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All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-7-2014
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for August 7:

• Leading off today: Hottest alumni of the Big Ten, including geek goddess Zooey Deschanel of Northwestern.

• They're off and running at the PGA Championship, where we're reminded yet again that, somehow, John Daly is a former major champion. Athlon photographer Harrison McClary is there, too.

• Greg Oden allegedly punched a lady, giving us another classic mug shot.

The NBA Rookie Transition Program is doling out helpful advice like stirring hot soup instead of blowing on it, and don't cover your neck in tattoos.

Metta World Peace is changing his name again. I won't ruin it for you; just click.

• Remember Lions QB Scott Mitchell? He got really fat and is going on The Biggest Loser, along with other former athletes like tennis player Zina Garrison.

Matt Williams scolded the media over Bryce Harper-to-the-minors talk.

• After Adam Dunn's pitching performance, here's how position players have fared on the mound this year.

Watch an Australian sportscast disappear into the weeds. All that's missing is "Boom goes the dynamite."

Allegedly scandalous behavior at the World Wide Leader.

There's a petition to get Weird Al for the Super Bowl halftime show. I could get behind this.

• Umpire Laz Diaz showed off his salsa moves with the Philly Phanatic.

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 10:51
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-all-freshman-team-2014
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College football fans know about Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, but there’s a new crop of superstars waiting to emerge. Every college football season always brings new household names, and the countdown has officially started for 2014.

 

With fall practice underway, freshmen are on campus and ready to make an impact on the upcoming season. The recruiting hype and star rankings surrounding these players will continue for the next few years, but fall practice is the first chance for most freshmen to make a significant impact.
 

Every season, freshmen make an impact for some of the top teams in the nation. Last year, quarterback Jameis Winston guided Florida State to a national championship. What freshmen might make that type of impact in 2014?

 

Athlon has attempted to answer that question with a look at the top three all-freshmen teams for 2014. True and redshirt freshmen were considered for this list, with the emphasis on playing time. Talent and recruiting rank does play a part in compiling an All-Freshman team. However, a major factor in placement was determined by how much the players would see the field. Players from the five power conferences, Notre Dame and BYU were considered for this all-freshman team.
 

College Football's 2014 All-Freshman Team

 First-Team OffenseSecond-Team OffenseThird-Team Offense
QBKyle Allen
Texas A&M 
Brandon Harris
LSU 
Anu Solomon
Arizona 
RBLeonard Fournette
LSU 
Greg Bryant
Notre Dame 
Nick Wilson
Arizona 
RBJalen Hurd
Tennessee 
Dalvin Cook
Florida State 
Joseph Yearby
Miami 
WRRicky Seals-Jones
Texas A&M 
Malachi Dupre
LSU 
Bo Hines
NC State 
WRErmon Lane
Florida State 
Freddy Canteen
Michigan 
Artavis Scott
Clemson 
WR/TEDalton Schultz (TE)
Stanford 
KD Cannon
Baylor 
Devon Allen
Oregon 
OLKC McDermott
Miami 
Wyatt Teller
Virginia Tech 
Derwin Gray
Maryland 
OLDamian Prince
Maryland 
Mason Cole
Michigan 
Darius James
Texas 
OLCam Robinson
Alabama 
Toa Lobendahn
USC 
Chris Griffin
Georgia Tech 
OLKhaliel Rodgers
USC 
Bentley Spain
North Carolina 
Andrew Nelson
Penn State 
OLRod Taylor
Ole Miss 
Braden Smith
Auburn 
Cole Madison
Washington State 
 First-Team DefenseSecond-Team DefenseThird-Team Defense
DLMyles Garrett
Texas A&M 
Alec James
Wisconsin 
Kentavius Street
NC State 
DLChikwe Obasih
Wisconsin 
Chad Thomas
Miami 
Bijhon Jackson
Arkansas 
DLAndrew Brown
Virginia 
Malik McDowell
Michigan State 
Matt Elam
Kentucky 
DLJustin Manning
Texas A&M 
Derrick Nnadi
Florida State 
Nifae Lealao
Vanderbilt 
LBMatthew Thomas
Florida State 
Gyasi Akem
Oklahoma State 
Rashaan Evans
Alabama 
LBRaekwon McMillan
Ohio State 
Nigel Bowden
Vanderbilt 
Tre Williams
Auburn 
LBD.J. Calhoun
Arizona State 
Lorenzo Carter
Georgia 
Dillon Bates
Tennessee 
CBMackensie Alexander
Clemson 
Tony Brown
Alabama 
Marlon Humphrey
Alabama 
CBJabrill Peppers
Michigan 
Jalen Tabor
Florida 
Jermaine Kelly
Washington 
SQuin Blanding
Virginia 
Steven Parker
Oklahoma 
Malkom Parrish (DB)
Georgia 
SJamal Adams
LSU 
Tyree Robinson
Oregon 

Wesley Green (CB)
South Carolina 

 First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team SpecialistsThird-Team Specialists
KDaniel Carlson
Auburn 
Cole Hedlund
Arkansas 
Sean Nuernberger
Ohio State 
PJK Scott
Alabama 

Colin Downing

Iowa State 

Gary Wunderlich
Ole Miss 
ATHAdoree' Jackson
USC 
JuJu Smith
USC 
Wayne Gallman (RB)
Clemson 
APSpeedy Noil
Texas A&M 
Curtis Samuel
Ohio State 
Allen Lazard (WR)
Iowa State 

 

Teaser:
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-best-and-worst-logos-2014
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Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos.

 

Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro had to say about the ACC's football logos:
 

 TeamLogoAnalysis
1.ClemsonThere are tons of Tigers, Wildcats and Bulldogs in college sports but none use their mascot quite like Clemson. The Tiger Paw print is synonymous with Clemson athletics and is utterly simple but still edgy and creative. 
2.North CarolinaThe interlocked N-C are as famous as any brand logo in the nation. There are simple touches of style — the font and black trim — that make this logo completely unmistakable.
3.MiamiIt's as simple as it gets but also brings loads of creativity and history. No other logo turns into a hand signal like "The U" and the two-tone color scheme and pattern is unique.
4.Florida StateMajor props for taking a tradition-rich logo and tweaking it ever-so-slightly, thus modernizing it without losing any of the recognizable punch. Frankly, the tradition/success of the football team makes the logo in this case.
5.Virginia TechVirginia Tech has one of the best combination letter logos in the nation. It is hard to make it work but the simplicity and color pattern combines two letters that fit together nicely.
6.PittFew teams have a logo that is simply the program's name. With drop shadows and arched font, the Panthers sport one of the cooler looks.
7.VirginiaThe Cavalier sabres crossed beneath the seraphed "V" is equal parts classic and creative. Few logos can combine these aspects of graphic design.
8.Georgia TechThe Ramblin Wreck's interlocking "G-T" is a historic look that isn't really good or bad. It's got some creativity but not too much.
9.NC StateThe block "S" is a popular logo for many college football teams (Michigan State, Stanford) but NC State takes it a step further by adding the N-C. The black trim is a nice touch and the overall package has good symmetry.
10.SyracuseOnce again, the block "S" is a classic look and feel and is difficult to screw up. It's a simple, classic logo. It's never a bad idea to stick with simple and classic (color scheme aside).
11.Wake ForestThere is too much "Looney Tunes" to this one for my taste but at least it's got an aggressive style. The colors are simple (which is good) but the figure might be a bit antiquated.
12.DukeThe font is bizarre, that is for sure — and that is what keeps it from being one of the league's top logos. However, it is a signature logo that everyone knows all across the nation.
13.LouisvilleAn admirable stab at taking an Old English "L" and giving it a contemporary look. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work well with the cool, stylized "ouisville." That said, the cardinal is looking meaner these days, so they've got that going for them.
14.Boston CollegeThe cartoon eagle and italicized/overlapped BC just doesn't exude tradition and excellence like some other logos. The colors aren't bad but it's too busy to be considered a great logo.
Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pac-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2014
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It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the Pac-12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes
 

North Division

 

California


“They just struggled. Defensively, they were one of the worst in the country.”…

“The offense wasn’t controlling the ball really well. The defense couldn’t stop anybody. They made some staff changes.”…

“I know they are high on the young quarterback, Jared Goff, but they had no one to protect him last year. They have to get better up front to give him time.”…

“There’s still some talent there – they lost five guys to the draft – and this year’s recruiting class was pretty good.”…

“They run the Air Raid, which puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but Cal wants to complement that with big backs in the running game, and they didn’t have that last year. Maybe with a year of recruiting and development they can get that.”…

“Injuries just killed them last year. It happens to everybody, but they got hit bad.”…

“Sonny just had a nightmarish first year. They were moving defensive lineman to the offensive line midseason.”…

“They need to find ways just to win a few games. They basically needed to score 50 points to win last year because the defense was so bad and they couldn’t do it.”…

“Hiring Art Kaufman to run the defense is one of the more important hires in the league because Cincinnati was a top-10 defense last year.”…

“If they can just get some help defensively and find a few young playmakers, build the depth a bit, that can go a long way for them.”…
 

Oregon


“To me the whole thing that happened to them was Mariota was hurt for 4-5 games. They never ran him. When he was running, nobody was beating them. He ran again in the bowl game and you could see a different guy. If he stays healthy, they are the best team in the league and the most explosive.”…

“They lost some guys on defense, and losing their coordinator is going to be huge.”…

“Offensively, if healthy, with the run-pass dimension, they are basically unstoppable. Mariota’s running is such a big part of their offense, that when he was out it was tough.”…

“Mariota reminds me a lot of Colin Kaepernick. When he ran, forget it. That’s the same thing with him. Against Stanford, they had no design runs for him. That’s a huge dimension.”…

“They are huge on the defensive line, they were one of the biggest teams we saw. They had some big boys up there.”…

“You’ve got to know how to pick up Stanford’s stunts. If not, it’s tough to deal with. That’s what happened.”…

“The young tight end, Pharaoh Brown, he is a specimen of a player. He can run, is big and athletic.”…

“The young tailback, Thomas Tyner, he’s a lot faster than you think. I didn’t realize how fast he was until he’s on the field. He’s a powerful back. He’s really good. I don’t know if people realize how good he really is yet.”…

 

Oregon State


“They were a big-play team. Of course, many of the big plays came with receiver Brandin Cooks, who was phenomenal and will be sorely missed.”…

“I thought they did a good job getting the ball to the running backs in the passing game.”…

“Sean Mannion can make every throw. They are a threat to score from anywhere.”…

“Their defense played really hard. Defensive end Scott Crichton caused a lot of problems, played hard, played aggressively. They’ll definitely miss him.”…

“Safety Ryan Murphy impressed me. He’s a playmaker.”…

“I thought they were really high in effort and played sound and fundamental. They always brought it every game.”…

“A concern would be that, since they are such a big-play-oriented team and do so much straight drop back, it seems when they turn the ball over, they turn the ball over in droves. The games they lost, it seemed they had 4-5 turnovers.”…

“They had enough firepower, good special teams, well coached - just turned it over too much.”…

“They are trying to throw the ball downfield a lot, and that causes problems. We basically double covered Cooks a few times and Mannion still threw it. He came down with it and we should have come down with it. It’s kind of feast of famine. It’s a huge part of their offense and sometimes it can be a negative. It’s like basketball with a guard that keeps shooting. Mannion won a lot of games for them, too.”…

“I would think this year they would have more balance.”…
 

Stanford


“Obviously they were pretty senior-heavy last year, so they could be young in the back end. Still, they have quite a bit left there.”…

“What they do schematically is pretty darn good.”…

“One of the things they did is, though their first-line guys were senior-heavy, they still played a lot of guys in a steady rotation. Those guys will be ready now.”…

“With the staff, they’ll keep a lot of continuity in what they are doing.”…

“One of the top defensive teams in the country, no doubt.”…

“I think one of the keys to their offense, the thing that makes them tough, is the explosive receivers they’ve got. The Montgomery kid is one of the top players in the conference, and he doesn’t get a lot of pub.”…

“They’ll do a great job running the football.”…

“They have a couple of tough receivers that make them go. They’ll miss Gaffney, who was making a lot more of those bigger runs late in the year.”…

“I think it’s one of the most overstated parts of their offense is the ability to hit vertical shots. I think it’s pretty clear, they are going to run the ball.”…

“One thing they might be missing is the elite tight ends they had in the past. Last year’s guys didn’t have as much experience, so maybe there was a bit of a drop off there.”…

 

Washington


“I know they lost quite a few guys, but Coach Petersen, everyone has a ton of respect for him as a coach and what he does. It will be quite intriguing to see what he does, especially what they do schematically on offense and defense.”…

“Petersen is adaptive. If you look at the different ways he won while at Boise, he was always very innovative. He’s been very successful over a good period of time. He keeps players accountable. The question coming in was can he sustain recruiting and it seems they did pretty well last year.”…

“Marcus Peters, I think he’s one of the top corners in the league. They have some good outside linebackers, some guys up front who can cause some trouble.”…

“If you look at talent, they will always be up there in the Pac-12. Sark recruited well there but couldn’t produce a breakthrough season. With a new coach they will be motivated.”…

“I think Petersen has shown he’s a really good coach, but how does everything fit? It has to be a good marriage. It seems it will be on the surface but still hard to tell.”…

“Replacing Bishop Sankey and Keith Price won’t be easy. Sankey was their safety valve. You could go to him 25 or 30 times and he would get it done. Not sure what they have in the backfield now.”…

“They were pretty high on the quarterback Cyler Miles, but he was suspended during the spring, so who knows where that will go.”…

 

Washington State


“I thought they were pretty good on defense, and talent wise, with their defensive line, you saw in some games they did a few good things. They weren’t always dominant, but they did dominate the USC game up front. They mauled them.”…

“They are returning a lot of guys, and they have the quarterback, Connor Halliday, returning who’s in his third year, so that offense will put up points again.”…

“Leach knows what he’s doing. They have a bunch of guys they feel comfortable with in their third season.”…

“If you can jump out on them, that’s what can hurt them, because they turn the ball over when they get rattled because they throw so much. When you turn the ball over and are not as efficient as you’d like to be, it’s hard to win.”…

“You have to be balanced in what you’re doing, or at least that’s what some believe in. Everybody has his own way. But with throwing as much as they do, if you don’t have an elite quarterback, that system can place a lot of pressure on the passer. I’m not sure Halliday is elite enough in that regard, though maybe another year in the system will make him so. Leach hasn’t always had elite quarterbacks and has made it work, but eventually you hit a ceiling because defenses sit on those short routes.”…

“Their receivers are getting better and the quarterback should be better than he was.”…

 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:

 

South Division

 

Arizona


“They’ve done a good job defensively. They are probably the most improved defense in the league.”…

“Coach Rodriguez does a good job. He kind of changed up to adapt to the personnel.”…

“They are still young with a bunch of players. They lost probably the best player in the league last year. After watching him for two years, Ka’Deem Carey was unbelievable. Replacing the quarterback and him will be big.”…

“If they are able to get someone in there to manage the game at quarterback it will be crucial, because they will have different transfers coming in and a few receivers back from injury, so they need to find a rhythm quickly.”…

“They have a chance to be explosive offensively, depending on whom they have calling the shots at quarterback. But they’ve always been run-heavy so that probably won’t change.”…

“Everything will start with the run. They try to be balanced. They’ve got a ton of quarterbacks, though —I think they have six or seven. I have no idea who the guy will be, which can be a good or bad thing. Junior college transfers, high school kids – they have a ton on scholarship. I’m not sure who the guy is going to be.”…

“Defensively, they play a heavier technique, an inside shade to try to stop the interior run game. They were able to stop the run more efficiently. It forced teams to do other things. They did a good job against Oregon though that was when Mariota was limited.”…

 

Arizona State


“At times, they were the best team in the league.”…

“They lose a bunch of guys on defense, but Todd Graham does a great job with that unit, so they should be fine.”…

“The quarterback, Taylor Kelly, is really underrated. He’s not as flashy as the other guys but he’s really good. He just gets things done. I really like him. He might not play in the NFL, but he’s a great player for that scheme.”…

“They’ve got some big receivers that I’ve seen. Really big and athletic. They’ve done a good job finding those guys and getting them involved. From the sidelines you say, ‘Gosh, those receivers are huge and they can run.”…

“I thought Stanford beat them twice handedly, and it looked like to me, defensively, that they stunt a lot and press you a lot, and Stanford was able to stay in there, run on them and play-action pass. That’s how they got hurt. Texas Tech spread them out and hit them with seam routes when they blitzed. That’s how those two teams hurt them - two different ends of the spectrum, but when they were pressuring they were attacking the one-on-one. With Stanford, when they saw a crease, they hit it.”…

“They were big but just okay on the offensive line. I think they were probably fourth or fifth there, but they were so good with what they did. They didn’t just maul you, but they were good technique wise.”…

 

Colorado


“Very well-coached.”…

“Paul Richardson was a concern, but his departure is a relief for Pac-12 cornerbacks.”…

“It’s a very different team from the year before. They seemed to be disjointed in 2012. No strategic plan on either side of the ball. These coaches know what they’re doing. Kids reflected that. Played with a ton more confidence.”…

“They did a really good job coming in on short notice and getting their system in and they do a good job schematically. They finished up the year pretty strong so signs are positive - but how far they are able to progress is hard to tell. You just never know because it’s hard to gauge their talent level – they’ve been a bit behind since joining the Pac-12 - but the coaching staff is good. Can they recruit enough will be the question?”…

“They had a true freshman middle linebacker, Addison Gillam, who made a ton of plays.”…

“The best player was a defensive end, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who’s gone. He was strong, one of their best players the last couple of years. Losing him will be big.”…

“They’ve been really young the last few years, so if they can get the right personnel in there, they have a chance. They almost always have good first-half game plans.”…

“It seems quarterback Sefo Liufau is mentally tough and does all the things they want, but I’m not sure how prolific he is. He could turn into that, but do they have a quarterback that can push them to the middle-of-the-pack in the league or better?

 

UCLA


“A lot of people are going to be placing them to finish first in the league. Their best offensive lineman declared early, but the young guys they are high on and already played some, probably by design. I think they’ve done a good job, it’s just about how you catch them.”…

“You can have success moving the football on them. They make you finish drives and can turn you over, but if you’re sound you can get yards and score on them. You can also sneak in a big play or two on them.”…

“Defensively they continue to grow as a unit. They lost a couple of talented playmakers.”…

“Myles Jack is athletic, you have a guy at that size who can run around like he does, either at running back or linebacker. He’s impressive. Playing offense and defense can be good and bad for a young player. It will be interesting to see how they do that again because do you want to overuse him?”…

“Brett Hundley’s biggest thing is extending plays. When I watch him, I don’t see him throw a ton on time. He’s not a guy from what I’ve seen who’s going to hit the mark. When he’ll hurt you is when he runs around. He’s hurt a lot of people that way. If you can get to him, he can struggle a little bit. You’ve got to keep him contained. If you let him outside, the offense is tough to stop.”…

 

USC


“Just extremely talented. I know they lost five guys or so early to the draft, but going into our game I thought defensively they were one of the most talented in the country.”…

“Defensive end Leonard Williams is one of the toughest players in the entire league.”…

“They were talented at a lot of positions but struggled with depth. The teams that played tempo and were able to sustain drives on them with multiple positions could hurt them. Extremely talented enough to offset that, though.”…

“They will change a little bit defensively. With Justin Wilcox coming in, they are a base three-down team, but there will be some changing of formations and personnel. It’s their third defensive coordinator in three years.”…

“They probably have the best set of running backs in the league.”…

“I keep hearing it’s an open competition at quarterback, but Cody Kessler’s their guy, it seems.”…

“I think they are probably getting closer to where they want to be.”…

“The defensive linemen are really talented.”…

“They are not at top strength with full scholarships. It will be interesting to see what Sark does. They finished well in recruiting, but if you can’t recruit at USC you have some issues.”…

“Defensively, I thought they were dang good in front seven when they wanted to play. The safeties will come down and hit you but are maybe overly aggressive. Wasn’t impressed with corners based on caliber USC should have. You could confuse their front seven with blocking schemes up front.”…

 

Utah


“They have a really good defensive line, which surprises no one. They always do.”…

“They struggled a bit when their quarterback (Travis Wilson) was hurt. If he’s healthy, it will really help their team. When Wilson was the quarterback, they were able to do some things in those games because of the throws he could make.”…

“When they beat Stanford, it showed how physical and tough they are.”…

“Wilson is athletic and throws better than average, but they didn’t use him to their advantage as a dual-threat quarterback – they tried to make him a play-action guy and he’s just okay at that”….

“On defense, they are really aggressive. I think they were a little lean on the back end, which is a bad spot to be thin the Pac-12. Their inside guys were really powerful. Maybe their outside guys aren’t as good of pass rushers as you need with speed sideline to sideline, but they are stout against the run against powerful teams.”…

“Down the line, they can compete. Their corners were pretty big, and they did a lot of zone blitzing. When they have lock-down corners, they are really good. The last few years they haven’t had the same caliber of cornerback. Have had to play more zone pressures.”…

“When Wilson was there they were doing pretty good, but that was a big loss for them. If he’s healthy, that will help the offense.”…

“I’m not sure what happened with (former offensive coordinator) Dennis Erickson. The offense was sort of handcuffed because of the quarterback injuries.”…

Teaser:
Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-6-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for August 6:

Possibly inebriated swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen really seemed to enjoy throwing out the first pitch in LA Tuesday night. I'm with her; the only way to enjoy that nerve-wracking experience would be to get hammered first.

Nothing draws a crowd like Jayson Werth garden gnomes.

These Kobe-Jordan comparison videos are absolutely amazing. You'd almost think one was imitating the other.

Here's a Hard Knocks episode 1 recap.

Cleveland's David Murphy got confused by an extra ball bouncing on the grass. Write your own joke; I'm too lazy.

Ian Kinsler joins the "worst throw of all time" sweepstakes.

• Not sports-related, but kind of inspiring: Commuters in Australia combined to lift a train off a guy's leg.

• LolMets: The Mets gave away toy trucks with Phillies logos on them.

Get to know new Spurs assistant Becky Hammon.

The Duf-man shares his secrets in an amusing video.

Kentucky lineman Cory Johnson is a regular guy. Very regular.

• Our lives are complete. We've now seen Adam Dunn pitch a complete inning.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 10:37
Path: /college-football/15-defensive-heisman-trophy-candidates-2014
Body:

When it comes to the Heisman Trophy, the little guy gets no respect.

 

And by the little guy, I don’t mean Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton. I mean 300-pound defensive lineman or 6-foot-4 fire-breathing linebackers.

 

No, when it comes to the most prestigious trophy in sports, the entire defensive side of the ball has been largely ignored for the better part of a century. Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 is the only true defensive player to ever win the award.

 

Recent runs to New York by Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh in 2009 and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o in '12 may be a sign of things changing slowly, but odds are still heavily stacked against the defensive side of the ball.

 

Assuming that both halves of the field will get a fair shake this fall, who are the top defensive Heisman candidates for 2014?

 

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

Fans and experts all point to Myles Jack as the top defensive candidate to break through this fall but he isn’t expected to be used on offense. Thompson, on the other hand, could see more than spot duty for the Huskies' offense. He is a freak athlete, an All-American candidate and could be the next two-way star in college football.

 

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

The nation’s top returning sack master is the Tigers' star — who posted 13 sacks a year ago. For a defense that could be the best Clemson has had in years, Beasley’s explosive playmaking ability should make for national headlines.

 

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

The Big Ten’s top returning sack master (9.5), Gregory is hoping to restore the Nebraska defense to Blackshirt status. He should be able to build on his monster 2013 campaign that featured 65 tackles, 16 for a loss and 15 quarterback hurries. Like Calhoun, Gregory should perform like the projected first-round NFL Draft pick that he is.

 

Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma

The big-play linebacker shows up all over the field. He constantly disrupts the opposing backfield and regularly imposes his will with physicality and explosiveness. He should build on his stat line from last year: 50 tackles, 10.6 TFL, 6.5 sacks.

 

Listen to the latest Cover 2 college football podcast:

 

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Not many players earn first-team preseason All-American honors as a true sophomore but that is what VH3 has done. He might be the nation’s top pure cover corner and should only build on his excellent first season in Gainesville.

 

Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

He was the No. 1 recruit in the nation at his position for a reason. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound athlete stepped into a starring role for Notre Dame and produced as just a freshman last fall. He posted 67 tackles (third on the team), 6.5 for a loss and made one freakish interception against USC. With a move to the inside, Smith should find himself around the ball on every play and the Irish have already proven that their middle linebacker can land in New York.

 

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

The massive (6-5, 260) defensive end was a star last year as just a sophomore (37 tackles, 14 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 3 defensive touchdowns). With much less help at linebacker, the Spartans' defensive line now takes center stage. Calhoun is the star of that bunch due to elite NFL upside.

 

Landon Collins, S, Alabama

He is one of the most gifted tacklers in the nation. When Collins arrives at the ball, the entire country knows about it. The lone returning starter in the Crimson Tide secondary could be the nation’s best safety. And he plays a position that has recently become a marquee spot with names like Mark Barron and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix excelling for the Tide.

 

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Jack made a huge name for himself last fall while playing two ways. Unfortunately, coach Jim Mora has talked openly about returning his star linebacker to an exclusively defensive role. Either way, he is a star athlete who will be a national award winner at some point.

 

Leonard Williams, DE, USC

The lanky defensive end is a projected top pick in the NFL Draft in the spring and should he dominate the line of scrimmage once again — he has 26 TFL and 13 sacks in two seasons — he should be in line for national acclaim.

 

Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State

Not many true freshmen start every game for a national champion but that is what the former five-star recruit did for the Noles a year ago. The lanky playmaker should develop into one of the best defenders in the nation and should be an All-American this fall.

 

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

The first-team All-American cornerback consistently makes highlight-reel plays on defense. He has seven interceptions and seven forced fumbles in the last two seasons while making 147 total stops. He could be the most high-profile member of a Pac-12 championship defense.

 

Su’a Cravens, S, USC

From a talent standpoint, few can match Cravens’ size and speed combination. He proved as a true freshman last year that he could be special, posting 53 tackles and four interceptions.

 

Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State

As a true freshman, Jones — who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds — made a much bigger impact than even his five-star status indicated. He posted 32 tackles, seven for a loss and three sacks and constantly disrupted the opposing backfield. He is a sure-fire future NFL star.

 

Cedric Reed, DE, Texas

He is a massive part of the Longhorns' rebuilding project on defense, figuratively and literally. At 6-6 and 260 pounds, Reed towers above the competition regularly and his numbers back it up as well. He posted 77 tackles, 16.5 TFL and 10 sacks last year and should only be better this year.

Teaser:
10 Defensive Heisman Trophy Candidates for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-best-and-worst-logos-2014
Body:

Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos.

 

Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro had to say about the Big 12's football logos:

 

 TeamLogo Analysis
1.Texas Arguably the best logo in college football, the Longhorn is classic, simple, unchanging but also unique and creative. There is nothing else to say.
2.Oklahoma There is no doubting what the interlocking "O" and "U" stand for, right? The smooth lines and lack of extras in the font make this a fantastic logo.
3.Kansas State All of Kansas State's design work, color scheme and uniforms are underrated and the logo is the same. Aggressive, stylish but yet still fairly simple and clean.
4.West Virginia When it comes to creativity, this one gets high marks for the way the letters have been worked together without putting too much flair into the design. It also reminds fans of the WVU landscape as well.
5.TCU The block font will always be in style and the arched type works best with three letters rather than four or more. An underrated logo.
6.Oklahoma State The letters are uniquely combined and the font is solid. The grey outline isn't the best and gives this logo a third unneeded color.
7.Iowa State The power "I" and arched State are very unique across all of college football. But nothing can be done about the color scheme.
8.Texas Tech The big-T, little-T combo is pretty cool but this logo is extremely busy. Beveled font and three different colors don't exude tradition.
9.Baylor Normally, block lettering is great but the Bears' font is just a little off and seems a bit antiquated. The color scheme isn't the best, but is used well.
10.Kansas The cartoon Jayhawk is a signature logo but doesn't really create an intimidating image in any sense of the word. And why is it dancing?
Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/acc-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the ACC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Coaches Talk Anonymously on Notre Dame

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

ACC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

Atlantic Division

 

Boston College

 

“They are replacing skill position kids, which is tough.”…

“Defensively, they’ll get some injured guys back so they should be better there. Malachi Moore is a big defensive end that will help them.”…

“They signed a big class because they had so many seniors at the skill positions a year ago.”…

“The quarterback played a bunch of ball and obviously Andre Williams was such a great player. They have a lot of unknowns at several spots for next year but have recruited well.”…

“Boston College was interesting last year because there were whispers Addazio would go to the spread but they were straight power running game all year, which was a good move by them because they adapted to their personnel.”…

“I think Addazio wants to have a quarterback who can use make plays with his feet, and maybe the Florida transfer, Tyler Murphy, can do that.”…

“They lost two tackles but return all of their inside guys so everything won’t be tough and brand new for them.”…

“It’s uncertain whether they really have the answer at quarterback yet, and replacing Williams with a committee of backs won’t be easy. He was so strong and durable and carried them for stretches a year ago.”…

“They have an M.O. – don’t turn the ball over, play tough and keep the game tight. They were in it with FSU and Clemson a year ago.”…
 

Clemson

 

“Their front seven on defense is really good, and getting Vic Beasley back solidifies it.”…

“Offensively they lost a lot of weapons, which will help the teams that play them.”…

“Replacing skill players like Sammy Watkins and a three-year starter like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, that’s a lot of speed and talent that caught a lot of teams off guard. That’s really hard to replace.”…

“Their inside guys were very stout and physical. They have a strong side defensive end (Shaq Lawson) that’s a powerful guy, a weapon as a pass rusher. Beasley loves third and long. When he came back, a lot of coaches in the ACC said uh oh. He’s a premier player in pass rush, just good enough in run game, not great. They position him well and have a good scheme.”…

“Brent Venables does a good job with positioning players to make plays.”…

“They can turn the ball over a little bit, and if you can keep them in a long field, that can throw them off what they want to do.”…

“Clemson’s offense is sort of an unknown right now – you know with Chad Morris they’ll be competitive, but Watkins was a heckuva safety valve to have.”…

“I really liked Clemson safety, Robert Smith. Corey Crawford, a defensive end, is solid. Just a solid front they have. You wouldn’t find one goat over where you’d say we’re attacking this guy.”…

“This might be a year where Clemson’s defense is more explosive than its offense.”…

 

Florida State

 

“They’ve got a whole lot coming back.”…

“Tight end Nick O’Leary is back – he’s a really good player.”…

“The defense has lost some players in the secondary, they were by far the best secondary we played without question.”…

“Not sure schematically what they are going to do since they had kind of moved to a 3-4 from a 4-3 played a lot of nickel. With the new defensive coach coming in again and Jeremy Pruitt gone, I’m not sure how that will change.”…

“They are just really fast across the board. They didn’t have a weakness on their team a year ago.”…

“They had depth, good speed, the offensive line was really good, the tight end position, multiple tailbacks you had to worry about.”…

“With three straight No. 1 recruiting classes, I don’t see their talent dropping of a whole lot, even though they are young in a few spots.”…

“With Jameis Winston, you’ve got to get him down, get to him early and you can’t let him make plays, which is really tough. If you don’t get to him enough early and if he has time, the receivers are too good.”…

“They do a nice job running the ball, which helps, them because they can get one-on-one matchups on the outside. The quarterback (Winston) is the best.”…

“Rashad Greene’s really good, quick. What he did after the catch was impressive.”…

“O’Leary is a really good player. Good ball skills, runs really good routes, tries to block, not a great blocker but tries hard, gives good effort.”…

“Auburn had some success against them because when you have that much time to prepare for somebody early on, you can do some things based on tendencies.”…

“You have to tackle well and pressure the quarterback, force him to throw some interceptions, which he doesn’t do a lot.”…

“I wouldn’t think anybody would be a favorite over them in our league.”…

 

Louisville

 

“Louisville will miss Teddy Bridgewater and their success will depend on the play of his replacement, but they are established with high-caliber players at every position and will immediately be thrust into the upper half of the ACC talent wise.”…

“If you had to pick one problematic area for them, elite defensive back coverage was one of the only weaknesses. Pass rush was too good to get exposed except in crucial situations like in the UCF game. They allowed UCF to get back in that game after it didn’t get enough pressure and it didn’t allow Louisville to blow other teams out like they probably should have.”…

“Their running offense was talented but was never as productive and dynamic as it could have been. Maybe they will develop that more now that the quarterback is gone.”…

“You can’t understate the loss of Bridgewater. He was great at the line of scrimmage checking into plays and could make every throw. It’s hard to just roll a new guy in there and expect the same without a few mistakes early, but Bobby Petrino is known for his quarterback track record. His system is quarterback-friendly.”…

“Will Gardner, who’s got the momentum to start, has a strong arm, but I hear he’ll be pushed by Reggie Bonnafon, the incoming freshman.”…

“Overall, they are pretty stout in all areas. They are very deep after a handful of Charlie Strong recruiting classes.”…

“Bobby walks into a nice situation. The guy they’ll really miss is Calvin Pryor, though. Huge hitter and difference-maker.”…

 

NC State

 

“They were pretty weak everywhere, save maybe specialists, because it was such a rebuilding job. A lot of freshmen and sophomores.”…

“The new quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, he’ll help a lot, as far as leadership and talent.”…

“They played a bunch of true freshmen at wide receiver and running back and tight end. They should be better than they were.”…

“Defensively, they’ve got some good young linemen, Kentavius Street being one of them. They’ll have to grow up quickly.”…

“The left tackle who was hurt last year, Rob Crisp, he’ll be back. Safety Jarvis Byrd has missed multiple years due to injury but they get him back – he’s not an all-conference guy – but a tough guy.”…

“Joe Thuney is one of the best guards in the league. He’s a lot better inside but I think they had to move him outside because of injuries.”…

“I know they are high on defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. He’s had a great offseason for them.”…

“For Dave Doeren, you don’t know what you’re getting when you take a job. Once you get into it, you’re kind of figuring out what the issues are, and they had a good bit of them lineup wise with recruiting, transfers or injuries, discipline and academic issues – they were able to fill a lot of needs in this last class.”…

“I think they like where they are character-wise right now. But those young players have to produce. They are short on known commodities. It’s a big year for them.”…

 

Syracuse

 

“They were very physical up front and defensively. By the end of the year they were playing extremely physical.”…

“Middle linebacker Marquis Spruill, who’s gone, was the heart and soul of that defense, you could tell. He was the motor that got the thing going. He’ll be a guy they’ll need to replace.”…

“On the back end they were OK. You could run behind them a couple of times.”…

“Coach Shafer is recruiting to his mentality – he’s a fiery, tough guy. That’s what you’ll get.”…

“The quarterback (Terrel Hunt) was hot and cold throughout the year but he found their niche late in the season. He could take charge at times. He can keep plays alive with his feet, throws the ball and runs the ball well, can keep the ball alive on third down, smart with the ball. He was maybe turning the ball over a little bit too much early on.”…

“The American, when it was the Big East, was a good league, so Syracuse came in and wasn’t fazed by the physicality of the ACC. You didn’t have the big time BCS teams but you had good solid football.”…

“The style of football matched up well. It’s a tough league – Year 1 they are finding that out, because teams mix it up with tempo and traditional sets. Syracuse played physical power football and it’s a good mix.”…

“They had a big back that was a good player, Jerome Smith, a big kid out of Delaware.”…

“The offensive line was decent. Their guards and centers were older guys. At wide receiver, I didn’t remember a game-changer, but they do have size there.”…

 

Wake Forest

 

“Talent wise, they weren’t at the top of the league, or really anything close.”…

“The nose guard they are losing, Nikita Whitlock, was a really active player for them. He’ll be really hard to replace. I’m not too sure what they’ll do schematically with the new coach, but Whitlock was a guy you had to deal with.”…

“Up front, they were serviceable – weren’t great, weren’t terrible.”…

“The linebackers were OK. They weren’t really athletic. They tried to play physical and down and around the box. It’s not the upper-tier talent team that Clemson was.”…

“Dave Clawson is a good coach – he always has had really well-coached teams. They were rough teams – not super talented, but rough kids that liked to hit. Even in the secondary, you could tell that unit was well coached. They’ll bring that attitude.”…

“Offensively, I’m not sure what they’ll do but it should be a good fit overall with the new staff. The problem is they didn’t have much firepower.”…

“Losing wideout Michael Campanaro is tough. He’s was really good player – that’s really all they had. They didn’t have a lot of support around him. I know he was injured throughout the season, which hurt them as well.”…

“Recruiting, not sure what they brought in because of the short time with a new coach.”…

“You have to play really tough football at a place like Wake, because wins won’t come easy.”...
 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:


Coastal Division

 

Duke

 

“It’s truly impressive what they’ve been able to do, because they are not all that impressive looking as far as personnel.”…

“The defense doesn’t scare you. Pound for pound, they might have been more talented in 2012. But they are great scheme wise and play well together. That’s a credit to coach Cutcliffe.”…

“They do a great job taking away what you want to do.”…

“They did a nice job mixing the two quarterbacks. They have a good system there.”…

“Talent wise, it’s still tough sledding for them, though I think their depth has improved the last few years.”…

“They aren’t going to win a lot of recruiting battles with the top schools. But they have an identity and players feed off each other, which helps them.”…

“Don’t understate the loss of Kurt Roper to Florida. He’s a bright guy and he was with Cutcliffe back to their Ole Miss days. It’s Cutcliffe’s offense, but Roper had a good feel for the offense. I wonder if that will affect them.”…

“I’m not sure what they’ll have on defense. They had a few good pass rushers and a steady secondary, but they lost some players.”…

“Can they keep the momentum going? Because it’s amazing to watch, seeing them all year and they beat teams more talented than them. It’s impressive, no doubt.”…

 

Georgia Tech

 

“It’s just hard to recruit there because of the option.”…

“They had a fortunate streak of really good wide receivers a few years ago, but if you’re a top receiver, why would you go to Georgia Tech? You’ll run eight routes a game. They don’t really have the Calvin Johnsons or Stephen Hills that they used to.”…

“I think the system catching up to them. It’s not a system that translates to the NFL.”…

“They have some good running backs – they’ll always have that – but overall we felt they had one of the worst offensive lines in the league. There’s just not really an imposing or athletic presence there.”…

“They did have sort of a hybrid tight end/receiver we liked, Darren Waller. He’s about as impressive as you’ll see for that size.”…

“Defensively, they had a good looking team. Ted Roof has done a nice job settling that unit down and simplifying things for them. They could really rush the passer at times last year.”…

“Jeremiah Attaochu and Emmanuel Dieke were really athletic and could get in your backfield, but they have to replace both of those guys.”…

“Linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days is a good player.”…

“I’m not sure what happened with Vad Lee, the transfer. He’s talented but, again, it’s a system thing – he didn’t want to run the option.”…

“The option is always tough to prepare for – Georgia Tech can always get at least a few quality wins out of it – but I’m not sure it’s a sustainable model.”…

 

Miami

 

“Stephen Morris probably hurt them more than he helped them.”…

“They have a good pool of talent, but then I thought offensively they were erratic as Morris was erratic. As long as Duke Johnson was there, it didn’t matter all that much. When you took him out of the equation, they were a little bit like running on one leg.”…

“Defensively, what surprises me is they are not very fast overall as a team. It’s opposite of what you’d expect of a Miami team based on their history.”…

“I just don’t think they are extremely quick or fast on defense, which you’d think wouldn’t be a problem.”…

“Linebacker Denzel Perryman looks the part. Good player.”…

“The offensive line I thought was really, really good - maybe the most talented in the league overall. They have a lot of depth there and should be good again.”…

“They were just kind of surprisingly erratic on defense. The defensive line was just average.”…

“I thought Morris was sometimes a little too emotional as a quarterback. You can’t be up and down. I don’t know how to describe it. He was trying to make plays that aren’t there and wearing his feelings on his sleeve a little bit. I just thought there was some of that going on. He was talented. I don’t know much about his replacement (possibly Ryan Williams), but they need someone who won’t hurt them with bad throws.”…

“Duke Johnson is good enough to erase a lot of problems. He’s special.”…

 

North Carolina

 

“Marquise Williams does give Larry Fedora the ability to run his natural spread offense. But I thought they were better when they had Bryn Renner for the most part. He’s a talented quarterback who utilized their weapons better and allowed them to be a little more consistent because of the way he throws the ball.”…

“The jury is still out on Williams.”…

“I think they have a potential great one in (running back) T.J. Logan. He didn’t get a lot of touches last year, but you can tell the talent’s there.”…

“They had some growing pains on the offensive line that made it a little tough to run the ball last year.”…

“They aren’t great at wide receiver. It’s hard when you don’t have an elite playmaker at receiver, but they ain’t going to miss on a bunch in recruiting. They’ll always have players at UNC. They could use an extra playmaker, though.”…

“Defensively, they are improving. They had some good players in the defensive backfield, especially safety Tre Boston and linebacker Norkeithus Otis – they are both pretty active and can cover a lot of ground. They will help.”…

“I think North Carolina is going to have a good football team. It’s a process with depth for them. Though they inherited a bunch of talented players, it can be hard to rebuild that overnight. The way they responded last year was important because their season was going south early on.”…

 

Pittsburgh

 

“Offensively, it’s all about the receivers. They lose Devin Street, but Tyler Boyd is back – he’s special. He’s just polished, athletic and can run. He’s a big play waiting to happen.”…

“Having Boyd is a big help to whichever quarterback replaces Tom Savage, who was better than you’d think.”…

“On the offensive line, they were decent but not the kind of maulers you’d expect from a Pitt team.”…

“I wasn’t as high on the offensive line as you might think. They are pretty big and physical and run to the ball, but they aren’t really scaring you”….

“Somehow they have to replace Aaron Donald. But you can’t. At times, he was almost unblockable. Couldn’t do anything with him one on one. Nobody else in the league affected games up front like he could.”…

“Defensive end Bryan Murphy, nobody talked about him, probably because Donald was so good, but Murphy could play.”…

“They fit in pretty well in the ACC – they’ve done a good job recruiting and a good job of keeping players at home. Can they hold off teams coming into Pittsburgh? Because there are a lot of them.”…

“A lot will hinge on what their quarterback plans are. I’m not sure what they had behind Savage. Chryst is known to be pretty good with quarterbacks so we’ll see what they can conjure up.”…

 

Virginia

 

“I don’t see them being much better.”…

“It’s the strangest thing – on defense, they can look like the ‘85 Bears some moments and look like they want to avoid contact the next. They just didn’t play real hard all the time. I don’t know if it was because they were losing or what, but the defense is talented enough to be at least decent. They don’t play all the time.”…

“Defensive end Eli Harold was unbelievable when he was playing hard. That wasn’t all the time.”…

“Linebacker Henry Coley – we thought he was the best linebacker in the entire league. Tough, solid, physical player.”…

“They have a corner – Maurice Canady – that we were impressed with.”…

“I think their quarterback situation is kind of a mess. David Watford is not a guy that I think can win consistently for them. Backup Greyson Lambert wasn’t particularly impressive.”…

“For whatever reason, consistency just eludes Mike London. I thought they had their moments when they played extremely well. However, finding a way to win and be consistent seems to be a challenge for them.”…

“They are better than they were at quarterback from the year before, but it’s a lot of coaching changes and assistant coach moving parts and just a lot of change there overall. Programs aren’t built overnight. It takes some consistency.”…

“Their linebacking core is pretty good and they had some good-looking defensive players in certain spots.”…

“I know they have some talented young players coming in. They’ve recruited well enough where they aren’t far off. The climate can always change pretty quickly in this league. But I couldn’t name a lot of guys on offense for them.”…

“The offensive and defensive lines looked the part. They had a few things to work with.”…

 

Virginia Tech

 

“Logan Thomas was erratic.”…

“I don’t know what their identity is offensively, and I don’t know that they do.”…

“I thought they were one of the best defensive teams in the country. Look at what they did against any opponent.”…

“They suffered losses in the defensive front, but the defense is terrific.”…

“They lost Kyle Fuller, who is a great playmaker. He had the ability to stop the option by himself by the way he could cover tight ends and play almost as a linebacker and a corner.”…

“Kyle Fuller’s brother, the corner, Kendall, is a great young player.”…

“I can’t name a lot of guys on offense that really scare you.”…

“I’d say kind of establishing the run game has been more difficult for them than they want to have happen, at least compared to in the past. They used to be so good there.”… 

“Thomas was not consistently performing at a level where he’s dangerous all the time, and that’s what they’ll need from the new guy, whoever it is.”…

“The key to greatness for any quarterback, collegiately and in the NFL, what you are looking for is consistency. The greats aren’t running fast or electric all the time, but they are so consistent. Virginia Tech just hasn’t had that at quarterback, though Logan’s receivers didn’t exactly help him all the time. They had a good bit of drops from what I understand.”…

“Their young defensive end, a South Florida kid (Dadi Nicolas), he’s a playmaker. He’s a handful to handle. He didn’t start but played a lot. Really talented.”…

Teaser:
ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/coaches-talk-anonymously-about-notre-dame-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches around the nation to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Coaches Anonymously Scout Notre Dame for 2014

 

“I know they lost a lot up front with two of their best players, Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt, coming out, but their other defensive linemen certainly looked the part in pregame warm-ups, so they should be fine there.”…

“Both coordinators are going to be new. I think Coach Kelly will call the plays on offense so that will probably keep the continuity, while defensively expect them to be very multiple.”…

“They are going to have some young guys who will have to play, especially up front.”…

“They are going to have talented guys across the field.”…

“I do like Everett Golson. He’ll help. He does a good job extending plays. The pass game wasn’t as consistent as they would have liked two years ago but he’s definitely someone who can hurt you pulling the ball down and extending plays.”…

“They’ve got a true freshman last year, linebacker Jaylon Smith, He’ll be a really good player. He’s probably one of the top ones coming back for them.”…

“At the skill positions offensively, they were pretty good but not great. They are big and good looking but probably average for what they should be at Notre Dame.”…

“What was most impressive about their offense is the dual-threat ability of the tight end position and how they played off tight end action in the running game. The tight end (Troy Niklas) was really solid for them – he did a little bit of everything, really talented blocker. Losing him will be big.”…

“I liked George Atkinson III, too, but he’s gone as well. He had natural burst and speed.

“It will help if they can develop a home run hitter, and maybe the receiver (DaVaris Daniels) could be that for them.”…

Teaser:
Coaches Talk Anonymously About Notre Dame for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/2014-15-college-basketball-pac-12s-top-transfers-freshmen-and-more
Body:

Arizona has restored its spot atop the Pac-12 thanks to back-to-back signing classes headlined by major recruits. The trend should continue.

 

Aaron Gordon spent one season surrounded by veterans last season. Now, Stanley Johnson will do the same for another Final Four contender.

UCLA under Steve Alford hopes to follow the lead of the Wildcats. Alford will have two impact newcomers who were major recruits in Kevon Looney and, after a one-year delay, Isaac Hamilton.

No program in the Pac-12 is able to match Arizona and UCLA in recruiting, even though Stanford was able to add a McDonald’s All-American this season. Other programs are relying on Division I and junior college transfers to keep up in 2014-15.

1. Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Freshman

Arizona trades out one star freshman (Aaron Gordon) for another in Johnson, who was the No. 4 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. Like Gordon, Johnson steps into a veteran cast ready to compete for the Final Four. Johnson figures to be more of an offensive threat who could fill the scoring void left by Nick Johnson. The 6-foot-7, 226-pound shooting guard will be a threat to score from all over the court.

2. Kevon Looney, UCLA
Freshman

UCLA was thin in the frontcourt last season, but that may not be the case anymore with the arrival of the 6-9, 208-pound power forward Looney. Of course, without Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine, the Bruins will need help everywhere. UCLA is counting on Looney, the No. 12 prospect in the 247Sports Composite, to contribute on the boards and in the post.

3. Isaac Hamilton, UCLA
Redshirt freshman

Hamilton sat out last season after backing out of his Letter of Intent to UTEP and coach Tim Floyd. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound McDonald’s All-American is expected to split time with Bryce Alford at point guard. Hamilton figures to be a more dynamic scorer than Alford for a team replacing most of its key players from a year ago.

4. Reid Travis, Stanford
Freshman

The arrival of Travis, a McDonald’s All-American, is a major recruiting victory for Stanford, giving the Cardinal a chance to capitalize on the momentum from a Sweet 16 appearance. Travis should become an contributor right away thanks to his relentless rebounding on both ends of the court.

5. Kadeem Allen, Arizona
Junior college transfer

Allen was the National Junior College Player of the Year after averaging 25.9 points per game. Clearly, he’s not going to replicate that in the Pac-12, but he’ll be a key addition in the backcourt for a team that struggled to find its offense at times. Allen is expected to battle for the starting off guard spot.

6. Katin Reinhardt, USC
Transfer from UNLV

Andy Enfield needed to replenish the roster in a major way in his first season at USC, a year that yielded only two Pac-12 wins. Reinhardt, who sat out last season after his transfer, will be a major part of that. He started 34 games as a freshman at UNLV, averaging 10.1 points and 2.5 assists per game. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound sophomore will be a combo guard in Enfield’s system in Los Angeles.

7. Quevyn Winters, Washington
Junior college transfer

Washington already has point guard locked down with Nigel Williams-Goss, one of the few sure things on the roster next season. Winters, then, will step in for C.J. Wilcox at the two guard spot. Winters averaged 9.6 points as a freshman at Duquesne before transferring to junior college. Winters was 55-of-145 from 3-point range (37.9 percent) during his only season with the Dukes.

8. Kyle Kuzma, Utah
Freshman

Utah is expected to have a breakout season with Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge returning. One key pice, though, will be the freshman Kuzma. He’s a 6-foot-8 small forward who should be a matchup problem on both ends of the court.

9. JaQuan Lyle, Oregon
Freshman

Scandal cost Oregon three players from the 2014-15 roster, so the Ducks need their top recruit to contribute immediately. Even that, though, is in question as Lyle’s academic situation is unsettled. If he’s on the court, Lyle can hold down either guard spot.

10. Robert Upshaw, Washington
Transfer from Fresno State

Upshaw could be an impact player in the Washington frontcourt, but his situation is uncertain. He was suspended three times while at Fresno State and is not certain to play with the Huskies. His production was meager at Fresno State, but the 6-11 explosive big man has plenty of potential.

Teaser:
2014-15 College Basketball: The Pac-12's Top Transfers, Freshmen and More
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-state-college-football-steven-godfrey
Body:

The Athlon Sports Cover 2 college football podcast is finally back in Nashville after trips to SEC and Big Ten Media Days. 

 

To offer a complete media days recap and a general state of college football address, Braden Gall and David Fox are joined by SBNation's Steven Godfrey.

 

The guys break down autonomy, the future of scheduling, the impact of sweeping changes on the fans and much more.

 

Have a question or comment? Contact us at podcast@athlonsports.com or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: State of College Football with Steven Godfrey
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 17:22
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-nfc-coordinator-carousel
Body:

Similar to the AFC, three head-coaching changes have resulted in some shuffling among the coordinator positions among the NFC's teams. Detroit, Minnesota and Tampa Bay aren't the only NFC teams who will have at least one new coordinator in charge either, as Dallas, the New York Giants, St. Louis and Washington also made a change in this respect. The net result for the NFC is that five former head coaches (Leslie Frazier, Rod Marinelli, Jeff Tedford, Norv Turner and Gregg Williams) have been added to the coordinator ranks, although one of these (Tedford) is a "rookie" when it comes to the NFL.

 

Related: 2014 AFC Coordinator Carousel

 

Here is a rundown of the NFC's coordinator changes entering the 2014 season: 

 

Dallas Cowboys, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Rod Marinelli

OLD: Monte Kiffin

Marinelli, who was Kiffin’s defensive line coach last season, replaced his boss after the Cowboys finished dead last in the NFL in yards allowed (415.3 ypg). As the Bears’ defensive coordinator from 2010-12, Marinelli led his units to top-10 finishes in both total and scoring defense twice (2010, ’12).

 

Detroit Lions, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Teryl Austin

OLD: Gunther Cunningham

Austin has been coaching in the NFL for a decade, but this will be his first season as a coordinator on the pro level. This also will be his third stint working alongside new Lions head coach Jim Caldwell. The first came when Austin was Caldwell’s defensive backs coach at Wake Forest from 1993-95, and they both were on John Harbaugh’s staff in Baltimore the past two seasons.

 

Detroit Lions, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Joe Lombardi

OLD: Scott Linehan

The grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi, Joe has spent the past seven seasons on Sean Payton’s staff in New Orleans. After starting as an offensive assistant, Lombardi moved to quarterbacks coach in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl. During his time as quarterbacks coach, Drew Brees set numerous passing records and averaged nearly 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns per season.

 

Minnesota Vikings, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: George Edwards

OLD: Alan Williams

Miami’s linebackers coach the past two seasons, Edwards was tabbed by new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to help improve the NFL’s most generous (30.0 ppg allowed) defense in 2013. A coaching veteran with more than 20 years of experience on the college and professional levels, Edwards’ resume includes stints as the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators as well as the Redskins and Bills.

 

Minnesota Vikings, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Norv Turner

OLD: Bill Musgrave

After one year in Cleveland, Turner joins Mike Zimmer in Minnesota to oversee one of the NFL’s least productive passing attacks (214.2 ypg, 18 TDs in 2013). A three-time head coach (Washington, Oakland, San Diego), Turner will be working for the ninth different franchise of his career, which began in 1985 as the wide receivers coach for the Los Angeles Rams.

 

New York Giants, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Ben McAdoo

OLD: Kevin Gilbride

After seven seasons leading the Giants’ offense, Gilbride retired (much to the delight of the team’s fan base), resulting in McAdoo getting his first shot at being a coordinator on any level. A position coach for Green Bay the past eight seasons, McAdoo first started working with tight ends before moving to quarterbacks coach in 2012.

 

St. Louis Rams, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Gregg Williams

OLD: Tim Walton

Williams was initially hired by Rams head coach Jeff Fisher in February 2012 before being suspended indefinitely for his role in the Saints BountyGate scandal. Reinstated last season, Williams is reunited with Fisher. The two worked together from 1994-2000, with Fisher as the head coach and Williams the defensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Leslie Frazier

OLD: Bill Sheridan

Fired after Minnesota went from 10–6 and in the playoffs in 2012 to 5–10–1 last season, Frazier landed on his feet as part of new head coach Lovie Smith’s staff in Tampa Bay. The Vikings’ defensive coordinator from 2007 until he replaced head coach Brad Childress with six games remaining in ‘10, Frazier also has coached for the Eagles, Bengals and Colts.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Jeff Tedford

OLD: Mike Sullivan

The head coach at California from 2002-12 (82–57), Tedford will be a rookie NFL coordinator this season. He is known for his track record of developing NFL-caliber quarterbacks, most notably Aaron Rodgers, but he also coached All-Pros Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson, as well as Keenan Allen during his tenure with the Golden Bears.

 

Washington Redskins, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Sean McVay

OLD: Kyle Shanahan

The youngest (28) offensive coordinator in the NFL, McVay was not merely retained by new Redskins head coach Jay Gruden; he was promoted. The tight ends coach the past three seasons, McVay had previously worked with Gruden when both were offensive assistants on Jon Gruden’s staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008. McVay has the title of offensive coordinator, but Jay Gruden will call the plays.

 

(Leslie Frazier photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Web site, www.buccaneers.com; Norv Turner photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings' Web site, www.vikings.com)

Teaser:
2014 NFC Coordinator Carousel
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-afc-coordinator-carousel
Body:

Three AFC teams changed head coaches this offseason and two of those hires alone resulted in openings at either offensive or defensive coordinator elsewhere in the conference. That combined with both of Cincinnati's coordinators leaving for head-coaching gigs in the NFC and one other getting another shot at the top are the primary reasons why half of the AFC's 16 teams will have at least one new coordinator this season.

 

Related: 2014 NFC Coordinator Carousel

 

Here is a rundown of the coordinator changes in the AFC entering the 2014 season:

 

Baltimore Ravens, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Gary Kubiak

OLD: Jim Caldwell

Fired after going 61–64 in eight seasons as the head coach of the Houston Texans, Kubiak returns to the role he filled on Mike Shanahan’s staff in Denver from 1995-2005. During those 11 seasons, the Broncos finished outside of the top 14 in total offense just once.

 

Buffalo Bills, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Jim Schwartz

OLD: Mike Pettine

Schwartz was fired by the Lions after making the playoffs just once in five seasons as the head coach. The Titans’ defensive coordinator from 2001-08 before leaving for Detroit, Schwartz will look to mold a young Bills defense into one of the more feared units in the AFC.

 

Cincinnati Bengals, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Paul Guenther

OLD: Mike Zimmer

After Zimmer left to become the head coach in Minnesota, Marvin Lewis decided to promote from within to fill the vacancy. Guenther has been on Lewis’ staff since 2005 and previously served as linebackers coach.

 

Cincinnati Bengals, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Hue Jackson

OLD: Jay Gruden

Oakland’s head coach in 2011 (8–8), Jackson joined Marvin Lewis’ staff in Cincinnati after the Raiders fired him. The Bengals’ running backs coach last season, Jackson has 27 years of collegiate and NFL coaching experience, including stints as the offensive coordinator for the Redskins, Falcons and Raiders.

 

Cleveland Browns, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Jim O’Neil

OLD: Ray Horton

O’Neil has worked with new Browns head coach Mike Pettine in each of the past five seasons. They were both part of Rex Ryan’s staff with the Jets before O’Neil joined Pettine in Buffalo last season as the Bills’ linebackers coach. O’Neil also played for Pettine’s father, Mike Sr., in high school in Pennsylvania.

 

Cleveland Browns, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Kyle Shanahan

OLD: Norv Turner

Shanahan served as the Redskins’ offensive coordinator the past four seasons under his father, Mike, before both were fired in December. Before going to Washington, Shanahan served in the same role for the Texans from 2008-09, during which time he was the NFL’s youngest coordinator (28 at the time of promotion).

 

Houston Texans, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Romeo Crennel

OLD: Wade Phillips

The former head coach of both the Browns (2001-04) and Chiefs (2011-12), Crennel got his NFL coaching start as the special teams coach of the Giants back in 1981. He has served as the defensive coordinator for three other teams — Patriots, Browns and Chiefs.

 

Houston Texans, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Bill O’Brien

OLD: Rick Dennison

The former Penn State head coach and offensive coordinator for the Patriots (2011), O’Brien will oversee the Texans’ offense while also serving as head coach. After leading the Nittany Lions to 15 wins in two seasons, O’Brien will shift his focus to turning around a team that scored the second-fewest points in the NFL last season.

 

Miami Dolphins, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Bill Lazor

OLD: Mike Sherman

Virginia’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2010-12, Lazor returned to the NFL as Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly last season. He was an offensive assistant and QBs coach previously with Atlanta, Washington and Seattle, though this will be Lazor’s first stint as a coordinator in the pros.

 

San Diego Chargers, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Frank Reich

OLD: Ken Whisenhunt

A quarterback for four different teams over 14 NFL seasons, Reich is getting his first shot at being a coordinator following Whisenhunt’s departure to Tennessee. An assistant coach in Indianapolis and Arizona previously, Reich served as the Chargers’ QBs coach last season.

 

Tennessee Titans, Offensive Coordinator

NEW: Jason Michael

OLD: Dowell Loggains

An NFL assistant coach for eight of the past nine seasons, Michael worked alongside new Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt in San Diego as the Chargers’ tight ends coach in 2013.

 

Tennessee Titans, Defensive Coordinator

NEW: Ray Horton

OLD: Jerry Gray

Horton left the Browns to reunite with new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt. The two first worked together on Bill Cowher’s staff in Pittsburgh before Whisenhunt hired Horton as his defensive coordinator in Arizona in 2011. Horton’s defenses have ranked 18th or better in the NFL in yards allowed in each of the past three seasons.

Teaser:
2014 AFC Coordinator Carousel
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Cole Whitt, NASCAR Amazing Stats, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/exclusive-qa-nascar-rookie-cole-whitt
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.

 

Prior to his 21st-place finish at Pocono Raceway, rookie Cole Whitt, driver of the No. 26 BK Racing Toyota Camry, sat down with David for an exclusive, extended interview. What follows is an edited transcript of their chat.  Cole Whitt

 

 

David Smith: You’re 20 or so races into your first full NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. What one aspect of the sport do you feel you’ve improved upon from the opening race to now?  

Cole Whitt: The biggest thing I’ve improved upon is just putting a race together. There were times at the beginning of the year where I had really good speed at certain tracks, but would make a mistake or end up crashing myself in times where I shouldn’t have. Now, further into the season, I’ve gotten better at putting a full race together, being smart when I need to and being aggressive when I need to and telling the difference between the two. I’m just doing what needs to be done to have a good day.

 

 

At what point did you identify the need to pick your battles?

Probably around the time of the Darlington race. There was a stretch of six or eight races where we probably crashed in half of them. After races, I’d start looking at the guy I was racing hard against and look at our position in the finishing order and realize if I had just let that one car go, I would’ve given up just one spot and finished 19th or 20th, which is really good for us, but instead I was trying to hold up that one car, and I’d end up crashing myself out of the race or finishing 38th or 40th. Seeing that every week made me realize that sometimes one spot isn't that big of a deal and it’s a spot that I could probably get back based on strategy.

 

 

The relationship between a driver and a crew chief is crucial to communication, which ultimately dictates success. You’re fortunate enough to go through your rookie season with Randy Cox, a guy who’s been in your corner since your time at Red Bull Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, as your crew chief. In your mind, what makes Randy a keeper?

The relationship goes beyond racing. We both respect each other and I know he’s going to give everything to make a car good. I think he believes, truthfully, that if he gives me as good of a car as everyone else has, I’ll out-drive them all. Having that confidence in each other is huge. We’re friends regardless of racing. I’m going racing with one of my buddies. It’s not a business to us. It’s a life style that takes us away from our families and having each other for aspects of our personal lives makes it easier.

 

 

Let’s talk a little bit about your development as a driver. You came up through the open-wheel ranks, first as a Kart racer, then in Sprint Cars and Midgets. You won the 2008 USAC National Midget championship driving for legendary USAC team owner Keith Kunz. You were good before you linked up with Keith, but it seems as if you grew as a driver while running for him. How much were you able to learn from him?

I learned a lot. He made it really easy on me for my USAC racing, to the point that I learned enough to branch off on my own and race locally (in Indiana). It allowed me to get a lot of seat time and try a lot of things we talked about. When someone tells you something and you’re able to put it to work that weekend and it proves successful, that builds a lot of trust in that person. I feel as if we made each other better – we won a lot of races the next year, too – which is kind of cool.

 

 

You’re not the only driver to race for Keith and emerge as a star. What is it about Keith or that team that makes everyone better? You talked about pushing one another to be better. Does he do that with other young drivers?

Yeah, I think Keith does that all the time. I know he’s winning a lot of races still and is helping progress drivers. There will be drivers coming out of his camp that might replace me one day or race against me. There’s never a shortage of talent coming up through the ranks, and Keith is one of those guys who never settles. His cars get better each year and he’s gotten hold of the right drivers. And he’s earned that by being one of the best guys around with all of his good relationships in USAC. Bryan Clauson came through, I came through and Darren Hagen came through. He had (Kyle) Larson and has Rico (Abreu) and (Christopher) Bell right now. He’s always had the right talent coming to him. There’s no reason it shouldn’t. He teaches everyone. He and Pete (Willoughby, the team’s co-owner) are good guys and they really coach up their drivers and prepare them well mentally instead of just giving them seat time.

 

 

You averaged a 14th-place finish for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2012. At the end of the season, you and the team parted ways. You landed at Mark Smith’s Tri-Star Motorsports shop in 2013 initially as a shop hand, correct?

Oh yeah (laughs).

 

 

You worked your way into 15 races with the Tri-Star team and, despite the vast resource discrepancy between JRM and Tri-Star, still managed to average a finish within two spots of what you earned in the prior season (14.0 to 15.7). Have you reflected on what you were able to do last year? It seems like some serious overachieving took place.

Yes. It definitely got me to where I am right now. I wouldn’t have a Cup ride without that season. If Mark hadn’t given me an opportunity to drive, my career probably would have ended right there because I certainly didn’t have anything. I went into that season looking for work and talked with him about driving for him, but at the time we didn’t know how that would happen. So I started working for him in the shop. I was there every day. Things progressed and one of their drivers wasn’t working out. Randy was over there with me and we were trying to make that program the best we could in case an opportunity for us came up. I will say Mark gave us a great opportunity that would be hard for him to repeat. He definitely stretched himself thinner than he needed to, going above and beyond to help us out. There were times we picked up a few small sponsorships to make sure we got our full allotment of tires. Running a limited schedule was actually kind of nice for us because we didn’t stretch ourselves thin. It provided an opportunity to set aside a car, or Randy and I would build one from the ground up and take our time putting the best car we possibly could on the racetrack. I think we had decent equipment, which helped take some people by surprise, but at the same time it was a lot of hard work.

 

 

Do you feel your time at Tri-Star prepared you for this season, first at Swan Racing and now at BK, driving for a team that, to put it politely, is still finding its competitive footing?

Absolutely. I learned at Tri-Star about putting a team together and getting a team to believe in itself. When a team sits where they are for so long, it’s easy to get stagnant. Showing them you can run well, when you have that opportunity, is a chance to see how they react and change. We did that a little bit at Tri-Star and are trying to do that at BK. Stacy Compton’s Truck team also prepared me for this situation. People forget about that – that was a big learning curve for me, being thrown into the Truck Series early in my career without having a whole lot of resources. There was a time where we led the standings and we were in the top 10 in points all year. That’s probably where this niche started. It means a lot to see a team grateful for overachieving in their equipment, doing something they didn’t think was possible.

 

 

So you would recommend that every young driver should link up with an underfunded team at some point?

I don’t know. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s career either, because it can be hard (laughs). I haven’t had the easiest route, but it’s made me who I am and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

 

Last question for you: Barring a victory in the next five or six races, you’re going to miss out on the Chase. At that point, what becomes your goal for the final 10 races?

Nothing changes for us. We’re going to try to get every position possible and bring the best car to every race. It might sound like a simple answer, but I just want us to get everything we possibly can out of a weekend. For example, at Indy we expected to go there and be better than we were, but considering how off we were in practice and how close we got by the end of the weekend, it was a huge improvement. So trying to eliminate why we were so far off from the beginning is a goal. Running in the top 25 consistently is the next goal. We’re just trying to be a little bit better.

 

 

Follow David Smith on Twitter: @DavidSmithMA

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Exclusive Q&A with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year contender Cole Whitt.
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 13:35
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-5-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for August 5:

Enjoy a gallery of the spectacular Samantha Hoopes.

• Wow. LeBron is scary skinny. Dude, you can afford to eat.

• How adorbs is this? Justin Verlander tossed girlfriend Kate Upton a baseball, eliciting a precious reaction.

Hard Knocks starts tonight, and the teaser features a tasty brawl.

An excerpt of Paul Finebaum's book focuses on joyless winner Nick Saban.

A little Tuesday schadenfreude for the Puig haters out there.

Play "Spot the Typo" on this Michigan State locker room sign. Hint: A word is not spelled accurately.

The eight least disgusting sports injuries of all time. That's right, I said least.

18 underrated beers to get you through the dog days.

Chris Bosh is launching a line of ties. The name? Mr. Nice Tie. Seriously.

What current NFL stars are first-ballot Hall of Famers?

• Ezequiel Carrera made the catch of the year last night. Move over, Jim Edmunds.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 10:32
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-best-and-worst-logos-2014
Body:

Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos.

 

Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro had to say about the Pac-12's football logos:

 

 SchoolLogoAnalysis
1.WashingtonSimple, tasteful, unchanging and very obvious. This emblem with its signature gold trim is one of the best in the nation and leaves little doubt as to what it represents.
2.USCThe interlocking "S-C" is as famous as any logo in the nation. The other logo with the script team nickname above the "SC" isn't needed for a major brand like USC.
3.UCLAThe script "UCLA" is one of the most well-known logos in all of sports much less college football. And the way the word Bruins is incorporated makes it one of the most informative in the nation while still being fairly simple.
4.StanfordMichigan State and NC State know exactly what the smart kids from Palo Alto were thinking when this logo was created. It's classic and simple with a touch of style in the stroked white/red trim. Stanford boasts one of the best brand logos in the nation.
5.OregonIt doesn't get any simpler than the Oregon "O." There is some subtle style to the font that makes it cooler than the average "O." The clean classic look works but some yellow trim might make it the best in the league.  
6.ColoradoThe Buffs' logo balances all of the key aspects to a company logo. It's simple and classic but with just enough style and flair while also being incredibly unique. 
7.ArizonaIt's a clean, classic logo that hasn't needed upgrading for years. The use of two fonts is a bit odd but the two-tone, two-layered "A" leaves little doubt as to what this logo represents.
8.Washington StateAnyone who has watched College Gameday knows about this logo. It is creative in an effort to combine the W-S-U with the Cougar head emblem. It is busy and complicated but very solid nonetheless.
9.Arizona StateThe pitchfork by itself is pretty solid looking with some edgy style. I'm glad the primary logo no longer includes the block "ASU" as it was too forced and busy.
10.UtahThe standard block U is great and the school did an excellent job to incorporate Ute Nation into the look. However, the circle has an outdated helmet feel to it. An upgrade could make this pop.
11.CalCal updated their football logo this offseason and it has been met with mixed reviews. The traditional script "Cal" was a smooth look that had been around for some time. The new Bear looks much edgier and more aggressive.
12.Oregon StateThe Beavers updated their look recently with a new edgier looking logo. And, frankly, they did a good job. This one is smoother and streamlined and is more aggressive. It's tough to make a beaver look mean, however.
Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/setting-first-year-expectations-louisvilles-bobby-petrino
Body:

After a successful four-year stint under Charlie Strong, Louisville reached into its past to find its next coach. Strong left for Texas after a 12-1 record in 2013, and athletic director Tom Jurich hired Bobby Petrino from Western Kentucky to guide the Cardinals into the ACC.

 

Returning to Louisville was a strange journey for Petrino. After leaving to be the head coach with the Falcons in 2007, he spent four years at Arkansas, which culminated in his firing in the spring of 2011. Petrino sat out the 2012 season and resurfaced in '13 for one year with the Hilltoppers.

 

Louisville was a winner in college football’s realignment cycle, moving into the ACC after spending a season in the American Athletic Conference. While the Cardinals will benefit from the security of playing in the ACC and have a place in one of college football’s Power 5 leagues, this isn’t an easy transition. Louisville will play in the Atlantic Division, creating annual games against Florida State and Clemson. Additionally, the overall league is tougher, with crossover games against the Coastal and off-and-on matchups against Notre Dame increasing Louisville’s strength of schedule.

 

While the schedule will be tougher, Louisville is a capable of being a top 25 program. The Cardinals were No. 29 in Athlon’s job rankings and No. 6 in the ACC. With good facilities, and the ability to attract talent from Ohio and Florida, Louisville will be a factor in the ACC.

 

Petrino’s Job History:

 

2012-13: Western Kentucky – Head Coach

2008-11: Arkansas – Head Coach

2007: Atlanta Falcons – Head Coach

2003-06: Louisville – Head Coach

2002: Auburn – Offensive Coordinator

2001: Jacksonville Jaguars – Offensive Coordinator

1999-00: Jacksonville Jaguars – Quarterbacks

1998: Louisville – Offensive Coordinator

1995-97: Utah State – Offensive Coordinator

1994: Nevada – Offensive Coordinator

1992-93: Arizona State – Quarterbacks

1990-91: Idaho – Offensive Coordinator

1989: Idaho – Quarterbacks

1987-88: Weber State – Wide Receivers

1985-86: Carroll College – Offensive Coordinator

 

Obstacles to Overcome:

 

Transitioning to a New League: Moving from the American Athletic Conference to the ACC will be an increased challenge for Louisville. The Cardinals play only three teams from last year’s schedule, with just one of those (Miami) coming in conference play. Each team affected by realignment to a tougher league is a different case study. However, Utah, West Virginia and TCU have struggled in transitioning leagues, while Missouri, Texas A&M and Nebraska have experienced plenty of success in their new conference. With a new league, different opponents in conference play and road environments, it will take a couple of years before Louisville is acclimated to the ACC.

 

The Secondary: The Cardinals finished 2013 ranked No. 1 in the American Athletic Conference in pass efficiency defense. Louisville allowed only eight passing scores, and quarterbacks completed just 50.7 percent of their passes against this secondary. New coordinator Todd Grantham has work to do in the defensive backfield, as safeties Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor have departed after standout careers. Junior Charles Gaines should be one of the ACC’s top corners, while senior Terell Floyd could shift between corner and safety. With Pryor and Smith gone, the safety position is the biggest concern on defense. Redshirt freshmen Richard Benjamin and Chucky Williams will factor into the mix to start, while Petrino inked junior college recruit James Sample to provide immediate help. The overall inexperience at safety is a concern, and there’s a drop-off expected without Smith and Pryor in the secondary.

 

Team Strengths for 2014:

 

Offense: It seems strange to call Louisville’s offense a strength after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. However, new quarterback Will Gardner looks capable of contending for All-ACC honors, the backfield has two potential starters (Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer), receiver DeVante Parker is a legitimate threat and four starters are returning along the offensive line. Despite the loss of Bridgewater, averaging over 30 points per game is within reach for this Cardinals team.

 

Front Seven on Defense: New coordinator Todd Grantham plans to switch Louisville’s scheme to a 3-4 approach, and the necessary pieces are in place to make that transition in the front seven. Rush end/linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin recorded 9.5 sacks last year and will be one of the ACC’s top defenders. Sophomore DeAngelo Brown is back after missing all of 2013 due to injury to anchor the interior, while the linebacking corps is a strength with Nick Dawson and James Burgess returning. With the concerns in the secondary, it’s critical for Louisville’s front seven to be active and have success in getting to the quarterback.


Roster Talent/Recruiting Trends


ACC Roster Rank in 2014: 7
 

 Conference Rank*National RankThree-Star ProspectsFour-Star ProspectsFive-Star Prospects
20149452000
20138361530
20128451730
20115291740
20109452120
*Rankings from 247Sports Composite
Louisville's rank among ACC teams was compiled using 247Sports National rankings for 2010-13.

Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but there are some interesting trends. It’s tough to ask Louisville to out-recruit Florida State or Clemson on an annual basis, but the program has averaged a 41.4 finish nationally over the last five years. The 41.4 finish puts the Cardinals at No. 7 in the ACC during that span.  Only one of Charlie Strong’s classes from 2010-13 ranked inside of the top 30.

 

Petrino’s first class ranked No. 47 but that doesn’t include talented transfers like former Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, fromer Texas A&M receiver Ja’Quay Williams and former Georgia cornerback Shaq Wiggins. Those three transfers will be eligible in 2015.

 

If you can’t sign elite classes, having a head coach who is one of the best in the nation at play-calling and scheming is a must. That’s what Louisville has in Petrino. And it doesn’t hurt to gamble on talented transfers, especially while Petrino and his staff find their footing in the ACC.

Upgrading the overall talent is essential to competing with Florida State and Clemson. By comparison, the Seminoles have inked 16 five-star prospects and 49 four-star recruits since 2010. Louisville has signed no five-star recruits in that span and only 12 four-star prospects.

 

The Schedule

 

As mentioned above, the move to the ACC has resulted in a tougher year-to-year schedule for Louisville. But that’s certainly a manageable assignment for one of the ACC’s top six programs. The Cardinals play six 2013 bowl teams this fall, including Clemson and Florida State. Road trips to Notre Dame, Syracuse and Boston College should be swing games for Petrino’s team. A win over Miami in the opener could propel Louisville to a 7-0 record before playing at Clemson on Oct. 11. Transitioning to a new league and playing in new environments might cost Louisville a game it will be favored to win. Yes, the schedule is tougher. However, for a program that has 23 wins over the last two years, the Cardinals should be a lock to earn bowl eligibility and push for nine wins in 2014. 

 

Final Analysis

 

Yes, Bobby Petrino comes with some baggage. The backstory on Petrino is no secret, and his history of job hopping is mentioned frequently. However, considering what transpired at Arkansas, Petrino is running out of options. Another mistake and he might not land another head coaching job at a Power 5 program.

 

However, even with Petrino’s history and baggage, this is the right hire for Louisville. Athletic director Tom Jurich certainly knows what he is getting with Petrino and needed a home-run hire to help Louisville compete right away in its new conference. The Cardinals are entering a critical time with a move to the ACC. Within the Atlantic Division, Florida State is a national title contender, Clemson has won at least 10 games in three consecutive years, and Boston College and Syracuse went to bowl games last year. Louisville cannot afford to fall behind in the ACC, as it’s a lot tougher to make the climb back to the top. The ACC may lack for national title contenders in the Atlantic after Florida State and Clemson, but the overall depth of the conference is better than the American Athletic.

 

Petrino will have to raise his recruiting level to beat Florida State and Clemson consistently, but he is one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the nation. With Petrino’s offensive acumen and ability to get everything out of the roster, the Cardinals can mask some of their personnel concerns or talent gap.

 

Fully adapting to the ACC will take some time. But Petrino is a good fit at Louisville and should add to the strength of the Atlantic Division by consistently keeping the Cardinals right around the top 25 on a national level.

 

Final Prediction

 

Vegas Expectations: 8 over/under (Bovada)

Athlon 2014 Magazine Projection: 8-4 (5-3)

Teaser:
Setting First-Year Expectations for Louisville's Bobby Petrino
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/10-darkhorse-heisman-trophy-candidates-2014
Body:

Defining the term “dark horse” was actually the toughest part of this exercise.

 

Finding really talented players who could breakout into prominent roles is actually the easiest part of trying to pick Heisman Trophy sleepers. Part of what makes college football the greatest sport in the world is its volatility and unpredictability.

 

After debates with many trusted advisors within the Athlon Sports walls, I decided to let Las Vegas define dark horse for me. There are 24 names listed on Bovada’s Heisman Trophy season odds page (for those who enjoy gambling) and those 24 players are ineligible (according to me) to be included as dark horses.

 

This includes players who I would call "dark horses" like Alabama’s Derrick Henry, who isn’t even a true starter, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, who hasn’t played a single down of college football, or Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, who’s never started a full season.

 

Top Heisman Sleepers:

 

Taysom Hill, BYU

The BYU signal-caller has an elite combination of size, power and athleticism that most quarterbacks only dream about. His ability to embarrass defenses with his feet is obvious — try 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground — but it’s his continued development as a passer that makes him a Heisman contender. He finished eighth in the nation with 4,282 yards of total offense — ahead of names like Winston, Boyd, Bridgewater and Bortles. With a schedule filled with solid but not overly taxing games, Hill will post monster numbers for a team with double-digit wins.

 

Byron Marshall, Oregon

The Ducks have five starters back along the offensive line and an offense that has churned out Heisman candidates at running back. Marshall rushed for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 168 carries last fall. If he can get upwards of 250 touches, he could lead the nation in rushing for Oregon. His only concern might be that backup Thomas Tyner is too good to keep off the field for very long.

 

Cole Stoudt, Clemson

The keys to one of the shiniest offenses in the nation have fallen in Stoudt’s lap and he deserves his opportunity. Stoudt has waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and all signs point to him being more than capable of running Chad Morris’ attack. He’s all about tempo and is a solid fit for an offense that consistently posts huge statistics. An early upset over Georgia or Florida State are almost a must, however, to get into the mix.

 

Davis Webb, Texas Tech

Captain Kliff believes in Webb so much that anyone else on the Lubbock campus who can throw a football left town this offseason. Webb proved enough as a freshman last fall to entrench himself as the star of the show at Texas Tech. He threw for over 300 yards five times in just six starts, including 385 yards against Oklahoma and 403 in Holiday Bowl upset win over Arizona State. The offense should provide huge numbers and a few upsets at home (like, say, against Texas or Oklahoma) could put Webb into national conversations.

 

Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

There aren’t too many players with as many physical skills as Hackenberg. He is a sure-fire, first-round NFL Draft pick in two springs as he set 11 school records as a true freshman last year. The offensive line and overall depth is a major concern and keeps him from being mentioned alongside names like Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty and Braxton Miller, but Hackenberg is just as talented. Look for the PSU QB to continue to grow with no limits on his upside.

 

Maty Mauk, Missouri

The youngster is brimming with confidence and now has the keys to an offense known for producing big-time stars at quarterback. Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and James Franklin have all run Gary Pinkel’s offense to perfection. Mauk is just the next and might be the best pure passer in the SEC. 

 

Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

In 2012, Keeton was exceptional by throwing for 3,373 yards and 27 touchdowns with only nine picks while also rushing for 619 yards and eight touchdowns. The Aggies were 11-2. Last year, Keeton accounted for 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions with 1,629 yards of total offense in just six games before suffering a season-ending injury. Utah State also has some marquee games at Tennessee, BYU and Boise State which can help increase Keeton's profile.

 

Jeremy Langford, Michigan State

Ameer Abdullah led the league in rushing and Melvin Gordon got most of the accolades, but Langford was arguably the most important tailback in the Big Ten last year. He rushed for 1,422 yards and 18 scores on the year but 1,070 yards, 13 touchdowns and all eight of his 100-yard games came in conference play. Langford belongs being mentioned alongside the star runners of the B1G.

 

Buck Allen, USC

Javorius “Buck” Allen took control the starting tailback job at USC in the second half of last year and it has vaulted him into award conversations. Allen rushed for over 100 yards in four of the last six games and scored 12 times during that span. A full season workload could make Allen the top true workhorse back in the conference this year.

 

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

Who finished second to Johnny Manziel last year in the SEC in total offense? Not Aaron Murray, Nick Marshall, AJ McCarron or Connor Shaw. No, Wallace’s 3,701 yards were well ahead of third place (and well behind Manziel). Now fully healthy and with a developing young corps of supporting players, Wallace is in store for a monster final season.

 

Five Super Sleepers:

 

Stefon Diggs, Maryland

If he could just stay healthy, Diggs could make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver. He does special things with the ball in his hands but has missed seven games in his first two seasons. With a talented quarterback returning, Diggs has a chance to post a breakout season in College Park. The Big Ten will find out quickly how dangerous Diggs can be.

 

Marquise Williams, North Carolina

Williams flashed a lot of ability last fall and should only continue to develop. The Tar Heels went 6-1 over their final seven games and the offense averaged over 40 points per game due in large part to his play. With a full season of making plays, Williams has a chance to get into the national conversation.

 

Shock Linwood, Baylor

The Bears had the Big 12’s leading rusher last year in Lache Seastrunk but also boasted the No. 6 rusher too. Linwood, a freshman last year, rushed for 881 yards and eight TDs on just 128 carries. Imagine what he could do with a year of seasoning and a full workload?

 

Tyler Boyd, Pitt

Boyd is a special talent with rare ability. He has elite NFL upside and plays for a head coach who normally produces big numbers in the passing game. Look for Boyd, just a sophomore, to make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. Should that happen, landing in the Heisman conversation isn’t out of the question.

 

Will Gardner, Louisville

There are many things worse than betting on a Bobby Petrino quarterback. Gardner is a tall, pocket passer who fits his system perfectly. And with a gifted offensive line and deep supporting cast, it’s not unthinkable that Gardner becomes the second-best passer in the ACC.

Teaser:
10 Dark Horse Heisman Trophy Candidates in 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/sec-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2014
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the SEC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

SEC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

East Division

 

Florida

 

“They are the ones that I think can have the quickest turnaround because of who they have on defense.”…

“Their talent on defense is fantastic, but that talent didn’t always work hard last year. There were a lot of guys who were worried about next-level play instead of worrying about this level of play.”…

“If they can stay healthy offensively, they can have a quick turnaround. They’ve got a lot of talent on defense I’m not saying they’ll make it to a national championship game, but they could have an Auburn-like turnaround.”…

“They didn’t have a lot of guys that could make plays at wideout, which is amazing at a place like Florida.”…

“The quarterback situation is bad. When Jeff Driskel got hurt, the kid that left in the offseason (Jacoby Brissett) could have played but they didn’t have anybody there. Driskel goes down and the offense was devastated. That’s the danger of when you stockpile a bunch of quarterbacks or you miss on a quarterback. All of a sudden your starter gets hurt and then the guy who wasn’t the starter but was pretty good leaves. The days of waiting until the fifth year to start are few and far between.”…

“They lost Jon Halapio, who was a good player but was dinged up. When you have to play a lot of guys up front, it usually pays dividends down the road. Maybe that’s what happens for them”…

“Kurt Roper is a sharp guy.”…

“Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was one of the best young players I have seen in the game in a long time, and he deserved every bit of accolades that came his way.”…

“Their defensive line was the freakin’ real deal. Darious Cummings, an inside guy, he’s a pretty powerful guy in there. Tough to handle. They’ve done a good job recruiting defensive linemen.”…

 

Georgia


“They were pretty darn young on defense, which isn’t always an excuse, because they were loaded there.”…

“Youth is more important with offense than defense. A young defense can really struggle.”…

“They have talent on defense, but the talent has to play hard. (Former defensive coordinator) Todd Grantham is a good coach, but his guys didn’t always seem to play hard.”…

“They’ve had guys dismissed at defensive back, which will hurt.”…

“With the new defensive coordinator (Jeremy Pruitt) it will be a learning curve but they are very talented. They were very young last year.”…

“Replacing the quarterback is a big, big loss. Aaron Murray was a heckuva player. Last I heard they are pretty high on the new guy (Hutson Mason) but to ask him to do all the things Murray did will be tough. Just his overall command of the offense and his composure was impressive.”…

“I don’t know what they have coming back up front offensively but it seemed they had a pretty good core coming back.”…

“The running back, Todd Gurley, as long as he can stay healthy, he’s the real deal. He’s big time.”…

“Gurley is as good as I have seen in the league. I think he is better than the backs that Alabama has had. He has game-changing ability. The Bama backs have all been good, but they have had great talent around them. Gurley is great without any help. Nobody wants to tackle the kid, and he runs away from everybody on the defense.”…

“Any time you have inexperience, it’s going to sting you eventually. That was kind of their deal was their lack of experience.”…

“They recruit so well that there won’t be a huge dropoff, and last year’s injuries were brutal. Everybody in the SEC East has questions next year – everybody. So it will be an interesting year.”…


Kentucky


“Just average. That’s the reality of the situation.”…

“I know they have to be excited about the quarterback, Drew Barker. We loved him coming out. He’s the real deal. There’s one thing that’s hurt them in the past, they haven’t had solid quarterback play in a long time. They might give him a baptism by fire and just throw him in, see what he can do. What else do they have there? Probably not much. Might as well.”…

“I think they liked a few things Max Smith did there but I’m not sure he’s the answer long term.”…

“Mark Stoops deserves a lot of credit for getting the recruiting pieces he needs. They’ve recruited really well.”…

“Some of the guys they have coming in are not typical Kentucky players. Getting the 370-pound nose tackle (Matt Elam) over Alabama? That doesn’t happen at Kentucky. They haven’t had talent there for a long time. Now they have to do something with the talent. I hope they give him time to do so.”…

“As far as the roster returning, they had some decent linebacker play and both defensive ends are decent – not spectacular but decent. That pretty much sums it up.”…

“They have a good coaching staff but the players they inherited don’t really jump out at you or scare you.”…

"I liked the linebacker (Avery Williamson), he was active and a good tackler, but he’s gone now.”…


Missouri


“They are replacing a lot on the defensive front and the quarterback, though I think they like the young guy, Maty Mauk.”…

“They lose a middle linebacker that was really physical, a straight-line guy but really solid. One of the inside guys was a senior as well. They’ll have some work to do from that regard”…

“What a blessing that quarterback situation was. James Franklin was in and out because of injury but with Mauk coming in to play, now they know what they have and I think they like what they have. It’s a positive experience for them. That will work out well for them in the long run.”…

“The wideouts were matchup problems, but the top three receivers from last year are gone.”…

“The running back, Josey, was a senior. They’ve got some work to do in the running game.”…

“Maty Mauk is a tough competitor, comes from good football family. Experience he gained from last year will pay huge dividends. That stuff still counts.”…

“For what they do, their offensive line is very effective. They aren’t overpowering guys, won’t maul people out there but are good at space blocking. Evan Boehm is a really good player.”…

“They’ll ride the Mauk kid I’m sure. Their receivers are so rangy and long and can get downfield in a hurry that they will make life easier for Mauk in his first full year. Some of those guys you can get physical with, but for the most part that offense will get theirs.”…

“It’s inevitable that they will take a step back on defense next year. Any time you lose that many guys on the defensive front, you are going to take a step back.”…


South Carolina


“We thought Connor Shaw was outstanding. The other kid (Dylan Thompson) got a lot of good reps. But Shaw was what made everything work there.”…

“When they were really getting it, Mike Davis ran hard. I would put him right in there with Todd Gurley as far as SEC East backs who are big time.”…

“I thought the inside guy, Kelcy Quarles, was a really good player – it wasn’t just Clowney there. I don’t know how the depth is there.”…

“Most will say Clowney was this or that – I’ll tell you, you had to gameplan for him. You had to have a special plan for him, anybody who said they didn’t was full of (expletive). That was the one guy in the county you had to do that for. That changes things for them. We had protections designed to slide toward him so we were not putting tackles in a lot of one-on-one situations. I didn’t think their other ends were incredibly great, so they won’t command that sort of attention.”…

“The safeties were OK.”…

“Thompson is probably a lot like the Mauk kid. Like Georgia and Mizzou, they all had quarterbacks that were their guys, but at one point or another the starters got hurt and backups came in and got valuable experience.”…

“Traditionally South Carolina was always at seven or eight wins and Steve has been able to get them up to the 10-win mark, which is impressive. It will be interesting to see how much longer he’ll go.”…


Tennessee


“They are still trying to figure themselves out. They’ve recruited well but they are replacing all five starters up front that will be a heckuva task there now. They lost a lot of starts there, including the Tiny Richardson kid who was powerful.”…

“You want to catch those guys early. You don’t want to play them late because they’ll be better but will be a little disjointed early. They’ll have a lot of young guys playing so you want to catch them in September. Get them before they kind of get their feet on the ground.”…

“I like linebacker A.J. Johnson. I was surprised he came back. I thought he might’ve declared. He was a good player. Very active.”…

“Their defensive line was average, linebackers are pretty good, secondary wise they were young and weren’t overly impressive as far as being an SEC-caliber defense but that youth will help them.”…

“The biggest question on offense is replacing those linemen.”…

“I thought quarterback Josh Dobbs was average. He’s a really smart kid and all that stuff, but from a talent and skill level, average. I’m talking about precision, getting the ball out on time, throwing with accuracy - you like to have a guy who can push the ball downfield. He was average in those areas, but a lot of that comes with young, so maybe he can develop that. Some guys need to see a guy wide open before they throw the ball and it’s too late. That’s the difference between good and great ones, getting the ball on time.”…


Vanderbilt
 

“Losing Jordan Mathews is going to be huge for them. That’s 100-plus catches that they’ll have to replace. That’s the biggest question mark.”…

“On defense - they lost the whole secondary, basically. Thy have some good young talent in there but it’s unproven.”…

“On the front, the defensive front should be pretty solid. They have some really good young linebackers, three guys I think could be impactful, but they are going to a 3-4 under Derek Mason, so I’m curious how they’ll fit those guys into the personnel.”…

“The defensive ends left there were pretty solid. The front seven will be solid and can compete each week in the SEC. The secondary is the big question mark.”…

“On offense, I don’t know how many catches they have coming back at receiver – it might be less than 30.”…

“The quarterback situation, the Johnny McCrary kid’s very talented but a little bit of a loose cannon. Patton Robinette is a really solid kid but can he carry them late in games? I don’t know.”…

“The offensive line guys, they lost Wesley Johnson, who was one of the best lineman in the league, but they have a lot returning, a lot of guys that know how to win in the SEC. that will help them.”…

“The previous staff recruited well, so there is some talent on that roster.”…
 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:

 

West Division


Alabama


“Defensively they’ll be OK, probably won’t be up to their great standard. Losing Deion Belue, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri – that’s really going to hurt on the back end. Linebackers, they’ll be slightly above average. Up front on the defensive line they might actually be better. D.J. Pettway is a more disciplined a player than Adrian Hubbard.”…

“The quarterback, I don’t know who it will be. It’s almost like what they do in the spring really doesn’t matter because they are bringing in (FSU transfer Jacob Coker).”…

“It’s probably the best receiving corps as a whole since Nick’s been there.”…

“The running backs are really solid, not as good as the 2010 lineup but really good. Kenyon Drake is maturing and Derrick Henry is doing a lot better with protections, assignments, developing the passing game – he could always run the ball.”…

“Losing Chad Lindsay is going to hurt because they had depth issues at offensive line. I think they wanted to move Ryan Kelly to left tackle. Now they have to rely on some young kids coming in.”…

As it sits, Alabama might be an eight-win team on paper. Obviously a lot hinges on how well the FSU kid does coming in - will be make or break the season? The freshman, David Cornwell, is not ready. If they have to go with Blake Sims, their offensive play-calling will be very limited. They would run the ball a lot, wouldn’t be very exotic with the passing game.”…

“It will be interesting to watch Lane Kiffin run the offense – Doug Nussmeier was really good. Lane can do it but I’m curious to see how strong his running concepts are with this team, because that’s obviously a big strength for them.”…

 

Arkansas


“I didn’t think they were very explosive last year with some of their skill players on the offensive side of the ball.”…

“The secondary was not really impressive.”…

“They did have a couple of good defensive linemen, especially Chris Smith, but he’s gone now.”…

“They will continue to struggle a little bit. They should be better but continuing to struggle.”…

“Based on what they are doing, I just don’t think they can score enough. It starts with the offense – they are not set up to score a lot of points. It’s ball control, grind it out, I-formation, play-action football.”…

“Their quarterback is back (Brandon Allen) and they should be better as a result, but I’m not sure if he’s the answer long-term.”…

“Alex Collins is a hard-nosed runner, physical kid. I do really like him. He can get them tough yards and a few scores. But that can’t be your whole offense.”…

“They have a hard time covering in the secondary. They sort of regressed as the year went on. They were probably better early on because they still had the confidence.”…

“Keep in mind, Bret didn’t inherit much. The recruiting transition from Petrino leaving to John L. Smith for a year was never going to be smooth. There were guys on that roster they wouldn’t have taken when he was at Wisconsin. So he needs time to get that done. But they need a boost at the skill positions, such as receiver and cornerback. They just don’t have a lot of playmaking there.”…


Auburn


“Looking at them on defense, they lost Dee Ford and they lost Chris Davis – just a few players, but if you look at the plays they made in the big games, especially Ford, those are significant losses based on Auburn’s body of work. They are going to be missed but they do have a lot of players returning.”…

“The linebackers will be average. A few of them are just guys.”…

“The secondary’s not tremendous with ball skills but they do have a lot of speed and recoverability. That’s their strength.”…

“Up front, I think they’ll have the best defensive linemen. Montravius Adams, he’s gonna be the next Glenn Dorsey.”…

“Losing the left tackle, Greg Robinson, he was the best in the SEC. I think he’s better than the (Jake) Matthews kid.”…

“If Auburn can develop a passing game, they will be probably the best team in the West.”…

Defensively, they are going to stop a lot of people.”…

“The only time the offensive line matters in Gus’ offense is when they go from tackle to wildcat, to the three-man side.”…

“They’ll miss (Tre) Mason. They were really high on him.”…

“Can Nick Marshall develop into a passer? If he doesn’t they’ll have to let their defense keep them in a lot of games. Being one-dimensional can only get you so far.”…

“Obviously they had a lot of success, but they’ll want to do something new, because Gus will want to grow that thing and be more multiple. If he can do it, they’ll be deadly next year.”…


LSU


“Obviously losing quarterback Zach Mettenberger hurts them a little bit. They have a couple of talented options coming up there but it will be interesting to see how they develop that talent. Cam Cameron has the personnel to go to a dual-threat quarterback but he’s more of a pro-style guy.”…

“They might have lost a few key players up front but return that good left tackle (La’El Collins).”…

“Those two receivers they had are gone and they were two of the best. I’m not really sure who’s filling those roles because they got the ball so much.”…

“Obviously the question is, who is the quarterback that will step up?”…

“The defense last year was pretty inexperienced and quite honestly weren’t very good.”…

“John Chavis’ scheme isn’t really that hard. He always does a good job hiding deficiencies just enough where he puts players in position to make plays. They had a lot of growing up to do up front. It all depends on how those guys develop. If they don’t get better up front, their team won’t be better. There really wasn’t one from last year that stood out, at least not compared to the standard LSU has set for that spot.”…

“Losing those guys will catch up with them. Slowly, if you lose kids to Alabama or Texas schools, you can still have stars but do they still have quality depth they used to?”…

“None of those guys on defense coming back really stuck out to me.”…
 

Mississippi State


“They’ve always been known for having a big-time defensive lines.”…

“Linebacker Benardrick McKinney, he’s a pretty decent player. He’s active.”…

“The guys up front were monsters when we played them. You could really struggle with them. I thought they were pretty impressive. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins does a good job.”…

“If they ever get a really good quarterback, they can be pretty darn good. I know they are pretty high on Dak Prescott but since he didn’t start all of last season I’m not exactly sure what they have in him. He’s talented but still a bit of an unknown.”…

“Losing Gabe Jackson on the offensive line is big – he just mauled people. He created holes that you don’t know are going to be there now.”…

"This is a big year for Dan Mullen, who’s done a nice job there but hasn’t really broken through. I’d imagine they think it’s time to do that since they return a lot of starters and they are counting on Prescott to make a jump. But their defense will always keep them respectable. The question is, can they beat the teams they aren’t supposed to? They haven’t done much of that.”…

A lot of their success will depend on which defensive linemen are coming back, and it seems like they are returning a bunch. The best one they have is Chris Jones. He’s got NFL-type talent. He’s a little raw but the ability is obviously there.”… 

“Mississippi State is an intriguing team. It could go either way for them – they could break through or be toward the bottom of the SEC West.”…

 

Ole Miss


“They are probably the second-best team in the West, maybe better.”…

“It’s a young defense with really good athletic ability, Dave Wommack a heckuva coach.”…

“They are going to be hard to beat. Playing them at home is tough.”…

“Bo Wallace is not a big time quarterback but he’s functional. He won’t really screw it up a lot. Sometimes that’s what you need.” …

“The Nkemdiche brothers – both Denzel and Robert are studs.”…

“Tony Conner is great. He’s an absolute stud. They can run up front, on the back end. Great instincts, physical player, everything you’d want, he’s got it.”…

“The defensive coordinator keeps it simple enough for them to not mess up assignments. They fly to the football.”…

“Losing Donte Moncrief hurts.”…

“The offensive line was young but pretty dang good. I think they’ll be good up front. The Laremy Tunsil is a darn good player, young left tackle, he’s as big time as it gets.”…

“I like the big Ndemdiche kid (Robert) better. He’s more disruptive as a player than his brother. His brother’s a good player, good instincts, physical player. I like them both, but if I was in a draft room, the younger one brings more to the defense.”…

I think Ole Miss is going to be dang good. Don’t be shocked if they win the division. I wouldn’t. It’s sort of wide open this year with Alabama possibly down and LSU losing playmakers – they’d have to knock off Auburn, which should still be great. Huge year for Hugh Freeze.”…


Texas A&M


“They had really young guys on defense, so the biggest deal with them was they weren’t very big and got knocked off the ball up front. Even when they were decent in the secondary, you could run the ball in between the tackles. As long as those guys have stated growing and continue to develop, you won’t be able to do that.”…

“They’ll be good on defense. Mark Snyder got a lot of flack last year because people put up some points but he’s a good coordinator. He’s going to get those guys in position to make plays.”…

“What’s going to kill them is losing not only Johnny Manziel, but a couple of really good receivers and the Jake Mathews kid.”…

“How well they do as a team depends on how their defense does.”…

“I don’t know if their offense will have enough firepower – they’ll always be pretty good under Sumlin, but losing a guy like Evans, he was a playmaker. Losing him will really hurt them.”…

“Last year they had a safety that was terrible, defensive line wasn’t good, really nobody on defense. Those studs they had in 2012, four guys that were difference-makers. When those guys left, there was nobody.”…

“Sumlin has always been a good recruiter. They’ll get good young players. How soon can they be ready to play is the question? They’ve stockpiled a lot of skill guys and some talented defensive front seven guys the last two years so we’ll see if they can emerge.”…

Teaser:
SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/15-college-football-teams-wed-see-hbos-hard-knocks
Body:

With nearly every major conference operating its own television network — we see you, SEC Network, finally joining hands with DirecTV — fans have unprecedented access to their favorite college teams.

There’s one area, though, where we’d like to see college teams take a cue from HBO and NFL Films. Every season, HBO provides an inside look at training camp for one NFL team. Today, the ninth season of Hard Knocks premieres with a behind-the-scenes look at the Atlanta Falcons.

The series has shown a rarely seen side of the pro game, from the personalities of players to the gut-wrenching process of cutting a player or being cut.

College football, too, should provide plenty of content for a Hard Knocks-style program. Certainly, TV networks and the schools themselves have shown glimpses, but all feel a little sanitized. Here are the schools we’d like to see get the full-on Hard Knocks treatment.

Florida State
The defending national champions are the easy choice for the top team for a behind-the-scenes look. Jameis Winston has had a quiet offseason since the crab legs incident, but there’s still plenty of intrigue on how the defending Heisman winner handles his season. He’s been in the news for off-field scandal, but his command over the locker room has never been questioned. Meanwhile, fast-talking Jimbo Fisher tries to keep his squad hungry as it starts the season at No. 1.

Alabama
Again, we’re enjoying the fantasy world where Nick Saban peels back the curtain just for fun. This is the same coach who allows his coordinators to speak to the media just once a year — and unfortunately for us he has one of the most compelling coordinators in the country. Offensive boss Lane Kiffin says he’s enjoying concentrating on coaching football this season rather than the other obligations of being a head coach. That in and of itself would be interesting as Kiffin tries to work integrate new quarterback Jacob Coker into a loaded offense.

Nebraska
Who knew Bo Pelini would be the comic relief of the preseason? The coach says he’s always had this sense of humor, but it’s just never been on display. This is the chance for Pelini to show the whole picture — and more than just riffing on @FauxPelini and the cat. Beyond the Bo Show, running back Ameer Abdullah and wide receiver Kenny Bell have personality in spades.

Florida
On this week’s episode: A grad assistant teaches a confused Will Muschamp how to use Twitter. Muschamp, of course, has bigger problems than sending direct messages intended for recruits to the general public. He has a new offensive coordinator working with a quarterback returning from injury. The results of that tandem may determine if the Gators coach has a job next season.

Michigan
Ann Arbor is quite the pressure-cooker this offseason. Brady Hoke may or may not be a hot seat guy as his chief rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State, are riding high. Streaky quarterback Devin Gardner has a new coordinator, and defensive end Frank Clark likes to talk. All of this leads into an uncomfortable rematch with Appalachian State.

LSU
What’s life like behind the scenes with Les Miles? Players say he’s the same wacky personality with his players as he is with the media. Players indeed have impressions ready for his post-meeting sign (“Well, men, see ya!”). He generally has compelling teams, but this year will be more interesting than most. LSU has an unsettled quarterback situation and a young defense getting ready for the rough-and-tumble SEC West. Miles also has one of the top freshmen in the country in Leonard Fournette.

Arizona
Rich Rodriguez is sealing his spot as the best talker in the Pac-12. His football team will have plenty of intrigue, too, as he tries to sift through a four-man quarterback race.

Texas A&M
The opulent new football facility would probably be more appropriate footage for MTV or E! programming, and Johnny Manziel is off to the NFL. Still, we’d like to take a peek at Kevin Sumlin’s program. The defense is a mess, the quarterback situation is uncertain, and his squad has discipline issues resulting in dismissals of key players during the summer. All of this in the face of an opener against South Carolina.

Texas Tech
Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury is a draw all on his own with his movie-star looks, sense of fashion and whatnot. He’s also entering his second season as a head coach with only a bowl win over Arizona State giving his program momentum after a five-game losing streak to end the Big 12 season. Davis Webb is the last quarterback standing after Kingsbury had to play three last season.

Texas
Might as well finish up the tour around the Lone Star State with a look at Texas. Charlie Strong isn’t the most dynamic personality for the cameras, but he’s certainly laying down the law. His fire-and-brimstone approach to the roster would be an episode all to itself. He dismissed five players and suspended three more last week alone.


Washington
Like Strong, Chris Petersen might not be the most compelling coach for the cameras, either, but he’s taking over a program that likes to think of itself as a national power. Washington has one of the top defensive players in the nation in Shaq Thompson, who could also find himself on offense during camp. Petersen also has a quarterback question with Cyler Miles. The Huskies’ top player at the position missed all of spring and is now suspended for the opener against Hawaii.

UCLA
The Bruins arguably have the two biggest football stars in Los Angeles in Brett Hundley and Myles Jack. UCLA has higher expectations this season than its crosstown rival.

Penn State
Offensive line coach Herb Hand has already appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped, so you know Penn State’s new regime is OK with unconventional publicity. How does a force of personality like James Franklin take over a Penn State hampered by scholarship limitations and its own troubled pass? With a quarterback like Christian Hackenberg, that’s how.


Washington State
Mike Leach wrote a book on the leadership strategies of Geronimo during the offseason. Just another day in Pullman.

Arkansas
Bret Bielema talks like he’s 8-0 in the SEC. His record is 0-8. What does the big guy have in store for Year Two?

Teaser:
15 College Football Teams We'd Like to See on HBO's Hard Knocks
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/breaking-down-nfls-new-head-coaches
Body:

Seven NFL teams will be under new leadership for the 2014 season. Of the latest crop of head coaches, four are rookies as it applies to the pro level, while three are getting a second chance to head up an NFL team. Last season, Philadelphia's Chip Kelly and San Diego's Mike McCoy wound up in the postseason in their first season as an NFL head coach, while Cleveland's Rob Chudzinski went 4-12 and promptly got fired.

 

So which members of the coaching class of 2014 are most likely to succeed or potentially be interviewing for a new job sooner rather than later? Here's a breakdown (alphabetical order) of the NFL's newest head coaches.

 

Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions

Previous job: Offensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens

Pros: Tony Dungy’s successor-in-waiting with the Colts went 24–8 over his first two seasons as an NFL head coach, with an upset loss to Drew Brees and the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Those, however, were the final two years of the Peyton Manning era in Indy. After a three-year run with the Colts, Caldwell was hired as QB coach of the Ravens. He then was promoted to offensive coordinator following the midseason firing of Cam Cameron. With Caldwell calling the plays, Joe Flacco threw 15 TDs and only one INT — leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl XLVII “Harbaugh Bowl” victory over the 49ers.

Cons: The 59-year-old Caldwell went 2–14 in his one season without Manning in Indy and 26–63 in eight seasons as the coach at Wake Forest. The Motor City is bringing in a retread who may not be capable of producing the high-performance results fans have expected since the 10–6 run of 2011.

Final Analysis: The hiring of Caldwell is the most depressing news at Ford Field since Nickelback played at halftime of the Thanksgiving Day game.

 

Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

Previous job: Offensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals

Pros: Jay is Jon Gruden’s brother and, as a result, the subject of hilarious Frank Caliendo impressions like the recent instant classic “Gruden vs. Gruden QB Camp.” Jay won Super Bowl XXXVII as an offensive assistant for his older brother. He also coached the Orlando Predators to two ArenaBowl championships after winning four ArenaBowl titles as quarterback of the Tampa Bay Storm. After leaving the AFL for the NFL, Gruden was the offensive coordinator of the Bengals, making the playoffs each of his three seasons.

Cons: Jay is not Jon Gruden and, as a result, may disappoint fans expecting a Super Bowl-winning, live-wire head coach. Also, most of Jay’s success has come in the Arena Football League, which is played indoors on fields that are 50 yards long with starting lineups of eight players on each side.

Final Analysis: Since taking control of Washington in 1999, owner Daniel Snyder has hired six coaches — Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn, Mike Shanahan and Gruden. Three of those were proven NFL head coaches; the other three — Gruden included — were ex-quarterbacks with zero NFL head-coaching experience.

 

Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans

Previous job: Head coach, Penn State

Pros: In his first head-coaching gig, O’Brien did an admirable job after inheriting a disaster at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal and the death of Joe Paterno. The 44-year-old went 15–9, with wins over Michigan and Wisconsin, and he swept the Big Ten Coach of the Year awards in 2012. The quarterback guru has extensive experience in the NFL with the Patriots, as an offensive assistant who worked his way up to offensive coordinator — losing Super Bowls XLII and XLVI to Eli Manning’s Giants along the way.

Cons: O’Brien is the eighth Bill Belichick assistant to become an NFL head coach, joining Al Groh, Nick Saban, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Jim Schwartz and Charlie Weis. Once out from under the protection of the short-sleeve hoodie, disciples of Belichick not named Saban have struggled. And even the great Saban — who has enjoyed tremendous success on the collegiate level — went only 15–17 in two NFL seasons.

Final Analysis: The third coach hired by Bob McNair follows in the footsteps of Dom Capers and Gary Kubiak, who delivered the 13-year-old franchise’s only two playoff appearances in 2011 and 2012 before tanking to 2–14 in his final season. O’Brien has been handed a playoff-ready team in what was the league’s weakest division in 2013. The pieces are in place for immediate success.

 

Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns

Previous job: Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills

Pros: Since the expansion Browns rejoined the NFL in 1999, the franchise has hired seven different head coaches and enjoyed just two winning seasons. Butch Davis in 2002 is the only one of those coaches to reach the playoffs. Expectations are low, despite the fact that the original Browns (now the Ravens) have won two Super Bowls since leaving Lake Erie. Pettine arrives alongside Johnny Manziel, whose personality and playing style likely will make or break his head coach.

Cons: Owner Jimmy Haslam's truck-stop company, Pilot Flying J, agreed in July to pay $92 million in fines following a federal investigation related to customer fraud. Last year’s coach, Rob Chudzinski, was fired after only one season. The expansion Browns have a cumulative minus-1,399 point differential over 15 seasons. Simply put, this is one of the worst jobs in pro sports.

Final Analysis: Pettine is the son of legendary Pennsylvania high school football coach Mike Pettine Sr. and the one-time right-hand man of Rex Ryan. If the Johnny Football experience goes well, the 47-year-old Pettine could be the franchise’s longest-tenured coach since Bill Belichick coached the final five seasons of the original Browns from 1991-95.

 

Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Previous job: Head coach, Chicago Bears

Pros: The 56-year-old Smith is a familiar face re-hired by the Glazer family, having served as the Bucs’ linebackers coach from 1996-2000. He helped Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin perfect the Tampa-2 defense while coaching Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. Smith then served as the defensive coordinator for the Rams, losing to Tom Brady and the underdog Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. After taking over the top spot for the Bears in 2004, Smith posted an 81–63 record with three NFC North division titles and a 3–3 postseason mark, including a loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.

Cons: Smith doesn’t inspire cannon fire; his personality is more Dungy than Jon Gruden. The lack of fireworks likely contributed to Smith’s firing in Chicago, despite a 10–6 record in his final season.

Final Analysis: The 2005 AP Coach of the Year has had just three losing seasons in nine years as a head coach. There’s less style but plenty of substance with Smith, who has assembled a strong staff led by Leslie Frazier (defensive coordinator), Jeff Tedford (offensive coordinator) and Bucs legend Hardy Nickerson (linebackers).

 

Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans

Previous job: Offensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers

Pros: A former tight end with seven years of NFL experience under his belt, Whisenhunt was a Super Bowl XL-winning offensive coordinator with the Steelers — famously calling the only TD pass thrown by a wide receiver in Super Bowl history, with Antwaan Randle El tossing a 43-yard scoring strike to Hines Ward to seal the victory over the Seahawks. After being hired as head coach of the Cardinals in 2007, Whisenhunt turned around and lost to his former team in Super Bowl XLIII.

Cons: Whisenhunt’s tenure in Arizona got off to a hot start before burning out, or maybe just fading away. A 27–21 record with two playoff appearances in his first three years was followed by an 18–30 mark. The coach failed to develop Matt Leinart — a jilted passer who recently claimed Kurt Warner, not Whisenhunt, should be credited with the Cards’ early offensive success.

Final Analysis: The 52-year-old Whisenhunt is the first coaching hire in Oilers-Titans history made by someone other than franchise founder Bud Adams (1923-2013). And unlike predecessors Mike Munchak and Jeff Fisher, Whisenhunt doesn’t have Oilers-Titans blue blood. Whisenhunt is bringing a new tune to Music City.

 

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

Previous job: Defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals

Pros: Zimmer has weathered a few storms in his day. He survived four coaching tenures — Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells — over 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl XXX as defensive backs coach. He spent one fateful season as Bobby Petrino’s defensive coordinator with the Falcons before joining the Bengals, where he coached for six seasons and made four trips to the playoffs.

Cons: The 58-year-old Zimmer has made a name for himself on defense. But he was hired as a head coach only after serving as the defensive coordinator under Marvin Lewis, who is a defensive mastermind in his own right — having coordinated the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV-winning defense before taking over the top spot in Cincy.

Final Analysis: After interviewing for the Browns job last offseason and being on the short list of several openings this year, Zimmer has finally earned his shot . But he’s never been a head coach on any level, and the NFL is a tough place to learn on the job.

 

(Bill O'Brien photo courtesy of Houston Texans' Web site, www.houstontexans.com; Jim Caldwell photo by Stuart Zaas, courtesy of Detroit Lions' Web site, www.detroitlions.com; Mike Pettine photo courtesy of Cleveland Browns' Web site, www.clevelandbrowns.com, Ken Whisenhunt photo courtesy of Tennessee Titans' Web site, www.titansonline.com)

Teaser:
Breaking Down the NFL's New Head Coaches
Post date: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /nascar/dale-earnhardt-jr-no-88-team-hitting-all-cylinders-following-pocono-sweep
Body:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran into the media center, jumping up to the podium like a four-year-old kid in a candy store. “I’m not gonna run,” quipped crew chief Steve Letarte, but the driver ignored him, jumping up center stage to sit at the same podium where victory tasted so sweet two months earlier. A horde of fans sat pinned to the glass, trying to figure out every word of every answer during a 50-minute press conference where it felt like the participants, including some special moments for a Make-A-Wish kid named Chris, were willing to sit and talk 500 minutes more. 

 

It’s a World Tour touching everyone in NASCAR, this special Earnhardt Renaissance, even though his rise back to prominence isn’t quite saving the sport. At age 39, even the best tweets don’t quite grab America like they used to, rekindling the fire for fans lost, but that shouldn’t take away for a minute this “aura” surrounding the No. 88 car. Earnhardt shrugged it off when asked if this season felt “magical,” but the reality is that owning three race victories and on a ticking clock with current crew chief Steve Letarte, there’s a strong feeling within this group that they’re in position to get the job done now. Yes, new crew chief Greg Ives will be welcome in 2015 when Letarte heads to the broadcast booth, but the chemistry within the whole team might never be better than it is right this very second.

 

“I’ve never been as close to my team, the relationships that me and Steve and (crew members) Jason and Kevin and all the guys on the team have, Adam, everybody,” said Earnhardt, who also thanked team owner Rick Hendrick seemingly 1,000 times on the phone in Victory Lane. “My personal life’s great. I’ve never had the relationships work this well.

 

“I was really close to the guys on the 8 team. Obviously, a lot of those guys are family. I still have great relationships with them. But I think I’m smarter about my friendships now, you know. When I was younger, it was more about, how can this help me … I was not as concerned about helping them and being their friend as I was about them being my friend. So I think I’m better at being a friend these days.”

 

Earnhardt’s also better, at, well, everything. Keeping his mouth shut when frustrated inside the car so Letarte can simply lead instead of shutting down the criticism. Spending time at the Hendrick shop with his team to the point he took them for a paintball excursion on Saturday after practice. Being more open than ever, with everyone from his teammates to his girlfriend, Amy Reimann, to even a media group where he’s never been completely closed off. (Sunday’s revelation? Earnhardt thought Hendrick had the right to fire him mid-contract a few years back when the results were so terrible because things “just weren’t working out.”) 

 

Most importantly, NASCAR’s most popular driver feels a sense of loyalty to those around him now that simply drives him to be better. A man who has seen so much — the lows of losing a father and the grief of losing a family heirloom (DEI) — has risen to a level where his confidence knows no bounds. 

 

For years, those inside the sport wondered if Earnhardt could get to this level of happiness again. The fact he’s there, spreading joy for all the world to see, is a feel-good story even if millions of causal fans aren’t bothering to notice.

 

Two Pocono victories take up only so much room on the shelf. The momentum produced by them? You can’t find enough space to put it inside Earnhardt’s head.

 

“Through the Gears” we go after an eventful race at Pocono …

 

 

FIRST GEAR: Big week for Earnhardt culminates in big sweep  Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It was Jeff Gordon, not Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had the fastest car on long runs Sunday. Gordon led a race-high 63 laps and would have run away with it had the cautions not fallen just right for Earnhardt and Co. to play catch-up. But after a multi-car wreck on lap 117 that changed everything (more on that in a moment), crew chief Steve Letarte figured a little strategy in the form of a fuel-only final stop could propel the No. 88 ahead of the pack.

 

“That pit strategy,” Letarte said. “(Engineer) Kevin (Meendering) and I argued about it for three or four laps, under caution, what we needed to do. And we drew it out on a piece of paper — we had the times, the plan, the this, the that — and when we left pit road we had it like to the tenth of a second and that was that moment in time that, man, we might have somewhat of a clue what we’re doing. And it was awesome.”

 

Earnhardt’s stop pushed him out ahead of Gordon and in position to quickly dispose of Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvickdrivers that tried to simply stay out and stretch mileage after a series of late cautions bunched up the field. While the No. 24 car struggled to get up to speed in traffic, Earnhardt took control and held off Harvick when he found an extra ounce of speed inside the No. 4 during the final few laps. 

 

“That was mano a mano, guy versus guy,” Earnhardt said. “He’s going to be brave and I got to be brave.”

 

In the past, Harvick would have honestly gotten the upper hand. Just not this year, Earnhardt’s first with three-plus victories since 2004 and only the third time in his 15-year career he’s totaled that high. Sunday was also his first sweep of both races at a track during the same season since 2002 (Talladega). 

 

Can we take the next step and say Earnhardt is a title contender? Teammates Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, along with perhaps Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowsk and Joey Logano will have a say about that when all’s said and done. But with a series-best 10 top-5 finishes, Earnhardt is flexing some consistency muscle that should get him in solid position to make the Final Four at Homestead. In the first year of this crazy format, it’s definitely the best opportunity for Earnhardt to hit paydirt and cash in.

 

 

SECOND GEAR: The “Big One” … at Pocono?  

Typically, a 13-car wreck is reserved for the restrictor plate chaos of Daytona and Talladega. Denny Hamlin had other plans, though, as a bobble off Turn 1 caused Brian Vickers to check up shortly after a double-file restart in a move that spun his No. 55 and wiped out a quarter of the field.

 

“The 15 (Clint Bowyer) was right on my door and it sucked me around,” said Hamlin, adding to a tumultuous week where a P5 penalty for infractions at Indy cost him 75 points, the team a hefty fine and six-week suspensions for both car and crew chief. “I was just hanging on at that point and I think it was mayhem from everyone checking up from behind.”

 

Vickers’ bobble left nowhere to go for “bubble” Chase contenders like Paul Menard and Tony Stewart, who wound up on top of each other after the wreck. (Stewart joked, referring to a previous crash; “I’m always on top of Paul Menard … Car wise! Car wise!”) Vickers, Matt Kenseth and AJ Allmendinger were also among those who lost valuable points.

 

If anything, the incident clarified who’s left in position to make the Chase through points. Greg Biffle, who avoided it, ran fifth, a strong run to move into the final “bubble” spot by just one point over Kasey Kahne. Rookie Austin Dillon sits two points back, while fellow rookie Kyle Larson sits five points ahead of Biffle. If no other drivers break into the win column down the stretch, those four will be battling for the final two spots while winless Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer appear far enough ahead of the pack that they’re safe.

 

What about Menard, Stewart, Vickers and Allmendinger? They join Jamie McMurray in a clear strategy over the final five weeks: Win. That’s it; making the Chase on points just isn’t in the cards, especially if Marcos Ambrose takes Watkins Glen and further tightens the window of “points opportunity.” That could lead to some wild racing up ahead, especially with Stewart’s strength at upcoming tracks and how well Vickers has run at Bristol. Buckle up, race fans; August is about to get pretty awesome on-track. 

 

 

THIRD GEAR: Jimmie Johnson’s battle with Goodyear  Jimmie Johnson

It’s impossible to say Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team are in trouble, despite chalking up their third DNF in four races on Sunday. They’ve stumbled into the Chase every which way, either on top or completely off their game, only to turn around and slaughter the field. No one dares hop off the Johnson-Knaus bandwagon until there’s compelling evidence to do so.

 

But one running theme that is interesting is Johnson’s propensity for tire failures. He had at least one at Pocono, an issue the driver claimed came from hitting the outside wall before a second hard hit ended his day on lap 112. Finishing 39th, it’s his seventh in-race tire failure of 2014, a much higher rate than other top-tier teams. It makes you wonder if Knaus is going way too edgy with air pressure. If he does that during the Chase, ignoring recommendations, one flat Goodyear could flatten Johnson’s hopes for title seven.

 

Of course, it could just be aggressive testing so the No. 48 doesn’t go overboard come September. I’ll keep my vote in that column, for now regardless of what’s said out of that camp.

 

 

FOURTH GEAR: Kevin Harvick scrambles to success

As mentioned plenty in this column in the past, mistakes within Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 team have led to heavy frustration over the summer. Winless since the spring, several races were simply thrown away through pit road mistakes or driving boo-boos that wiped top 5s — even wins — off the table. So a second place Sunday was critical, not just to build momentum but for the team to prove they could rebound from adversity instead of wilting when the going got tough.

 

“I think today was very important,” Harvick told me Sunday, after a pit road speeding penalty put the team behind before his involvement in the lap 117 wreck left the car in need of repair. “That’s what we talked about as we came back from the break was just scrambling, being able to scramble and get a finish of some sort to get something out of a day.

 

“We didn’t have the car that we wanted. I felt like we had a top-three car today. We were going to need track position and things were not really going well. They were able to fix the car after we wrecked it. That’s what you’re going to have to do the last 10 weeks and today, we were able to accomplish that. Hopefully, this is a good sign of things to come.”

 

For a new team where the consensus has been “fastest car on track” most of the season, it’s runs like these that will make believers they’ll go deep into the Chase.

 

 

OVERDRIVE  Danica Patrick

Different strokes for different folks: it’s a quote that can apply to racetracks, as well. There were eight green-flag lead changes in the first 80 laps at Indy, and people were calling for stock cars to exit, stage right. There were eight lead changes in the first 80 laps at Pocono and fans thought it was one of the better races there in several years. … Danica Patrick said, midway through the race on the radio, that her car was so bad and she “didn’t know why.” Um, maybe that’s because you blew a tire and slammed the wall several laps earlier? It was a miracle her No. 10 didn’t wind up on the back of a wrecker; eventually, they sent it to the garage for repairs, but a promising 10th-place qualifying effort wilted into a 3oth-place result, four laps off the pace. … It was a disappointing day for two favorites. Rookie Kyle Larson won the pole, but never led a lap en route to a ho-hum 11th-place finish. Brad Keselowski, who dominated in June, never got out front either, pulling a “save of the year” not to wreck in the first few laps and then got involved in that multi-car wreck. He wound up 23rd. … A race of survival benefited the underdogs, as rookie Justin Allgaier (16th) and veteran David Gilliland (17th) posted season-best results. David Ragan (19th), Gilliland’s teammate, also made it two cars in the top 20 for under-funded Front Row Motorsports.

 

 

Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Post-race reaction from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Post date: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 13:42
Path: /golf/eventful-weekend-golf
Body:

Golf was in the news for a variety of reasons this weekend, not all of them positive. Let's start with the good news.

 

Rory Fills the Void

Tiger Woods' ongoing struggles with his health and his golf game have left a vacuum at the game's apex. Fortunately, Rory McIlroy has proved more than ready to slide seamlessly into the role of golf's standard-bearer. McIlroy followed up his dominant British Open win with another high-profile, big-money triumph at the WGC-Bridgestone, a win that allows him to retake the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. McIlroy quickly erased a three-shot deficit to Sergio Garcia, shooting a final-round 66 to Sergio's 71 for a three-shot win at Firestone Country Club. McIlroy is overpowering golf courses with his length off the tee; this weekend, he produced drives of 349 yards, 345 yards, 331 yards and 330 yards. 

 

"If you're hitting arguably the hardest club in your bag that well, then the other stuff should sort of fall in line,” said McIlroy. “Whenever I drive the ball well, I always put myself in positions where I can attack flags and try and make birdies, but when I'm swinging it well with a driver that sort of funnels through the rest of my game."


Garcia is now 3-for-12 in converting 54-hole leads. “I didn't feel comfortable on the greens at all,” said Garcia, who missed five putts inside 10 feet. “With the spin of the greens changing quite dramatically after the rain, they got a little bit -- they were quite slow from the last three days. I started kind of second-guessing myself every single putt, and because of that, I didn't -- the good putt I hit, I misread, and the bad ones, obviously, weren't going the right direction either.”


Still, the McIlroy-Garcia duo has produced consecutive 1-2 finishes in big-time events. At 34, Sergio's still young enough to provide a compelling foil for McIlroy for the next decade.

 

Tiger's Back

And not in a good way. After hitting an awkward shot and apparently tweaking his ailing, surgically repaired back, Woods limped through nine holes before walking off the course and into the headlines with his latest physical setback. Tiger had sounded the alarm prior to the Bridgestone with these ominously prescient comments: "There's no comparison between a knee and a back. The knee is so much easier to deal with and rehab from than coming back from a back. I've had Achilles injuries, obviously knee surgeries, but this thing is just way different. Most of the people I talked to who have had the procedure have no idea how I'm even back here playing." Woods has yet to rule out this week's PGA Championship, but his season, and his spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, are very much in jeopardy. Here's what Woods had to say following his withdrawal.

 

 

DJ's Leave of Absence

Dustin Johnson was contending for a FedExCup and was expected to be a stalwart for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Now, his future on Tour is up in the air following his announcement that he was taking a leave of absence to deal with "personal challenges," challenges that include reports of a third failed drug test. Not only must the Tour deal with the body blow of a young star's fall from grace, but it also must deal with the public relations fallout of its secretive disciplinary approach. "With regard to media reports that Dustin Johnson has been suspended by the PGA Tour, this is to clarify that Mr. Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension from the PGA Tour,” Ty Votaw, PGA Tour vice president, said on Friday. That exercise in semantics did no one any favors, Johnson included.

 

Notes

• Adam Scott took his loss of the No. 1 world ranking in stride. "It's all good,” said Scott, who had spent the last 11 weeks at No. 1. “It's been a lot of fun. Obviously, Rory's in incredible form at the moment. He'll be the man to beat next week, by the looks of things, and I'll be gunning for him for sure."

 

• The last player to win consecutive starts entering the PGA Championship was Tiger Woods in 2009 when he won the Buick Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational before finishing runner-up to Y.E. Yang at Hazeltine. In retrospect, that's looking like Woods' last gasp in major championship golf.

 

• Phil Mickelson, after bemoaning the state of his game, fired a final-round 62 at the Bridgestone, a round that included 10 birdies, one of them coming on this tasty hole-out from the fairway at 13.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 11:35
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-4-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for August 4:

Yesterday was Evangeline Lilly's 35th birthday. A belated Happy Birthday to Lost's most annoying castaway.

The first Manning Face of 2014 is epic. Let me be the 1,000th person to say that Eli's already in midseason form.

• Andy Dalton, the star of this classic GIF, just signed a $115 million deal with the Bengals.

Clemson QB Cole Stoudt pulls off the mannequin prank.

The Paul George injury could have long-term consequences.

Two boxers had a hilarious confrontation in a restaurant. Had to be staged.

Under Armour's ballet ad is pretty cool.

Tiger's body continues to betray him. Although his caddie is reportedly scouting this week's venue, which sounds like a hopeful sign.

Rory and Sergio are vying to fill the Tiger void. Not surprisingly, Rory's better at it.

A baseball hater's guide to surviving August.

McKayla Maroney got in on the first pitch act with a nice mini-floor routine.

• The D-backs beat the Pirates in controversial fashion.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-qb-battles-watch-2014-fall-practice
Body:

Less than a month remains to the start of the 2014 college football season, and with fall camps opening, positions on every depth chart are up for grabs.

 

While battles on the offensive line, defense and receiving corps are important, the quarterback situations across all FBS teams get the most attention in the fall.

 

There are a handful of top 25 teams searching for answers under center, including Alabama, LSU, Washington and Wisconsin.

 

Additionally, a program like Texas A&M is searching for a replacement for Johnny Manziel, and offensive guru Rich Rodriguez is searching for answers under center at Arizona after sthe spring provided little clarity.

 

Here’s a look at the top 10 quarterback battles for the fall, along with a handful of others to watch in 2014:

 

College Football’s Top 10 Fall QB Battles to Watch

 

Alabama

For the first time since 2011, the Crimson Tide enter a fall with uncertainty at quarterback. AJ McCarron graduated after throwing for 9,019 yards over the last four years, and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin didn’t find an answer in the spring. However, Florida State transfer Jacob Coker arrived on campus this summer, and the Mobile, Ala., native is expected to win the job. Coker threw for 295 yards in a relief role with the Seminoles over the last two years but has the talent to be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. If Coker does not secure the No. 1 spot, Blake Sims or redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman will start. Sims threw for 167 yards as McCarron’s backup last year and is more of a dual threat than Coker.
Projected Winner: Coker

 

Arizona

Rich Rodriguez is regarded as one of college football’s top offensive minds, but he has his work cut out for him this offseason. Arizona opened spring practice with seven quarterbacks vying to replace B.J. Denker and went into the offseason with little clarity under center. Senior Jesse Scroggins has a slight edge over redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, Texas transfer Connor Brewer and junior college recruit (and former LSU quarterback) Jerrard Randall. None of the four frontrunners has ever taken a snap during a regular-season game for the Wildcats. Solomon has the most upside of any quarterback on the roster, but Scroggins likely has the best grasp of the offense. Randall is a wildcard to watch after spending two years at LSU and one at Northeast Mississippi Community College. This battle could continue deep into the season.
Projected Winner: Scroggins

 

LSU

With a stingy defense and a rushing attack that will be among the best in the SEC, LSU won’t ask too much of its quarterback in 2014. And that’s a good thing considering that the Tigers have very little experience at the position. Sophomore Anthony Jennings played sparingly as Zach Mettenberger’s backup in 2013, completing 13-of-29 passes for 181 yards. Jennings led LSU to a last-minute victory over Arkansas and guided the Tigers to a 21–14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Despite his edge in experience, Jennings failed to separate from true freshman Brandon Harris in the spring. Harris was a top-100 recruit in the 2014 signing class and has intriguing dual-threat ability. Jennings may open the year as the starter, but Harris will eventually take the starting spot.
Projected Winner: Harris

 

Miami

Ryan Williams was expected to replace Stephen Morris, but the senior suffered a torn ACL in spring practice. Williams is slated to return sometime during the year, but it’s unlikely he will be ready by the opener. Needing immediate help at quarterback, the Hurricanes brought in transfer Jake Heaps to play in 2014. Heaps struggled at BYU and Kansas (27 interceptions in three years), but the senior has experience and is likely to take the first snap of the season with redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen suspended for at least one game. Touted true freshman Brad Kaaya could push Heaps, Williams and Olsen for snaps depending on how fast he learns the offense. Olsen — the brother of former Miami standout Greg Olsen — had the inside track to start. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and redshirted last season. Kaaya also ranked as a four-star recruit and went 23–3 as a starter in high school. Kaaya has the most upside, but all signs point to Heaps taking the first snap of the year versus Louisville.

Projected Winner: Heaps

 

TCU

After losing four games by a field goal in 2013 and finishing No. 8 in the Big 12 in scoring, coach Gary Patterson decided to start over on offense. New co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie plan to upgrade the passing attack and speed up the tempo in 2014. Junior Trevone Boykin has thrown for 3,252 yards and 22 scores over the last two years, but he could move to receiver to accommodate Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel. The senior is eligible immediately after leaving College Station this spring. Joeckel completed 22 of 37 passes for 293 yards with the Aggies last year and should have a grasp on the offensive scheme after running a similar offense at Texas A&M.

Projected Winner: Joeckel

 

Tennessee

Butch Jones enters his second season in Knoxville looking for more consistency at the quarterback position. The Volunteers had three different players start under center last year, with Justin Worley leading the team with 1,239 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. Nathan Peterman played in four games, while Joshua Dobbs started four games as a true freshman. Tennessee closed spring practice without a declared No. 1, but Worley held a small edge over Dobbs and Peterman. Dobbs has the edge in talent, while Worley’s experience is valuable for a team in transition. Both quarterbacks could play significant snaps this season.

Projected Winner: Worley

 

Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel was the starting quarterback for only two seasons, but he left big shoes to fill in College Station. Matt Joeckel’s post-spring transfer left true freshman Kyle Allen and sophomore Kenny Hill battling to replace Manziel. Allen is regarded by some as the top quarterback recruit in the nation and enrolled early to compete in spring practice. Hill has a small edge in experience, completing 16-of-22 passes for 183 yards last season. Although Allen is regarded as a pocket passer, he does have good mobility. However, Hill is the better runner, rushing for 2,305 yards in his last two seasons in high school. With the opener at South Carolina, could Sumlin choose Hill due to the edge in experience? Even if Hill starts the first game, it won’t be long before Allen takes over the No. 1 spot.
Projected Winner: Allen

 

Washington

Chris Petersen’s first spring practice at Washington was filled with uncertainty at quarterback. The transition from Keith Price to Cyler Miles was expected to be seamless. However, Miles was suspended for spring practice after an off-the-field incident and will miss the opener against Hawaii. The sophomore was reinstated to the team in May, but Troy Williams and Jeff Lindquist already have a head start for the No. 1 job, as both quarterbacks had live reps in a new offense this spring. Miles proved he was capable of being a standout quarterback in the Pac-12 in limited action last year. The sophomore is behind heading into the fall, but Miles is Washington’s best quarterback.

Projected Winner: Miles

 

Wisconsin

Joel Stave has thrown for 3,598 yards and 28 touchdowns over the last two years, but he is locked in a battle with Tanner McEvoy for the starting job this offseason. Stave suffered a shoulder injury in the Capital One Bowl loss to South Carolina and was limited in the spring. That allowed McEvoy, who started his career at South Carolina but transferred to Arizona Western after one year, to close the gap. In his first year with the Badgers, McEvoy made 11 appearances at safety. The junior moved back to quarterback in the spring, where his athleticism could be an asset for an offense looking for a spark under center.
Projected Winner: McEvoy

 

Virginia Tech

As expected in Blacksburg, the Hokies will have one of the nation’s top defenses in 2014. But after averaging 22.8 points in eight ACC contests last year, the offense is a work in progress. Logan Thomas is gone after an up-and-down career, leaving a host of candidates to contend for the starting job. Mark Leal has thrown 48 passes over the last three years and opened spring as the favorite to replace Thomas. However, sophomore Brenden Motley had a strong showing in the spring, and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer will arrive in the summer. Brewer was limited in Lubbock due to a back injury last season.
Projected Winner: Brewer

 

Others to Watch

 

Illinois

Coach Tim Beckman and coordinator Bill Cubit maintain the starting quarterback job is open, but all signs point to Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt as the team’s No. 1 passer. Lunt threw for 1,108 yards and six touchdowns as a true freshman with the Cowboys in 2012 and sat out 2013 due to NCAA transfer rules. Senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey are fighting to unseat Lunt this fall.

 

Kentucky

The Wildcats are making progress under second-year coach Mark Stoops, but improvement may not come in the form of wins in 2014. Finding a quarterback is the top priority for Stoops, as four candidates are fighting for time. True freshman Drew Barker, sophomore Patrick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips and junior Maxwell Smith are in the mix, with Towles finishing the spring at the top of the depth chart. Barker is the team’s most-talented passer and will be tough to keep off the field in 2014.

 

North Carolina

The Tar Heels offense didn’t miss a beat after Bryn Renner was lost for the year due to a shoulder injury against NC State. Williams moved into the starting lineup, and North Carolina went 4-1 over the final five games. Williams has good mobility and improved as a passer last year. He will be pushed by redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky this fall.

 

Oklahoma State

There’s plenty of new faces stepping into key roles on offense in 2014, as the Cowboys return just four starters from last year’s group. Despite the turnover, coach Mike Gundy and coordinator Mike Yurcich should keep this offense among the best in the Big 12. J.W. Walsh left spring with an edge over true freshman Mason Rudolph and junior Daxx Garman. Walsh needs to develop as a passer, but his mobility could be an advantage behind a rebuilt offensive line.

 

Rutgers

As the Scarlet Knights enter Big Ten play, coach Kyle Flood is hoping Ralph Friedgen can push the right buttons for the offense. Friedgen has been out of football for three years but was highly regarded for his work at Maryland and Georgia Tech. Gary Nova had his share of ups and downs during his career and tossed 14 picks last year. Nova will be pushed by junior Mike Bimonte and redshirt freshman Chris Laviano.

 

Vanderbilt

New coach Derek Mason opens his first fall practice with six quarterbacks vying for snaps. LSU transfer Stephen Rivers, redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary and sophomore Patton Robinette are considered the favorites, with true freshmen Shawn Stankavage and Wade Freebeck and junior Josh Grady just behind. Rivers should push for the starting job, but he has little experience from his time at LSU.

 

Virginia

Finding consistent quarterback play is a must for the Cavaliers to push for a bowl game in 2014. David Watford struggled in 2013, throwing 15 interceptions to only eight touchdowns. Sophomore Greyson Lambert pushed ahead of Watford in the spring and is expected to win the job in the fall. Lambert completed 33 of 75 passes for 340 yards and one touchdown last year.

 

Wake Forest

First-year coach Dave Clawson opens fall practice with significant uncertainty at quarterback. Kevin Sousa moved from receiver to quarterback in the spring, while sophomore Tyler Cameron is the team’s most experienced option. True freshmen Travis Smith and John Wolford could earn playing time if Sousa and Cameron struggle.

 

Top Battles Outside Power 5 Conferences

 

Ball State

The Cardinals have 19 victories over the last two years and should be in the mix for the MAC West title despite the loss of a few key players. Sophomore Ozzie Mann completed 2 of 9 passes for 29 yards last season and opens the fall as the No. 1 option. He will compete with redshirt freshman Jack Milas and true freshman David Morrison.

 

Fresno State

Derek Carr departs Fresno State after throwing 50 touchdown passes and 5,083 yards in 2013. Replacing Carr’s production is impossible in 2014, but the Bulldogs should remain in the mix to win the Mountain West. Duke transfer Brandon Connette, junior Brian Burrell and redshirt freshman Zack Greenlee are battling to replace Carr, with Connette and Burrell considered the frontrunners. Connette scored 27 touchdowns with the Blue Devils last year.

 

Northern Illinois

Jordan Lynch leaves big shoes to fill in DeKalb after recording 4,800 total yards in each of the last two years. Three candidates – junior Matt McIntosh and sophomores Drew Hare and Anthony Maddie – are vying for snaps in the fall. McIntosh completed two passes for 54 yards, while Hare rushed for 68 yards last season.

 

SMU

Garrett Gilbert closed out his collegiate career by guiding the SMU passing offense to a No. 1 rank in the American Athletic Conference. Gilbert has expired his eligibility, but the cupboard isn’t bare for coach June Jones. Sophomore Neal Burcham is the frontrunner and started the final two games of 2013. Burcham will face competition from junior college recruit (and former Texas A&M signal-caller) Matt Davis.

 

Toledo

The Rockets – Athlon’s pick to win the MAC West in 2014 – have a three-way battle to replace Terrance Owens. Alabama transfer Phillip Ely, sophomore Logan Woodside and redshirt freshman Michael Julian are battling to start, with Woodside owning a slight edge due to his experience in four games last year.

 

UConn

New coach Bob Diaco inherits an offense that averaged only 20.6 points per game in 2013. Diaco’s job in turning around the offense got tougher in the summer when running back Lyle McCombs was dismissed. Sophomores Tim Boyle and Casey Cochran and senior Chandler Whitmer will battle to start this fall. Cochran threw for six touchdowns to no interceptions in the final two games of 2013 and enters the fall with an edge on Boyle and Whitmer.

 

UCF

Blake Bortles departed for the NFL after leading the Knights to a 12-1 mark last year. Replacing Bortles won’t be easy, but UCF can lean more on its defense and rushing attack with a young quarterback under center. Sophomore Justin Holman left the spring with an edge over redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo and Boise State transfer Nick Patti. Holman completed 9 of 14 passes for 75 yards and one score last year.

Teaser:
College Football's Top QB Battles to Watch in 2014 Fall Practice
Post date: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 09:30

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