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Path: /nascar/busch-prepares-tackle-double-coke-600-need-spark
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Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500 share center stage over racing’s biggest weekend.


Coca-Cola 600 in need of a spark
Racing 600 miles at Charlotte has long been NASCAR's attempt at one-upping the open-wheel gang and that group's lasting importance of the Indianapolis 500.

The 600 has certainly turned in to one of the sport's favorite traditions — I'd recommend ignoring anyone who complains about the length of the race this weekend — largely based on the excess of the mileage but also due to its move to a day-night event in 1993. It was a race that had developed its own unique flair, allowing it to stand out on an otherwise long calendar.

A combination of events, however, have come together to reduce some of the race's prestige. Advances in racing technology have made the race less of a taste of endurance, a glut of NASCAR night racing has lessened the unique day-night draw and, for more than a decade, the event hasn't been part of NASCAR's former bonus program that established the race as a crown jewel event. Faster speeds and a heavier dependence on aerodynamics has also caused some separation in the racing.

Mind you, the Coca-Cola 600 isn't failing and it’s not on a last leg. But the race certainly isn't held in the same reverence on the NASCAR calendar that it once was.

What's the best cure? It's impossible to know. But the race needs a shot in the arm.


Car transition period key for Busch at Charlotte  Kurt Busch
"Doing the double" is a phrase that has once again become relevant at Charlotte Motor Speedway beyond special requests at the concession stand, all thanks to Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kurt Busch. Busch, of course, is planning to race 1,100-plus miles Sunday by becoming the first NASCAR driver since 2004 to start both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

After a brief taste of that back-and-forth racing lifestyle last weekend, crew chief Daniel Knost noted this week that Busch's greatest challenge in the double won't necessarily be fitness. Instead, it'll be about transitioning from IndyCar handling sensibilities to Cup car sensibilities upon Charlotte arrival.

"I think that the cars are really different, so it may take him a little while to get settled into our car," Knost said.

Knost is talking from experience. In an interview at Indianapolis 500 qualifying Sunday, Busch noted that he spent most of the All-Star Race's first segment getting back acquainted with the heavier, less nimble car. Such a process makes it tough to make significant strides forward in race conditions.

Busch's teammate knows that firsthand. After racing the Indianpolis 500 in 2001, Tony Stewart became the 600's first caution when he spun on Lap 3. However, he recovered to a third-place finish. Good race cars, after all, cure most ills.

"I think, if the car is good enough, (Busch will) be able to go up there and compete," Knost said.


Now time for Danica's consistency  Danica Patrick
There is no doubt that Danica Patrick's top-10 finish at Kansas Speedway was her best overall Sprint Cup race to date. Patrick methodically improved the car and her track position during the race, though largely seemed to lose most of her gained ground during restarts.

Regardless, Patrick's Kansas run — she's long been known to hate driving loose race cars and felt the Kansas car was fast largely because she finally felt secure on the track — was a success on the level of expectation. The key now for Patrick is turning runs like Kansas into significant streaks of success.

Starting fourth on Sunday night is a step in the right direction. But the biggest hurdle she still faces is consistency.


Charlotte ages back to Jimmie's liking?  Jimmie Johnson
An underlying current of last week's All-Star Race was an improved groove around Charlotte's 1.5-mile track. Finally, some eight years after Charlotte went through its full repave in 2006, the track seems to be finding some age and character again.

It's undoubtedly still lightning fast — drivers were barely blipping the throttle and dragging the brake during qualifying laps in the 27-second range during last week's All-Star qualifying — and remains an aero-dependent track. However, drivers seemed less and less perturbed by the dreaded aero push and had some longer runs side-by-side and nose-to-tail than previously seen in recent CMS races.

Familiar bumps on the backstretch and entering Turn 3 also seem to be reappearing.

All told, that may be music to Jimmie Johnson's ears. In the eight races immediately prefacing the 2006 repave, Johnson won five times. In the 16 races since, he has one win and just five top-5 finishes.


Botched qualifying for several top names
Thursday night's group qualifying session for the Coca-Cola 600 went quite well for Jimmie Johnson. For other big names, it didn't go so hot.

The first sign of trouble came from Ryan Newman when significant handling issues quickly brought him back to pit road. The culprit? A left side tire had been inadvertently mounted on the right of the car — heavily skewing the car out of balance.

Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch slogged through the opening round with poor performing cars. Neither advanced to the second round, leaving the former champions scheduled to start 27th and 28th.

The last bit of silly business happened at the close of the final five-minute round for the pole. Two drivers — Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth — tried to play the countdown clock to their advantage by taking the green flag just before it expired. The thinking behind that strategy allows a car to cool down longer than others and attempt a lap in the coolest possible conditions.

Those objectives are lost, of course, when a driver fails to click by the start-finish line on a flying lap before the clock hits zero. Harvick and Kenseth both made that embarrassing mistake Thursday, relegating their starting positions to 11th and 12th and missing any shot at the pole.


Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Five things to watch on racing's biggest weekend with IndyCar's Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on tap.
Post date: Friday, May 23, 2014 - 11:03
Path: /college-football/college-football-win-total-projections-released-2014
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Need a good way to make it through the long offseason? First, buy and read an Athlon Sports College Football preview magazine and then take a look at these win total projections provided by 5Dimes.

With a few months until kickoff, expect to see more win total projections released, but 5Dimes has 35 teams and the wager prices for 2014 to help us pass the time until August.

Here’s a look at the team and projected win totals by 5Dimes:
 

TeamProjected Win Total
Alabama 10.5 (Over -140, Under +100)
Auburn 9.5 (Over -155, Under +115)
Baylor 9.5 (Over -130, Under -110)
BYU 8.5 (Over -160, Under +120)
Clemson 9.5 (Over -150, Under -190)
Duke 8.5 (Over +120, Under -160)
Florida 7.5 (Over +110, Under -150)
Georgia 9.5 (Over -120, Under -120)
Indiana 5.5 (Over +145, Under -185)
Kansas State 8.5 (Over -130, Under -110)
Maryland 7.5 (Over +100, Under -140)
Miami 7.5 (Over -160, Under +120)
Michigan 7.5 (Over -140, Under +100)
Michigan State 9.5 (Over -155, Under +115)
Mississippi 7.5 (Over -140, Under +100)
Missouri 9.5 (Over +110, Under -150)
Nebraska 7.5 (Over -130, Under -110)
North Carolina 7.5 (Over -140, Under +100)
Notre Dame 9.5 (Over +110, Under -150)
Ohio State 10.5 (Over -140, Under +100)
Oregon 10.5 (Over +100, Under -140)
Penn State 8.5 (Over +100, Under -140)
Rutgers 4.5 (Over -110, Under -130)
South Carolina 9.5 (Over -140, Under +100)
Stanford 9.5 (Over -120, Under -120)
Tennessee 5.5 (Over -160, Under +120)
Texas 8.5 (Over -110, Under -130)
Texas A&M 7.5 (Over -110, Under -130)
TCU 6.5 (Over +120, Under -160)
UCLA 9.5 (Over +100, Under -150)
USC 8.5 (Over -130, Under -110)
Virginia Tech 7.5 (Over -150, Under +110)
Washington State 5.5 (Over -165, Under +125)
West Virginia 5.5 (Over -190, Under +150)
Wisconsin 9.5 (Over -135, Under -105)
Teaser:
College Football Win Total Projections Released for 2014
Post date: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 13:09
Path: /overtime/21-unintentionally-dirty-sports-photos-web
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Ahh, photography. It can catch a split-second moment in time and turn it into a hilarious photo that can be interpreted the completely wrong way. And sports provides more of these moments than most other subjects--usually because there's a lot of sweaty dudes rolling around with each other and celebrating as only sweaty dudes know how. Here are 21 unintentionally funny sports photos that are hilarious even if you don't like sports.

Teaser:
<p> These photos caught athletes doing things we only see in the movies (dirty movies.)</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 12:42
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-may-22-2014
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This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for May 22.

50 United States Senators have signed a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to change the name of the Washington Redskins.

President Obama had a little fun with outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman when the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks visited The White House on Wednesday.

• Mexican national "soccer" team coach Miguel Herrera has banned all of his players from having sex during The World Cup. He does know it's being played in Brazil, right?

• Want a quick, by-the-numbers look at the Indy 500 this weekend? Here are 21 numbers you need to know about the Greatest Spectacle in Motorsports.

• The real star of the NBA Draft lottery was Milwaukee Bucks rep Mallory Edens. The daughter of team co-owner Wesley Edens went from 249 twitter followers to, at last count, over 43,000 followers in less than two days.

Mark Cuban vs. Bleacher Report. Go.

• Two things here: (1) Bill Goldberg played at Georgia because of a bottle of Wild Turkey and (2) Barry "Switzer would drink a 'Crown on the rocks within five minutes" of arriving on recruiting visits.

• Scout’s Jamie Newberg is producing a series of NFL Draft articles based on geography this week. It’s fascinating analysis of what cities, states and regions produce the most NFL talent. (Here's Part 1.)

• The Tampa Bay Rays threw a one-hitter against the Oakland A's on Wednesday. AND STILL LOST.

• The Cubs lack of support for Jeff Samardzija is growing comical. The Chicago pitcher tosses seven scoreless innings on Wednesday and lowering his league-leading ERA to 1.46. Yet, the Cubs managed to lose the game, pushing his winless streak to 16 consecutive starts. He has no wins in 2014.

• One of NASCAR’s long-time writers and aficionados has all of the fancy new Coca-Cola 600 paint schemes covered, including Dale Earnhardt’s new DC Comics Superman paint scheme.

I believe the great Dodgers announcer Charley Steiner says it perfectly, "I hate to break the news to Puig, but that's the third out."

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 10:06
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-may-21-2014
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This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for May 21.

• It's become more common for teammates to pester MLB players doing in-game dugout interviews, but that doesn't make this instance with Indians pitcher Corey Kluber any less amusing.
 
• If you haven't seen UFC Octagon Girl Vanessa Hanson, you really should. Behold her awesomeness.
 
• In one of the most groan-inducing moments in recent NBA history, the Cleveland Cavaliers scored the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft on Tuesday, marking the second straight year and the third time in four years they will select first. Here's a rundown of the 2014 NBA draft lottery's winners and losers.
 
• Keeping with the tradition of rewarding teams with new stadiums, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday that Minnesota was awarded the right to host Super Bowl LII.
 
Which NFL teams have had the best off-season? We're looking at you Tampa Bay. 
 
• There's something truly great about mascots videobombing reporters. Truly great. 
 
 
• If you love to hate, then you'll love this list of the Most Disliked People in Sports. 
 
 
 
• The Charlotte Bobcats officially adopted the “Hornets” moniker on Tuesday, launching a new website and social media accounts to reflect the name change. 
 
BONUS LINK!
• There's a reason I don't play rugby. And here's a hint why.
 
Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 08:38
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-jumping-competition-600
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Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.

Today, David attempts to isolate each rookie from his team and equipment and properly rank the driving chops of each member of this year’s rookie class.


600 miles of racing at Charlotte might be a NASCAR tradition. It’s also utter ridiculousness.

A trump card to the Indianapolis 500, the race formerly known as the World 600 — as in, “What could possibly be bigger than the Indianapolis 500?” — is a four-hour slow-burn endurance race that crosses from day into night. A joke among fans is that you can watch the green flag drop, go see two movies and come back for the finish. For drivers, the length of the race is no joking matter.

It’s a beast of an event for competitors, and one historically kind to young drivers. The likes of Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Matt Kenseth scored their first wins in the Coca-Cola 600, but they had a lot of help. Their crew chiefs at the time — Ray Evernham, Jimmy Makar and Robbie Reiser, respectively — were titans in their time atop the pit box and still roam the garages to this day, commanding respect from those hoping to follow in their footsteps. Each rookie in this year’s crop has a race-caller prepared for an event such as this in which strategy can heavily dictate the outcome.

Though caution trends are futile, one might surmise that in a 400-lap race around the 1.5-mile quad-oval track, drivers tend to pace themselves a bit more than usual. It means less aggression, which could mean fewer cautions. A dearth of caution flags creates the need to pit under green-flag conditions. Green-flag pitting allows crew chiefs to enact short-pitting strategy in an attempt to pass cars without actually passing cars; using lap time falloff as a way to jump the cars in front of them for track position. It’s called jumping, which is measured by a metric called jump plus/minus.

In this week’s Rookie Report rankings, we’ll take a closer look at the position jumping capabilities of the crew chiefs working on behalf of their driver to manufacture track position:


Kyle Larson1. Kyle Larson, No. 42 (previous ranking: 1)  Everything about Larson’s rookie season has been above average, but his team’s ability to pick up positions during green-flag pit cycles has been mundane. Larson lost a total of 17 spots across 15 green-flag cycles in the first 11 races. To be fair to crew chief Chris Heroy, 18 spots were due to Larson’s pit-road speeding infraction — of which he was awarded a pass-through penalty — at Las Vegas. With that stop omitted, they hold a balanced jump plus/minus of plus-1. Luckily for Heroy, they are getting track position the old-fashioned way; Larson happens to be one of the top five passers in the series with an adjusted pass efficiency of 53.3 percent.


Austin Dillon2. Austin Dillon, No. 3 (previous: 2)  Dillon and crew chief Gil Martin are the best closers in the Cup Series by virtue of their 90.91 percent position retention and 36 positions gained in the final 10 percent of races, so it’s clear that Martin is making effective use of his adjustment opportunities with each pit stop; however, their green-flag pit cycle gains have been minimal. They’ve maintained their position 53.33 percent of the time and only gained one position across 15 cycles. That plus-1 jump number represents a drop for Martin, who gained 16 positions across green-flag cycles in 2013 with driver Kevin Harvick.


Justin Allgaier3. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 (previous: 3)  A passing slump by Tony Stewart in the beginning of the 2013 season forced then-crew chief Steve Addington to target short-pitting tactics in an attempt to gain track position. Through Stewart’s abbreviated season, the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team was an adept jumper, earning a plus-18 with Stewart and a plus-4 with Austin Dillon behind the wheel. This year, Addington is applying the same philosophy with rookie Justin Allgaier for HScott Motorsports. Allgaier ranks first among rookies in positions jumped (plus-11) and is tied for first in position retention during green-flag pit cycles (73.33 percent).


Cole Whitt4. Cole Whitt, No. 26 (previous: 4)  Outside of a half-dozen races atop the pit box, Randy Cox is tackling the Cup Series for the first time in 2014. Swan Racing and BK Racing might not have provided him with the best, top-of-the-line equipment, but his pit strategy decisions have resembled those of a veteran race-caller. His 73.33 percent position retention across green-flag cycles ensures that Cole Whitt has just under a three-quarter chance to keep his position on long runs, and his plus-8 spots gained ranks second among crew chiefs with rookie drivers.


Michael Annett5. Michael Annett, No. 7 (previous: 5)  Bono Manion’s full-season effort for Jamie McMurray in 2013 was rather ordinary. They finished the season with a plus-2 positions gained during green-flag pit cycles. This year with Michael Annett, he has helped maintain the team’s position just under 75 percent of the time and netted the rookie four extra positions on the track. Unfortunately, his yellow-flag pit work has garnered mixed results. It came under scrutiny last week when he made a strange decision to forego tires in the Sprint Showdown, propelling Annett to the lead, after which they quickly dropped 16 positions.


Alex Bowman6. Alex Bowman, No. 23 (previous: 6)  A rookie in need of track position — his average running position through 11 races, 32.69, ranks 36th in the series — is Bowman, who hasn’t been helped much by crew chief Dave Winston. The bad news is that they have lost a total of eight positions on the racetrack because of green-flag pitting, but the good news is that their retention (66.67 percent) indicates they maintain or gain positions more often than they lose them. With time, that minus-8 should become a more balanced tally.


Ryan Truex7. Ryan Truex, No. 83 (previous: 7)  Truex has undergone a crew chief change, from Dale Ferguson to Doug Richert, and so far it appears to be for the better. Ferguson kept Whitt’s position 60 percent of the time, but lost him three positions during green-flag cycles. Richert’s retention is 20 percent better and his jump plus/minus is a balanced zero. There isn’t much to write home about in regards to track position attainment, but the No. 83 BK Racing program is at least heading in a positive direction.


David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.

Teaser:
Ranking the seven-driver crop of rookies in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Post date: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 18:57
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-best-and-worst-college-basketball-coach-hires-2014-15
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The coaching carousel is funny sometimes. Last season brought a few major job openings — chief among them, UCLA — but few big names moving to new jobs.

This season seems to be the opposite. The names involved in the coaching carousel arguably are bigger than the jobs they filled.

Buzz Williams’ name had surfaced in coaching searches before, but Virginia Tech, a program that has made the NCAA Tournament once since 1996, ended up being his landing place. Bruce Pearl, once one of the top coaches in the SEC before his NCAA-hastened departure, starts over at one of the toughest jobs in the league. And Kelvin Sampson, who led Oklahoma to the Final Four, landed at Houston.

Another big name could have been in the carousel as three-time Final Four coach Ben Howland was on the job hunt, but he’ll likely have to wait for next season after pulling out of the Oregon State search.

Since the coaching carousel has essentially ended, now is a good time to review the new coaches for 2014-15.

The Elite Eight Hires for 2014-15

1. Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Williams was so desperate to get away from Marquette, a school without a president and an athletic director, that he grabbed the first halfway decent major conference job. That job turned out to be Virginia Tech. Positions at Tennessee and Missouri would open after Williams landed in Blacksburg, so the hire has to be seen as a coup for the Hokies. What Virginia Tech gets is a coach who reached the NCAA Tournament in five of six seasons at Marquette and reached the Sweet 16 or better three times. He’ll be unconventional, something Virginia Tech will need to be competitive in the ACC. At Marquette, Williams built a program that could go toe-to-toe with Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh — all teams he’ll face in the ACC.

2. Bruce Pearl, Auburn
If Pearl can’t revive Auburn basketball, or at least interest in Auburn basketball, it’s worth asking if anyone can. Auburn is taking a bit of a risk in hiring Pearl, who was fired at Tennessee after he lied to NCAA investigators about hosting then-high school junior Aaron Craft at the coach’s home during an unofficial visit. Pearl is still under a show-cause penalty that prohibits him from any contact with recruits until August. The potential payoff is worth it, though. Pearl went to the NCAA Tournament every season at Tennessee, including a 31-5 season in 2007-08. His biggest task will be to fill seats in Auburn’s new basketball arena.

3. Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee
Tyndall arrives at Tennessee with arguably a better track record than Cuonzo Martin did three years ago. Tyndall led Morehead State two a pair of NCAA Tournaments, including a 2011 upset of Louisville behind the play of Kenneth Faried. He picked up where Larry Eustachy left off at Southern Miss, taking the Eagles to a pair of NIT appearances. Tyndall is a former LSU and Middle Tennessee assistant, so he’s familiar with some of the terrain in Knoxville.

4. Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Auburn wasn’t the only school to hire a coach with a checkered NCAA past to revive the program. Sampson’s five-year show cause stemming from impermissible calls to recruits while the coach at Oklahoma and Indiana expired just in time for Houston to make this move. The Cougars are getting a coach who took OU to the Final Four in 2002 and spent his exile from college basketball as an NBA assistant. Even better, the calls that cost him his job at Indiana are now OK by NCAA rules. Houston desperately needs any kind of credibility it can get. The Cougars are 0-4 in the NCAA Tournament since the Phi Slama Jama days.

5. Danny Manning, Wake Forest
Manning, the 1988 National Player of the Year and No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick, has two seasons of head coaching experience, but his second season at Tulsa yielded Conference USA regular season and tournament titles. It’s going to be tough for Wake Forest to be one of the top programs in the ACC, but hiring Manning, a 47-year-old with plenty of name recognition, is the kind of risk the Demon Deacons need to take.

6. Cuonzo Martin, Cal
Even after a Sweet 16 appearance and Tennessee’s first NCAA bid in three years, Martin knew his days were numbered in Knoxville. Martin tried for Marquette before ending up at Cal, replacing the retired Mike Montgomery. This may be a risky hire for the Bears as Martin hasn’t coached anywhere west of Missouri State. Martin’s teams, though, have improved progressively each season at both Missouri State and Tennessee.

7. Saul Phillips, Ohio
Phillips, a former Tim Miles assistant at North Dakota State, led the Bison to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009 and first NCAA win in 2014. Far from a one-year NCAA Tournament wonder, North Dakota State twice won Summit League regular-season titles and went 24-10 two years ago.

8. Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State
Reached the NCAA Tournament in three of the last five seasons at Montana, including a pair of Big Sky regular season titles. Oregon State is one of the toughest jobs in a major conference with only two winning teams in the last 25 years. Montana, though, has a knack for turning out successful coaches, including Larry Krystkowiak (now at Utah), Blaine Taylor, Stew Morrill, Mike Montgomery and Jud Heathcote.

5 Notable First-Time Coaches

Orlando Antigua, USF
Manhattan’s Steve Masiello would have been a fine hire, but Plan B could be just as interesting. USF is the latest program to roll the dice with a John Calipari assistant, all of which have been lauded as great recruiters.

Jason Gardner, IUPUI
The former Arizona star and Indiana Mr. Basketball will be 34 when the season starts. A former assistant at Loyola-Chicago and Memphis, Gardner replaces Todd Howard struggled to fill the shoes left by Ron Hunter, who left for Georgia State.

Kevin Keatts, UNC Wilmington
UNC Wilmington has struggled to find its way since Brad Brownell left in 2006, but this could be a big-time hire. The Seahawks mined the Rick Pitino coaching tree for Louisville’s top recruiter.

Chris Jans, Bowling Green
Bowling Green hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1968. Unlike his predecessors, Jans, a former Wichita State assistant, has the benefit of more resources thanks to a $20 million donation from Bill Frack.

Steve Wojciehowski, Marquette
Marquette is a big job for a first-time head coach, even though the last two coaches (Buzz Williams and Tom Crean) had a grand total of one year as a head coach before taking over. Wojo is as experienced as any assistant, serving under Mike Krzyzewski since 1999-2000.

4 Most Questionable Hires

Jim Christian, Boston College
Christian is a good MAC coach. Boston College is not in the MAC. His last job at a tough spot in a major conference was an 18-44 stint in the Mountain West at TCU.

Kim Anderson, Missouri
He won a national title last season — in Division II. Not many coaches make the leap from Division II to a major Division I program at age 59, but he is a former Missouri assistant.

Dan D’Antoni, Marshall
Mike D’Antoni’s brother hasn’t coached in college since 1971 at Marshall and hasn’t been a head coach other than in high school. Dan D’Antoni been in the NBA for nearly a decade, albeit on his brother’s staff.

Michael Curry, FAU
FAU loves coaches who have had bigger jobs (Mike Jarvis, Matt Doherty), so at least Curry fits a profile. He spent one season as the head coach of the Detroit Pistons, but this is his first college gig as an assistant or otherwise.

3 “Boomerangs” (i.e. coaches who returned to a level lower than their last job)

Frank Haith, Tulsa
Given heavy personnel losses at Missouri, Haith probably made a wise move to get out before the Tigers could fire him. Haith lands in the American Athletic Conference at Tulsa, a program that made the NCAA Tournament eight times from 1994-2003.

Ernie Kent, Washington State
Kent’s Oregon teams were streaky in his 13 seasons, going both 29-8 and 8-23 in his final four year in Eugene. Wazzu, one of the toughest places to win in the Pac-12, will gladly take the happy medium.

Doc Sadler, Southern Miss
Sadler sat out a year before returning to the Conference USA level. Sadler was 48-18 as the coach at UTEP from 2004-06, and now he takes over a Southern Miss program that is one of the better jobs in C-USA thanks to the last two coaches.

Teaser:
Ranking the best and worst college basketball coach hires for 2014-15
Post date: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 15:49
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Monthly
Path: /timhoward
Body:

If Team USA feels good about its chances at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it's in no small part due to a 6'3", tattooed brick wall named Tim Howard.

Since 2010, the New Jersey native has been Team USA’s starting goalkeeper, compiling a .500 winning percentage in four World Cup games. He is, quite literally, one of the only things standing between failure and the first men's World Cup title for America. Fortunately, the 35-year-old Howard isn't new to the game. He grew up as a soccer prodigy, battling through the uncontrollable muscle twitches caused by Tourette's syndrome, to play his first professional game at age 17. His career has included stops in the MLS with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, as well the English club Manchester United and his current team, Everton.

Ironically, his greatest career achievement might not be saving a goal, but scoring one. In an English Premiere League game, he became only the fourth goalie in league history to achieve the rare feat.

As the men’s national team faces off against powerhouses Germany, Portugal and Ghana in group play beginning June 16, we caught up with Howard to ask about his battle with Tourette's, his miraculous goal, and Team USA’s chances.

Pundits have described Team USA’s draw as the “group of death.” Is that a fair assessment?

If you go to the World Cup and expect to get an easy draw, then I think you’re under some sort of illusion. Also, because of how the seeds were weighted, we were always going to get tough teams. It wasn’t a surprise to the players. We need to play at our best over the course of three games and that won’t change no matter what group we’re in.

The U.S. has fielded arguably its strongest team ever. What’s contributed to the development of American soccer players in recent years?

Our players have gotten better because a lot of them have gone over to play abroad at a young age. Competing against the best competition hardens you as a player, so when we come together, our group is stronger.

How do you decide which way to dive during a penalty kick?

Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s instinct, but strikers today are so clever most of the time goalies don’t get it right. I used to think there were telltale giveaways, but it’s really a chess match. A lot of times strikers go on a hard run up, then slow down or lean one way and shoot the other. It’s a crapshoot.

You’ve been known to play through broken bones. (Late in a 2013 Everton match, he broke two non-weight-bearing bones in his back and finished the game.) Care to explain? 

It’s either toughness or stupidity—I haven’t quite figured it out. Adrenaline is the best pain reliever and often that’s what helped get me through. I’m also of the school of thought that if you can play on, you should. You should never take yourself off the field if you don’t have to. Again, that might be stupid. 

In sixth grade you were diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. What impact has that had on you?

It has had a huge positive impact on my life. There are all sorts of challenges with Tourette’s because it’s such a noticeable condition. You can’t hide it. Its challenges made me resilient and pushed me beyond whatever barriers were in front of me. I can get knocked down and continue to get back up.

As a member of the Everton team, you live in England most of the year. What aspects of European culture have you embraced?

I drink espresso after every meal. And driving on the opposite side of the road. You have to embrace that or else you won’t last very long.

Tell us how you scored a goal (in 2012).

It was a pass back that set up just right, and I cleared it as hard as I could. It was a blustery night and the ball caught the wind and, as it bounced, the other team’s forward chased it. He threw his goalie off, and the ball skipped and went in. It was crazy, but, unfortunately, we lost the game 2-1.

You’ve got a lot of body art. What is the newest tattoo you’ve had inked?

It was by Cally-Jo who works at Bang Bang studio in New York and is a superstar. I told her I wanted an original piece, and she did an old Victorian-style sacred heart. 

What’s on your training table?

I follow the Paleo Diet pretty religiously—high proteins and fats. Most stuff is off limits, but my cheat meal is usually pizza and Ben & Jerry’s.

You’re 6-foot-3. Can you dunk?

Dunking a basketball has always been a way to measure my athletic ability, going all the way back to high school. I used to be able to dunk it on the first try, but these days I need to warm up first.

What was it like to play your first professional soccer game before you had graduated from high school?

It was tough at the time, but, when I look back on it, I think all of those games paid so many dividends. Those games allowed me to make mistakes, to see things differently, and, as the games got faster at every level, they forced me to get faster in order to move up and climb the ladder professionally.

You can spend large parts of the game not directly involved in the action. What are you thinking about during those lulls?

My mind is very clear. I’m in the moment. I’m doing a lot of talking. Even when people can’t hear me, I’m managing the game. I react more than I think. I don’t think much, to be honest.

As a member of the Everton team, you live in Europe most of the year. What one thing do you miss most from the U.S.?

The weather. The weather over here (in England) sucks. And the American culture. I appreciate European culture, but I also like being home (in North Brunswick, N.J.) and flying under the radar and not being noticed.

Tell us something few people know about you.

I’m very much Jekyll & Hyde on (and off) the field. I’m zoned in, passionate about winning and very demanding of myself and my teammates. And I show that. People see it and say that I yell and scream. Off the field, I’m private and quiet until I warm up to people. I like to keep to myself, but I think sometimes that comes off as arrogance. I’ve got two different sides to me.

—By Matt McCue

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 14:38
Path: /nascar/jamie-mcmurray-wins-nascar-all-star-race-charlotte
Body:

Jamie McMurray has one of the strangest resumes you’ll find in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. He’s a record 0-for-10 on Chase appearances — making the Missouri native the only driver who’s run full-time since 2004 to get shut out. Despite wheeling playoff-capable equipment with respected car owners Chip Ganassi and Jack Roush, he’s never finished better than 11th in series points, as inconsistency and mediocre performances have been his hallmark. Heck, McMurray has only posted wins in five of 13 career seasons while racing Cup.  Jamie McMurray

But it’s the magnitude of those victories that keeps this driver, at age 37, hanging around NASCAR’s top level. After Saturday night’s $1 million All-Star Race triumph, McMurray has career wins in the sport’s Super Bowl (Daytona 500) and at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis along with the aforementioned All-Star event. Mark Martin never had that type of trophy case. Neither did Hall-of-Famer Rusty Wallace or current stars Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and brothers Kurt and Kyle  Busch.

It’s a big moment for McMurray, however unexpected (Vegas odds were 40-1), after 2014 was shaping up to be another make-or-break year. With rookie teammate Kyle Larson in Chase position, McMurray is far down the points list in 24th, and likely needing a victory to seize a bid. But now, the pressure is lessened; it’s hard to see Ganassi firing a driver who just earned a $1 million bonus in one of the sport’s most prestigious events. While not a Hall-of-Fame caliber talent, McMurray has learned the next best skill for any athlete at a major-league level:

He knows how to keep his job.

“Through the Gears” we go, post All-Star Race …


FIRST GEAR: Small steps toward success
It’s no secret NASCAR’s great exhibition — May’s All-Star Race — has suffered in recent years. The reason? Not much different than what stick-and-ball sports have been going through in terms of incentive. Split into multiple segments between 80 and 100 laps each year, too many were simply positioning themselves — and not truly racing — until the final 10 circuits. Add in a cookie-cutter intermediate track where aero is king (Charlotte) and a single-file, snoozer parade ruins a race designed for fans.

NASCAR’s weird system of tracking average finishes per segment to set the field for the final 10 laps has helped a bit. No one can do the math off the top of their head but at least drivers and crew chiefs get a bit more aggressive. And while wrecks don’t define a race, for the first time in recent years a few crashes made it seem, at least, that the field was giving 100 percent. A side-by-side battle between McMurray and Edwards in that final segment was icing on the cake this year, one of the better two-man fights for the win we’ve seen in this event over the past decade.

Does that mean the race was perfect? Far from it. Charlotte still lacks the physical rough-and-tumble atmosphere of, say, Bristol, that I think fans prefer for this type of event. But if NASCAR’s wish is to keep it near 90 percent of the major race shops, I think you saw a step in the right direction Saturday night. Neither McMurray nor Edwards gave an inch in those final 10 laps — until they absolutely had to. It was a refreshing change from a points race in which many would have recognized the consequences of crashing and backed off. 

“I am like, ‘I don't really care if we wreck, I don't care what happens, I'm racing for a million dollars,’” said McMurray of those final moments. “I get to start on the front row and I'm going to make the very most out of the restart and everything that goes with this.”

For his part, Edwards thought his rival had a perfect ending, claiming “he’d do things differently” if given a second chance but that he couldn’t match McMurray’s toughness down the stretch. There was genuine disappointment in his voice, matching the excitement of the victor, which conveyed an important message fans haven’t received in recent years: these guys were going all-out for the win, consequences be damned.


SECOND GEAR: Fan vote follies  Josh Wise
Perhaps the most interesting note on the All-Star Race, besides the finish itself, was who made it into the field through the fan vote. Danica Patrick, the sophomore GoDaddy girl, was expected to be a slam dunk based on popularity. Instead? A Dogecoin/Reddit campaign pushed Josh Wise in the underfunded Phil Parsons Racing No. 98 car into the field while NASCAR’s “First Lady” wound up watching from the infield.

“It is what it is,” Patrick said, trying to downplay the outcome. “It’s outside sources that are in control.”

Wise, as you might expect, was ecstatic considering his longshot circumstances. The Reddit community was not exactly a NASCAR hotbed before its sponsorship this season, so Wise’s presence in the race was a chance to drum up new fan interest. Sadly, more speed never materialized in the car and Wise was barely shown on television all night, placing 15th, the last car on the lead lap.


THIRD GEAR: Big names drumming up drama?
Jimmie Johnson, seeking his third straight victory in the All-Star Race, was never a factor Saturday night. Running sixth, a two-tire stop sent him skating back through the field mid-race and once again, he and Chad Knaus weren’t on the same page in terms of communication. At first, their “conflicts” seemed artificially inflated by us media types, but the last few weeks have seen a clear uptick in tension — at least on the radio in-race. The No. 48 team, whose teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne appeared to have far better cars for Charlotte, looks like no better than a top-10 entrant for the 600, an event in which they’re typically a heavy favorite.

Perhaps the more surprising move was Kevin Harvick, whose team has been on a roll, calling out his crew post-race on television after a slow stop. Yes, dropping two positions out of the front row for the final segment was just enough to cost him the race (Harvick wound up third). It was a rough ending, costing him a potential $900,000, but you wonder if biting the hand that feeds you in public is a wise decision. All season, the No. 4 has been the car to beat and its speedy crew has played a large part in exceptional performance. So why not cut them a break for one bad moment? Those words speak to the continued volatility at Stewart-Haas Racing.


FOURTH GEAR: Tony’s troubles continue
Speaking of Stewart-Haas Racing, its co-owner was a decided non-factor in the All-Star Race. Finishing 12th, the No. 14 car never so much as sniffed the top 10 as Stewart was decidedly slower than teammates Harvick and Kurt Busch. The chemistry with new crew chief Chad Johnston, a transplant from Michael Waltrip Racing, doesn’t seem to be there yet. It’s a small surprise, considering Harvick’s success with former MWR man Rodney Childers and the degree to which all the head wrenches work together in that shop.

How much is that healing broken leg affecting Stewart? The answer should be “not at all,” because it’s not like he’s out there doing leg presses. But while Stewart is off to a slow start (all but a handful of career wins have come after June 1st) this one is especially glaring considering past injuries. An average finish of 19.7, if it holds, would be his worst while leading a career-low one race and 74 laps to date (Texas, April).

That said, the driver seems to be


OVERDRIVE  Kyle Busch
Wrecks took a lot of innocent victims out of NASCAR’s All-Star Race before they had a real chance. Kyle Busch, while trying to avoid contact with brother Kurt, dove behind Clint Bowyer, made contact and went for a wild ride down the backstretch and into Turn 3. That incident collected Joey Logano, knocking him out while minimizing the impact of Bowyer, who entered the event through Friday night’s Sprint Showdown victory. … The other transfer spot from Friday’s “last chance” race went to AJ Allmendinger, who also found himself wrecked by the end of the night. But the most serious incident involved Jeff Gordon, whose No. 24 car shot up the track inexplicably and collected Martin Truex Jr. and Greg Biffle in Turns 3 and 4. Gordon, who wound up 17th, was OK despite the hard hit. … Kasey Kahne was angry at NASCAR, claiming his crash was the result of sloppy track cleanup. According to the Hendrick Motorsports veteran, oil was the culprit after he and Ryan Newman hit the same patch of slick stuff exiting Turn 4. Both cars were wounded but NASCAR, for its part, has held firm that track cleanup was fully complete with no complaints from other teams before that incident.


Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

 

Teaser:
Post-race reaction from Jamie McMurray's win in NASCAR's Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Post date: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 12:04
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/20-sporting-events-tide-you-over-until-football-starts
Body:

The Athlon Sports 2014 Top 25 Countdown is underway and preseason football magazines are just weeks from arriving at a newsstand near you.

For many, including myself, this signifies the start of a new college football season.

It doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t plenty of time to debate, discuss, argue and prognosticate about conference championships and playoff berths for the next few months before actual games start up on Aug. 28.

College football is king in my world. It’s my favorite sport and counting down the days until the kickoff of a new season is both exhilarating and excruciating all at the same time. But I am a fan of all great sporting events and there are plenty of things to keep us busy until LSU and Wisconsin meet in Houston or Texas A&M and South Carolina clash in Columbia or Boise State and Ole Miss hook up in Atlanta.

Aside from some vacation time, plenty of grilling and a few cold beverages, here is what my sports calendar will look like this summer:

May 24: UEFA Champions League Final
For the first time in series history, two teams from the same city will battle for Europe’s top soccer honor. After 124 matches over nearly a full calendar year of action, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will square off in Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal, for the right to be called the 59th Champions League winner.

May 25: Memorial Day Race Weekend
This one is near and dear to my heart as I have been to more than half-a-dozen Indianapolis 500s over the last decade. But the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is just the tip of the asphalt iceberg on Memorial Day Weekend. The day gets started with Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix at 7:30 a.m. ET before the Indy 500 starts at 12:15 p.m. ET. The day wraps up with the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway at 6 p.m. ET. This year Kurt Busch will be the first driver in a decade to attempt the Indy-Charlotte Double.

June: Stanley Cup Final
The best postseason in major American professional sports ends up with two teams dueling in a best-of-seven series. Sudden death overtime in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final might be the truest form of reality TV ever created by sports. Especially, if the Montreal Canadiens, who have won the most championships of any team in the league (24), can get past the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals to make their first cup appearance in over 20 years.

June: NBA Finals
For those who prefer the hard court to the ice, the NBA Finals heat up (pun intended) in June. The Spurs and Thunder will battle in the Western Conference Finals while the Heat and Pacers will duel in the Eastern Conference Finals. Will the NBA crown a new king in Kevin Durant? Will fans get a rematch of last year’s Spurs-Heat seven-game thriller? Can LeBron three-peat?

June 5-7: MLB Draft
The Pirates drafted UCLA stud right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole No. 1 overall in 2011. Less than two years later, Cole helped Pittsburgh reach the postseason for the first time in two decades in just his first professional season. The gap between the traditional first-year player draft and debuting in the majors has shrunk every year and the MLB Draft is the first chance to glimpse the future of MLB.

June 7: The Belmont Stakes
Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome won the first leg of the esteemed Triple Crown and then went on to claim the second leg of the Triple Crown at The Preakness. The third and final leg of the usually unobtainable Triple Crown will take place June 7 in Elmont, N.Y. The 146th running of The Belmont Stakes will reportedly carry a purse worth upwards of $1.5 million in prize money. Should California Chrome win the third race, it would become the first horse to win the trio of esteemed races since 1978 (Affirmed).

June 12-15: U.S. Open Championship
Long roughs, narrow fairways and beautiful rolling hills. That is the signature of the United State Open Championship and this year it will be played at famed Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, N.C. As an Open Championship, the tournament is technically open to any and all comers who qualify. It’s a true American sports tradition.

June 12-July 13: The World Cup
Every four years the world turns its attention in the same direction as 32 different nations vie for the most prestigious world championship in sports. Brazil will host the 64-match, 32-team, 8-group tournament this year for the first time in South America since 1978. The winner of the 20th World Cup will earn $35 million in prize money. The USA will play Ghana (Mon., June 16), Portugal (Sun., Jun 22) and Germany (Thurs., June 26) in group play before the elimination tournament begins Sat., June 28.

June 14-25: College World Series
One of the coolest national events in NCAA sports takes place over two weeks in Omaha, Neb., every year. TD Ameritrade Park will host eight teams from all over the country in a double-elimination round robin tournament in an effort to crown the best the nation has to offer. The city is great and welcoming and the event is as unique as any in American sports. UCLA topped Mississippi State a year ago to win the championship and both instant replay and lower seems (on the baseball) will be experimented with in 2014. 

June 26: NBA Draft
The 2013 NBA Draft left much to be desired, both by NBA teams and fans. But the 2014 version of the NBA Draft will feature a boatload of future hoops stars. Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and dozens more will find out for the first time where they will be playing professional basketball. This year’s event will take place at 7 p.m. ET at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

July 4: Hot Dog Eating Contest
Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is the world's most famous eating contest held every year on Coney Island. Joey Chestnut has won seven consecutive titles after eating a record 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes last year. If you are into competitive eating, the Takeru Kobayashi-Chestnut rivalry is as delicious as it gets.

July 5: Daytona Night Race
Since 1988, the second race at Daytona each year — one held under the lights — has been held on the first Saturday in July. Packaged with Independence Day and originally titled the Firecracker 250 back when it debuted in 1959, the 400 miles around the 2.5-mile oval is one of most anticipated races of the season on the Sprint Cup circuit. Cars boasting 900 horsepower racing just inches from each other with the throttles stuck wide open sounds like fun to me.

July 6: Wimbledon Final
Whatever you want to call it, Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. Despite lagging popularity nationally, the fortnight of matches across the pond features the best the world has to offer. Hosted by the All England Club since 1877, The Championships are considered the the highest honor in men's, women's and double's tennis worldwide. In 2013, Andy Murray became the first British man to win the prestigious tournament since Fred Perry 77 years prior.

July 13: World Cup Final
The month-long futbol tournament in Brazil will culminate with a winner take all golden goal championship bout in Estadio do Maracana. The Rio de Janeiro stadium opened during the 1950 World Cup when Uruguay upset the host Brazilian squad 2-1 in the final match. Over 200 nations compete for four calendar years to get to one final decision on July 13, 2014. 

July 15: MLB All-Star Game
I had my first opportunity to attend an All-Star game with a future ace on the mound at my favorite team's home stadium. Matt Harvey's rehab aside, the experience was unforgettable. The 83rd annual Midsummer Classic pits the best the National and American League have to offer in an exhibition game that will decide which league will host the World Series. The game is hosted by the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in 2014 and there is nothing like seeing 15 different uniforms on the same field at the same time. For what it's worth, the National League owns a 43-39-2 all-time mark against the American League.

July 17-20: The Open Championship
The most unique major golf championship and the only one played outside of the United States also is the oldest major tournament. The British Open, Open Championship or even just The Open is held on one of nine links courses throughout Scotland or England every third weekend in July. The first tournament was held in 1860 and first place wins about $1.4 million. Phil Mickelson won last year's event at Muirfield Golf Links in Scotland and the '14 edition will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. It will be the 12th time the Merseyside course will host the The Open.

July 23: Mudsummer Classic
Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, is home to the most unique events in major American motorsports. Last year, the NASCAR Truck Series began running one race per season on the half-mile dirt track owned by Tony Stewart. The race lasts 75 miles, 150 laps and takes place on Wednesday evening. Austin Dillon won the inaugural event in 2013 after a green-white-checker finish pushed the race to 153 laps.

July 5-27: Tour De France
If you are a fan of National Geographic, HD TV, colorful commentary and elite-level competition, then the world's most important bike race is for you. The French countryside is loaded with rich history and beautiful vistas all covered from road, boat and air in gorgeous high-definition. Toss in some of the most comical broadcasting lingo in major pro sports and the grueling ride through France becomes very interesting. International competition only adds to the pride attached the century-old, 23-day, 3,500-mile race.

July 27: The Brickyard
It will never be the Indianapolis 500 of the open-wheel variety, but NASCAR's edition of kissing the bricks is also must-see TV. The track has been designed to push motor vehicles to their pinnacle around the most prestigious oval in the world. The race has only taken place since 1994, but the Sprint Cup community — both the fans and drivers — understand the significance of winning anything at the most famous track in motor sports.

Aug. 7-10: PGA Championship
The fourth and final major golf championship of the season is the PGA Championship. And the 96th edition will be held at famed Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. Despite being considered the least prestigious of the four majors, the PGA Championship is actually the most lucrative of the bunch with a purse of $10 million. The U.S.' Jason Dufner is the defending PGA champion.

Aug. 23: Bristol Night Race
Thunder Valley is an appropriate name for one of NASCAR's premiere events. The half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway offers 160,000 fans a bird's-eye view of 43 cars racing nose-to-tail for 500 laps (266.5 miles). The first race took place in 1961 and Matt Kenseth is the defending champion. Since 1978, the race has been held on the final Saturday evening in August and is one of the most difficult tickets to acquire in all of sports due in large part because there isn't a bad seat in the house.

Teaser:
20 Sporting Events to Tide You Over Until Football Starts
Post date: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 11:50
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, NC State Wolfpack, News
Path: /college-football/nc-state-unveils-black-helmets-2014
Body:

NC State heads into 2014 looking for some positive momentum after a 3-9 record in Dave Doeren’s first season.

The Wolfpack have a promising quarterback in Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett, so improvement from Doeren’s team is expected.

But as with any offseason, teams often unveil new uniforms to build buzz for the upcoming year.

NC State did just that on Sunday, as the Wolfpack unveiled a new black helmet for 2014.

Of course, it isn’t just the color that is intriguing. Along with a patch of red at the back, the helmet will feature eyes in the back. Yes, you read that correctly:

Teaser:
NC State Unveils Black Helmets for 2014
Post date: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-may-19-2014
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for May 19.

• If you haven't checked out Gigi Hadid's swimsuit pictorial on SI, you should. Like you really, really should.

 

• Jaguars faithful set the record for practice attendance with 6,214 fans on Saturday. Wonder if they can get that many for the last game of the season? 

 

• Some truly sad news. Tyrone Moore Jr., the half-brother of Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Roddy White, was shot to death outside a James Island, S.C., nightclub early Saturday.

 

• Mike Tyson posted an epic #selfie from the Preakness. The photo (see above) included Tom Brady and Kliff Kingsbury.

 

• Speaking of selfless, check out Tom Hanks with fans at the German Cup finals.

 

• An 89-year-old Frank Broyles will officially “retire” at the end of June — concluding a 55-year association with the Razorbacks.

 

• For just the second time in collegiate baseball history, a team turned two triple plays in a single game Friday.

 

• Poor Vols fans. Neyland Stadium’s reign of being the SEC’s largest stadium is coming to an end in 2014. Here's why.

 
• SNL spoofed Magic Johnson (Kenan Thompson) and his heated relationship with Donald Sterling.

 

• Watch as a cameraman is hit with a stray tire during the Norwegian Rally Championship. He seems much happier about it than we would be. 

 

• Watch as a young fan switches out his foul ball souvenir and gives the decoy ball to a pretty girl behind him. Smooth kid. Sma-ooth. 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/video-jameis-winston-crab-leg-surveillance-released
Body:

Surveillance video of FSU QB Jameis Winston was released by the Leon County Sheriff's Office yesterday. The video shows the Heisman winner walking into a Publix and then leaving without paying for crab legs on April 29. Winston claims that he simply forgot to pay. You be the judge.

 
What did we learn?
1. Winston didn't conceal the crab legs.
2. He likes to walk around Publix a lot. We mean A LOT.
3. Despite the fact that your phone can shoot in HD, surveillance cameras apperently are built on technology from the mid-'80s.
Teaser:
Post date: Friday, May 16, 2014 - 08:23
Path: /college-football/georgia-or-south-carolina-who-wins-sec-east-2014
Body:

The SEC East is one of the toughest divisions to sort out this preseason. Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Missouri each have a compelling case to be picked at No. 1 in the division.

Georgia finished 8-5 in 2013, largely due to injuries and bad luck. The Bulldogs lost quarterback Aaron Murray late in the year to a torn ACL, and receiver Malcolm Mitchell suffered a torn ACL in the season opener against Clemson. The injuries weren’t limited to just Murray and Mitchell, as Todd Gurley was slowed all season by an ankle injury, and Keith Marshall suffered a torn ACL against Tennessee.

South Carolina has won 11 games in each of the last three seasons and finished No. 4 nationally in the final Associated Press poll. The Gamecocks return 13 starters for 2014 but must replace defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, tackle Kelcy Quarles and quarterback Connor Shaw.

Although the upcoming season is still months away, it’s never too early to start thinking about 2014 and projections. Athlon Sports is counting down the top 25 teams for 2014, and the debate among the staff was Georgia and South Carolina for the No. 1 spot in the East.

Will Georgia reclaim the top spot in the East? Or Will South Carolina win 11 games once again? Or could Florida or Missouri end up as the No. 1 team in the East?

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, AthlonSports.com will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Georgia or South Carolina: Who Wins the SEC East in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Close call, but I like Georgia over South Carolina. The Bulldogs had a lot of bad luck go their way in 2013, which included an awful turnover margin (-7) and injuries to several key players. After a year of bad luck, perhaps the ball will bounce more in Georgia’s favor in 2014. New quarterback Hutson Mason should be a solid replacement for Aaron Murray, and the senior has plenty of talent to work with. Running back Todd Gurley is healthy, and backfield mate Keith Marshall should be able to contribute in 2014 after tearing an ACL last year. The receiving corps should be among the best in the nation with Malcolm Mitchell returning to full strength. After allowing 31.8 points a game in SEC action last year, Georgia’s defense should easily improve behind new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The Bulldogs have the personnel to run Pruitt’s scheme, especially at linebacker with Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Ramik Wilson. The biggest concerns for Mark Richt’s team have to be in the secondary and on the offensive line. Georgia’s schedule is tough, but an early road trip to Columbia to take on South Carolina could work in the Bulldogs favor, especially with the Gamecocks reloading on the defensive line and in the secondary. Both teams should rank among the top 5-10 nationally at the end of the year. However, give me the Bulldogs to represent the East in Atlanta in early December.

Mark Ross
Steve Spurrier has South Carolina rolling, but Mark Richt is certainly no stranger to success in his own right. Georgia will have to begin the post-Aaron Murray era at quarterback, but the same can be said for South Carolina with defensive stud Jadeveon Clowney, not to mention underrated quarterback Connor Shaw and several other key players, off to the NFL. The Ol Ball Coach has the Gamecocks in pretty good shape for another strong showing, but Richt has new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt ready to apply his magic touch to a Bulldogs defense that welcomes back 10 starters. There's no substitute for experience, especially in a conference like the SEC. Georgia's offense may be more of a question mark with Hutson Mason taking over the reins, but this also is a unit that was wrecked by injuries last season and boasts one of the more talented and explosive backfields in the nation with Todd Gurley leading the way. South Carolina running back Mike Davis is certainly no slouch himself, but it remains to be seen if quarterback Dylan Thompson can provide the type of consistent, steady production that Shaw did, or even the leadership for that matter. South Carolina will host Georgia in the third week of the season and this game figures to loom large in determining who wins the SEC East in 2014, along with the crossover date each has with defending champion Auburn. Even though the Gamecocks are tough at home and Spurrier's team appears to have the momentum, I like Richt's squad to capitalize on its experience on defense and enjoy better health on offense on its way to picking up another "home" game — one that takes place on Dec. 6 in the Georgia Dome.

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com, (@Josh_Ward)
I’m going with Georgia. That road game at South Carolina on Sept. 13 won’t be easy for Georgia. The Bulldogs could certainly lose, but I’ll take them to win on the road and start SEC play with a comfortable lead in the SEC East.

Georgia looks like a serious SEC championship contender with all its talent. Replacing Aaron Murray at quarterback will be difficult, but senior Hutson Mason will have plenty of guys who can help him, especially in the backfield. That will help ease the transition.

Georgia’s defense should be better this season thanks to so much experience returning and the arrival of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The Bulldogs ranked No. 10 in the SEC in scoring defense last season. That will surely improve. South Carolina, which ranked second in the league in the same category, will likely have a difficult time maintaining that level of play with the loss of several key defenders, including linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles. I’ll give Georgia the advantage over South Carolina in what should be a very competitive battle in the SEC East.

Kevin Causey (@CFBZ), CrystalBallRun.com
After struggling for the better part of five years at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier finally broke through with the 2010 team that went to the SEC Championship Game. Since that time, the Gamecocks have been amazingly consistent as every year they have gone 11-2 overall and 6-2 in the conference. It will be interesting to see how the Gamecocks stabilize with losing their big name talent on defense (Clowney) and their heart and soul on offense (Connor Shaw). They still have a lot of talent but the loss of Shaw in particular could be bigger than some think.

Recently, Georgia has been more up and down than it's rival from Columbia. Since 2010, Georgia has posted conference records of 3-5, 7-1, 7-1 and 5-3. While Georgia has not been as consistent as South Carolina, they have also shown that they have the a bit of a higher ceiling (with the two 7-1 seasons versus South Carolina's peak of 6-2).

I like the direction both of these teams are headed and I would not be surprised if either is representing the East in the SEC Championship Game. If I had to choose one, I pick Georgia because despite being more inconsistent in the recent past they have also shown the capability of rising higher. That and Todd Gurley.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The nod goes to Georgia, though I expect this to be a heated four-team race. That means the race at some point will include Florida and Missouri in addition to South Carolina. And it probably means the East champions could win with two losses. I pick Georgia for a few reasons. First, no team in the East has better skill position talent on offense. True, Hutson Mason is unproven as a starting quarterback, save for a comeback against Georgia Tech. But Todd Gurley is the best back in the SEC, and the group of receivers, now healthy, could be the top receiving corps in the league. Mason needs only to be capable, and Mark Richt rarely has subpar quarterback play. The defense hasn’t finished higher than fourth in the SEC in yards per play since at least 2007, and while I doubt the Bulldogs will end that streak this season, new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is a major addition to the staff. All these teams in the East have their flaws, but Georgia has enough going for it where the Bulldogs should be able to cover them up.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
They both have senior quarterbacks who have waited their turn to start. They both have an elite tailback ready to carry the load. They both play Clemson in the non-conference and Auburn from the West Division. Georgia has nine starters back on defense led by new star coordinator Jeremy Pruit and should be much healthier on offense. South Carolina has arguably the best one-game coach in the nation, five offensive lineman back and the benefit of an important home SEC schedule. I will split hairs and take the Gamecocks - despite a rebuilt defensive line - due in large part because of the schedule. Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas A&M are critical games should all be wins at home. So a road split between Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Auburn will likely give the 'Ol Ball Coach his second East Division title at South Carolina.

Teaser:
Georgia or South Carolina: Who Wins the SEC East in 2014?
Post date: Friday, May 16, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-may-15-2014
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for May 15.

Aaron Rodgers is reportedly dating the lovely and talented Olivia Munn. He could do a lot worse.

Justin Verlander found himself distracted in the company of Kate Upton. Hard to blame him.

This fun graphic compares Johnny Manziel to the average 21-year-old. Spoiler alert: Manziel's winning.

Steve Kerr rebuffed Phil Jackson, choosing Golden State over the Knicks.

The bizarre saga of one-time NFL prospect Adam Muema.

Aaron Hernandez: indicted in drive-by double murder.

You can own Tony Montana's house from "Scarface" for the low, low price of $35 million. I hope they've cleaned it up.

• Just because: Here's a cake in the shape of John Calipari's head.

• In observance of High Blood Pressure Month, here are 10 insanely caloric burgers.

According to Jerry Jones' top talent evaluator, the Cowboys drafted players who "won't pee their pants." Hey, it's a start.

The NBA's way out of the Sterling mess.

• This amazing, game-ending diving catch happened in a high school game.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 12:51
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/hernandez-indicted-2012-double-murder
Body:
 
Former New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez was indicted today for the murder of two men in July 2012, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
 
The indictment stems from the alleged murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Authorities say the pair were killed shortly after they left a nightclub with three of their friends on July 16, 2012.
 
Hernandez is currently in jail awaiting trial in the 2013 killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez pleaded not guilty to that murder charge. 
Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 12:26
Path: /college-football/stanford-or-oregon-who-wins-pac-12-north-2014
Body:

Oregon and Stanford have been two of college football’s top programs in recent years, as the Ducks and Cardinal have combined to win all three of the Pac-12’s championship games.

Different year, same story in 2014. Stanford and Oregon are the favorites to win the Pac-12 North this season, and both teams are expected to factor into the national title conversation.

Oregon returns Heisman contender Marcus Mariota at quarterback, a solid offensive line and a backfield that features Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall.

Stanford suffered a few losses in the offseason, including defensive coordinator Derek Mason leaving to take over as Vanderbilt’s head coach. However, the Cardinal should be able to easily replace four starters on the line, and the defense has enough returning pieces to prevent a major drop in production.

One factor that should play a key role in determining the North champion is the schedule. Stanford has a tougher crossover slate with the South Division and has to play at Eugene in 2014.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, AthlonSports.com will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Oregon or Stanford: Who Wins the Pac-12 North in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Deciding between Stanford and Oregon for the No. 1 spot in the North has to be one of the toughest preseason debates in 2014. Both teams have areas of concern and transition on the coaching staffs, but the Cardinal and Ducks should still be among the top 10-15 teams in the nation. If I had to pick a favorite, I would pick Oregon slightly over Stanford – but not by much. The Ducks have the easier schedule and won’t have to play Arizona State or USC from the South in the regular season. Getting an improved Washington team at home is also huge for Oregon’s chances of winning the North. Another reason to like the Ducks at No. 1 in the North is quarterback Marcus Mariota returning to full strength from a knee injury. Mariota will be throwing to a revamped receiving corps, but there should be plenty of weapons to choose from, including a deep group of tight ends. If Stanford had an easier schedule, I would probably pick the Cardinal. However, with Mariota returning to 100 percent and a favorable schedule, I lean Oregon as the top team in the North in 2014.

Kyle Kensing, (@Kensing45), CFBHuddle.com and BleacherReport.com
Marcus Mariota has accomplished much in his two seasons at Oregon, but one accomplishment eluding the dynamic quarterback is a Pac-12 championship. The roadblock standing between Mariota and this milestone twice has been Stanford and its stout defense.

The Cardinal will again set the conference benchmark for defensive intensity, despite losing Ed Reynolds, Trent Murphy and noted Duck-stopper Shayne Skov. But is Stanford equipped to once again slow the Oregon offense with Derek Mason no longer directing the defense?

This should be the year Mariota finally cuts down the Trees and wins the Pac-12 North. He leads what should be the most talented Oregon offense yet—a staggering reality given the teams that have come through Eugene in recent years. But perhaps more important to the Ducks' championship aspirations is that the defense should be tougher in 2014.

New defensive coordinator Don Pellum emphasized strength training in the offseason, and building depth during the spring. Last year against Stanford, the Ducks' inability to stop Tyler Gaffney up front was the difference. This year, a bulkier and deeper front seven is better prepared to counter a power-run game, such as Stanford's.

Mark Ross
Stanford has ruled the Pac-12 North the past two years, thanks in large part to two straight victories over Oregon. David Shaw has his Cardinal in good shape to make it three division titles in a row, but I am leaning towards Mark Helfrich's Ducks to reclaim the crown this season. Both teams are talented and should finish pretty high in the national polls, but I like Oregon's roster a little bit more than Stanford's. For the Ducks it starts with Heisman Trophy contender Marcus Mariota at quarterback, who should be the engine that drives one of the nation's most explosive offenses. The defense has some star power of its own, however, and as long as the offense does its job, it won't have to come up with too many stops. Stanford brings back seven starters on defense, but it also watched a total of five all-conference performers either get drafted or signed by an NFL team just a few days ago. The offense returns even less experience (four starters), as four pieces to one of the most dominant offensive lines in the nation and 1,000-yard rusher Tyler Gaffney have departed. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of talent left on The Farm, but with this year's head-to-head matchup set for Eugene on Nov. 1, I like the Ducks to protect their home turf (this time), a victory that will help propel them to the Pac-12 North title in 2014.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’m taking Oregon, and that’s partially because of the personnel losses at Stanford. The Cardinal will maintain a level of excellence, but replacing offensive line starters and a horde of major contributors on defense will make it tough to win a division or conference title. Meanwhile, the Ducks still have at least a year with Marcus Mariota. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll keep Oregon in contention. Throw in depth at running back and all five starters on the line, and there’s no reason Oregon won’t continue to have an explosive offense. Defensive line is the biggest question on defense, but if the Ducks aren’t going to be great there, at least it’s in a year where Stanford might not be mauling teams up front (yet).

Teaser:
Stanford or Oregon: Who Wins the Pac-12 North in 2014?
Post date: Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/top-50-college-football-players-bcs-era
Body:

The Bowl Championship Series claims 16 great years of college football.

Off the field, the last decade and a half saw college football transform, as media dollars, conference realignment and the facilities arms race dominated the headlines unlike ever before. On the field, the BCS saw the return of the Crimson Tide (and the SEC) to college football’s throne. It saw the advent of the zone-read option and spread offense. It saw arguably the greatest team ever assembled (Miami, 2001) and the greatest game ever played (Texas-USC).

While the BCS Era claims epic national championship showdowns, historic record-breaking coaches and beautiful new stadiums, it’s still the players who will be remembered as the true heroes.

So who were the top 50 players to have played at least one season of college football between 1998 and 2013 — also known as the BCS Era?

1. Vince Young, QB, Texas (2003-05)
Young earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year, was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O’Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards while finishing second on the Heisman ballot in 2005. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry and no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS Era, returning the national championship to Austin.

2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida (2006-09)
Four years of huge statistics makes him the all-time SEC leader in total yards, total touchdowns (145), rushing touchdowns and passing efficiency (170.8). He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as well as the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Awards when he set NCAA records with 55 total touchdowns and 4,181 yards of total offense (since broken). He won SEC Player of the Year, Manning and Maxwell Awards the following year when he led Florida to its second national championship in three years. Tebow fell one game shy in 2009 of playing for — and likely winning — three national titles in four years.

3. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska (2005-09)
The star defensive tackle from Portland, Ore., won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and he came just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57.0 for a loss, 24.0 sacks and six blocked kicks.

4. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma (2004-06)
The BCS version of Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 runner. Peterson finished No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting as a true freshman in 2004 and his 1,925 yards were an NCAA record for a true freshman. Despite missing chunks of time with injuries in each of his next two seasons, “All-Day” Peterson still topped 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. His natural blend of power, speed, size and balance has never been duplicated during the BCS Era. He is the Sooners’ No. 3 all-time leading rusher.

5. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pitt (2002-03)
After redshirting, Fitz dominated college football for two full seasons. He became the first Pitt Panther to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, owns the school record with 34 touchdowns (in just 26 games) as well as the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception (18). As a sophomore in his final season at Pitt, he caught 92 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns, winning Big East Player of the Year honors and the Walter Camp and Biletnikoff awards. His second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting is the highest by any wide receiver during the BCS Era and he is the only one in to finish in the top three.

6. Ed Reed, S, Miami (1998-01)
The star safety is one of the greatest to ever put on the pads. He led the team as a freshman in interceptions and forced fumbles en route to back-to-back All-American seasons in 2000 and '01. He led the nation as a senior with nine interceptions for 209 yards and three touchdowns. His leadership helped a stacked Miami team go unbeaten and claim the BCS National Championship in 2001. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Reed holds the school record for career interceptions (21), return yards (389) and defensive touchdowns (5).

7. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006.

8. Ricky Williams, RB, Texas (1995-98)
The power back from San Diego had a two-year run as an upperclassman that may never be matched, as he posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,800 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. Williams was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and claimed the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award and Heisman Trophy as a senior. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (since broken) and he is one of four players to ever score at least 70 rushing touchdowns.

9. LaVar Arrington, LB, Penn State (1997-99)
Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American and his fourth down leap against Illinois has gone down in PSU history.

10. Bryant McKinnie, T, Miami (2000-01)
He only played two seasons for Miami after beginning at Lackawanna College (Pa.) but he was downright unstoppable during his time in a Hurricanes' uniform. He was an All-American in both seasons, won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and led Miami to a 23-1 record and the 2001 BCS National Championship. He is the only offensive lineman during the BCS era to finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy balloting.

11. Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss (2003-06)
The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and he made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS Era. Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006 and posted 265 tackles and 21.0 stops for a loss over his final two seasons. Willis was SEC Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American as a senior.

12. David Pollack, DE, Georgia (2001-04)
The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Pollack is a three-time, first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice landing consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice (2002, '04), as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades.

13. Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State (2000-02)
The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner that year as well. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time) and 14 forced fumbles.

14. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (2004-07)
He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey also was ninth in the Heisman voting in his record-setting 2007 campaign. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27.0 for a loss and 13 sacks.

15. Matt Leinart, QB, USC (2003-05)
Leinart won two national titles and played for a third in three years as a starter. He finished in the top six of Heisman voting in all three seasons, winning the award in 2004. He also earned AP Player of the Year, Manning, Walter Camp, Unitas and consensus All-American honors during his remarkable Heisman campaign. Leinart set the career conference record with 36 consecutive games with a touchdown pass and his 99 career TD passes (since broken).

16. Roy Williams, S, Oklahoma (1999-01)
He helped lead the Sooners to an unbeaten BCS National Championship in 2000 while setting the school record for tackles for a loss by a defensive back (12.0). The following year, he claimed the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as well as the Nagurski and Jack Tatum Trophies and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a unanimous All-American, first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2002 and will go down in Red River Shootout lore for this spectacular play in the Cotton Bowl.

17. Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina (1999-01)
As a two-sport star in Chapel Hill, Peppers was a freshman All-American in 1999 before leading the nation in sacks (15.0) as a sophomore. He capped his junior season as a consensus All-American and by winning Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Trophy honors. Peppers finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2001. He started 33 of 34 possible career games and finished with 167 tackles and 30.5 sacks, good for sixth all-time in ACC history and second during the BCS Era.

18. John Henderson, DT, Tennessee (1998-01)
As a freshman, Henderson helped the Vols capture the 1998 BCS National Championship. By the time he had reached the end of his senior season, Henderson had posted 165 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss and 20.5 sacks in two first-team All-American seasons. The monstrosity of a man is one of just five defensive players during the BCS Era to claim the historic Outland Trophy.

19. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (2009-11)
Few players have ever meant more to their school than Luck meant to Stanford. He led the Cardinal to their first BCS bowl win and set every school passing record en route. The two-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year finished second in the Heisman twice (2010-11) and won the Unitas, Walter Camp and Maxwell awards in 2011. He is the Pac-12’s all-time leader in completion percentage, yards per play (8.5) and passing efficiency (162.8). He was 27-4 in his last 31 starts.

20. Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech (1999-00)
The Hokies signal-caller revolutionized the quarterback position in one year as he led Virginia Tech to its only BCS title game appearance with unprecedented foot speed and arm strength. He dropped jaws and popped eyes every step of the way, including a furious second-half comeback in the Sugar Bowl against eventual champion Florida State. He finished third and sixth in the Heisman voting both years he played, and had he stayed three full seasons under center, he could have pushed for top billing on this list simply based on his never-before-seen athleticism.

21. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee (2007-09)
In 2007, he posted a school record with 222 INT return yards on five picks, led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He then returned seven interceptions for 265 yards as a sophomore en route to his first of two unanimous All-American seasons. He also was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year that year. As a junior, Berry returned to win the Thorpe and Jack Tatum Awards and ended his collegiate career with the the most interception return yards in SEC history. Berry finished with 245 tackles, 17.5 for loss and 14 interceptions.

22. James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State (2005-08)
Few players in the nation were as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship Game.

23. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (2009-12)
No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions.

24. Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State (2003-06)
As a junior, the Nittany Lions tackler was recognized as the nation’s top LB when he posted 116 tackles (11.0 TFL) en route to a Big Ten championship, consensus All-American honors and both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards. He followed that up as a senior with a second Bednarik Award and second consensus All-American nod. He left school as Penn State’s all-time leading tackler with 372 total stops.

25. Joe Thomas, T, Wisconsin (2004-06)
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare foot speed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in his first  seven NFL seasons.

26. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (2012-13)
When it comes to setting SEC statistical benchmarks, few players can compare to Manziel. He owns the top two total offense seasons in SEC history with 5,116 yards in his Heisman-winning 2012 campaign and 4,873 yards in his second season. His career 68.9 percent completion rate is No. 1 all-time in SEC history and his 164.05 career QB rating is second only to Tebow. Texas A&M went 20-6 during his two seasons as the starter and had he played one more season in the SEC with similar numbers, he might have been considered the best to ever play the game.

27. Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin (1996-99)
Dayne is the only player in history with 7,000 yards rushing and is one of four players to score at least 70 rushing touchdowns. He carried the ball more than any player in NCAA history (1,220) and he owns multiple BCS bowl rushing records with two Rose Bowl MVP performances. He capped his illustrious career with a magical 2,000-yard Heisman Trophy and Big Ten championship season. The consensus All-American won Big Ten Player of the Year, Maxwell, Walter Camp and Doak Walker recognition in his final season in Madison. His 2,109 yards in 1996 are still a Big Ten single-season record and his career NCAA-record 7,429 yards from scrimmage may never be broken.

28. Sean Taylor, S, Miami (2001-03)
Taylor was one of just four true freshman to see playing time on the 2001 BCS national title squad. He earned All-Big East honors as a sophomore en route to another national title game in 2002. His 2003 campaign, however, is one of the best in school history. Taylor led the nation with 10 interceptions and his rare blend of size and speed made him Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Miami was 35-3 during Taylor’s time at The U.

29. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (2005-07)
When it comes to pure breakaway speed and big play ability, few can match Run-DMC’s talent. The North Little Rock prospect finished second in Heisman balloting in back-to-back seasons, coming up just short to Troy Smith (2006) and Tim Tebow (2007). McFadden won the Doak Walker and SEC Offensive Player of the Year awards in both consensus All-American seasons. His 4,590 yards is No. 2 all-time in SEC history to only Herschel Walker.

30. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, TCU (1997-00)
The mid-level recruit from Rosebud (Texas) Waco had one of the greatest careers in NCAA history. L.T. took over the national scene as a junior with 1,974 yards and 20 touchdowns, including the NCAA single-game rushing record of 406 yards against UTEP. He backed that up with another 2,158 yards and 22 scores, winning the Doak Walker, his second WAC Offensive Player of the Year award, consensus All-American honors and a fourth place finish in the Heisman voting. He scored 162 TDs in his NFL career.

31. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (2008-11)
Griffin III beat out Luck to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy while leading Baylor to back-to-back bowl games. He led the NCAA in passing efficiency (189.5), was a consensus All-American and won the Davey O’Brien and Manning awards to go with his stiff-armed trophy. In fact, Griffin III is just one of the few players to have meant more to their school than Luck. Had he been healthy for his entire career — he missed nine games in 2009 — his numbers might have been the best the BCS Era has ever seen.

32. Reggie Bush, RB, USC (2003-05)
Sort of a first of his kind, the all-purpose talent was unstoppable with the ball in his hands. He played a prominent role on the 2003 National Championship team before providing 908 yards rushing, 509 yards receiving, nearly 1,000 return yards and 15 total touchdowns during USC’s 2004 romp to a second national title. As a junior, he rushed for 1,740 yards on a ridiculous 8.7 yards per carry and scored 19 total touchdowns, coming up just short of his third national title. He earned his second consecutive Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award as well as the Doak Walker, Walter Camp and Heisman Trophy.

33. Drew Brees, QB, Purdue (1997-00)
The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year led Purdue back to the Rose Bowl and finished among the top four in Heisman voting twice (1999, 2000). He is the Big Ten&#39;s all-time leader in completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, total offense (12,692) and total touchdowns (104).

34. Greg Eslinger, C, Minnesota (2002-05)
Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger does. He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05. Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career.

35. Corey Moore, DE, Virginia Tech (1997-99)
By his junior season, Moore earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors with 67 tackles, 18.5 for a loss and 13.5 sacks. A year later, Moore set the Big East single-season record with 17 sacks en route to the BCS National Championship game. He was a unanimous All-American, Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award winner and earned his second Big East Defensive Player of the Year award. He finished his collegiate career with 58.0 tackles for a loss and 35.0 sacks.

36. Chris Samuels, OT, Alabama (1996-99)
The massive 'Bama blocker earned every award possible for an offensive tackle. Samuels claimed the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1999. He helped Alabama to its first SEC championship since 1992 and was a consensus All-American.

37. Terence Newman, CB, Kansas State (1999-02)
Newman did a little bit of everything for Bill Snyder and Kansas State, returning kicks and punts and even playing some wide receiver. The lockdown cornerback was a two-time All-Big 12 pick, a unanimous All-American, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB and a first-round pick by the Cowboys in 2003. The 2002 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year also was a two-time Big 12 outdoor track champion.

38. Dwight Freeney, DE, Syracuse (1998-01)
Starring during the glory years of Orange football, Freeney left school as a two-time, first-team All-Big East performer after setting the conference’s single-season sack record (17.5). He finished with a school-record 34 career sacks and, at one point, posted 17 consecutive games with at least one QB takedown. His record-setting 2001 campaign made him a unanimous All-American and he finished ninth in the Heisman voting.

39. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU (2008-10)
One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards.

40. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech (2007-08)
No player has been as productive in just two seasons as the Dallas native. As a redshirt freshman, Crabtree set NCAA freshman records for receptions (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22) and won the Biletnikoff Award. He also won Big 12 Newcomer and Offensive Player of the Year honors and still owns the single-season league record for receptions and yards. He became the first player in NCAA history to win a second Biletnikoff Award when he caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns for the 11-2 Red Raiders the next year. He finished fifth in the Heisman balloting in ’08 — one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five during the BCS Era.

41. Troy Polamalu, S, USC (1999-02)
The big-play machine was a three-year starter for the West Coast powerhouse. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, a consensus All-American and stuffed the stat sheet his entire career. The big hitter finished with 278 tackles, 29.0 for loss, six interceptions and four blocked punts in 36 career starts for the Men of Troy. Polamalu led USC back to prominence with a league title and trip to the Orange Bowl before being taken in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

42. Peter Warrick, WR, Florida State (1995-99)
The phrase all-purpose wasn’t en vogue when Warrick broke onto the scene so the FSU superstar might deserve credit for the invention. And if not for an incident at Dillard’s department store that resulted in a two-game suspension, Warrick might have won the Heisman Trophy. The two-time consensus All-American could do it all. His joystick, open-field moves made him dynamic in the passing game, on special teams and he was one of the first wideouts used in the running game. His Sugar Bowl MVP performance — and touchdown catch — in the 1999 national championship game (six rec., 163 yds, three total TDs) will go down as one of the greatest national title performances in NCAA history.

43. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame (2009-12)
It’s possible that the Notre Dame linebacker is the most decorated college football player of all-time. As a senior, Te’o won the Butkus, Bednarik, Lambert, Lombardi, Nagurski and Lott awards while becoming the only defensive player of the BCS Era to win the Walter Camp Award and Maxwell Trophy. He posted 113 tackles and seven interceptions while leading Notre Dame to a perfect regular season and BCS title game berth.

44. Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State (2001-04)
Few players have ever been as valuable to their school as the diminutive Sproles was to Kansas State. The all-purpose dynamo rushed for at least 1,300 yards in three straight seasons and he helped lead the Wildcats to an improbable Big 12 championship in 2003. His 323 yards from scrimmage and four total touchdowns against Oklahoma in the title game will go down in history as arguably the greatest single-game performance by any Wildcat in history. The Sunflower State native finished fifth in the Heisman voting that year as his 2,735 all-purpose yards is the best single-season performance by any Big 12 running back during the BCS Era (fourth all-time).

45. EJ Henderson, LB, Maryland (1999-02)
Henderson left Maryland with multiple NCAA records and numerous awards and honors. He owns the career tackles per game record (12.5), career solo tackles per game (8.8) and the single-season unassisted tackles record with 135 in 2002. That year, Henderson won his second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award as well as the Butkus, Lambert and Bednarik Awards nationally. He was a two-time All-American, Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP, is second all-time in ACC history with 62.5 career tackles for a loss and 11th all-time with 473 tackles.

46. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Louisville (2002-05)
After a slow first two seasons in Louisville, Dumervil burst onto the national scene with a 10-sack junior campaign. That was only a glimpse of things to come, however, as Dumervil posted one of the greatest single-seasons in NCAA history. As a senior, he set the NCAA record with six sacks against Kentucky and broke Dwight Freeney’s Big East single-season record with 20 sacks. He also set the NCAA record with 10 forced fumbles and claimed Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski, Hendricks and consensus All-American honors. He finished 10th in the Heisman voting.

47. Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas (2002-04)
The big-play machine from Waco, Texas, was one of the greatest linebackers in Longhorns program history. He finished his career with 458 tackles, 65.0 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, nine interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Johnson was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American. He capped his career with the Butkus, Lambert and Nagurski national awards as well as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a part of a Cotton and Rose Bowl championship teams.

48. Rocky Calmus, LB, Oklahoma (1998-01)
A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American, Calmus is one of the most important Sooners of all-time. As a senior in 2001 he won the Butkus and Lambert Awards, but his play in ‘00 will go down in Oklahoma history. He led the vaunted Sooners defense to a perfect record and spearheaded arguably the greatest defensive performance of the BCS Era by holding Florida State to zero offensive points in the BCS National Championship Game.

49. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (2009-11)
One of the best pure covermen in the history of the SEC, Claiborne was a lock-down corner for LSU in his two full seasons as the starter. He developed a reputation as a sophomore with five picks and 37 tackles en route to All-SEC honors. After that, no one threw at him. Claiborne was named the nation’s top defensive back in 2011 as the recipient of the Thorpe Award and was a unanimous All-American. He helped LSU to a perfect 13-0 regular-season mark, an SEC title, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year as his Tigers earned a berth in the BCS national title game.

50. Champ Bailey, CB, Georgia (1996-98)
From a versatility standpoint, few have ever been as explosive and dynamic as Champ Bailey. He was a lockdown cornerback, an elite return man and a dangerous wide receiver. His senior season — the only year he played during the BCS Era — Bailey posted 52 tackles and three interceptions on defense and caught 47 passes for 744 yards and five scores on offense. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick and won the Nagurski Trophy in 1998 as the nation’s top defensive player. The consensus All-American finished seventh in the Heisman voting in '98.

The Next 50:

51. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (2009-11)
52. Al Wilson, LB, Tennessee (1995-98)
53. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (2010-13)
54. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State (1997-00)
55. Cam Newton, QB, Florida/Auburn (2008, 2010)
56. Jammal Brown, T, Oklahoma (2001-04)
57. Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt (2010-13)
58. Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon (2003-05)
59. Jake Long, T, Michigan (2006-08)
60. Antoine Winfield, CB, Ohio State (1995-98)
61. Jonathan Vilma, LB, Miami (2000-03)
62. Dre Bly, CB, North Carolina (1996-98)
63. Chris Long, DE, Virginia (2004-07)
64. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma (2007-09)
65. Andy Katzenmoyer, LB, Ohio State (1996-98)
66. Dat Nguyen, LB, Texas A&M (1995-98)
67. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida (2005-08)
68. Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas (2005-08)
69. Dominic Raiola, C, Nebraska (1998-00)
70. Shawn Andrews, T, Arkansas (2001-03)
71. Steve Hutchinson, G, Michigan (1997-00)
72. Tommie Harris, DT, Oklahoma (2001-03)
73. Russell Wilson, QB, NC State/Wisconsin (2008-11)
74. Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M (2011-12)
75. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis (2002-05)
76. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011-13)
77. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (2009-11)
78. Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan (2001-04)
79. Jamar Fletcher, CB, Wisconsin (1998-00)
80. Mark Barron, S, Alabama (2008-11)
81. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011-13)
82. Andre Smith, T, Alabama (2006-08)
83. Chase Coffman, TE, Missouri (2005-08)
84. Dan Morgan, LB, Miami (1997-00)
85. Derrick Strait, CB, Oklahoma (2000-03)
86. Torry Holt, WR, NC State (1995-98)
87. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma (2006-09)
88. Dallas Clark, TE, Iowa (2000-02)
89. Teddy Lehman, LB, Oklahoma (2000-03)
90. Cedric Benson, RB, Texas (2001-04)
91. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, T, Virginia (2002-05)
92. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (2010-13)
93. AJ Hawk, LB, Ohio State (2002-05)
94. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (2013-present)
95. Heath Miller, TE, Virginia (2002-04)
96. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas (2006-09
97. Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas (2005-08)
98. Alex Brown, DE, Florida (1998-01)
99. Mike Doss, S, Ohio State (1999-02)
100. Philip Rivers, QB, NC State (2000-03)

Teaser:
Top 50 College Football Players of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/washington-reinstates-qb-cyler-miles
Body:

Washington’s quarterback situation was one of the key storylines in the Pac-12 this spring, but it appears the Huskies will have some clarity before the fall. After missing spring practice due to an off-the-field incident, Cyler Miles was reinstated to the team by coach Chris Petersen on Tuesday.

Miles threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns in 2013, serving as the top backup to Keith Price. Price missed the Oregon State game due to injury, and Miles led the Huskies to a 69-27 win, throwing for 162 yards and one score.

The addition of Miles is huge for Washington, as Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams have yet to throw a pass on the collegiate level.

Miles has some work to do in order to learn the new offense. However, he should provide Washington with its best chance to win in 2014. And with Stanford visiting Seattle this year, the Huskies have a chance to make some noise in the North Division – if Miles continues to develop after a promising stint in 2013.
 

Teaser:
Washington Reinstates QB Cyler Miles
Post date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 20:13
Path: /college-football/wisconsins-defense-or-quarterback-play-which-bigger-concern-2014
Body:

Wisconsin is one of the top programs in the Big Ten, winning at least seven games in each season since 2002. Additionally, the Badgers have experienced only one losing season since 1996.

As Wisconsin turns the page from a successful 9-4 debut by coach Gary Andersen, there are several holes to address on the depth chart. The Badgers need more from their starting quarterback – Joel Stave or Tanner McEvoy – and the defense returns only three starters.

Despite the heavy personnel departures, it’s unlikely Wisconsin takes a huge step back in the win column. The schedule is one of the easiest in the Big Ten, as the Badgers won’t play Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State or Ohio State in crossover play.

Although the quarterback spot is a concern, Wisconsin can still lean on a ground attack that will be among the best in the nation. Running back Melvin Gordon should be in Heisman contention, and Corey Clement is a capable replacement for James White.

With an easy schedule, Wisconsin is Athlon’s pick to win the Big Ten’s West Division in 2014. But for this program to challenge Ohio State or Michigan State for the conference title, the quarterback play has to improve. But which is a bigger concern heading into 2014? Is it a rebuilt defense with three new starters? Or is the production at quarterback the bigger issue?

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, AthlonSports.com will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Countdown for 2014 is underway. Wisconsin ranks as the No. 15 team in college football for 2014.

Wisconsin’s Defense or Quarterback Play: Which is a Bigger Concern in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Despite returning only three starters on defense, I think Wisconsin is going to be fine on that side of the ball. Sure, it might struggle to stop LSU’s ground game in the opener, but the Badgers have enough returning to prevent a major drop on the stat sheet. Nose guard Warren Herring is a good piece to build around up front, while the linebacking corps should be in good shape with Vince Biegel, Joe Schobert and Derek Landisch. The secondary ranked 18th nationally in pass efficiency defense, and sophomore corner Sojourn Shelton is a rising star. Assuming Wisconsin gets the same type of production from its quarterback spot as it did in 2013, the Badgers should be able to win the West Division. However, for this program to take the next step, coach Gary Andersen needs more from its quarterbacks. Joel Stave was steady last year but is being pushed by Tanner McEvoy for snaps. McEvoy is a dual-threat option and played safety after transferring from junior college last season. And if Stave and McEvoy struggle, Wisconsin may have to dig deeper in the depth chart and turn to true freshman D.J. Gillins or sophomore Bart Houston.

Brent Yarina, (@BTNBrentYarina), BTN.com Senior Editor
It has to be quarterback. The Badgers will have a good offense, no matter who starts under center, thanks to the one-two backfield punch of Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. But, if the incumbent (Joel Stave) can’t improve or the dual-threat challenger (Tanner McEvoy) can’t win the job – and keep it – this could be a one-dimensional offense that isn’t nearly as prolific as the ones we’re used to seeing in Madison. It’s no secret Stave and Wisconsin have struggled to pass the last two seasons, and things won’t get any easier with Jared Abbrederis, Jacob Pedersen and James White, the team’s top pass-catchers, all out of eligibility. Making the quarterback’s job even tougher, the Badgers lack a proven vertical threat who can stretch the field and keep defenses honest. That said, a surprise year from Stave or McEvoy could be the difference between a good offense and a top (Big Ten) offense.

Mark Ross
With Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement carrying the load and four starting offensive linemen returning, Wisconsin will do what it always does — run opposing defenses into the ground. Because of this well-established and highly successful formula, I'm not that worried about the quarterback play. No, I'm looking more at having to replace eight starters from a defense that ranked seventh or better nationally in three of the four major categories (17th in pass defense). Three of those starters were taken in the recent NFL Draft and anytime you have to basically revamp your starting 11, that's no easy task. The only returning all-conference performers are in the secondary, which means the Badgers will be employing a largely untested and inexperienced front seven. What was a strength for last year's team can now only be characterized, at best, as a rather large question mark headed into this season. The conference realignment does provide the Badgers with a break, as Indiana, Ohio State and Penn State have been replaced by Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern when it comes to divisional foes. The Badgers' crossover schedule doesn't include the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions, or even the Spartans or Wolverines for that matter, but rather Maryland and Rutgers — the Big Ten's two newcomers. So while I am expecting Wisconsin to finish atop the West Division standings in 2014, I don't think the Badgers will be near as dominant on both sides of the ball as they were last season.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Wisconsin’s biggest concern isn’t so much the quarterback as much as it is the entire passing game. What here inspires a ton of confidence? Joel Stave missed most of spring with a shoulder injury sustained in the bowl game. Quarterbacks and bad shoulders can be bad news. And even before that Stave wasn’t the sharpest quarterback, throwing 13 interceptions. Five of those picks came in the final three games. His back up, Tanner McEvoy, may be athletic enough to scramble (or play safety), but he’s an unpolished passer. If that’s not enough, Wisconsin doesn’t have the security of Jared Abbrederis. It’s a good thing Melvin Gordon is back, otherwise, this offense would be in a heap of trouble. While Wisconsin’s pass defense was torched late in the season against Penn State and South Carolina, the Badgers should be fine on that side of the ball. Even with those two games, Wisconsin’s ranked third in the Big Ten in yards per attempt. Wisconsin’s secondary really was a mess to start the season in 2013 and returns three starters in 2014. Chris Borland is a big loss at linebacker, but Wisconsin has veterans there to replace him. 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Early in the season the answer will be the defense when Wisconsin has to face a power running game from LSU and sneaky explosive offense from Bowling Green. The front seven needs to be rebuilt and a replacement for Chris Borland needs to be found. However, as the year goes along, Joel Stave's play will grow into the bigger issue - especially in November with big divisional games against Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota looming. Over time the defense should develop and won't be nearly as tested against some average Big Ten offenses. But Stave will have to create balance on offense in those critical swing games late in the year if Wisconsin wants to cruise into its third Big Ten title game in four years. 

Teaser:
Wisconsin's Defense or Quarterback Play: Which is a Bigger Concern in 2014?
Post date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/alabamas-nick-saban-finds-unexpected-match-lane-kiffin
Body:

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Maybe the best situation for Lane Kiffin is for his players to talk for him.

First off, Alabama’s players are saying nice things about the new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator. That’s a good place to start. Center Ryan Kelly said the reputation that preceded the former USC and Tennessee head coach to Tuscaloosa was one of an “offensive mastermind.”

Secondly, Kiffin didn't have anything to say during the spring, which isn't bad for a man with his track record. Kiffin was quiet by rule by Nick Saban’s longstanding edict that his assistants will not meet with the media. In theory, the off-field foibles that clouded Kiffin’s time as a head coach will be kept to a minimum in the controlled atmosphere of Saban’s program.

Granted, Kelly, a junior and a returning starter, probably knows better than to admit that he knows anything else of Kiffin’s background — that Kiffin needled Urban Meyer while the coach at Tennessee or a stepped into a series of mini-controversies at USC.

"It’s going to be different. ... It’s going to be a lot more flexible with the passing game and getting the running backs involved."

-Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones
There’s no one to speak for Kiffin but his boss, his players and the statsheet.

Nope, Kelly only speaks to optimism for what Kiffin can do on the field.

“Now that he’s been here for one spring, I’m looking forward to the fall with him,” Kelly said.

So there’s excitement at Alabama for Kiffin, who was one of the more compelling hires of the offseason. The move pairs Saban, who has a firm grip over the program, with an offensive coordinator with a rebellious streak that couldn't be fully contained by the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee or USC.

Those traits were enough to raise the eyebrows of Alabama athletic director Bill Battle, who told the Anniston (Ala.) Star his initial reaction to Saban seeking out Kiffin “wasn’t very positive.” Battle eventually warmed to the idea after speaking to USC athletic director Pat Haden and former Tennessee senior associate AD David Blackburn, who is now the AD at UT Chattanooga.

Besides, Saban needed an offensive coordinator with experience calling plays in a pro-style offense. Those coaches at the college level aren’t as plentiful as they once were.

“We tried to keep some of the things we’re doing and allow Lane to do the things he wants to do,” Saban said. “We’ve bought into that and he’s doing really, really well. I think he’s a great asset to our staff in terms of knowledge and experience.”

Saban and players said some of the changes have been subtle, but the receivers, at least, seemed to embrace the new approach as much as anyone.

That's with good reason.

Under Kiffin in 2011, USC receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee both had 1,000 yards and at least 10 touchdowns. In 2012, Lee caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to the Biletnikoff.

Even though, Alabama’s projected starting quarterback, Jacob Coker, isn’t yet on campus, receivers are expecting a more dynamic passing game under Kiffin.

“It’s going to be different,” wide receiver Christion Jones said. “It’s usually Alabama, run game, run game, run game, pass here or there. It’s going to be a lot more flexible with the passing game and getting the running backs involved. It’s flexible enough where everyone can get a touch.”

That won’t be all that’s tweaked. Even though Kiffin brings the pro-style background Saban likes, he also brings hurry-up elements to the table.

“Coach Kiffin likes a lot motion and wants us to get up to the ball, not an Oregon-type offense,” Kelly said. “Late last year we were snapping the ball with six, five, four seconds left on the play clock. (Now it’s) Not so much of the no-huddle, but something to get our procedures up running ... to make the offense more effective.”

More than that, Saban said Kiffin can be a sounding board.

The Alabama coach has never been wary of hiring former head coaches to his staff. Bobby Williams (Michigan State), Kevin Steele (Baylor) and Mario Cristobal (FIU) all ran their own programs before arriving at Alabama.

None, though, was at a powerhouse program like Alabama. Between his time as an assistant and head coach Kiffin spent 10 seasons at USC, six years of which when the Trojans were the dominant program of the early part of the decade.

“It’s been great for me too to have a guy who’s had some of the issues and problems we have,” Saban said. “I really feel good about his addition to our staff.”
 

Teaser:
Alabama's Nick Saban Finds Unexpected Match with Lane Kiffin
Post date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-tackling-their-first-all-star-race-weekend
Body:

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.

Today, David discusses the rookies in the news as they enter their first All-Star Race weekend.


Both the haves and the have-nots of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie class are approaching this weekend’s All-Star festivities at Charlotte Motor Speedway looking to make history — two rookies, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman, have won the All-Star Race — but it is a “will-not” and his team that made headlines early this week.  Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier’s HScott Motorsports team won’t be participating in Friday night’s Sprint Showdown, a companion event to the All-Star Race for non-winners that transfers the top two finishers to Saturday’s show. Instead, they’ll be taking a breather and focusing on the points-paying Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in two weeks and other upcoming events.

A Cup Series regular skipping any race nowadays is heresy to some, but the decision to sit on the sidelines amounts to a savvy one, at least financially.

Any weekend a Cup car is placed in the hauler and headed to the racetrack — and actually planning to compete, not start and park — a team is expected to burn anywhere from $200,000 to $225,000 in a three-day span. If that price range stands true for Friday’s Sprint Showdown and Allgaier was to win the race, which offers a winner’s purse of $42,155 (per the NASCAR entry blank), the team would still be in the hole by over $150,000 … and have to exert more wear, tear and currency the following night in the All-Star Race. Sometimes the dollars and cents in this sport lack sense, and in this instance logic suggests that sitting out isn’t a bad thing. That $150,000 saved could be better allocated for a small team located outside the Charlotte race hub (in Spartanburg, S.C.) that doesn’t have a full season’s worth of sponsorship.

At some point this weekend, FOX’s Larry McReynolds will explain to you that some race teams are merely using the All-Star Race weekend as a test session for the next week’s 600-mile marathon. While that could technically be true, be aware of the exorbitant cost for which this “test session” calls.

If, hypothetically, a team rented out Charlotte Motor Speedway (not allowed per NASCAR rules, but track specs could be mimicked elsewhere) for a day and logged laps to accumulate data via telemetry (something teams aren’t allowed to do during a race), it would round out to about a $35 to $40 thousand cost. Tires for this weekend’s practice sessions and races alone will cost teams somewhere around $25,000 (teams can use tires already in their inventory for a test session). So if a team is, in fact, utilizing the All-Star Race weekend as a glorified test session, then it’s the Rolex of test sessions and certainly not a cost-effective way of obtaining information.

Owner Harry Scott and his team’s analysis of the cost benefit surrounding All-Star Race weekend participation showed that they’d be better suited to spend that money on more prudent events. It's a sign of financial intelligence, not competitive weakness, that they’re electing to channel their focus elsewhere.

 

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Kansas concerns while Cheever confounds


Friday night fighters
The Sprint Showdown pits the entire rookie crop, sans Allgaier, against drivers that failed to win a race in either 2013 or 2014. Clint Bowyer, a Chase participant each of the last two years whose most recent win came at Charlotte in the 2012 fall race, is the coyote roaming a house of hens. Two rookies — Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon — could potentially play the role of his spoiler.  Kyle Larson

Chip Ganassi Racing, which fields Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet SS, is a veteran of the Showdown — though, that’s probably not a designation they’re thrilled to have — having captured two victories in races dating back to 2004, including the 2013 race with Jamie McMurray. McMurray also finished third in the event in 2012, while Larson’s predecessor, Juan Pablo Montoya, finished fifth.

When Larson and team took part in the December rules package test at Charlotte, he was a frequent leader in winner in the simulated races. Though practice performance doesn’t necessarily translate to game success, his two top-5 finishes this season came on big tracks (Fontana, Texas) that offered a high groove for the rim-riding aficionado.

Dillon, whose No. 3 makes its first All-Star Race weekend appearance since Dale Earnhardt sported a pink and yellow Peter Max-designed paint scheme in 2000, has seen a mixed fare of results at intermediate tracks this season. However, it stood out at 1.5-mile tracks in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (winning twice at Kentucky) and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (wins at Las Vegas and Chicagoland).  Austin Dillon

Since 2008, two rookies have transferred from the Showdown to the All-Star Race. Sam Hornish drove a Team Penske car to a second-place finish in the ’08 event. Ricky Stenhouse, who will again be competing in the Showdown on Friday, finished second in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Six rookies, including the aforementioned sleepers, will look to emulate the feats of Hornish and Stenhouse this weekend.


David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
 

Teaser:
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year class prepares to tackle the All-Star Race weekend.
Post date: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 19:33
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-may-13-2014
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for May 13.

Enjoy a lovely gallery of photos featuring SI swimsuit model Lily Aldridge.

Days after Tommy Lasorda wished V. Stiviano would crash her car, she did. Yikes. What sort of voodoo is the old man practicing? Of course, I think the real culprit is that stupid visor the lady insists on wearing.

Oklahoma's compliance office made a former player's girlfriend sign an affadavit that she was a girlfriend and not a benefit. Is this what we've come to?

• Tis the season for celebrity commencement speakers. In this video, Jay Bilas. In another, James Franklin, who advised students to stay broke as long as possible. No problem there.

A guy waited five years to finish a tweet.

• Today's public service: 30 commonly confused and misused words. You can infer from this link that I'm implying that many people are idiots.

Rutgers dismissed transfer QB Philip Nelson after he put another guy in a coma. The dumpster fire that is Scarlet Knight athletics rages on.

The long, strange trip of Adam Muema takes another detour.

An umpire gave Torii Hunter's face a strange little tap during a bench-clearing incident.

• The life of LeBron: chat with Jay Z and Beyonce, then steal and slam.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-or-lsu-which-team-finishes-higher-sec-west-2014
Body:

The SEC West is the toughest division in college football. The tiers in the West seem to be clear, as Alabama and Auburn are the top-two teams, with LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State battling for the No. 3 spot. Arkansas is expected to be picked at the bottom by most in 2014. Of course, LSU has been the most reliable team out of that mix in recent years, and Les Miles has another elite recruiting haul on the way for 2014.

Even though the tiers seem to be clear, Alabama, Auburn and LSU each have some personnel losses to overcome in 2014. The Tigers are replacing a handful of players on both sides of the ball and finished spring with uncertainty at quarterback.

Considering the losses at the top of the division, the door is open for Ole Miss to challenge in the West. The Rebels return 13 starters in 2014, including standout sophomores in receiver Laquon Treadwell, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and safety Tony Conner.

Injuries played a key role in the Rebels’ 8-5 record last season, as quarterback Bo Wallace was never 100 percent after offseason shoulder surgery. Additionally, defensive end C.J. Johnson missed nearly all of last year, and receiver Vince Sanders struggled to get on track after a collarbone injury in the preseason.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, AthlonSports.com will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Athlon Sports' Top 25 countdown for 2014 is underway. LSU ranks as the No. 19 team, while Ole Miss checks in at No. 18.
 

Ole Miss or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s easy to pencil LSU among the top three in the West Division each preseason, but 2014 could be a different story. Yes, the Tigers have talent and are consistently in the mix for 10 wins. However, this LSU team seems to have more question marks than any in recent memory. The Tigers have uncertainty and inexperience at quarterback and receiver, while the defensive line and linebacking corps needs work. The Rebels aren’t without their own flaws, as Hugh Freeze’s team is thin on the offensive line, while quarterback Bo Wallace needs to take the next step. Despite Ole Miss’ question marks, I like the Rebels to finish ahead of LSU in the SEC West standings. In last year’s final tally, the Tigers were two games better in the division. Making predictions from year-to-year isn’t as simple as personnel losses, but LSU has to replace quarterback Zach Mettenberger, two 1,000-yard receivers, both starting defensive tackles and standout linebacker Lamin Barrow. The Tigers didn’t have a vintage defense last year, as they allowed 5.7 yards per play in SEC games, just a shade better than the Rebels (5.8). Ole Miss returns 13 starters, and the depth in this program has improved significantly over the last two years. Assuming quarterback Bo Wallace has recovered from his shoulder injury and can stay healthy, the Rebels should make the jump from 3-5 in conference play to 5-3, which will be enough to inch ahead of LSU in the West.

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com, (@Josh_Ward)
This is the season Ole Miss hopes to take a big step in the SEC West. Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M all have to replace their star quarterbacks from a year ago while Ole Miss returns third-year starter Bo Wallace. The Rebels also have a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball and a good amount of experience returning on defense.

LSU has to replace several key offensive players, including quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running back Jeremy Hill and wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Then there’s the defensive tackle duo of Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson, both of whom left early for the NFL.

All of this points to Ole Miss finishing ahead of LSU in the SEC West for the first time since 2008. But I don’t think it will be that easy. Ole Miss will have to play at LSU on Oct. 25 along with road trips to Arkansas and Texas A&M. Those won’t be easy. Nor will home games against Alabama and Auburn. In the end, I think both LSU and Ole Miss will finish with a 5-3 record in the SEC with LSU beating Ole Miss. Tiebreaker goes to LSU.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Neither of these two teams would be my pick to win the SEC West, but the race between the Rebels and Tigers might be the most interesting battle to watch in the division this fall. One program is surging with energy and excitement with a returning senior quarterback and loads of future NFL stars in key positions. And the other is LSU - a team with quarterback questions and holes to plug up the heart of the defense. That said, Les Miles and his Bayou Bengals are the established program with four straight seasons of at least 10 wins, two high-level coordinators and a decade of championship competition. That level of operation counts for something when the fourth quarter rolls around against top-flight competition. Hugh Freeze is the hotter name running a hungrier program, but Ole Miss will have to win in Baton Rouge to leap LSU in the standings and I don't see that happening... Yet.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Recent history says it’s not wise to bet against LSU, especially in favor of Ole Miss. Still, the two programs are at a crossroads of sorts. Ole Miss is on the way up while LSU looks like it might take rare off year, as in a year when it wins eight or nine games instead of 10. Ole Miss has the most experienced quarterback in the SEC, even if that quarterback, Bo Wallace, can be a little wild. The Rebels proved that their top-10 signing class in 2013 was more than just an “on paper” victory; The class is going to play a major role in turning Ole Miss. LSU, though, has too many questions, both at quarterback and in the middle of the defense (tackle, linebacker and safety). Ole Miss is knocking on the door of relevance in the West, signaled in part by a 27-24 win over LSU in Oxford. With frontline talent like Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell, the Rebels are ready to leapfrog LSU at least for this year.

Kevin Causey (@CFBZ), CrystalBallRun.com
I'm a big believer in "past performance predicts future performance", especially when things remain constant. The constant for LSU has been Les Miles and over his nine years at LSU he has had seven double-digit win seasons, one nine win season and one eight win season. In other words, you can bank on LSU winning 10 games year in and year out and they have a basement of five conference wins.

Hugh Freeze and his Ole Miss Rebels are on the rise but in his first two seasons, the Rebels have been unable to rise above three conference wins.

It's certainly possible that LSU has a down year this year with all of it's changeover and Ole Miss breaks through but until that happens I'm putting my money on Les and LSU to finish higher in the SEC West than Ole Miss and Mr Freeze.

Mark Ross
Since the turn of the millennium, Ole Miss has finished ahead of LSU in the SEC West standings just once (2008). The two teams tied at 7-1 in 2003, but the TIgers beat the Rebels to earn the right to play in the SEC Championship Game that year. So it's not an understatement to say LSU has had Ole Miss' number these past 14 seasons, including a 10-4 mark head-to-head, but I am predicting this to change this fall. Perhaps I am putting too much stock into the buzz that's coming from Oxford, but it's clear that Hugh Freeze has the Rebels headed in the right direction, especially when it comes to recruiting. I believe this will be the first season when the fruits of the coaching staff's labor on the trail starts to pay off, especially since LSU looks ripe for the picking. Les Miles has seen 17 players leave early for the NFL over the past two seasons, and even though he continues to churn out top-10 recruiting classes, at some point this will catch up to his roster, especially in the SEC. The Tigers will be introducing five new starters on each side of the ball, none bigger than whomever ends up taking over for quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Meanwhile, the Rebels welcome back all-conference candidate Bo Wallace under center along with several explosive playmakers and a defense that returns nine starters. Ole Miss does have a tough schedule to navigate, including a trip to Baton Rouge and a home date with Auburn back-to-back, but LSU has to go to Gainesville to face a Florida team that can't wait for a chance to redeem itself following last season's disastrous showing. Both host Alabama and open the season with tough non-conference matchups (LSU vs. Wisconsin at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas; Ole Miss vs. Boise State at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta), but what truly matters is what happens once October and November roll around. Even though LSU will have home-field advantage on Oct. 25, I like Wallace to lead a Rebel uprising over the Tigers in the SEC West this season.

Teaser:
Ole Miss or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West in 2014?
Post date: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/top-25-undrafted-free-agents-nfl-over-last-25-years-2014
Body:

A total of 256 players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean they will be the only ones joining the professional ranks. Every team signs a number of undrafted free agents after Mr. Irrelevant is announced at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

For example, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks had 21 players on their 53-man roster last season who started their NFL careers as undrafted free agents. There also are several members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who went undrafted, a number that’s sure to grow in the years to come.

So before you discount the chances of an undrafted free agent (UDFA) from not only making your favorite team’s roster, but having an impact this season, remember that Hall of Famers like Dick “Night Train” Lane and Warren Moon didn’t hear their named called on draft day either. Here is our list of the 25 top UDFAs over the last 25 years (since the 1989 NFL Draft):

1. Kurt Warner, QB, Northern Iowa
He played in three Super Bowls with the Rams and Cardinals and won the league’s MVP twice. He also was MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV when St. Louis defeated the Titans 23-16. Warner holds many postseason records and should make the Hall of Fame.

2. John Randle, DT, Texas A&I
The ferocious Vikings pass-rusher was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Randle totaled 137.5 sacks in his 14 seasons with the Vikings and Seahawks. He made seven Pro Bowls and was elected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.

3. Antonio Gates, TE, Kent State
The Chargers turned to the basketball court to find Gates, who did not play college football. He’s made eight Pro Bowls in 11 seasons in San Diego, and currently sits 50th all-time in receiving yards (9,193) and is tied for 12th with 87 career touchdown catches. The only tight end with more TD grabs is the recently retired Tony Gonzalez.

4. Wes Welker, WR, Texas Tech
The ultra-quick Welker was initially signed by San Diego following the 2004 draft, but then was cut and landed in Miami. He joined New England in 2007 and proceeded to put up an NFL-leading 672 receptions, along with 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns, in his six seasons with the Patriots. Welker signed with Denver before last season and proceeded to post a career-high 10 touchdown receptions. Welker is already among the top 25 players all-time in receptions (841, 24th) and top 50 in receiving yards (9,358, 47th).

5. Adam Vinatieri, K, South Dakota State
Some may disagree with having a kicker this high, but Vinatieri’s contributions to elite teams should not be undervalued. He has been a part of four championships with the Patriots and Colts and made a last-second, game-winner in two of those Super Bowls. He’s one of just seven players in NFL history with 2,000 points in their career and currently sits in fifth place with 2,006.

6. Tony Romo, QB, Eastern Illinois
The popular, yet polarizing, Cowboys signal-caller is still building his legacy, but he has already made three Pro Bowls and has 208 touchdown passes in 108 career starts. He has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes and his career passer rating is 95.8, which ranks him fifth all-time.

7. London Fletcher, LB, John Carroll
After 16 highly productive NFL seasons, Fletcher the undersized tackling machine who consistently made plays retired after the 2013 campaign. Whether it was playing for the Rams, Bills or the Redskins, Fletcher exhibited a nose for the football (2,046 career tackles, 23 INTs, 23 forced fumbles) and was a constant in the lineup. He never missed a game in 16 NFL seasons and started every game from the beginning of the 2001 season until his final game this past December.

8. Jeff Saturday, C, North Carolina
The six-time Pro Bowler anchored the Colts' offensive line from 2000-11. During his time snapping to Peyton Manning, Indy won double-digit games nine times and won Super Bowl XLI. After one season in Green Bay, Saturday re-signed with Indianapolis last March so he could officially retire as a member of the team that brought him into the league.

9. Brian Waters, G, North Texas
Waters failed to latch on with the Cowboys during his first year out of college in 1999, but he found a home in Kansas City the next season. The elite blocker made five Pro Bowls with the Chiefs and then a sixth with the Patriots in 2011. After sitting out a season, Waters returned to the field in 2013, playing five games for Dallas, seemingly bringing his career full circle.
10. Rod Smith, WR, Missouri Southern
He played his entire 12-year career in Denver, and Smith’s 849 receptions put him in the top 20 in NFL history. He was a part of two Super Bowl winners with the Broncos and went over 1,000 yards receiving eight times.

11. James Harrison, LB, Kent State
Harrison played 10 seasons (2002, '04-10) in Pittsburgh before switching to AFC North rival Cincinnati last season. The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison went from undrafted rookie to a playmaking force for the Steelers and helped the franchise win two more Super Bowl titles.

12. Priest Holmes, RB, Texas
The former Ravens and Chiefs runner had a solid career with over 8,000 rushing yards and 94 total touchdowns. Holmes had an amazing three-year run in Kansas City from 2001-03, amassing 4,590 rush yards and 56 TDs on the ground.

13. Arian Foster, RB, Tennessee
Injuries limited the Texans’ star to just eight games last season, but prior to that Foster averaged 1,421 yards rushing from 2010-12. He led the NFL with 1,616 yards in 2010 and also has exhibited a nose for the end zone with 52 total touchdowns in 59 career games.

14. Pat Williams, DT, Texas A&M
The massive run-stuffer took a while to make a mark in the NFL, but he developed into a defensive stalwart for Minnesota. Williams made three straight Pro Bowls from 2006-08 while playing for the Vikings.

15. Jeff Garcia, QB, San Jose State
The four-time Pro Bowler starred in Canada to begin his professional career, and did not play in the NFL until age 29. However, Garcia made his mark by throwing for over 25,000 yards with the 49ers, Browns, Lions, Eagles and Buccaneers.

16. Jake Delhomme, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Bayou native started slow with the Saints, but he found a nice niche with the Panthers from 2003-09. Delhomme passed for over 19,000 yards and 120 TDs during those seven seasons and led Carolina to a Super Bowl appearance in 2003.

17. Jason Peters, T, Arkansas
Initially a tight end in college, Peters went from undrafted rookie to special teams contributor to All-Pro offensive tackle in a relatively short period of time. After signing with Buffalo following the 2004 draft, Peters claimed the starting right tackle job in ’06 and proceeded to reel off five straight Pro Bowl invites (2007-11). Traded to Philadelphia in 2009, Peters has established himself as one of the NFL’s top tackles, as evidenced by his two All-Pro seasons (2011, ’13) and the five-year, $51.3 million extension he signed with the Eagles in February.

18. Bart Scott, LB, Southern Illinois
The entertaining linebacker played on some quality defenses with both the Ravens and Jets, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2006. From 2006-12 with the Ravens, Scott missed just one game and made 108 starts.

19. David Akers, K, Louisville
The reliable kicker led the NFL in scoring in both 2010 and '11. Akers has made 386 career field goals, good for ninth all-time, while connecting on 81 percent of his attempts. He has earned six Pro Bowl invites in his career kicking for the Eagles, 49ers and Lions.

20. Shaun O'Hara, C, Rutgers
The tough interior blocker started his career playing guard for the Browns, but he flourished with the Giants from 2004-10. During that span, O’Hara made three Pro Bowls and was a leader on the Giants' Super Bowl winner in 2008.

21. Wayne Chrebet, WR, Hofstra
The New York fan favorite was a classic underdog story, and he played his entire career with the Jets. Chrebet was especially effective from 1995-2002, when he caught 507 passes and 39 TDs during that eight-year span.

22. Barry Sims, T, Utah
The starting left tackle for two conference championship games and a Super Bowl in 2002, Sims played 12 NFL seasons in the Bay Area. He was a solid blocker in Oakland for nine years before finishing his career in San Francisco.

23. Antonio Pierce, LB, Arizona
He had a fairly short NFL career but was a tackling machine from 2004-08 with the Redskins and Giants. Much like O’Hara, Pierce was an underrated leader for the Super Bowl XLII champions.

24. Cullen Jenkins, DL, Central Michigan
The younger brother of Kris Jenkins started his professional career in NFL Europe before joining the league in 2004. A solid interior defender with the Packers, Eagles and Giants, Cullen has 43.5 career sacks in 141 games (113 starts).

25. Cameron Wake, LB/DE, Penn State
After going undrafted in 2005, Wake turned to the CFL to continue his playing career. Little did he know the league up north would do much more than that. The CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie of the Year in 2008 and a two-time (2008, ’09) Most Outstanding Defensive Player honoree; Wake parlayed his strong play in Canada into a four-year contract with Miami. After collecting 5.5 sacks in 2009, Wake broke out the following year with 14 sacks. A three-time Pro Bowler (2010, ’12-13), Wake also earned All-Pro honors following his 15-sack 2012 campaign. In 77 career games (62 starts), Wake has recorded 51.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles.

Teaser:
Top 25 Undrafted Free Agents in the NFL over the last 25 Years
Post date: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 11:00

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