to quarterback his sophomore year. He completed 14-of-24 passes for 137 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and he ran 24 times for 166 yards. He’s the type of dual-threat quarterback coach Frank Solich likes in his system and the battle with Boo Jackson, who missed last year with an injury, will be interesting. Bates’ versatility (he did catch five passes for 73 yards) will make it tough to keep him off the field.

Willy Korn, Marshall: Korn was a surprise pick up for new head coach Doc Holliday. Korn is graduating in May and will have two years of eligibility remaining. Since he won’t be around until the fall, it will be hard for him to wrestle the starting role away from Brian Anderson. Anderson threw for more than 2,600 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he also had 13 interceptions. In three seasons at Clemson, Korn completed 46-of-66 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns. He also battled a shoulder injury.

Cannon Smith, Memphis: Smith was a big pickup for Memphis, especially since the Tigers graduated three senior quarterbacks. Cannon played in one game as a true freshman at Miami in 2008, but was injured and ultimately took a medical redshirt. Smith will challenge sophomore Tyler Bass, who played in four games and had three starts last year, and sophomore Will Gilchrist. The starting role will probably come down to Smith and Bass.
It’s March (I can’t believe it’s already March) and that means spring football is going to start across the non-AQ conferences. Air Force, Army and San Diego State are already in full swing, but five other teams will begin their spring practices this week.

Here’s a look at the teams and their biggest issue:

Florida International, March 3

Biggest issue: The Golden Panthers are looking for a starting quarterback after Paul McCall's graduation. Mississippi State transfer Wesley Carroll will be the top candidate.

Louisiana-Lafayette, March 3

Biggest issue: The Ragin’ Cajuns had one of the top running games in the nation in 2008, but slipped to 71st in 2009. Sophomore Yobes Walker will need to prove he is the guy to pull the running game out of its funk.

Southern Miss, March 3

Biggest issue: The Golden Eagles missed six extra points last year, including one against East Carolina that cost them a trip to the Conference USA title game. Consistency in the kicking game will be a top priority.

Nevada, March 5

Biggest issue: Defense has been an Achilles’ heel for the Wolf Pack, but new defensive coordinator Andy Buh will work yp change that this spring.

Wyoming, March 6

Biggest issue: As funny as it sounds, the Cowboys will have to battle complacency after going to a bowl game in coach Dave Christensen’s first season. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will have a couple of new playmakers and the defense will move from a 3-4 to a 4-3.
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Arkansas State Red Wolves
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • Three-time All-Sun Belt rusher Reggie Arnold is gone and finding his replacement will be their top priority. Derek Lawson, who was third on the team in rushing with 244 yards and two touchdowns, returns and he’ll be the incumbent through spring. But he’ll face competition from Sir Gregory Thornton and Frankie Jackson in the fall.
  • Ryan Aplin, who started three of the final four games last season, should be the leading quarterback this spring. Redshirt freshman Phillip Butterfield, however, will also challenge him for the spot. Butterfield was in the mix last fall camp before his season ended with a knee injury.
  • Arkansas State is currently without an offensive coordinator after Clay Helton, who came over from Memphis last month, left for USC last week. The Red Wolves still have a month before spring football starts, but trying to fill that void this late is going to make any transition to a new offense tough.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Spring practice starts: March 31
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • The Owls lost seven starters from the offense, including four from the offensive line. The only player returning is center Ryan Wischnefski. Several players will be fighting for those spots, including Troy Niblack, Samuel McRoy, Jared Pizzuti and Max Karrick. The 2009 FAU offensive line was the best in the program’s short history. It helped FAU become the No. 2 passing offense in the Sun Belt.
  • FAU returns senior quarterback Jeff Van Camp, who started the second half of the season after Rusty Smith was injured. But six of the team’s top seven receivers are gone, including both tight ends Jason Harmon and Jamari Grant. Senior Lester Jean is the lone returning receiver. He had 501 yards and four touchdowns last season. The good thing is that FAU quarterbacks like to spread the ball around, so developing a new rapport with some receivers this spring shouldn’t be too difficult.
  • The team is counting on new defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh and secondary coach Dick Hopkins to make the defense competitive. The Owls had one of the worst defenses in the country and one of the worst in program history. There will be a lot of competition in the secondary, especially since three walk-ons filled those starting roles.
Florida International Golden Panthers
Spring practice starts: March 3
Spring game: April 1
What to watch:
  • Senior Wayne Younger and junior transfer Wesley Carroll, who came from Mississippi State where he was an all-freshman selection in 2008, will compete for the starting quarterback job after Paul McCall graduated. Younger played in spot time last year and threw four interceptions and no touchdowns.
  • Darriet Perry should be the leader heading into the running back competition, but Perry struggled at times last year, mostly because of injuries. Kendall Berry, who played out of the Wildcat last year, and Syracuse transfer Jeremiah Harden also will compete for the starting role.
  • New offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield will be happy to see star receiver T.Y. Hilton back after he struggled with knee injuries most of last year. Hilton is one of the most dynamic receivers in the conference and having him healthy should give the offense confidence.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Chris Low

We browse the headlines from around the SEC:

Posted by's Chris Low

Let's make the rounds to see what's making headlines in the SEC:

Alabama's Rolando McClain shows his toughness against Mississippi State and plays on despite a painful thumb injury.

Georgia beat writer Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the Bulldogs don't have the chemistry and/or heart that the great teams have.

This is one bye week South Carolina could do without after getting clobbered last week by Florida and with Clemson looming in the distance.

Mississippi State's Wesley Carroll is hoping for more snaps at quarterback.

The Gators are plenty talented, but they also have great chemistry this season after lacking in that department a year ago.

Internal affairs in the SEC

September, 17, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

We go inside with our weekly "Internal Affairs" check of the conference. Not that it's a revelation to Tennessee, but the Vols had better be ready to see a lot of No. 1 this Saturday in Knoxville:

1. Putting more Green in the offense: There's one major problem with Georgia freshman receiver A.J. Green this season. He hasn't touched the ball nearly enough. The Georgia coaches have admitted as much this week, and they're going to try and get the ball in his hands more against Arizona State. Green is second on the team with eight catches for 141 yards and is averaging 17.6 yards per catch, but he's clearly their most explosive receiving threat ... and he goes and gets the football. One thing the Bulldogs may also do is whittle down their receiver rotation. They're playing too many guys right now.

2. Unleashing Percy: Look for Florida to add a new running back this week. Percy Harvin's not going to carry it 20 times, but he'll touch the ball more against Tennessee than he has all season. And a bunch of those touches will come with him lined up in the backfield. The Gators will hand it to him, pitch it to him and toss it to him. He's healthier than he's been, bigger than he's been (205 pounds) and ready to get back to what he was last season -- one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football. The Gators will also have a few misdirection plays involving Harvin, plays the Vols have struggled to defend in recent years.

3. Burns-ing quarterback issues: This whole thing with Kodi Burns and the Auburn quarterback situation doesn't sound promising for the Tigers. Tommy Tuberville admitted that he met with Burns' parents following the Southern Miss game when Chris Todd was announced as Auburn's starter. Burns didn't play at all in the Mississippi State game, but remains in the Tigers' plans for the LSU game, Tuberville said. One of the holdups, according to Tuberville, is that he doesn't want Burns pegged as just a running quarterback and wants him to be ready to run the whole spread offense. Tuberville insists that he believes in Burns. But does first-year offensive coordinator Tony Franklin?

4. Williams moving to end: Tennessee has moved Gerald Williams from outside linebacker to defensive end for the Florida game, and the 6-4, 240-pound Williams is likely to stay there for the rest of the season after playing primarily on special teams the first two games. It's no secret that the Vols need to pressure Tim Tebow, get to him early and keep him boxed in as much as possible. Tennessee only has two sacks in its first two games and is looking for guys who can finish on the outside. The Vols hope Williams can be that guy, and he's also fast enough to pursue the ball and make plays on the perimeter.

5. Shaking it up in Starkville: Mississippi State offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey wishes he had a magic wand, but a few adjustments will have to do. The first thing the Bulldogs are going to do is give Tyson Lee a few more chances at quarterback. Coach Sylvester Croom had gone back and forth on that, but the plan now is to play Lee some against Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs also plan to get running back Robert Elliott a lot more involved, especially with Anthony Dixon questionable with a groin injury. Elliott gives them a chance for bigger plays. Mississippi State didn't have a play longer than 13 yards in the 3-2 loss to Auburn.

Posted by's Chris Low

 Joe Murphy/Getty Images
 Wesley Carroll has high expectations for his team in 2008.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- For the first part of last season, Wesley Carroll admits he was doing his best just to tread water.

A true freshman, he was forced into action as Mississippi State's starting quarterback when the Bulldogs were searching for any semblance of consistency at the position.

As it was, Carroll ended up starting nine games, and the Bulldogs were 6-3 in those games on their way to an 8-5 finish and a Liberty Bowl win over Central Florida.

A year later, he has a better grasp on everything -- the offense, his teammates, what the coaches are looking for and just exactly what his role will be.

"I expect a lot more from myself and from my teammates just because we've all had a year going into the season," Carroll said. "I didn't have a lot of offseason preparation last year, being able to work timing with receivers and mesh with backs and stuff like that. All that will help our chemistry.

"I wasn't with any of the seniors last year. We, as a team, expect so much more than we did last year."

In particular, Carroll thinks the Bulldogs will be far more flexible on offense and not beat their head into a wall trying to run against defenses that stack the line of scrimmage with eight and nine defenders.

"I think everybody found their niche in the spring and what role they'll be playing on offense as opposed to just going out there and trying to run when there's eight guys in the box," Carroll said. "We won't be able to do that. We established a lot of new formations with plays that we can execute against any defense.

"We have a lot of audibles depending on what the defense does, and we'll always be right. We didn't have that flexibility last year."

A lightly recruited quarterback out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the 6-foot-1 Carroll (and that's stretching it) didn't receive any serious interest in the state of Florida from major schools. He'd never even been to the state of Mississippi until he took his first unofficial visit to Mississippi State in the spring of his junior year in high school.

"There's a lot of guys like me," Carroll said. "We talk about that as a team all the time. There's no five-star guys, best-in-the-country type athletes. But we win, and that's all that matters."