College Football's New Look

By last season, Mariota began making impassioned speeches on the sideline. And look at Walter: After four seasons in the NFL, he is running as a Republican in Arizona's 9th Congressional District, which includes the Arizona State campus. Mariota is a prominent candidate in a different election. Heisman voters loved him last year until he got hurt. And Mariota is not hurt any longer.

STANFORD, Calif. -- David Shaw is the eternal optimist, and with a 34-7 record after three seasons at Stanford, why not? The Cardinal are redshirting good players, which means they are replacing experience with experience.

But Shaw rarely has been as over the moon about any position group as he is about his top four receivers.

"I'm trying not to make a bold statement about the receiving corps. But I couldn't be more excited," Shaw said.

You know all about senior Ty Montgomery, whose All-American work as a kick returner last season overshadowed his 61 catches for 958 yards and 10 touchdowns. Montgomery stretches the field as if it were Silly Putty.

It's the other three, and the way they complement Montgomery, who make Shaw giddy. Devon Cajuste is a 6-4, 228-pound junior (28 catches, 642 yards, 5 TDs in 2013) who can block and take off down the seam. Redshirt sophomore Michael Rector averaged nearly 31 yards per catch last season (14 catches, 431 yards, 3 TDs) and should be comfortable with a greater role this fall.

Senior Jordan Pratt is the possession guy (12 catches, 148 yards). The precision with which Pratt operates is a reflection of his background. Pratt is 29, married, and majoring in atmosphere and energy engineering.

"Most of the time, the guys in the locker room are completely mature and I forget that I'm 10 years older," Pratt said. "And I'll make a comment, 'Yeah, I remember Sept. 11, 2001. Got called out of my high school class ... ' They'll say, 'High school? I don't even remember that!' "

Pratt spent eight seasons pitching in the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm system, where his coaches constantly told him he was thinking too much. On the football field, Pratt doesn't have to think.

"I can still spend the time in the film room," Pratt said, "talking to coaches and people who understand the game a lot better than I do and applying my analytical strengths and my thinking like an engineer to the game. Once I get out there, I can let it go."

The biggest sign of the depth of talent is that junior Kodi Whitfield (16 catches, 170 yards, 1 TD) moved across the line into the secondary.

"He's a natural safety," Shaw said. "I'm excited for him."

When it comes to his receivers, Shaw is just plain excited.

LOS ANGELES -- And now, for an encore, UCLA sophomore Myles Jack will play on both sides of the ball, kick field goals, do sidelines for the Bruins' radio broadcasts, and serve as lead architect for the new $50 million performance center.

OK, maybe we exaggerated just a bit there. Jack, the 6-1, 230-pound linebacker, only seemed as if he could do everything in his freshman season. Jack made 75 tackles, seven behind the line, and also averaged 7.0 yards on 38 carries as a stopgap, bust-up-the-gap tailback.

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