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The 2013 NFL Draft is in the books.

Some fans, in Minnesota and St. Louis for example, should be ecstatic about their new toys (Sharrif Floyd, Tavon Austin) while others, in Cleveland, Dallas or Oakland perhaps, might be wondering what just happened in New York. So while more than 250 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed prospects prepare for the long summer trek from being a draft pick to making an NFL roster, the next wave of college stars are already preparing themselves for the 2014 NFL Draft.

And so is Athlon Sports.

With a solid 2013 season on the field and, ideally, an uneventful year off of it, another crop of prospects will hear their name called in Radio City Music Hall in April 2014.

Here are the top 75 prospects to watch on the college gridiron this fall:

* - underclassmen with eligibility remaining

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (6-6, 272)*
Many believe that if the freakish Gamecocks defensive end would have come out this year, he would have been the top pick in the draft. His size, speed and ability to dominate makes him all but a sure-thing on the next level. He was the unanimous No. 1 recruit in the nation who was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2011 before earning the Hendricks Award as the nation’s top pass-rusher in 2012. He enters his third and, all but certain, final season in college with 86 career tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, 21.0 sacks and seven forced fumbles — and one earth-shattering hit on that poor Michigan Wolverine.

2. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (6-6, 310)*
The only player who might be able to push Clowney for top billing is AJ McCarron’s bookend left tackle. The only player considered more important and more valuable than an elite pass-rusher is the guy who can neutralize him — as the top two picks of the 2013 draft indicated. The star left tackle trailed only Clowney in the recruiting rankings two years ago as incoming freshman and both have clearly lived up to the hype. This prototype blocker could play three years at Alabama and walk away with three national championships.

3. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame (6-6, 303)*
Few defensive ends can match the size and power of those prototypical left tackles — like Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher — but Tuitt has the goods. The Monroe (Ga.) High prospect was an elite recruit and has proven that his freakish size was the real deal by playing most of his freshman season and blossoming into a star as just a sophomore last fall. He led an unbeaten team in sacks (12.0) while posting 47 tackles, 13.0 for loss and forcing three fumbles. And just pop in the tape of the 300-pounder returning a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown against Navy to see how well the big fella moves in space. The scouts will fall in love with the talented Golden Domer.

4. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (6-5, 305)
He isn’t as big or as talented as Joeckel, his former teammate, but he isn’t far behind. He has the pedigree as the son of NFL O-line legend Bruce Matthews and it didn’t take long for the star recruit to make an impact. He was named to the Big 12's all-freshman team in 2010 before leading the way in the SEC for Texas A&M’s prolific offense last season. He possesses the toughness, killer instinct and polished technique most players his age lack, undoubtedly from being coached by an NFL Hall of Famer since he first put on a helmet.

5. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (6-0, 195)*
He is undersized but doesn’t lack for big-play ability. The speedster likely would have been the first wide receiver taken had he been able to come out early this spring. He broke all kinds of school and conference records as a sophomore when he led the nation in receptions (118), was second in yards (1,721) and third in all-purpose yards (2,683). He has scored 27 times in just two seasons. Yes, he is undersized but Tavon Austin just proved a smallish all-purpose dynamo can land in the top 10 of the draft.

6. C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama (6-2, 232)
He doesn’t have the ideal frame for a linebacker taken this high in the draft but no player in this class can come close to matching the production, leadership and overall athletic ability of the Theodore (Ala.) High prospect. He is looking for his third national championship in 2013 after a breakout junior season last fall where he tallied 107 tackles, 8.0 for loss, 4.0 sacks, two interceptions and one touchdown. He is the leading tackler and heartbeat at a leadership position on the best team in the nation coached by Nick Saban. Enough said.

7. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (6-7, 308)
The eccentric blocker from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral has elite size and athleticism to go with loads of experience. He enters his final season with 35 starts under his belt and a chance to land in the top 10 of the 2014 draft with another solid season this fall. Under Brady Hoke, Michigan has gone pure pro-style on offense and Lewan has benefited. Now with Devin Gardner under center, Hoke’s offense should flourish with the All-American protecting the blindside.

8. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (6-3, 215)*
The elite recruit from South Florida powerhouse Miami (Fla.) Northwestern is poised for a run at a national championship this fall. The versatile quarterback earned Big East Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman before leading the Cardinals to an 11-2 record, a co-Big East title and high-profile win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. He is efficient — career 66.9 percent completion rate and 27:8 TD:INT rate last year — and has shown the necessary growth as a passer in two year to warrant a top 10 selection. His offensive system won’t allow him to throw for huge numbers but no quarterback in next year’s class combines leadership, efficiency, football IQ, toughness and upside like Bridgewater.

9. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU (6-3, 304)*
The consensus No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in 2011, Johnson earned Freshman All-American honors by multiple media outlets after providing support on that excellent LSU defense. Last year, the New Orleans native produced solid numbers backing up four NFL Draft picks along the D-line. His stats — 30 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks — could triple now that he is a starter and the unquestioned leader of the Bayou Bengals defense.

10. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA (6-4, 245)
DeMarcus Ware comes to mind when watching Barr except the San Pedro (Calif.) Loyola product might be quicker and more athletic. Barr was a five-star recruit who had no position when he got to campus, but in 2012 under Jim Mora, he developed into a freakish edge rusher with an elite combo of size and burst. The All-American posted 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks to go with 83 stops. There is no replacement for big-time production at a coveted position against big-time competition. Look for Barr to have a second All-American campaign in 2013.

Related: Grading every pick of the 2013 NFL Draft first round

11. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame (6-3, 340)
Nix has uncoachable size and power. He is the heart and soul of the interior defensive line for a team that was undefeated in the regular season a year ago. He got very little help from his back seven against Alabama and he will have a year to erase the memory of what took place in the Orange Bowl. He is an active nose guard who fits into multiple defensive schemes and has an excellent understanding of the game. He posted 50 tackles, 7.5 for loss and 2.0 sacks from his tackle position last year. The interior defensive line class looks especially deep in 2014 and this massive Floridian is a big reason why.

12. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 210)*
If fans are looking for the next Robert Griffin III, look no further than the Ohio State quarterback. While he isn’t as polished a passer as the Redskins quarterback, he exudes toughness, leadership and freaky athletic ability like RG3. He takes care of the football — 10 interceptions in 411 attempts — and is just now entering his junior season. He willed his team to an unbeaten record last year and has the Buckeyes poised for a national championship run in 2013. He has the frame, toughness and athletic ability to start in the NFL, and should he refine his in-pocket passing skills, he could press Bridgewater as the top quarterback available.

13. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama (6-1, 210)*
Do the Crimson Tide and former defensive back Nick Saban produce quality NFL prospects in the secondary? Mark Barron, Dee Milliner, Dre Kirkpatrick, Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson would say so. Like Barron, Milliner and Kirkpatrick, Clinton-Dix was a five-star Southern-bred prospect who has developed into one of the nation’s best during his time at Alabama. He has the speed and quickness to play in the slot and over the top and the size and toughness to fill against the run and play around the line when needed. “Ha-Ha” will give Saban yet another first-round defensive back on his resume.

14. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (5-11, 195)*
The Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge prospect doesn’t have elite height like recent first-rounders Dee Milliner or Xavier Rhodes, but Roby will more than hold his own in man coverage. He enters his third year as a starter after 110 tackles, 6.0 for loss, five interceptions and 23 passes broken up over the last two seasons. He has great football instincts, excellent quickness and an uncanny knack for making big plays around the football. At the new glamour position, Roby could easily be the top option in next year’s draft.

15. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (6-6, 266)*
The junior from Fox Island (Wash.) Gig Harbor is as good a tight end prospect as the draft has seen in years. He broke all kinds of freshman receiving records for the Huskies before posting an All-Pac-12 season (69 rec., 850 yards, 7 TDs) a year ago. He has elite size, great hands, excellent athletic ability and will be used in the running game as a blocker. He is a complete tight end prospect in the mold of Tony Gonzalez.

16. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (6-3, 195)
Hideous chest tattoo aside, there is little to not like about McCarron’s resume. He has size, accuracy, poise, footwork, toughness, leadership and is arguably the most successful quarterback in NCAA history when it comes to winning. Yes, he has played on loaded rosters but he also led the nation in passing efficiency and has three national championship rings — two as a starter — and is targeting a fourth. In the modern age of dual-threat athletes under center, McCarron is as traditional as they come.

17. David Yankey, OL, Stanford (6-5, 311)
Where scouts project Yankey on the next level will determine if he is a early or late first-round pick. If the NFL thinks he will stick at tackle, his toughness, leadership and overall size will push him up draft boards. Otherwise, his consensus All-American talents for a team known for producing elite blockers could make him the top interior lineman in the ’14 class. He was voted as the Pac-12's best O-lineman by his defensive line peers a year ago — which includes ’13 first-round names like Star Lotulelei and Datone Jones.

18. Tim Jernigan, DT, Florida State (6-2, 298)*
Just behind Johnson in the recruiting rankings was this Lake City (Fla.) Columbia prospect. Cut from the Sharrif Floyd mold in terms of size and skill, Jernigan was an elite performer for the ACC champs a year ago despite only starting twice. He posted 45 tackles, 8.0 for loss and 1.5 sacks behind 2013 draft picks Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, and he should explode on to the national scene as a full-time starter and leader of the Seminoles' defensive line.

19. Aaron Lynch, DE, USF (6-6, 275)*
Lynch, from Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast was never a fit off the field at Notre Dame and it led to a transfer closer to home at South Florida during the 2012 season. On the field, however, Lynch led the Irish in sacks (5.5) as just a true freshman. He finished the year with 33 tackles, 14 QB hurries and 7.0 tackles for loss. He is an absolute monster and should dominate the American Athletic Conference as a third-year player this fall. He may not be running with the Bulls too long.

20. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (6-1, 205)*
Few true freshmen have ever had a season like Watkins had two years ago in 2011. The National Freshman of the Year was unstoppable as a receiver, return man and occasional running back, posting 1,219 yards receiving, 826 return yards and 231 rushing yards to go with 14 total touchdowns. His burst and explosiveness makes him a much bigger and stronger version of Tavon Austin. That said, he has dealt with off-the-field hurdles that aren’t too worrisome when taken individually but create a track record of poor decision-making. He is an elite big-play machine when focused and healthy, and ideally, 2013 will be a bounce-back campaign.

21. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State (6-2, 225)*
Few players in the nation are as explosive around the football and hit as hard as the Ohio State tackler. He is undersized and will need to prove he can play against linemen more than 100 pounds heavier, but he has speed to burn and plays extremely well in space. After 115 tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and 11 passes deflected as just a sophomore last year, the Plantation (Fla.) High prospect is eyeing a national title run in 2013.

22. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (6-1, 227)
Boyd could have been a first-rounder had he come out after his 46-touchdown junior season. He is a pocket passer with some added mobility and fits the ideal dual-threat mold the NFL is looking for (think Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, not Cam Newton or Michael Vick). He has a big arm, plays in a complex scheme, has posted huge numbers and will be looking for a championship in 2013. A run at an ACC — or national — title will push Boyd up draft boards.

23. Iko Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (5-10, 190)*
Much like Roby, Ekpre-Olomu isn’t overly tall or lengthy, but he has elite speed, better than advertised toughness and bulk and an instinctual nose for the football. He consistently makes big plays in a league stacked with elite passing attacks. The Chino Hills (Calif.) High product finished his sophomore season with 63 tackles, four interceptions (one touchdown) and 16 pass break ups.

24. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford (6-2, 205)
The Floridian who went across the nation for college is a well-coached and savvy competitor who brings excellent size and instincts to the back end of the secondary. In his first full season as the starter, Reynolds posted 47 tackles and six interceptions that he returned for 301 yards. He is a leader of a defense that is one of the stingiest and most disciplined in the nation.

25. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (6-1, 210)*
The undersized gunslinger has been compared to Drew Brees ever since he overcame a broken leg in high school to lead his powerhouse prep team at Tampa (Fla.) Plant to the state title. When it is all over at Georgia, Murray will be the most prolific passer in SEC history (yards, TDs). If he can eliminate the eight quarters of bizarro atrocious play each season and finish the year with a win in Atlanta, he could hear his name called in the top 20. The numbers, intangibles, winning and passing ability equates to NFL starter but the Dawgs signal caller will have to overcome his lack of size.

26. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas (6-5, 245)
Had the star defensive end not been injured for the year against Oklahoma a year ago, he might have entered the draft as a junior. Few players are refined and polished with prototypical NFL size as the son of former NFL star Jim Jeffcoat. He earned a starting spot as just a true freshman three years ago and has been a starter for the Longhorns ever since. He has 117 total tackles, 38.0 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks entering his final season.

27. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU (6-3, 235)
A second outside linebacker from BYU could find his way into the first round in 2014. Van Noy is a much more polished, albeit smaller and slightly less athletic version of former teammate Ezekiel Ansah. He had an all-everything junior season in which he posted 53 tackles, 22.0 tackles for loss, 13.0 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and two blocked kicks. He is undersized to play along the line (think Jarvis Jones) but few players are as productive as the star from Reno, Nevada.

28. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida (6-1, 190)*
The star coverman from Pensacola (Fla.) Pine Forest has never missed a game in his two-year Gators career. In a scheme designed to put the corners on an island, Purifoy uses his elite length, size and quickness to lockdown receivers. He has 78 tackles through two seasons and rarely gets tested by anything but the best of quarterbacks. Look for Purifoy to blossom into an All-American in 2013.

29. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee (6-6, 332)*
Size and athleticism is unteachable and Richardson has the goods in that department. He has developed into a leader on one of the best offensive lines in the nation and will have a chance to improve his stock significantly with a great season in 2013. He has good feet, prototypical size and has flashed the ability to compete with the games best (pop in the South Carolina tape last year). "Tiny" Richardson could easily work his way into the top 10 with a stellar '13.

30. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (5-10, 199)*
He may not look like a workhorse but he plays like one. Carey, as just a sophomore, led the nation in rushing (1,929), set a Pac-12 single game rushing record (366) and scored 24 total touchdowns — all in his first season as the starter. He can play on all three downs and is right at home between the tackles. Packaged with great hands, excellent speed and huge production, Carey is a can't-miss prospect. However, he has dealt with some off-the-field issues (domestic abuse, campus police) and will need to prove he can be a professional to be drafted in the first round.

31. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (6-4, 211)*
Quiet feet, poised, athletic and leadership are the most common words used to describe the redshirt sophomore to be. Mariota plays the game like a fifth-year senior and has exactly what new NFL schemes are looking for — say, Chip Kelly, perhaps. He led the nation in road passing efficiency, proving his unflappable demeanor. Mariota scored 37 total touchdowns in just his first year on a college gridiron and will be one of the reasons fans in Eugene won't miss Kelly in 2013.

32. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon  (5-9, 176)*
He won't ever be a full-time running back in the NFL so landing in the first round might be a reach, but no player in the nation is more of a big-play threat than The Black Mamba. Although, St. Louis just used the No. 8 overall pick to draft someone with virtually identical skills. In two seasons, Thomas has scored 18 rushing touchdowns on 147 carries, 14 touchdowns on 91 receptions and four total return touchdowns. Used in the right role — think Darren Sproles — his home run ability will play on Sundays for years.

The Second Round:

33. Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama (6-6, 252)*
34. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State (6-3, 260)*
35. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (6-0, 200)*
36. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (5-10, 200)*
37. Aaron Colvin, DB, Oklahoma (6-0, 185)
38. Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State (6-1, 290)
39. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor (6-5, 335)
40. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (6-3, 210)
41. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (6-3, 205)
42. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (5-10, 210)
43. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (6-3, 225)*
44. Morgan Breslin, DE, USC (6-2, 250)
45. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State (6-4, 320)
46. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford (6-6, 260)
47. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina (6-7, 305)
48. Josh Shirley, OLB, Washington (6-3, 230)*
40. Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma (6-6, 260)*
50. Lemarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State (5-9, 195)
51. A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee (6-2, 240)*
52. Chaz Green, OT, Florida (6-5, 310)*
53. Dion Bailey, OLB/S, USC (6-1, 210)
54. Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma (6-3, 298)
55. Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State (6-4, 232)
56. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida (6-2, 285)
57. Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia (6-1, 195)*
58. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida (6-0, 180)*
59. David Fales, QB, San Jose State (6-3, 220)
60. Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State (6-3, 245)*
61. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon (6-5, 250)*
62. Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina (6-4, 295)*
63. Deshazor Everett, CB, Texas A&M (6-0, 185)*
64. Craig Loston, S, LSU (6-2, 205)

The Next 11:

65. Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA (6-3, 305)*
66. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (6-0, 200)
67. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (6-6, 260)
68. Cassius Marsh, DL, UCLA (6-4, 270)
69. Trey DePriest, OLB, Alabama (6-2, 245)*
70. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford (6-3, 245)
71. Bryan Stork, C, Florida State (6-4, 312)
72. Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (6-6, 310)
73. Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia (6-5, 260)
74. Anthony Steen, OG, Alabama (6-3, 310)
75. Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame (6-4, 280)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon takes a very early look at who could have their name called in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 11:30
Path: /nascar/harvick-montoya-burton-highlight-wild-nascar-night-richmond
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One of the knocks on NASCAR in recent years has been that it’s too predictable Well, not anymore. Try telling that theory to Las Vegas bookies this week while they’re busy recovering from heart attacks. In the final 10 laps at Richmond, you had a driver with 75/1 odds out front as well as a man who’s never won a race on an oval and without a top-10 finish for 10 months. Moments later, the lead was surrendered to the equivalent of a 15 seed in the NCAA tournament — 100/1 odds, no laps led to that point in the season and no victories in nearly five years. Add in three types of tire strategies and a green-white-checker finish and you had a double-file restart where one of about 15 different drivers, many of them underdogs, had a chance at the win.

It’s the perfect snapshot of why Richmond is one of NASCAR’s best facilities, worshipped by both fans and drivers alike. In the end, that was the only predictable part after a wild week off the track; this .75-mile oval, every time out, forces us to focus on nothing more than what happens on it.

Once the dust settled, Saturday’s winner could certainly relate to that theory as well. We delve into his shocking upset while shifting “Through the Gears” on Richmond storylines …


FIRST GEAR: And it’s Harvick for the steal
There’s a reason Kevin Harvick’s nickname is “The Closer.” Just two years ago, he won three races early in the season by leading a total of just nine laps. Saturday night’s trip to Victory Lane was another classic example of how Harvick has a knack for stepping up late. Starting 17th, his No. 29 Chevrolet was a 10th-place car through lap 300. It took a little strategy — pitting off sequence than other frontrunners for four fresh tires along with one final tweak — to loosen the car up that gave them an extra boost of speed.

“We probably made more adjustments on the car than we’ve made in any race in a couple years,” said crew chief Gil Martin. “But it was right when it needed to be.”

So was the luck. While shot out of a cannon, climbing up to second during the final 50 laps, Harvick would never have passed Juan Pablo Montoya unless a final yellow flag, flown for Brian Vickers’ wreck, to set up a free for all green-white-checker finish. The leaders, sitting ducks on old tires, were forced to pit in a move that jumbled the field. When the dust settled, after choices ranged from staying out to full-service stops, Harvick found himself on the inside line, seventh with four fresh tires while Montoya was stuck on the outside. That made the difference; when the cars came up to speed, “The Closer” had the room to throw his fastball, darting through traffic on the inside while Montoya wound up cornered by the wall.

“We were fortunate to have it all line up,” Harvick said. “I drove it in there, hoped for the best. Figured four, eight, 12 … whatever was on the outside tire-wise would be plenty to lean on and by the time we got to the backstretch, everything had cleared out.”

By the white-flag lap Harvick had moved up six spots, disposing of teammate Jeff Burton, and darted off to the win. His three laps led, total, tripled his total output in that category after a miserable first eight races of 2013.

That’s why this win is so big. Harvick, for all his bravado about dumping the “lame duck” status, is moving on from Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season. Outside the top 10 in points for much of the year, his No. 29 team has been little more than a top-15 car — six of his ninth finishes, in fact, are between 12th and 14th. Making the Chase was far from a guarantee, especially when considering his pending departure. Now, he and a penalized Matt Kenseth may be forcing struggling veterans like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and the injured Denny Hamlin to capture at least two victories should they use up those “wild card” spots.
 

Teaser:
<p> Reaction from NASCAR's weekend at Richmond International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 11:13
Path: /college-basketball/revised-college-basketball-early-top-25-2013-14
Body:

The NBA’s early entry draft deadline has come and gone, creating enough movement to make us re-evaluate our early rankings for 2013-14.

Chief among them, we re-visited Oklahoma State after the Cowboys returned point guard Marcus Smart. Originally, we did not rank Oklahoma State under the assumption Smart, projected to be a top-three pick, would leave for the draft. His return makes Oklahoma State the early Big 12 favorite.

We also bumped Louisville up one spot to No. 2, giving the Bluegrass State the top two teams heading into the season. Russ Smith elected to return to school, boosting Louisville’s chances of repeating. As long as Kentucky doesn’t stand in the way.

A handful of key moves could still impact the rankings for 2013-14, chief among them an announcement by freshman Andrew Wiggins. The top prospect in the 2013 class is considering Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Tarik Black, who announced his intention to transfer from Memphis, has become a highly coveted commodity despite meager output last season (8.1 points, 4.8 rebounds). But teams like Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Oregon and others badly need a big man.

And aside from transfers, most of the rosters are set for 2013-14. Here’s how things shake out right.

REVISED COLLEGE BASKETBALL EARLY TOP 25 FOR 2013-14

1. KENTUCKY

Key players gone: Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays, Nerlens Noel

Top returners: Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer

New faces: Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle, James Young (all freshmen)
The loss to Robert Morris in the NIT is a distant memory for Kentucky, mainly because most of the key players for 2013-14 didn’t play in the game. The Wildcats will be back in national title contention thanks to a recruiting class that includes six of the top 15 prospects in the 247Sports Composite Rankings. If Kentucky lands top-ranked recruit Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky would have four of the top five prospects. Even if last season went awry, John Calipari has proven he can win a title with freshmen of this caliber.

2. LOUISVILLE
Key players gone: Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva

Top returners: Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell, Russ Smith, Kevin Ware
New faces: Anton Gill (Hargrave Military Academy), Chris Jones (junior college), Terry Rozier (Hargrave)

Smith’s father said after the Cardinals’ title that his son would head to the NBA Draft, but Smith instead returned to school for more development. His return gives Louisville an even better opportunity to defend its title (Athlon had Louisville ranked third in its first swipe at 2013-14). With Siva gone, the junior college transfer Jones takes over the point, and now Gill and Rozier give the Cards an enviable rotation in the backcourt. The returning cast of Hancock and Harrell were at their best late in the season, and Behanan had one of his best games of the year in the title game.

3. MICHIGAN STATE
Key players gone: Derrick Nix

Top returners: Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice

Nix is the only one of the top seven scorers gone from a team that went 27-9. Harris considered the draft, but the smooth-shooting guard returned after averaging 12.9 points per game and 45.6 shooting from the field. Payne took his decision down to the wire, but his return gives Tom Izzo a veteran team with Final Four potential.

4. DUKE

Key players gone: Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee

Top returners: Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins, Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Rasheed Sulaimon, Tyler Thornton

New faces: Rodney Hood (Mississippi State transfer), Matt Jones (freshman), Semi Ojeleye (freshman), Jabari Parker (freshman)

The losses of Curry, Kelly and Plumlee are huge, but this is Duke. Sulaimon is the top returner. He stood out on the defensive end last season and proved he could carry the scoring load. Cook was a pleasant surprise at point guard for a team that spent most of the season in the top three. Of the newcomers, Parker could fill Kelly’s versatility and Jones could fill Curry’s role as a shooter. Dawkins, who averaged better than eight points per game in each of his last two seasons, returns after he sat out in 2012-13.

5. ARIZONA
Key players gone: Solomon Hill, Grant Jerrett, Mark Lyons, Keith Parrom

Top returners: Brandon Ashley, Nick Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski

New faces: Aaron Gordon (freshman), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (freshman), T.J. McConnell (Duquesne transfer)
Arizona will miss Hill’s leadership and Lyons’ scoring, but Sean Miller can restock a roster. The Wildcats got a major boost for the upcoming season when they landed McDonald’s All-American power forward Aaron Gordon. Hopes are high for Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell to become a floor general at point guard. Jerrett, who averaged 5.2 points per game and 3.6 rebounds, made a surprising decision to leave for the draft

6. FLORIDA

Key players gone: Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario

Top returners: Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguette, Patric Young

New faces: Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech transfer), Damontre Harris (South Carolina transfer), Kasey Hill (freshman), Chris Walker (freshman)
The Gators’ season looks a bit better with Young electing to return to school, but he still needs to become a more dominant player befitting his size. Wilbekin and Yeguette, who anchored the Gators’ in the defensive end, also return. Much will depend on the newcomers. Hill is one of the top point guard recruits to come to Florida under Billy Donovan. Finney-Smith, a McDonald’s All-American in 2011, was one of the top freshmen in the ACC at Virginia Tech, averaging 6.3 points and seven rebounds. With Chris Walker, Florida will have one of the top front lines in the country.

7. OKLAHOMA STATE

Key players gone: Philip Jurick

Top returners: Markel Brown, Michael Cobbins, Phil Forte, Kamari Murphy, Le’Bryan Nash, Marcus Smart

New faces: Stevie Clark, Detrick Mostella (freshmen)
Smart’s return was a shocker. It also may be the first threat to Kansas’ dominance in the Big 12 in a few years. The Cowboys return four scorers who averaged double figures last season and went 13-5 in the Big 12 before running into under-seeded Oregon in the NCAA Tournament.

8. OHIO STATE

Key players gone: Deshaun Thomas, Evan Ravenel

Top returners: Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, Amir Williams

New faces: Marc Loving, Kameron Williams (freshmen)
Much of Ohio State’s season will depend on how the Buckeyes’ replace Thomas’ prolific scoring. LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. started to show they were capable of carrying the load near the end of the season, but they need to be ready for bigger roles.

9. NORTH CAROLINA
Key players gone: Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland

Top returners: P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo, Leslie McDonald, Marcus Paige

New faces: Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks (freshmen)
James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston both elected to return to school after North Carolina struggled to live up to expectations last season. The Tar Heels didn’t find their groove until going to a four-guard lineup so it will be interesting to see how incoming freshman big men Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks impact the rotation.

10. MICHIGAN

Key players gone: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.

Top returners: Spike Albrecht, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas

New faces: Zak Irvin (freshman)
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t shock anyone by going to the draft. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III returned for their sophomore seasons to give the Wolverines a chance on building on last season, though a return to the Final four may be tough. The pressure will be on McGary to prove he carry his tournament momentum into a full season.

Related: Grading the new coaches for 2013-14

11. SYRACUSE

Key players gone: Michael Carter-Williams, James Southerland, Brandon Triche

Top returners: Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Baye Keita

New faces: Tyler Ennis, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson (freshmen)
Replacing the starting backcourt of Carter-Williams and Triche will be challenging as the Orange move to the ACC. Syracuse is counting on incoming point guard Ennis and shooting guard Patterson, who signed with Indiana before going to prep school, to take those roles. Fair is the only returning player who averaged more than 5.1 points last season.

12. WICHITA STATE

Key players gone: Malcolm Armstead, Carl Hall, Demetric Williams

Top returners: Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton, Cleanthony Early, Fred VanVleet, Jake White

New faces: D.J. Bowles (freshman), Kadeem Coleby (Louisiana-Lafayette transfer), Earl Watson (junior college), Evan Wessel (redshirt)
The Shockers will miss Armstead and Hall from the Final Four run, but don’t forget Wichita State played most of the season without the redshirt freshman Baker. With Early, Baker and Cotton, there’s enough returning to win the Missouri Valley this season. The Shockers should fill their void with two players who redshirted last season -- 6-foot-9 Louisiana-Lafayette transfer Coleby and local 6-5 guard Wessel.

13. VCU

Key players gone: Darius Theus, Troy Daniels

Top returners: Rob Brandenburg, Treveon Graham, Juvonte Reddic, Melvin Thomas, Briante Weber

New faces: Jordan Burgess (redshirt)
Five of the top seven players return to VCU, including three who averaged double-figure scoring. Theus’ 2.4 steals per game will be missed in the defensive end, but there’s a lot to like about a VCU team that went 12-5 in its first season in the Atlantic 10.

14. WISCONSIN

Key players gone: Jared Beggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans

Top returners: Ben Brust, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson

Players come and go, but Wisconsin is pretty much automatic to contend in the Big Ten and reach the NCAA Tournament under Bo Ryan. In 2013-14, the Badgers return one of the Big Ten’s most underrated freshmen in Sam Dekker plus a healthy Josh Gasser.

15. TENNESSEE

Key players gone: Kenny Hall, Skyler McBee

Top returners: Trae Golden, Jeronne Maymon, Jordan McRae, Josh Richardson, Jarnell Stokes

New faces: Robert Hubbs (freshman)
The Volunteers came together late in the season, but it wasn’t enough to get in the NCAA Tournament. With the core of Golden, McRae and Stokes, plus a healthy Maymon, this should be the year for Cuonzo Martin. Stokes considered the draft but elected to return to school.

16. MARQUETTE

Key players gone: Juan Anderson, Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett
Top returners: Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, Jamil Wilson

New faces: Deonte Burton (freshman), JaJuan Johnson (freshman), Jameel McKay (junior college), Duane Wilson (freshman)

Vander Blue’s departure hurts and knocks Marquette out of the preseason top 10. Gardner (11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Jamil Wilson (9.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg) still give Buzz Williams veterans to work with in 2013-14. In addition to the returners, Marquette may have a new point guard (Wilson) and two major freshmen in Johnson and Burton.

17. CONNECTICUT

Key players gone: None

Top returners: Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander

At 20-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big East, Connecticut had the look of an NCAA Tournament team despite the postseason ban. With nearly everyone returning after Napier’s decision to return to school, the Huskies should be able to realize that goal.

18. MEMPHIS
Key players gone: Tarik Black, D.J. Stephens, Adonis Thomas

Top returners: Chris Crawford, Shaq Goodwin, Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson

New faces: Markel Crawford, Kuron Iverson, Nick King, Austin Nichols, RaShawn Powell (all freshmen)
After winning a Tournament game, going 16-0 in Conference USA and adding another top recruiting class, Memphis has the most momentum it’s had under Josh Pastner. Now, the Tigers head to the American Athletic Conference.

19. GONZAGA
Key players gone: Elias Harris, Guy Landry-Edi, Kelly Olynyk

Top returning players: Gary Bell Jr, Sam Dower, Przemek Karnowski, Kevin Pangos, David Stockton

New faces: Gerald Coleman (Providence transfer), Angel Nunez (Louisville transfer)
The front line takes a hit without Olynyk and Harris, but Mark Few’s backcourt should be solid.

Related: Winners and losers from the NBA Draft early entry deadline

20. COLORADO

Key players gone:
Sabatino Chen
, Andre Roberson
Top returners: Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie, Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott, Andre Roberson

Led by Dinwiddie and Booker, Colorado’s roster returns mostly intact after the program’s second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Buffaloes struggled down the stretch, but a handful of freshmen played key minutes. This should be Colorado’s breakout season under Tad Boyle if the Buffs can find away to replace Roberson's prowess on the glass.

21. NEW MEXICO
Key players gone: Tony Snell, Demetrius Walker
Top returning players: Cameron Bairstow, Alex Kirk, Hugh Greenwood, Kendall Williams

New faces: Cullen Neal (freshman)
Craig Neal was promoted to coach a 29-6 team that returns virtually intact. The Lobos may be the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, but that Tournament loss to Harvard will be tough to forget.

22. INDIANA

Key players gone: Remy Abell, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Cody Zeller

Top returning players: Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey

New faces: Luke Fischer, Stanford Robinson, Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams (all freshmen)
Indiana can’t help but take a step back with all those losses, but the Hoosiers have recruited well enough to stay in the mix in the Big Ten. The pressure will be on the point guard Ferrell.

23. UCLA

Key players gone: Shabazz Muhammad, Larry Drew II

Top returners: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, David Wear, Travis Wear

New faces: Zach LaVine (freshman)
Steve Alford is set up nicely in his first season at UCLA with Adams and Anderson returning.

24. KANSAS

Key players gone: Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young

Top returning players: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe

New faces: Joel Embiid (freshman), Conner Frankamp (freshman), Brannen Green (freshman), Landen Lucas (redshirt), Wayne Selden (freshman)
Kansas loses its starting five, but it’s risky to bet against the Jayhawks in the Big 12. They’ll find a way.

25. SAINT LOUIS
Key players gone: Kwamain Mitchell, Cody Ellis

Top returners: Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett, Rob Loe, Mike McCall

Jim Crews has the job full-time and a chance to repeat in the Atlantic 10. Replacing Kwamain Mitchell’s 30 minutes per game will be tough.

Also considered: Alabama, Baylor, Cal, Creighton, Harvard, Iowa, Notre Dame, Virginia, Villanova

Teaser:
<p> NBA Draft's Early Entry Deadline shuffles teams in our look at next season</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/2013-top-25-undrafted-free-agents-nfl-over-last-25-years
Body:

Even though 254 players were taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, they aren't the only ones who will get a chance to make an NFL roster this fall. Every team signs numerous undrafted free agents following the festivities in New York. As history has shown, more than a fair share of these UDFAs not only play in the NFL, but enjoy long and productive careers. In fact, a select few have already been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the possibility of more to come.

Could Tyler Bray, Da'Rick Rogers, Kevin Reddick, Matt Scott or Chase Thomas be that next UDFA who makes the Pro Bowl or becomes an All-Pro? Here’s a look at those NFL stars who earned it the hard way. Our list of the top 25 undrafted free agents begins with the 1988 draft, so you will not see Hall of Famers like Dick “Night Train” Lane, Warren Moon or Willie Wood below.

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

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

3. Antonio Gates, TE, Kent State
The Chargers turned to the basketball court to find Gates, who did not play college football. He’s made eight Pro Bowls in 10 seasons in San Diego, and Gates has amassed over 8,300 receiving yards and 83 touchdowns in his career.

4. Wes Welker, WR, Texas Tech
The ultra-quick Welker was initially signed by San Diego following the 2004 draft, but then was cut and landed in Miami. He joined New England in 2007 and proceeded to put up an NFL-leading 672 receptions, along with 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns, in his six seasons with the Patriots. Welker signed with Denver as a free agent in March, meaning he will go from one future Hall of Fame quarterback (Tom Brady) to another (Peyton Manning).

5. Adam Vinatieri, K, South Dakota State
Some may disagree with having a kicker this high, but Vinatieri’s contributions to elite teams should not be undervalued. He has been a part of four championships with the Patriots and Colts and made a last-second, game-winner in two of those Super Bowls.

6. Tony Romo, QB, Eastern Illinois
The popular, yet polarizing, Cowboys signal caller is still building his legacy, but he has already made three Pro Bowls and tossed 177 touchdowns in 93 starts. Romo’s career passer rating is a very impressive 95.6.

7. London Fletcher, LB, John Carroll
The undersized tackling machine has been a playmaker with the Rams, Bills and Redskins for over a decade now. He has never missed a game in 15 NFL seasons and has started every game over the last 12 years.

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

9. Brian Waters, G, North Texas
Waters failed to latch on with the Cowboys during his first year out of college in 1999, but he found a home in Kansas City the next season. The elite blocker made five Pro Bowls with the Chiefs and then a sixth with the Patriots in 2011.

10. James Harrison, LB, Kent State
Harrison played 10 seasons (2002, '04-10) in Pittsburgh prior to signing with Cincinnati as a free agent this offseason. The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison went from undrafted rookie to a playmaking force for the Steelers and helped the franchise win two more Super Bowl titles.

11. Rod Smith, WR, Missouri Southern
He played his entire 12-year career in Denver, and Smith’s 849 receptions put him in the top 20 in NFL history. He was a part of two Super Bowl winners with the Broncos and went over 1,000 yards receiving eight times.

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

13. Arian Foster, RB, Tennessee
The Texans star runner is the youngest member on this list, but he has put up some staggering numbers over the last three seasons. Foster led the NFL in rushing in 2010 with 1,616 yards and has followed that up with two more 1,200-yard campaigns. He also has scored a total of 29 touchdowns in the past two seasons combined.

14. Jesse Tuggle, LB, Valdosta
The Georgia native played for the Falcons from 1987-2000, amassing more than 1,800 tackles in 209 games. “The Hammer” was a five-time Pro Bowler, and Tuggle’s No. 58 was retired by Atlanta in 2002.

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

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

17. Bart Scott, LB, Southern Illinois
The entertaining linebacker has played on some quality defenses with both the Ravens and Jets, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2006. Over his last seven seasons, Scott has missed just one game and made 108 starts.

18. David Akers, K, Louisville
The reliable kicker led the NFL in scoring in both 2010 and '11. Akers has made 367 career field goals and has posted an 81 percent career accuracy rate. He has earned six Pro Bowl invites in his career kicking for both the Eagles and 49ers.

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

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

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

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

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

24. Josh Cribbs, WR/KR/PR, Kent State
The college quarterback has been mainly known as a return specialist for the Browns, but he did have 445 yards receiving and 614 yards rushing from 2008-10. Cribbs has averaged 25.9 yards on 387 career kickoff returns, with eight of those resulting in touchdowns.

25. Cullen Jenkins, DL, Central Michigan
The younger brother of Kris Jenkins turned himself into a solid interior defender with the Packers and Eagles after some time in NFL Europe. He posted a career high in tackles last season with Philadelphia. He signed with the New York Giants this offseason.

Teaser:
<p> Top 25 Undrafted Free Agents in the NFL over the last 25 Years</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /news/kansas-states-tyler-lockett-makes-crazy-juggling-grab-spring-game
Body:

Spring practice and final scrimmages aren’t always the most exciting part of college football, but there are a few noteworthy highlights each year.

Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett provided one of those moments on Saturday, as the junior was targeted by quarterback Daniel Sams in the back of the end zone. However, the ball was tipped by the safety, which resulted in Lockett bouncing it twice off his hands before catching it for a touchdown.

Lockett is one of college football's most dangerous return men, but now he can add this impressive highlight reel to his resume. 

Teaser:
<p> Kansas State's Tyler Lockett Makes Crazy, Juggling Grab in Spring Game</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 08:05
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-running-backs-2013
Body:

Eddie Lacy, Mike Gillislee and Zac Stacy are gone, but the SEC isn’t hurting for options at running back.

Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon are back after standout freshman seasons. And both players are due for a bigger workload in 2013.

Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins quietly rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, while Texas A&M’s Ben Malena is an underrated option in a deep stable of backs.

This group could get even deeper in 2013, especially if Missouri’s Henry Josey returns full strength from a knee injury.

College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top running backs in each conference. Note: Some projection of 2013 stats was considered for this ranking.

Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia (SO)
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound sophomore from Tarboro (N.C.) High is anything but the vibe his surname portrays. The physical monster stepped right into the lineup as a freshman and made fans in Athens forget all about dismissed SEC Freshman of the Year Isaiah Crowell. Gurley was just the second UGA freshman to top 1,000 yards (1,385) and set the freshman school record with 17 touchdowns. He has the power to plow through the interior of SEC defenses and the speed to outrun SEC linebackers and safeties. He even returned kicks at times last year, scoring on an NCAA-record 100-yard return in his first career game.
 

2. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (SO)
With Eddie Lacy moving on to the NFL, it’s Yeldon’s turn to be the premier back for Alabama. As a true freshman last season, he recorded 1,108 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on 175 attempts. Yeldon posted back-to-back 100-yard efforts to end the season, including 153 on the ground in the SEC Championship Game victory over Georgia. Alabama has some holes to fill on the offensive line, and a cast of talented freshmen will join the team this summer. However, Yeldon is poised to easily surpass last year’s totals as he assumes the feature back role in 2013.
 

3. Jeremy Hill, LSU (SO)
Due to a recent arrest, Hill’s No. 3 ranking is in doubt. While the sophomore is one of the SEC’s most-talented rushers, there’s a good chance he misses some game action this year. Hill barely played through the first six weeks of 2012, with his best performance coming against Idaho – 61 yards and two touchdowns. However, Hill emerged as LSU’s top back in the second half of the season, recording three consecutive 100-yard efforts in SEC play and finishing with 124 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson. Against Alabama, Hill rushed for 107 yards and one score. If he’s on the field this year, Hill is a safe bet to earn All-SEC honors.
 

4. Keith Marshall, Georgia (SO)
The complementary piece to Gurley in the Georgia backfield is fellow sophomore Keith Marshall. Also from the Tar Heel State — Raleigh's Millbrook High School — Marshall competed against Gurley on the football field and on the track team in high school. His speed played immediately in the SEC, rushing for 759 yards and eight scores as the primary backup in Athens. He will stretch the defense to the sidelines and can score on any play. Packaged with Gurley, the Dawgs may boast the best backfield in the nation.
 

5. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State (SR)
The senior tailback from Greenville (Miss.) St. Joseph burst onto the scene in Starkville with 101 carries and 566 yards as a freshman. He provided an excellent change of pace option behind Vick Ballard and on special teams until last season when he finally got the chance to start full-time. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound speedster blossomed into one of the league’s better backs, rushing for 1,024 yards on 5.0 yards per carry and scoring 10 total touchdowns. He is a great fit in Dan Mullen’s spread offense and should once again reach 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2013.
 

6. Ben Malena, Texas A&M (SR)
Malena may not have the numbers that T.J. Yeldon or Todd Gurley will produce, but the senior has the talent to rank among the best running backs in the SEC. In his first full season as a starter, Malena rushed for 808 yards and eight scores on 138 attempts. He also factored into the passing attack, catching 18 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown. For a running back that is only 5-foot-8, Malena has surprising power and averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2012. Malena will share time with Tra Carson, Brandon Williams and Trey Williams, but the senior is one of the SEC’s top backs.
 

7. Jeff Scott, Ole Miss (SR)
A dynamic South Florida prospect from Miami has watched his production slowly improve year after year. The tiny tailback — 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds — has increased his carries, yards and touchdowns for three straight seasons, but has yet to explode into the spotlight. With Hugh Freeze’s new offense spreading the ball around, Scott may never be a true workhorse, but will certainly be the most experienced and dependable runner in the crowded Ole Miss backfield.
 

8. Marlin Lane, Tennessee (JR)
If disciplinary reasons do not get in the way, Lane could be in for a breakout junior season. The Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland prospect is shifty, fast and tough at the point of attack. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry a year ago and was less than 50 yards away from leading the team. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder is the better overall player than Raijon Neal but the duo should work perfectly in tandem behind what should be one of the nation’s best offensive lines. Again, if he is reinstated (which seems likely) and can walk the straight and narrow.
 

9. Rajion Neal, Tennessee (SR)
The senior from Fayetteville (Ga.) Sandy Creek had his best season last fall as a Vol. He led the team in rushing with 708 yards and five touchdowns while providing support as a receiver. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound tailback never separated himself from Marlin Lane, however, and will have to split time with Lane, his backfield mate in 2013. If he can play with more consistency, dependability and toughness, he could have a big year behind a great O-line.
 

10. Tre Mason, Auburn (JR)
Mason was one of the lone bright spots on Auburn’s offense last season. After rushing for 161 yards and one touchdown as a true freshman in 2011, Mason rushed for 1,002 yards and eight scores last season. He didn’t record a 100-yard effort in SEC play, averaging 59.1 yards per game. Cameron Artis-Payne will split time with Mason, but the junior could rush for 1,000 yards once again in 2013.


11. Wesley Tate, Vanderbilt (SR)
A local product from Hendersonville (Tenn.) Pope John Paul II, Tate enters his final season on West End with a chance to be a star. The big (6-1, 215) running back was No. 2 on the team behind Zac Stacy in carries (107) and touchdowns (8) and was given important carries throughout the season in key situations. He will battle with former star recruit Brian Kimbrow for carries all season long but is much better suited to be the workhorse James Franklin wants. After playing multiple positions throughout his career at Vandy, Tate is finally settled as a running back and could have a huge season for the Dores.
 

12. Alfred Blue, LSU (SR)
Before a knee injury sidelined him after the third game last season, Blue was poised to emerge as LSU’s feature back. In his career in Baton Rouge, Blue has rushed for 910 yards and 10 touchdowns, including 101 against Washington last year. With Jeremy Hill’s status in doubt, Blue and Kenny Hilliard could be asked to shoulder more of the workload this year. Even if Hill is on the team, Blue will see more than a handful of touches as LSU’s No. 2 back.
 

13. Henry Josey, Missouri (JR)
Josey sat out last year after suffering a serious knee injury during the 2011 season. Before the injury, the Texas native had 1,168 yards rushing and nine scores, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. Considering the severity of the injury, it’s uncertain if Josey can come back at full strength. However, having the junior back in the mix should help Missouri’s offense, even if he doesn’t average 8.1 yards per carry this year.
 

14. Mike Davis, South Carolina (SO)
The short, burly runner from Lithonia (Ga.) Stephenson has workhorse written all over him. He is just 5-foot-9 but checks in at 215 pounds, making Davis difficult to tackle and find in open space. He carried for 275 yards and two scores as a true freshman last year and appears to be the heir apparent to Marcus Lattimore for Steve Spurrier. He got plenty of looks down the stretch once Lattimore got hurt — 13 carries against Arkansas and 12 against Clemson — and should have a breakout 2013 season.
 

15. Brian Kimbrow, Vanderbilt (SO)
The smallish sophomore-to-be was one of the most heralded recruits to ever sign with Vanderbilt out of Memphis (Tenn.) East. He checks in at just 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds but has speed to burn and is an incredibly versatile player. As just a true freshman, Kimbrow rushed for 413 yards and three scores while also returning kicks. Look for the coaching staff to get him the ball in a variety of ways all over the field. So while he won’t be considered the workhorse starter, he will figure prominently into the offensive gameplan all season long.
 

16. Kenny Hilliard, LSU (JR)
As mentioned with Alfred Blue, Hilliard’s role in the backfield could increase in 2013. With Jeremy Hill’s status in doubt, Hilliard should shift from the No. 3 to the No. 2 role behind Blue. In 12 games last year, Hilliard rushed for 464 yards and six touchdowns. His most impressive performance came against North Texas, which resulted in 141 yards rushing and two scores on 13 attempts. At 6-foot and 231 pounds, the Louisiana native may split time at fullback, but his role won’t be defined until Hill’s status is cleared for 2013.
 

17. Kelvin Taylor, Florida (FR)
One the top running back prospects in the nation comes to Gainesville with a high-profile prep resume and familiar surname to match. Fred Taylor’s son has been a star in the Sunshine State for years and will undoubtedly get carries as a prototypical workhorse back.
 

18. Derrick Henry, Alabama (FR)
Henry ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and is one of four freshmen backs stepping onto campus for Alabama in 2013. Henry is a load for opposing defenses at 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds and is expected to factor prominently into the backfield this year. He missed the spring game due to a leg injury, but all signs point to a return to full strength by fall practice.
 

19. Brandon Williams, Texas A&M (SO)
Williams ranked as one of the top running back recruits in the 2011 signing class. The Texas native spent one season at Oklahoma, rushing for 219 yards on 46 attempts. Williams transferred to Texas A&M after that season and is eligible after sitting out 2012 due to NCAA regulations. Ben Malena will receive the bulk of the carries for Texas A&M, but Williams should see plenty of touches this fall.
 

20. Trey Williams, Texas A&M (SO)
After averaging 5.8 yards per carry as a true freshman, the Texas A&M coaching staff plans to get Williams more involved with the offense in 2013. The Texas native ranked as one of the top running back recruits in the nation in the 2012 signing class and contributed right away on special teams with an average of 22.3 yards per return. With his 4.4 speed, Williams is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.


21. Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn (JR)
Tre Mason is Auburn’s No. 1 running back, but Artis-Payne wasn’t brought in to sit on the bench. The top-50 junior college recruit made quite an impression this spring, which included 117 yards rushing in the A-Day Game. At 208 pounds, Artis-Payne brings impressive power to the backfield and will be counted on to serve as Auburn’s No. 2 back this year.
 

22. Brandon Wilds, South Carolina (SO)
The in-state sophomore had an excellent true freshman season in 2011 subbing for the injured Marcus Lattimore. However, he missed all of 2012 with an ankle injury. He will have to earn his carries back but should be an excellent complementary piece in 2013.
 

23. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas (SO)
With Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis departing, Arkansas is essentially starting over in the backfield. After rushing for 231 yards on 45 attempts last year, Williams is the front-runner to shoulder the bulk of the carries for the Razorbacks in 2013. However, the Texas native will be pushed by incoming freshman Alex Collins.
 

24. Alex Collins, Arkansas (FR)
Collins was one of the top catches in Bret Bielema’s first recruiting class at Arkansas. The Florida native ranked as the No. 41 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and has the skill set to be the Razorbacks’ feature back. Collins will compete with Jonathan Williams for the starting job this fall.
 

25. Raymond Sanders, Kentucky (SR)
The diminutive runner from Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson posted his best career numbers last fall (669 yards, 5 TD) and will look to build on those in 2013. He is shifty and versatile in space so look for new offensive coordinator Neal Brown to take full advantage.

Others to Watch

26. Kenyan Drake, Alabama (SO)
27. Jerron Seymour, Vanderbilt (SO)
28. Josh Robinson, Mississippi State (SO)
29. Jalston Fowler, Alabama (JR)
30. Matt Jones, Florida (SO)
31. Mark Dodson, Ole Miss (FR)


by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)


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Teaser:
<p> Ranking the SEC's Running Backs for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/which-team-louisvilles-biggest-challenger-big-east-2013
Body:

Louisville is a heavy favorite to win the Big East/American Athletic Conference in 2013. With quarterback Teddy Bridgewater returning, along with one of the conference’s best defenses, the Cardinals have a good opportunity to finish the season with a perfect 12-0 mark.

While Louisville is a clear No. 1, there’s a lot of debate about which team should be projected to finish second.

Cincinnati, UCF and Rutgers are the most likely candidates for the No. 2 spot, but there’s plenty of division among early preseason predictions.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Which Team is Louisville's Biggest Challenger in the Big East in 2013?

Mark Ennis, SBNation.com College Football Contributor, (@Mengus22)
It might surprise some to see this, but if I had to name the team most likely to challenge Louisville for the Big East title next year, I'd say it'll be one of the newcomers: UCF. These transitions to new leagues don't always go well. West Virginia got a bit of a rude awakening in the Big 12, and Temple struggled mightily in year one of the Big East as well. Still, there are reasons to believe UCF will hit the ground running in the Big East. First, the schedule. The Knights don't play Cincinnati, and get Rutgers, (new) rival South Florida, Connecticut, and Houston all at home. They do have to travel to Louisville, but even then, they get 13 days to prepare for the Cardinals and their Friday night game in October. Second, UCF returns quarterback Blake Bortles, who quietly had a fantastic 2012 season, throwing for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns. It also helps that Bortles returns several of his top receiving targets and Storm Johnson at running back. Third, UCF was looking at playing the 2013 season with no chance of a conference title or a bowl game. However, with the rather stunning upset of the NCAA, the postseason ban was lifted and now George O'Leary will have a chance to win a conference title and reach the postseason. Fourth, UCF might be in somewhat new territory, but it enters an America Athletic Conference with one of the more stable head coaching situations. All but three other programs in the conference will be in their first or second year under a new head coach. The stability at Central Florida should pay off with a successful initial season in a new league and make them the biggest contender to Louisville in 2013.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With 13 starters back – including potential All-American quarterback Teddy Bridgewater – it’s hard to see any team threatening Louisville in the final American/Big East standings. I like UCF as a sleeper team to watch in the conference title picture, but I have to go with Cincinnati as the No. 2 team in the Big East/American. 

The Bearcats return 13 starters, and quarterback Brendon Kay played well over the final five games of 2013. Cincinnati is solid in the trenches, including an offensive line that could rank among the top 10 in the nation. The biggest concern is the coaching transition, as Tommy Tuberville looks to put his own stamp on the program. New offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is regarded as an excellent recruiter but has never served as a playcaller for a full season. Considering Gran’s lack of experience as a coordinator, along with Tuberville’s conservative tendencies in the past, how will that mesh with personnel that was recruited to run a spread attack?

Cincinnati’s schedule in conference play does have a few obstacles, including a Nov. 16 road date at Rutgers. However, with the strength in the trenches, and Kay’s performance at the end of 2012, I think the Bearcats will be Louisville’s top competition in 2013.  
 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
Louisville may be the overwhelming favorite in the newly minted American Athletic Conference, not to mention a potential darkhorse national title contender, but the Cardinals won't win the inaugural AAC title in a cakewalk. While I think both UCF and Rutgers will be solid teams, the one I expect to push Louisville the most is Cincinnati. The Bearcats have a new head coach in Tommy Tuberville, but he's no stranger to success, as he's been a winner at his previous stops in both the SEC (Ole Miss and Auburn) and Big 12 (Texas Tech).

Tuberville has a decent amount of talent and experience returning, which should help the transition to the new coaching staff and offensive and defensive systems. On offense, the entire line is back among the seven offensive returning starters, while two starters from each level of the defense (line, linebackers and secondary) also is back. The Bearcats' offense has a budding playmaker in junior running back Ralph David Abernathy IV, although he may not fit the mold of the power running back Tuberville has preferred during his coaching career. The starting quarterback situation also will have to be settled, but both candidates, Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux, are seniors and have starting experience.

If anything, the Bearcats' non-conference schedule - Purdue, at Illinois, Northwestern St., at Miami (Ohio) - should help the offense and the defense get more acclimated to their new systems and coaching staff, allowing both sides of the ball the opportunity to be clicking on all cylinders by the time conference play begins in October. The toughest league tests for Tuberville's team appear to be at the end with consecutive road games against Rutgers and Houston in November leading into the Dec. 5 showdown with Louisville. That game is on the Bearcats' home turf on a Thursday night and, if everything goes well up to that point, this Cincinnati team may have the chance to see that Louisville finishes its final season in the Big East/AAC without a conference title, and more importantly, a second straight BCS bowl berth.


Related College Football Content

Ranking the Big East Running Backs for 2013
Ranking the Big East's Starting Quarterbacks for 2013
Ranking the Big East's Coaches for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Head Coaches on the Rise

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Which Team is Louisville's Biggest Challenger in the Big East for 2013?</p>
Post date: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Bodybuilders, Overtime, Overtime
Path: /overtime/15-extremely-ridiculous-bodybuilding-photos
Body:

There are hundreds of pictures of totally insane and gross bodybuilders around the Internet. Some of them are real, some of them are fake, and all of them are ridiculous. Here are our favorites.

1. I wonder if he shops at "Big and Tall...And Insane."

2. Is it a good sign when your giant bicep is bleeding? (Short answer: No.)

3. Remember these scene in Men In Black whent he alien's head weas shrunk? Now look at the guy on the right.

4. Pretty sure he has that dog for protection.

5. "Does this bandana make my body look retarded?"

6. "Must...always...clench...everything."

7. Do you think he's looking in the mirror thinking "My arm is awesome." or "I've ruined my life."

8. I bet he was arrested by the GNC police for "forearm negligence."

9. I bet the guy in this ad for steroids is staring at his crotch and wondering where his testicals went.

10. According to Karl Lagerfeld, balloon arms are so 2011.

11. Just one question: How does he sleep?

12. Bubble man!

13. That's as far as he can turn his head.

14. Hey, wait, is that him sleeping? Question answered!

15. May want to chillax on the tanning spray, Chief. No amount of iron-pumping can take away your freakish face.

Teaser:
<p> Some of these are fake, some are real, but all are ridiculous.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 17:48
Path: /college-basketball/grading-notable-new-college-basketball-coaches-2013-14
Body:

Coaching turnover in college basketball appears to be as tame as ever.

With 39 coaching changes so far, the 2013-14 coaching carousel is poised to be the most inactive since in four years. In each of the last three seasons, at least 50 Division I programs changed coaches.

Only six Division I programs have yet to select a coach, but they’re all jobs in the low-major conferences. Now that Rutgers hired Eddie Jordan to replace Mike Rice, fired due to a player mistreatment scandal, all the big jobs have been filled.

Given that one of college basketball’s best destinations, UCLA, replaced its coach, the lack of major dominoes falling is somewhat of a surprise. The Bruins hired Steve Alford from New Mexico, and the Lobos responded by promoting a longtime assistant.

The Lobos weren’t alone in giving a coach one of his first Division I gigs. Minnesota, New Mexico, Northwestern, Rutgers and USC hired men with a combined three seasons of Division I head coaching experience.

Here’s a look at how the major jobs fared in the coaching carousel and a look at key hires in the mid-major and low-major ranks. Hires are graded not necessarily on the quality of the coach but how Athlon believes he will perform to the expectations of his program.

MINNESOTA
New coach: Richard Pitino, FIU
Old coach: Tubby Smith, fired; hired at Texas Tech
Minnesota took a bit of a risk in hiring a coach with only one season of Sun Belt head coaching experience. But this isn’t any normal 30-year-old coach. Pitino, of course, is the son of Louisville’s Rick Pitino and has worked on staffs with his father and one of his dad’s star pupils in Billy Donovan. The younger Pitino’s lone season at FIU wasn’t too shabby, either. In the first season after the Isiah Thomas debacle, Pitino went 18-14 overall and 11-9 in the Sun Belt for FIU’s first winning season in the league since 1999-2000. Pitino will also be the youngest coach in a league with a median age of 46.5 at the start of practice.
Grade: A-minus

NEW MEXICO
New coach: Craig Neal, promoted from associate head coach
Old coach: Steve Alford, hired at UCLA
Neal has tried to get head coaching jobs before at Colorado State and his alma mater Georgia Tech, but the best fit turned out to be in Albuquerque. Neal has worked with Alford every step of the way in rebuilding New Mexico into a perennial NCAA Tournament team. Neal's promotion keeps together a core of Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams, which will make New Mexico a Mountain West favorite in his first season. Neal backfilled his assistant position by hiring Lamont Smith from Washington, who previously served as an assistant at Arizona State. Neal is considered a good Xs and Os coach, but it’s a mystery how this career assistant will fare as a head coach.
Grade: B-plus

NORTHWESTERN
New coach:
Chris Collins, Duke associate head coach
Old coach: Bill Carmody, fired
Like Minnesota, Northwestern opted for a young coach with a good pedigree for its basketball program. Collins, who will be 39 when the season starts, will be the second-youngest coach in the Big Ten to Richard Pitino. A former Chicago-area high school basketball star, Collins is a longtime Mike Krzyzewski assistant and the son of Doug Collins, who has spent four stints as an NBA head coach. Former Krzyzewski assistants have been a mixed bag from Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, Jeff Capel, Johnny Dawkins and Quin Snyder. That said, hopes are high Collins can be the coach to get Northwestern to its first NCAA Tournament in school history.
Grade: B-plus

RUTGERS
New coach: Eddie Jordan, Los Angeles Lakers assistant
Old coach: Mike Rice, fired
Could Rutgers upgrade its coach despite the scandal that cost Mike Rice and athletic director Tim Pernetti their jobs? That seems possible after Rice went 44-51 in three seasons in Piscataway. Former NBA coaches don’t always pan out on the college level, but Jordan has familiarity with Rutgers in particular. Jordan played on Rutgers’ Final Four team in 1976 and coached in the college ranks last in 1992, but that was a different era. His NBA background should help him on the recruiting trail, and his Princeton offense should work at the college level. Jordan likely will guide the transition into the Big Ten for a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2004 and hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 1991.
Grade: B-minus

USC
New coach: Andy Enfield, Florida Gulf Coast
Old coach: Kevin O’Neill/Bob Cantu (interim), fired
How much the college basketball world laugh at USC if the Trojans hired Enfield any time before March 22? A Sweet 16 run changed everything for Enfield and USC. For the Trojans, this move brought in the hot name and a style that would seem to thrive in Los Angeles, but he has only two years of head coaching experience at the Atlantic Sun level. Bumping Enfield’s grade here were the hires of assistants Tony Bland (San Diego State) and Jason Hart (Pepperdine) who know the terrain out West.
Grade: C-plus

UCLA
New coach: Steve Alford, New Mexico
Old coach: Ben Howland, fired
In theory, UCLA should have its pick of a handful of coaches and it picked the one whose most recent performance was a loss to 14th-seeded Harvard in the NCAA Tournament. Alford won three NCAA Tournament games at New Mexico and Iowa where Howland won 15 at UCLA. Is Alford a better coach that Howland? That’s a tough debate. But Alford is a better fit for UCLA now. Alford recruited Kendall Williams and Tony Snell out of Southern Calfornia, an area where AAU coaches soured on Howland in his latter years.
Grade: C

TEXAS TECH
New coach: Tubby Smith, Minnesota
Old coach: Billy Gillispie/Chris Walker (interim), fired
Smith is the second coach with a national title (joining Bob Knight) and second former Kentucky coach (joining Billy Gillispie) to be hired at Texas Tech since 2001. With the exception of one Sweet 16 under Knight in 2005, this strategy hasn’t worked all that well for the Red Raiders. Smith is a fine coach, but is he a great fit for a program that needs a dose of energy to turn the program around? Smith, 61, will be the oldest coach in the Big 12.
Grade: D

OTHER HIRES ATHLON LIKES

BUFFALO
New coach: Bobby Hurley, Rhode Island associate head coach
The former Duke point guard has been the top assistant for his brother Danny at turnaround jobs at Wagner and Rhode Island.

CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
New coach: Reggie Theus, Los Angeles D-Fenders (NBA Development League)
Journeyman college and NBA coach went 25-9 in his last college appearance in 2006-07 at New Mexico State.

FLORIDA GULF COAST
New coach: Joe Dooley, Kansas assistant
Dooley went 57-52 at East Carolina from 1995-99 before spending the last decade on Bill Self’s staff at Kansas.

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
New coach: Anthony Evans, Norfolk State
Evans led Norfolk State to a 29-3 record in the MEAC the last two seasons and defeated No. 2 seed Missouri in the NCAA Tournament in 2012.

HOFSTRA
New coach: Joe Mihalich, Niagara
The MAAC’s all-time wins leader (265-203 in 15 years at Niagara) gets a change of scenery at Hofstra.

OLD DOMINION
New coach: Jeff Jones, American
Old Dominion moves into Conference USA with a coach who has 357 career wins at Virginia and American.

SAINT LOUIS
New coach: Jim Crews, promoted from interim coach
After the passing of Rick Majerus, Crews did a great job holding the program together with a regular season and tournament title in the Atlantic 10. Now, the former Evansville and Army coach as the job for the long term.

SIENA
New coach: Jimmy Patsos, Loyola (Md.)
Siena won 77 games and made three NCAA Tournaments in Fran McCaffery’s final three seasons before falling apart under Mitch Buonaguro. A longtime Gary Williams assistant at Maryland, Patsos won 47 games in the last two seasons at Loyola. The two coaches who preceded him won 48 games total in seven seasons.

SOUTH ALABAMA
New coach: Matthew Graves, Butler assistant
A Butler player and assistant, Graves is making his first foray outside of the state of Indiana in his career.

TEXAS STATE
New coach: Danny Kaspar, Stephen F. Austin
At Stephen F. Austin since 2000-01, Kaspar is more than ready for a step up to the Sun Belt. The Lumberjacks averaged 23 wins a season in his final six years at SFA.

UMKC
New coach: Kareem Richardson, Louisville assistant
Richard joins a long list of Pitino assistants to take head coaching jobs in recent seasons including Enfield, Richard Pitino, Steve Masiello (Manhattan), Marvin Menzies (New Mexico State), Kevin Willard (Seton Hall). Not to mention Billy Donovan and Mick Cronin.

Teaser:
<p> As the coaching carousel comes to a close, we grade new faces at UCLA, USC, Minnesota and more</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-day-twos-best-prospects
Body:

The beauty of the NFL Draft lies in its unpredictability.

Teams move up in the draft to nab a player they particularly covet. Others move back in the process because the guy they have targeted can be selected later. Some teams reach on a player who didn’t expect to hear his name called in the first round. The result can be excellent prospects — who felt great about going in the first round — actually drop into the middle rounds for one reason or another.

Last year’s second round featured linebackers Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner and Mychal Kendricks. The trio combined for 353 total tackles in 2012 as rookies for Tampa Bay, Seattle and Philadelphia respectively. Others like Janoris Jenkins (64 tackles), Zach Brown (5.5 sacks) or defensive tackles Jerel Worthy and Kendall Reyes also made instant impacts for their teams.

The dust has settled on another wild first round and it’s time for NFL front offices to reevaluate their draft boards and get back to work. The second round starts at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here are Athlon’s Best Available Players on Day Two:

1. Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky
There are very few sure-things in any NFL Draft much less after the first 32 picks. Warford is a plug-and-play stud at guard who isn't far behind both first-round studs Chance Warmack (TEN) and Jonathan Cooper (ARI). He was widely considered by opposing coaches as clearly the best player on a team with little to no support. And he still produced at an All-SEC level despite the struggle of his team. He is productive, powerful, game-ready and a steal in Round 2.

2. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Matt Taibbi said it best, "take the weed guy." Allen is a superstar in the making. He has elite ball skills, plays physical football, understands the game and is ready to play right away (unlike one first round "athlete" headed to Minnesota). He was extremely productive and led a wide receiver-rich Pac-12 in yards two years ago with little to no support from his half-brother, Golden Bears quarterback Zach Maynard. Think a slightly smaller Larry Fitzgerald. Watch.

3. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Both Brown and Manti Te'o were considered the best linebackers in the nation in 2008 and '09 as five-star recruits. Brown took much longer to realize his potential after making a poor decision to sign with Miami. After returning home to Kansas, he blossomed into a consistent superstar and Big 12 champion with the Wildcats. He is a bit undersized but has more than enough speed, physicality and instincts to start right away on the next level. The second round last year featured more than one undersized stat-stuffing tackler — Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner, Mychal Kendricks — and those selections worked out pretty well.

4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
The physical measurables at the combine have never been and will never be an accurate depiction of NFL potential. Never does a linebacker run in a straight line for 40 yards in shorts. Te'o is a leader, an incredibly productive player, a tremendous member of the community and will be a starter in the NFL. His work ethic is unquestioned and his off the field story is one of naiveté rather than evil genius — which is both positive and negative.

5. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
The Tar Heels star can do it all. He has speed to burn, great vision, burst, explosiveness and versatility. He will be a big part of the passing game and, unlike most rookies, is excellent against the blitz. At his best, Bernard isn't as talented as fellow back Marcus Lattimore, but Bernard has loads of tread left on the tires as he departed Chapel Hill as a redshirt sophomore. In a very talented, very deep running back class, Bernard is the most complete and most game-ready of the bunch and fantasy players should take note. He is a more mature LeSean McCoy — which is a scary thought.

6. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Few corners bring as much length and experience at an elite level like Banks. He is tall and long and matches up with the bigger, more physical modern NFL wide receivers. He can play in any scheme and will be a physical player around the line of scrimmage. Against the best competition in the nation, Banks was a highly respected and decorated player at a premium position. Sign me up.

7. Robert Woods, WR, USC
Few players have the combination of big-play talent, toughness and football IQ like Woods. Despite his smaller stature, he shouldn't be considered a finesse player. This, actually, is probably the only thing that kept him from being taken in the first round. If he was two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier, his durability wouldn't be an issue and he would have pressed Tavon Austin for top wide receiver status. He produced at an elite level and has been a proven commodity for years since being named the National High School Player of the Year as a prep senior.

8. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Thursday night was an obviously painful experience for the West Virginia gunslinger. Whether one particularly scathing pre-draft scouting report was accurate or not, the bottom line is Smith isn't a first-round quarterback. That said, he posted too many numbers, won too many games and has too many physical skills not be worth a risk at the beginning of the second round. Look for someone to jump up and snag the Mountaineers signal caller early in Day Two.

9. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Big, physical, handsy and versatile. Few programs coach the tight end position as well as Stanford. Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw develop true tight ends with the ability to be inline blockers as well as flexed out wide receivers. Ertz is a slightly less athletic, more physical version of Coby Fleener from a year ago. There is a chance he is the better of the two.

10. Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU
He didn't play against elite competition in the Sun Belt but he makes highlight-reel plays. A big hitter with great speed and range, Cyprien has all the tools to excel at the next level. He may take some time to refine and polish his game but there is loads of upside with this heavy-hitting safety. He is a slightly smaller version of Bernard Pollard.

Related: Sharrif Floyd's amazing journey to the NFL

11. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
A steal once he returns to full health. Durability a concern, talent isn't.

12. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Position and scheme changes stunted overall production but gets to the quarterback.

13. Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Likely the top tackle left on the board after a deep run in the first round.

14. Kawaan Short, DL, Purdue
Heart and soul leader of the defense in West Lafayette. Very productive.

15. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
A complete player on and off the field who is game-ready and talented enough to start.

16. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
If he can prove he will be aggressive and dependable like he was pre-knee injury, he will be a star.

17. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
Aggressive player who consistently made big plays for a team that expected to win every Saturday.

18. Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
Stop me if you have heard this: undersized, productive, physical, instinctual second-round middle linebacker.

19. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Isn't flashy or overly explosive but is extremely dependable, well-coached and physical.

20. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Big, burly physical runner who dealt with constant injury concerns. Riskier pick with big-time upside.

Related: Grading the First Round of the 2013 NFL Draft

21. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
22. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
23. Brian Winters, OG, Kent State
24. Sio Moore, LB, UConn
25. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
26. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
27. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
28. Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
29. Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
31. John Simon, OLB/DE, Ohio State
32. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft: Day Two's Best Prospects</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-22
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for April 26.

• The new Rock/Marky Mark vehicle "Pain and Gain" opens today. There's no pain involved in this slideshow of actress/model Mindy Robinson, who's in the movie too.

• Fat guys ruled the night at the NFL Draft. Here's the breakdown from Grantland. Meanwhile, Athlon professor Braden Gall offers his grades for each pick.

The NFL Draft party for Syracuse tackle Justin Pugh got real when he got the call from the Giants.

• Andy Reid dressed down for his first draft with the Chiefs, and nothing stands out in a room full of people like an obese man in a Hawaiian shirt.

• Are you happy now, Pro Football Weekly? Geno Smith sat undrafted in the Green Room for all to see. Note to future prospects: Don't show up unless you know you're going to be drafted.

• Mr. Irrelevant's name won't be called until tomorrow, but he'll join a proud fraternity. Here are the last 10 and what they're doing now.

• As promised, Rick Pitino got a tattoo to commemorate Louisville's national title. And it's kind of a doozy.

SEC titans Saban, Miles and Spurrier weigh in about future scheduling.

A three-legged alligator crossing a fairway added a little local flavor to the Zurich Classic.

• Humor is subjective, but this countdown of the 50 funniest actors of all time is pretty good. One quibble: They leave out Rodney Dangerfield. No respect.

• I run hot and cold on Frank Caliendo, but I gotta admit, he's got Mel Kiper down pretty good.

 

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]


April 25

• It's Christmas morning for Draft addicts. Here are some great moments in Draft WAG history, including the time we were introduced to Ryan Tannehill's wife (pictured).

• To celebrate Draft Day, here's a vintage photo of Jets fans preparing to be royally pissed by their team's draft pick.

Mandatory offers up its NFL Draft matrix — best- and worst-case scenarios for prospects. And, if you're not worried about liver damage, here's an NFL Draft drinking game that's sure to result in dangerous levels of intoxication. Prepare to call in sick tomorrow.

• If any first-round prospects are reading this — and I know you are — here's a handy guide to bro-hugging Roger Goodell. We're here to help.

• One last word of warning to NFL GMs: Avoid over-drafting the workout warriors.

Apparently, Mel Kiper is some sort of ageless monster. Given the widow's peak, I'm thinking vampire.

• I don't know if this helps Mark Richt, or hurts him: Georgia has had the SEC's most NFL Draft picks over the last 10 years.

A lackluster Hawks-Pacers series is slightly redeemed by monster dunks. Slightly.

• Masters champ Adam Scott wisely shot down the Bachelor rumors. Here are 20 more athletes who would make terrible Bachelors.

Boston Magazine used its cover to fashion a cool tribute to the bombing victims.

• Gareth Maybin is a golfer you've never heard of. He's also possibly the greatest trick shot artist out there.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]


April 24

Lindsey Vonn's parents apparently approve of Tiger Woods. Apparently, they don't follow golf, or the news. Of course, this provides us an excuse to link to Ms. Vonn's fine work for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue.

• The Draft is like porn for NFL fans. But that doesn't mean there aren't cringe-inducing moments, like when Roger Goodell lurches toward giant men to hug them awkwardly. Here's a rundown of the most awkward NFL Draft moments.

Add the Jaguars' hilariously sad Draft war room to the awkward list.

The best part of this Harrison Barnes dunk is the reaction from his teammates on the bench.

• In other playoff action, JR Smith beat the first quarter buzzer with a 35-footer, and then he celebrated with a classic Pete Townsend windmill.

The college football playoff has a name: the College Football Playoff. Catchy. Wonder how many committees it took to come up with it. The first championship game, not surprisingly, will be held in Jerry Jones' palace in Arlington on Jan. 12, 2015.

• You'll never guess who leads the SEC in turnover margin over the last five years. Alabama, you say? Okay, maybe that wasn't that hard. The SEC's tale of the tape in turnovers from Saturday Down South.

• The power of images: ESPN succeeded in transforming JaMarcus Russell from a punchline to a guy you actually want to root for.

• Just when you think there's no hope for humanity, you read this: A guy is ending his college track career early to donate bone marrow to a person he's never met.

• Manny's gonna be Manny, no matter what language they're cheering in.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]


April 23

• When sports figures procreate, the results can sometimes be pleasing to the eye. Here's a slideshow of sports star spawn, including Alex Schlereth, daughter of NFL player Mark (pictured).

• It's NBA playoff season, meaning it's time for Chris Paul to do the spectacular and make it look routine.

• With the NBA regular season behind us, SI presents The Floppies: the 10 most egregious flops, collapses and dives of the season.

• Impending NFL Draft pick D.J. Fluker tweeted that he took money from agents while at Alabama. Naturally, Fluker's current agent claimed hacking. The tweet's been scrubbed, but it lives on at Deadspin.

• People. They're the worst. Here are 21 supremely annoying fan behaviors at sporting events. Of course, on the flip side, some fans are cool. I said some. And then there are fans who are just desperate, like the overweight Jets fan in the jersey who'll show up at the Draft just to boo his team's pick.

• Old and busted: Never spend a high draft pick on a guard. The new hotness: Guards are sexy picks — four could go in the first round.

Will Farrell and Jack Black are making a movie about a 23-year-long game of tag. Based on a true story. Color me slightly intrigued.

• How do you motivate a team that's won three titles in four years? Nick Saban will find a way.

• Doing some job hunting this year? Here's a list of the best and worst jobs for 2013. No. 1 on the list is Actuary. I don't know what an actuary does, but sounds exciting.

• Gotta love Green Man, even if Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson doesn't.

 

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]


April 22

• The new Tom Cruise vehicle "Oblivion" opened over the weekend. If Tom doesn't do it for you, maybe his co-star, former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, will. That's her in the photo.

• If you've ever had a bad first day at a new job, watch this clip and feel better about yourself (strong content warning): A North Dakota weekend anchor opened his first day on the job by cursing into a live microphone. He tweeted his shame and remorse, but he was suspended.

Jermichael Finley's baby mama napalmed him on Twitter over unpaid child support. I'm glad I'm not Jermichael Finley today.

• More celebrities behaving badly: A-lister Reese Witherspoon was arrested over the weekend for objecting to her agent husband's drunk driving arrest. She actually played the "Do you know who I am" card with the cops. In her defense, her mug shot does display a degree of remorse. Not to be outdone, Al Michaels was also popped for alleged DUI over the weekend. And Raven Rolando McClain was arrested in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., for the third time in two years. Hey Rolando: I think the cops in Decatur are onto you.

Seven SEC spring games, seven observations from Saturday Down South. At Auburn, they rolled the oaks at Toomer's Corner one last time. At Tennessee, they dressed in their Saturday best.

This is very good news. The headline says it all.

• Another spring game, another kid with cancer gets the thrill of a lifetime. We can't get enough of this kind of stuff, especially after the events of the last week.

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Teaser:
<p> Rounding up the web's best sports links so you don't have to.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 10:28
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-grading-first-round
Body:

The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft is complete and 32 new faces have joined the ranks of professional football. Some will play right away and become instant Pro Bowlers like first-rounders Matt Kalil, Andrew Luck, Doug Martin and Robert Griffin III did a year ago as rookies. Others rarely played like A.J. Jenkins (just three games played) or dealt with major injuries like Nick Perry (six games), David DeCastro (four games) or Dre Kirkpatrick (five games). Others like Detroit's Riley Reiff played, but simply didn't live up to the expectations.

In all, 24 of last year’s 32 first-round picks played in either 15 or 16 games last year. Needless to say, your first-round pick must be able to contribute quickly to justify the lofty draft status.

Last year’s grades included six “A’s” for Luck, Griffin, Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne, Michael Brockers and Dont’a Hightower. San Francisco, for example, got a “C” for Jenkins, who reported to camp out of shape and rode the bench for the first 12 weeks. And the only “D” was for the Chiefs' selection of Memphis’ Dontari Poe. He played all 16 games without registering a sack, tackle for loss, forced fumble or fumble recovery. It wasn’t all Poe’s fault obviously, but Kansas City was the league’s worst team, fired its coach and still needs defensive line help.

But 2013 is a new season and the 2013 NFL Draft is a new opportunity to rebuild.

So how did your favorite team do in the first round?

1. Kansas City: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (6-7, 306)
Team Needs: OL, DL, ILB, S
The Chiefs needed a lot of help and have gone defense in the first round in four of the last five years. With a new quarterback and Jamaal Charles in the backfield, protecting his skill players was a priority for Andy Reid. In a draft with no elite quarterback, the Chiefs did an excellent job filling the second most important position on the field. Fisher has great feet, a mean streak, a huge frame and little downside whatsoever. That said, there is a reason he is the first MAC player to be ever be taken No. 1 overall and only time will tell if Reid took the right left tackle.
First Round Grade: A-

I sat down with Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos last night just minutes after Fisher got selected:

2. Jacksonville: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (6-6, 306)
Team Needs: DE, QB, DT, CB, OL
For my money, the massive left tackle from College Station is the best player in the draft. He has every possible box checked with elite ability, track record of success and upside. There is less downside with Joeckel than Fisher and the Jaguars should be applauded for taking the best available when he dropped into their laps. Blaine Gabbert hasn't gotten a real shot at competing at a high level and whether he is the answer or not, Jacksonville has a body guard for its quarterback for the next decade-plus. He will also help extend the career span of Maurice Jones-Drew.
First Round Grade: A+

3. Miami (from OAK): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon (6-6, 248)
Team Needs: OL, CB, DE, TE
There is plenty of risk here for a team with a lot of needs. That includes the price to move up in the draft but also some risk involved in a player who needs to develop consistency. Jordan has Aldon Smith skills, size and upside but also disappeared at times early in his career. Was this simply the maturation process or was it a lack of focus and drive? Odds are his measurables and raw skill will remind people of Smith — or, perhaps, Jason Taylor.
First Round Grade: B-

4. Philadelphia: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (6-6, 303)
Team Needs: OL, CB, QB, WR
Chip Kelly loves athletic linemen who can move in space and have great feet. The former quarterback is exactly that. He is a tremendous athlete who has excellent footwork, balance and quickness. He should develop the overall bulk and sheer power needed to play left tackle in the NFL but his type of upside athletically isn't coachable, it's innate. There is plenty of risk involved with a guy who hasn't played the position for as long as his peers, but there is elite upside here as well.
First Round Grade: B

5. Detroit: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU (6-5, 271)
Team Needs: OT, DE, WR, LB
The scouting report on Ansah is pretty straight forward. He is a raw prospect who hasn't played a lot of football at an elite level. He doesn't practice well and lacks overall fundamentals. Yet, every time the tape is running, he is making plays all over the field. He has tremendous physical talents and should refine his technique and overall discipline. With a need for a pass-rusher, the Lions tabbed the former Cougars hybrid backer/end.
First Round Grade: B

6. Cleveland: Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU (6-4, 241)
Team Needs: OG, QB, WR, ILB
Defensive line is always a need for almost every team at all times. But the Browns could have used big-time help at a number of other positions. And underachieving, unproductive prospects who don't have great work ethic isn't the answer this high in the draft. On the positive side, Mingo has an elite frame with elite athletic ability and tons of upside. He also failed to produce at a high level — 4.5 sacks as a senior — for a team loaded with underachievers.
First Round Grade: C-

7. Arizona: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina (6-2, 311)
Team Needs: OL, OLB, TE, S
There is something to be said about downside and Cooper has none of it. The ceiling might not be as high as most traditional first-round picks as few guards can justify a pick this high, but the floor is about as high as any player at any position in the draft. He has great feet, a nasty streak and has produced at an elite level throughout his career. Is he better than Chance Warmack? That remains to be seen but Arizona — who's running game has struggled since... ever — got a player who can be plugged into the starting lineup on day one and likely won't leave for years to come.
First Round Grade: A-

8. St. Louis (from BUF): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (5-8, 174)
Team Needs: S, WR, OL, OLB
The Rams gave up plenty of value to move up to get Austin, but Jeff Fisher got his guy. Austin might be the only truly game-changing offensive skill position player in this draft and Fisher will have fun figuring out how to use his new toy. Some much-needed big-play ability is now at Sam Bradford's disposal. Fans can figure to see the small speedster in the backfield, on trick plays and on special teams. There is little downside to Austin other than his lack of overall size.
First Round Grade: B+

9. NY Jets: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (6-0, 201)
Team Needs: OLB/DE, QB, OT, DB
There is some injury concern with Milliner but there should be no question about his ability to play cornerback. He should recover from off-season shoulder surgery and be ready to play early in 2013. He is a better all-around player at the position than fellow teammate and 2012 first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick. The former No. 1-rated cornerback prospect in the nation in high school consistently made bigger plays, is a better tackler and is the best pure lockdown cover corner in the draft. He is a great player but does he fill a pressing need for a coaching staff facing a pivotal season?
First Round Grade: B+

10. Tennessee: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (6-2, 317)
Team Needs: DE, S, OG, WR
The Titans running game has no excuses now that Chance Warmack and free agent signings Andy Levitre and Shonn Greene are coming to town. Warmack is a war-daddy of an offensive lineman who has little to no downside whatsoever. He is big, physical, nasty and has done nothing but win, and win big. The road grader will be in the starting lineup in Week 1. Titans running back Chris Johnson said it best on Twitter immediately following Warmack's selection: "THANK GOD."
First Round Grade: A+

Related: 2013's Best Day Two Prospects

11. San Diego: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (6-5, 339)
Team Needs: OL, DB, WR, RB
Fluker has always been a big-time NFL prospect ever since he was the No. 1-rated offensive line recruit in the nation. He worked his way quickly into the starting lineup and eventually locked down the right tackle spot for a two-time national champion. However, he was beat out for left tackle by potential 2014 first-round sophomore Cyrus Koundjio. He has elite size but may not be suited for left tackle — and thus justifying this selection. A great right tackle for years to come isn't a bad consolation prize, but is it worth the No. 11 pick? He has little downside and fills a need, so the Bolts could have done much worse.
First Round Grade: B

12. Oakland (from MIA): D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston (5-11, 191)
Team Needs: CB, OL, DT, LB, QB
The ghost of Al Davis must be floating around the facilities in Oakland because this was a definite reach. Hayden has speed and made plenty of plays while at Houston — facing C-USA quarterbacks, offensive schemes and wide receivers. This pick feels emotional and rushed — much like most of Davis' draft picks — which the is worst thing any front office can do on draft day (see every good team's draft day strategy). Hayden will play early but there is way too much risk at No. 12. Trading down to get extra picks, however, and filling a need was extremely commendable.
First Round Grade: C+

13. NY Jets (from TB): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (6-2, 294)
Team Needs: DL, QB, OT, DB
As usual, the J-E-T-S fans faces were priceless in Radio City Music Hall. And while the Mizzou D-lineman wasn't the top defensive tackle on the board, this wasn't a reach. Richardson has been a elite prospect since his five-star days as a recruit and he provided excellent support up the gut for the Tigers. He is a big, powerful, athletic defensive lineman who should help the Jets' front immediately. Did they need a pass-rusher more? Maybe so. But Richardson is no reach and he was one of the few players for Missouri who belonged in the SEC after changing leagues.
First Round Grade: B

14. Carolina: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (6-2, 311)
Team Needs: DT, DB, WR, OT
Despite the bizarre health issue that appears to be resolved (or contained), there is little downside with the big Utes defensive tackle. Few players produced at a more difficult position the way Lotulelei did for Utah the last two seasons. A former junior college prospect, he took time to find his stride, but his power, excellent fundamentals, toughness and motor make him an impact player at a rare position. To top it off, the Panthers did a great job filling one of its most pressing needs with what could be the best player at his position.
First Round Grade: B+

15. New Orleans: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (6-0, 214)
Team Needs: OT, CB, DL, S
There is a lot to like about the Longhorns safety, but there is a lot to question about him as well. He is a gifted athlete with great speed and size for a player at his position. He is versatile and will be capable of dropping into the box against the run. However, he isn't as fluid in space as he needed to be to match up with many of his more talented peers in the Big 12 — like fellow 2013 NFL draftees Tavon Austin, Terrance Williams and Kenny Stills, for example. Additionally, his Texas defenses dramatically underachieved and were, by in large, extremely disappointing. The upside seems limited here but he has the talent to be serviceable.
First Round Grade: C

16. Buffalo (from STL): EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State (6-5, 237)
Team Needs: QB, WR, LB, G/C
This is likely to be the most controversial pick in the first round but its far from the worst. Manuel has every single physical tool an NFL offensive coordinator is looking for from both a physical and mental standpoint. He is a tremendously intelligent student of the game who leads by example and is focused on doing what it takes to be a winner. He has elite level size, athletic ability and was efficient throwing the football. He is one of just two players in NCAA history to start and win four bowl games. Consistency is a concern, but he is the most physically gifted and mentally grounded quarterback in the draft so it shouldn't be a surprise he is the first and only quarterback off the board in the first round. Does he need to refine his consistency in the pocket? Yes, but he is a gym-rat type who do what it takes to be successful.
First Round Grade: B-

17. Pittsburgh: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (6-2, 245)
Team Needs: RB, OT, LB, WR, DL
He doesn't posses ideal size for his hybrid position and he has dealt with a bizarre neck injury in the past, but Jones is an excellent player. If he stays focused on every play — the Steelers organization generally makes sure of work ethic — Jones has a chance to be a disruptive force. He showed the ability in the best league in America to dominate games on the attack off the edge. Once he gets rolling he was impossible to stop. His skills are a perfect fit in a system that knows a thing or two about undersized outside linebacker-pass rusher-types.
First Round Grade: B+

18. San Francisco (from DAL): Eric Reid, S, LSU (6-1, 213)
Team Needs: DL, S, OLB, TE
The 49ers had few needs and were already a Super Bowl frontrunner, but moving up to grab what could be the best safety in the draft is a power move that should force the NFC to take note. Eric Reid has the speed, size, toughness, quickness and smarts to be an elite player right out of the gate. He was the most consistent performer in a secondary loaded with talent... and turmoil. Reid was one of the few hard workers on this roster in 2012 and his ability to play in the box against the run as well as center field against the pass is invaluable on the next level. He is a future star and now he plays for Jim Harbaugh.
First Round Grade: A

19. NY Giants: Justin Pugh, OL, Syracuse (6-4, 307)
Team Needs: OL, LB, DB, RB
There is little downside with this pick. The Orange bookend tackle has loads of experience and has been widely recognized among his peers as one of the best in the game the last few seasons. He doesn't have the elite-level size or athleticism that a Joeckel or Fisher has, but he isn't few steps behind in any one category. Pugh is a polished passer who has a low(er) ceiling and high(er) floor that fills arguably the most pressing needs in the Giants locker room.
First Round Grade: B

20. Chicago: Kyle Long, OG, Oregon (6-6, 313)
Team Needs: LB, OL, CB, QB
The pick is the right position and the right upside, but it has tons of risk. The younger brother of former first-round pick Chris Long and NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, Kyle brings excellent footwork and quickness to the offensive line. He has tackle size and athleticism but questions remain about his bookend talent skills. Guard is possible but right tackle feels like the right fit. This could be a sneaky good pick but also could come back to bite the Bears. Getting help at a key position of need was critical for Chicago and Long definitely helps the line of scrimmage no matter where he plays.
First Round Grade: C+

21. Cincinnati: Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati (6-6, 251)
Team Needs: S, LB, RB, OL
The Irish tight end is an excellent player who is a sure-fire NFL starter as soon as he gets to camp. He has great size, speed, hands, awareness and plenty of potential as an inline blocker. The issue, however, is the depth chart. Former first-round pick Jermaine Gresham and undersized athlete Orson Charles already gives Andy Dalton two excellent receiving options at tight end. It's commendable picking who was likely the best available player on the board as Eifert likely was, but did the Bengals really need another pass-catcher?
First Round Grade: C+ (B+ player)

22. Atlanta (from STL/WAS): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington (6-1, 190)
Team Needs: CB, DE, WR, DL
Fans in Atlanta should be cautiously optimistic with their new lockdown corner. Trufant has a great pedigree as an NFL legacy at defensive back to go with an interesting career trajectory. He broke into the Pac-12 in a big way with an excellent freshman season before plateauing for sometime before an improved final campaign. Under the tutelage of a rebuilt coaching staff at Washington, he blossomed in 2012 once again. Odds are he is a dependable starter for many years without ever really developing into one of the elite stars.
First Round Grade: B

23. Minnesota: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (6-3, 297)
Team Needs: WR, MLB, CB, S
This might be the best pick in the first round, bar none. No team got more value and more talent with any one pick than the Vikings got with Floyd. Warren Sapp could not be a more perfect comparison as work ethic, burst or "get-off," size and power define the young nose guard. He can play in either technique as his disruptive abilities will play anywhere along the defensive front. Floyd never takes a play off and has the ambition and drive that made Sapp special for so many years in the NFL. The rest of the NFC North be warned, Floyd wouldn't be the first statement made by the Vikings on Thursday night.
First Round Grade: A+

Related: Sharrif Floyd's amazing journey to the NFL

24. Indianapolis: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (6-3, 266)
Team Needs: OG, CB, OLB, RB
Werner is a hard-working, football junkie who will give it his all and provide dependable play at a key position of need. That said, questions arise as to where his true position lies and what his strengths will be on the next level. He is a fundamentally sound and refined young player but does he have the size for defensive end or the quickness for outside linebacker?
First Round Grade: C

25. Minnesota (from SEA): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State (6-1, 210)
Team Needs: WR, MLB, CB, S
Few corners come packaged quite like Rhodes does. He has elite level, Patrick Peterson-type size and length for a cornerback, but he isn't the same raw athlete with the same quickness and agility of the No. 5 overall pick of the 2011 draft. He will definitely shift at some point in his career to a hybrid safety-corner role like Charles Woodson did and will be extremely effective. Rhodes is more than athletic enough to match up in man coverages in a division that features the largest and most physical wide receivers in the league — Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and Brandon Marshall.
First Round Grade: B+

26. Green Bay: Datone Jones, DL, UCLA (6-4, 283)
Team Needs: S, OL, RB, DL
The similarities with the selection of Jones and the team's first-round pick last year should be a major case of deja vu for Packers fans. Jones was an elite recruit who blossomed into a playmaker during his junior season under a new coach for a Los Angeles Pac-12 school. Exactly like Nick Perry. There is some serious upside with Jones all along the defensive line as he brings elite size and athleticism to the table for Green Bay. However, he took a long time to develop and the risk is huge with a late bloomer who underachieved most of his career.
First Round Grade: C+

27. Houston: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (6-1, 214)
Team Needs: WR, OLB, ILB, OT
Some players are perfect fits at perfect times for perfect teams. Landing on a great team with an established running game and Hall of Fame veteran to learn from at wideout is about as perfect a situation as "Nuke" Hopkins could have hoped for. He isn't as talented as former teammate and potential 2014 NFL Draft prospect Sammy Watkins but has great size, hands and toughness to make plays opposite Andre Johnson. He may be more of an elite No. 2 but few players in the first round will step into a more favorable situation to succeed than Hopkins.
First Round Grade: B+

28. Denver: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina (6-3, 313)
Team Needs: MLB, S, DE, RB
The Broncos needed to fill some gaps along its defensive line Williams should do that quickly. While he may not be as productive or disruptive as Floyd or Lotelelei, he has good footwork and get-off. His quickness should allow him to rotate inside and out depending on game scenario and should give the Broncos continued flexibility along a reworked defensive line. It doesn't feel like a sexy pick for the Broncos, but building from the interior on a team loaded with offense is the right move.
First Round Grade: B-

29. Minnesota (from NE): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (6-2, 216)
Team Needs: WR, MLB, CB, S
Patterson is a big-time athlete who is dripping with talent and will contribute on special teams right away. However, he is a long way from being a productive No. 1 wide receiver, especially with a young quarterback who isn't overly talented. His size, burst and athleticism are elite for his position but his understanding of the position and its subtle nuances are far from NFL-ready, which is indicative of his junior college background. Look for him to be used in trick plays, short passes, on special teams and a few deep go routes for the first few seasons.
First Round Grade: B-

30. St. Louis (from ATL): Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (6-2, 242)
Team Needs: S, WR, OL, OLB
Another sound decision from one of the best CEOs in the NFL. Fisher once again got his guy with this talented tackler from Georgia. Ogletree plays at one pace: fast. He needs to refine his game and pack on some bulk but he has the instincts, explosiveness and range to be an elite player for years to come. His physicality and burst is uncoachable.
First Round Grade: B+

31. Dallas (from SF): Travis Frederick, G/C, Wisconsin (6-4, 312)
Team Needs:
OL, S, DT, OLB
Frederick is a quality player who would be a starting member of most NFL offensive lines. In that sense, Jerry Jones might have finally made a quality first-round offensive line choice. But in typical Jones fashion, he likely misjudged the value of this player. If it difficult to fault someone for taking "their guy" but some had the Badgers versatile blocker going in the third round, not the first. Use of the second-rounder — pick 47 overall — would have been dramatically more prudent for the Cowboys.
First Round Grade: D+

32. Baltimore: Matt Elam, S, Baltimore (5-10, 208)
Team Needs: WR, OT, ILB, S
Replacing Ed Reed won't just happen with one first-round draft pick but Elam has some rare ability. He might be the hardest-hitting player in the entire draft as he patrols the secondary with reckless abandon. He is shorter than desirable but played with great speed and range for one of the best defenses in the best league in college football. That said, his out-of-control style of play occasionally caused him problems with over-reactions and penalties. There are some kinks to iron out but Elam goes a long way as the Ravens attempt to replace Reed, a surefire future Hall of Famer.
First Round Grade: B-

Player Pos. NCAA NFL Pick Grade
Luke Joeckel OT Texas A&M Jacksonville #2 A+
Chance Warmack OG Alabama Tennessee #10 A+
Sharrif Floyd DT Florida Minnesota #23 A+
Eric Reid S LSU San Francisco #18 A
Eric Fisher OT Central Michigan Kansas City #1 A-
Jonathan Cooper OG North Carolina Arizona #7 A-
Tavon Austin WR West Virginia St. Louis #8 B+
Dee Milliner CB Alabama NY Jets #9 B+
Star Lotulelei DT Utah Carolina #14 B+
Jarvis Jones LB Georgia Pittsburgh #17 B+
Xavier Rhodes CB Florida State Minnesota #25 B+
DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson Houston #27 B+
Alec Ogletree LB Georgia St. Louis #30 B+
Lane Johnson OT Oklahoma Philadelphia #4 B
Ezekiel Ansah DE BYU Detroit #5 B
D.J. Fluker OL Alabama San Diego #11 B
Sheldon Richardson DT Missouri NY Jets #13 B
Justin Pugh OL Syracuse NY Giants #19 B
Desmond Trufant CB Washington Atlanta #22 B
Dion Jordan DE Oregon Miami #3 B-
EJ Manuel QB Florida State Buffalo #16 B-
Sylverster Williams DT North Carolina Denver #28 B-
Cordarrelle Patterson WR Tennessee Minnesota #29 B-
Matt Elam S Florida Baltimore #32 B-
D.J. Hayden CB Houston Oakland #12 C+
Kyle Long OL Oregon Chicago #20 C+
Tyler Eifert TE Notre Dame Cincinnati #21 C+
Datone Jones DL UCLA Green Bay #25 C+
Kenny Vaccaro S Texas New Orleans #15 C
Bjoern Werner DE Florida State Indianapolis #24 C
Barkevious Mingo DE/LB LSU Cleveland #6 C-
Travis Frederick G/C Wisconsin Dallas #31 D+

Teaser:
<p> Grading Every First-Round Pick of the 2013 NFL Draft</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /nascar/will-joe-gibbs-racing-come-out-swinging-richmond
Body:

1. Beaten down Joe Gibbs Racing should come out swinging
Matt Kenseth suffered perhaps the most crushing penalty NASCAR has ever assessed that isn't a driver suspension. Kyle Busch has a strong memory of team mistakes killing his chance to qualify for last year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. And Denny Hamlin, the best Richmond International Raceway driver by advanced statistical measure in the last five-plus seasons, won't even get to suit up for Saturday night's race.

Joe Gibbs Racing hasn't had a good week, and it will be extremely interesting to see how it responds. Because it's Richmond, thinking that JGR will fold under the pressure seems almost impossible.

Since Busch joined the team in 2008, JGR six wins at RIR, just under half of the laps led (1,945 of 4,010) and 15 total top-5 finishes. It’s figured something out in the .75-mile track seemingly beyond other teams. It might have to do with Busch and Hamlin sharing similar demands from a race car at the short track, unlike other Cup venues.

"We do like similar setups there, unlike other mile-and-a-half tracks or two-mile tracks where we don’t run very similar setups," Busch says. "Richmond is one of those places where we both know what it takes to get around and we’re both similar to one another in that we both run well.”

Expect JGR to continue a streak more than a decade old Saturday night: having at least one car lead a lap. The last time that didn't happen? The fall of 2001.
 

Teaser:
<p> Five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit heads to Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 09:25
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/where-will-texas-longhorns-finish-big-12-2013
Body:

With each of the top contenders experiencing some key personnel departures, the Big 12 is easily the toughest conference to predict for 2013.

Texas has underachieved in recent years, but the Longhorns appear to be back on track after a 9-4 record last season. After going 5-7 in 2010, Texas has made the climb back to Big 12 title contention, but another 7-5 or 8-4 year could spell the end of Mack Brown’s tenure in Austin.

Most of the key players are back for Texas, and the schedule sets up favorably for a run at the Big 12 title. However, can the Longhorns have question marks on defense and need a big season from quarterback David Ash.  

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Where Will the Texas Longhorns Finish in the Big 12 in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Texas is on a slide, and it’s trendy to to pile on the Longhorns after the last few seasons. The upcoming year might not be the turnaround Texas fans want with UT winning the Big 12 again, but there’s enough talent here to think Texas can finish in the top three in the Big 12 again. And I don’t mean third like Texas finished third last season -- at 5-4 behind two teams that finished 8-1. We forget David Ash looked pretty good early in the season, completing 78 percent of his passes for 1,007 yards with 10 touchdowns and an interception in the first four games. Five offensive linemen and Johnathan Gray back means the offense should get better from last season, but that’s not the question. That defense was a mess last year. Nine starters are back, and the Big 12 won’t be as good an offensive league as it was a year ago. That’s going to even things out for Texas, enabling to at look like a Big 12-contending team in 2013.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I know this sounds insane, but I am going with the Texas Longhorns to win the Big 12. Now, it may happen with two losses, but this is a critical season that Mack Brown has been pointing to for years. The offensive line and running game has steadily improved the last two seasons and will feature one of the best backfields in the nation. David Ash took a huge step forward as a sophomore and could be ready to be much more than a game manager as a junior. And the much-maligned defense has plenty of star power. Most importantly, a once QB-rich conference now appears devoid of talent at the position. Offenses won't be as potent this time around and it means the Longhorns will win the league based on tie-breakers.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Outside of the Big East, the Big 12 is probably the toughest BCS conference to predict in 2013. The lack of a clear favorite is largely due to the state of the quarterback position within the conference, which experienced a lot of turnover from 2012 to 2013. 

There’s no question the talent is in place for the Longhorns to win the Big 12 title in 2013. The offense returns nine starters, including one of the best running back corps in the nation, along with an offensive line that has made steady progress the last few seasons. Quarterback David Ash wasn’t awful last year but needs to take another step forward in 2013.

The biggest question mark for Texas is a defense that surprisingly finished sixth in the Big 12 in points allowed. This unit was pushed around by opposing offensive lines, allowing 192.2 rushing yards per game. Losing end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro are huge setbacks, but the Longhorns return end Jackson Jeffcoat from injury, and the offseason should help some of the younger players get more acclimated to the defense.

Although the talent and schedule is in place to win the Big 12, I think Texas will finish third in the conference. The Longhorns are moving in the right direction, but there are enough concerns about the defense and passing attack to push this team down a few spots in the conference. The Big 12 race is a wide-open affair, but I would give Oklahoma State and Oklahoma a slight edge over Texas right now. 
 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
The natives down in Austin have been restless for the last few seasons as Texas hasn't won at least 10 games and played in a BCS bowl since 2009. The Longhorns are 22-16 in the past three seasons combined and have fared even worse, 11-15, in Big 12 play. Despite amassing 150 wins and one national championship (2005) in his 15 seasons at Texas, the pressure is on head coach Mack Brown to return the Longhorns back to where the fan base is accustomed to seeing them, atop the Big 12.

Will that happen this fall? It very well could as Texas returns nine starters on each side of the ball. These returnees were part of a team that went 9-4 last season, with all of those losses coming in Big 12 play. The Longhorns will get tested early as their non-conference slate has them going to BYU and hosting Ole Miss the first two Saturdays in September. That should get this team more than ready for conference play, which opens with Kansas State at home. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU figure to be the other Big 12 contenders and Texas will get a shot at each of them. These three games could very well decide not only the eventual conference champion, but the difference between finishing second and fourth.

Texas has seemingly lost some of its mystique and swagger because of the lack of typical Longhorn success over the past three seasons. And as good as this Texas defense may be, I like the defenses at TCU and Oklahoma a little bit more. It should be a fairly tight race for the top spot in the Big 12, but I have the Longhorns coming up short of another conference title. I think the program will continue to get back to where it once was, but as far as this fall goes, I have Texas a step or two behind both Oklahoma and TCU, resulting in the Longhorns finishing third. I also wouldn't be shocked if they somehow ended up second, but don't see enough to crown them, at least not this season.
 

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Big 12 2013 Schedule Analysis

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Teaser:
<p> Where Will the Texas Longhorns Finish in the Big 12 in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/will-michigan-state-win-more-seven-games-2013
Body:

After a disappointing 2012 season, Michigan State hopes to climb back into discussion for the Big Ten Legends Division title.

The Spartans had a top-10 defense last year, but the offense was one of the worst in the Big Ten. Question marks remain about this unit in 2013, especially with the departure of running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims.

Michigan State has a favorable schedule and should win more than seven games in 2013. However, with a questionable offense, getting to eight or even nine victories won’t be easy.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Will Michigan State Win More Than Seven Games in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Michigan State should come close to matching the 2012 win total (seven) just by virtue of the schedule -- Western Michigan, USF, Youngstown State, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois are six right there. And that doesn’t include Iowa on the road and Minnesota at home. The schedule is manageable and all the close losses last season indicate a team that’s going to turn around, but I’m going against the trends I usually like. Michigan State is going to continue to slide. This is a team that had a top-10 defense and a running back that rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and still went 3-5 in the Big Ten with a team that was painful to watch. Le’Veon Bell is gone as are play-making defenders William Gholston and Johnny Adams. With Ohio State and Michigan rebounding, I fear Michigan State is headed to a similar fade as what we’ve seen out of Iowa in recent years. Last season may have been the first indication.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
If the 6-6 regular season record is the benchmark then the answer is yes. Ohio State, Boise State and Wisconsin are no longer on the schedule, which automatically bodes well for the Spartans. Michigan State won't play Penn State either as Mark Dantonio's squad will play the three worst teams in the Leaders Division — Indiana, Illinois, Purdue. And on the whole, this team should be better and more balanced. The defense is still stacked with All-Big Ten talent on all three levels and Andrew Maxwell can only get better in his second season. Losing Le'Veon Bell hurts but Dantonio always finds someone to carry the ball. Without pulling a single upset — at Notre Dame, at Nebraska, at Northwestern and Michigan at home — Michigan State could easily finish two games better in 2013.


Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com(@KevinonCFB)
Michigan State should be an interesting team in Big Ten play this season but I would have to consider them a bit of a rebuilder in 2013 more than anything else. The offense has a good formula with a solid offensive line and experienced starting quarterback but must find some new legs to run with, while the defense will be a mystery backed up by a solid linebacking unit. All of that said, can Mark Dantonio's program scratch out seven wins? I think so.

Michigan State should pick up three wins right out of the gate, and if they can establish an identity early on they could sneak out of South Bend with an upset win against rival Notre Dame. In Big Ten play, as I look over the schedule now, I am already jotting down four wins in conference play (home vs. Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota and on road vs. Illinois). That gives the Spartans seven wins in my book, with a number of toss-ups scattered throughout.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Despite having a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally of the four major statistical categories (rush, pass, total and scoring), the Spartans finished 7-6 and needed a second-half rally against TCU in the bowl game just to get over the .500 mark. While the defense was one of the best in the nation last year, the offense averaged only 20 points a game and struggled to get consistency from quarterback Andrew Maxwell.

The bad news for Michigan State? The same scenario is setting up for 2013. The Spartans will have one of the Big Ten’s top defenses, but the offense is a major issue. Although everything that happens in spring isn’t a good indication of what will happen during the regular season, Michigan State’s passing game looks questionable once again, and there’s no clear No. 1 back to replace Le’Veon Bell.

Despite the personnel concerns on offense, I think Michigan State can get to eight wins. The Spartans play Indiana, Purdue and Illinois – arguably the three worst teams from the Leaders Division – in crossover action and should go 3-1 in non-conference games. If Michigan State wins those six matchups, it would just need to beat Minnesota or win at Iowa to match last year’s win total, with the potential to beat Michigan or claim a bowl victory.

Considering the suspect offense, getting to eight wins won’t be easy. However, the schedule certainly sets up well for Mark Dantonio’s team.


Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
Michigan State won seven games in 2012, and that's only because the Spartans eked out a 17-16 win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Can Mark Dantonio's bunch top that this fall? Thanks in large part to a manageable schedule they'll have a chance.

The non-conference schedule is fairly easy with Western Michigan, South Florida and FCS member Youngstown State the first three on tap. After that, things get much tougher, starting with a visit to South Bend, Ind., to take on Notre Dame. Ohio State is not on this season's Big Ten slate, which is a break for Sparty, as is the fact that the Buckeyes are replaced by Illinois. The worst stretch for Michigan State will come in November, which opens with a home game against Michigan and also includes back-to-back road trips to Lincoln, Neb., and Evanston, Ill. As difficult as that trifecta is, the rest of the Spartans' slate is very favorable, making eight wins in the regular season alone realistic.

However, the issue for Michigan State is Le'Veon Bell, the Big Ten's leading rusher last season, has left campus, as has Dion Sims, one of the top tight ends in the nation, and William Gholston, the anchor of last season's defensive line. There will be a drop off of some sort with whoever takes their places in the lineup. The defense should be fine with enough talent and experience returning, the question lies with the offense. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell struggled in his first season as the starter under center, completing less than 53 percent of his passes for just 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He must show improvement, especially since the running game is basically starting over from scratch after Bell's departure, who accounted for 84 percent of the team's rushing production last season.

The schedule sets up very nicely for the Spartans to surpass last season's seven wins before the postseason, it's just a matter of the team taking advantage of it. As good as the defense should be, I think there are too many questions on offense for me to fully endorse eight wins by the end of November. Anything less than seven, however, would have to be considered a disappointment. 


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Teaser:
<p> Will Michigan State Win More Than Seven Games in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 07:35
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/if-ryan-lochtes-new-show-were-answer-jeopardy-question
Body:

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte's new show, "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?", premiered last Sunday. It was awful. If you don't believe us, you can watch the second episode, which airs this Sunday night on E! But before you do, know that Lochte's not going to wow you with his smarts…or creativity…or any talent that doesn't involve swimming really, really fast. 

To summarize what you can expect, we put together this helpful graphic of his utter stupidity, based on things that happened during the first episode. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Teaser:
<p> If Ryan Lochte's New Show Were The Answer to A Jeopardy Question</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 17:57
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-sharrif-floyd
Body:
As the final seconds ticked away at Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium last fall, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was in no mood to celebrate his Florida Gators’ upset of their bitter rival.
 
Not yet, at least. Floyd was too tired.
 
“At the end of the game everyone is celebrating, I’m on a knee,” he recalled. “I’m trying to gather some air to get up on my feet.
 
“I’m giving you everything, I’m giving you everything I got until the last second on that clock goes down to zero.”
 
Floyd has risen up draft boards for many reasons — a 4.87-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, the ability to play three downs and the versatility to play 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end.
 
But nothing might excite the men making multi-million dollar decisions more than the 6'3", 297-pounder’s passion for the game.
 
“He plays the game like it should be played, down in and down out,” Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell says. “For a defensive lineman to play as hard as he does for as many plays as he does is pretty impressive.”
 
Football is important to Floyd.
 
But it goes deeper than the competition, camaraderie and certain financial security as one of the NFL’s top picks at the 2013 NFL Draft on April 25.
 
That’s because every snap for Floyd is a step closer to a brighter future and away from his dark past.
 
“To play the game, you have to love it,” he says. “But my drive is remembering where I came from. That’s enough to drive anyone.”
 
Growing up in a rough North Philadelphia neighborhood, Floyd had a mother who battled drug addiction and a father who was murdered when Sharrif was 3. Floyd lived in a basement and suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of a man he assumed for many years to be his father.
 
Meanwhile, Floyd was bullied in grade school because he was the biggest kid in class and wore tattered clothes.
 
But football and the love of his grandmother, Lucille Ryans, would save Floyd. Ryans, now 76, told Floyd to remain strong like she had done as a child working in the fields picking cotton. 
 
“That was driving me,” Floyd says, “knowing what she’s been through and trying to get her out of her situation.”
 
By the end of his senior season at Philadelphia’s George Washington High School, Floyd was the nation’s top-rated defensive tackle. Three years later, he has a good chance to be a top-five draft pick, possibly even No. 1.
 
Floyd will use some of his seven-figure signing bonus to buy his grandmother a house in Atlanta, where she has family.
 
“At this point it still hasn’t hit me yet because it’s not in my hands,” he says. “I don’t want to get myself wound up to be that No. 1 pick, and I’m not. I’m not saying I’m not happy that I’m considered the No. 1 player in the draft.
 
“I’m actually really proud of myself for that.”
 
Floyd was a good player for two seasons at Florida who became a dominant one in 2012.
 
A first-team All-SEC performer, third-team All-American and anchor of the nation’s fifth-ranked defense, Floyd had 46 tackles, including 13 for a loss, three sacks and two blocked field goals. But his impact went beyond numbers: Floyd commanded double teams, collapsed the pocket and made everyone around him better.
 
“A lot of people look at football and just see sacks — they see statistics,” he says. “That’s not all football is. Football is way more advanced than that.”
 
Floyd does not have to convince NFL decision-makers. They’re sold. Yet, through the unforeseen highs and unimaginable lows, Floyd’s most impressive accomplishment might be that he has not changed.
 
“He’s the same Sharrif he was when he was here,” former Gators defensive tackle Omar Hunter says. “I love it.”
 
Says Floyd, “It’s kind of something I stress a lot: Don’t change. I like the person I am. I want to remain the same person and just be me.”
 
—By Edgar Thompson
Teaser:
<p> Sharrif Floyd's Amazing Journey to the 2013 NFL Draft</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 11:10
All taxonomy terms: NFL Draft, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-first-round-primer
Body:

The 2013 NFL Draft will commence tonight (8 pm ET) with the first round in primetime on ESPN. While 222 players will be taken on Friday and Saturday, it's the 32 whose names will be called in the first round that have everyone's attention.

Unlike last year when it was a foregone conclusion that Andrew Luck was going with the first overall pick and Robert Griffin III with the second, there appears to be very little consensus who Kansas City will take with the No. 1 overall pick, let alone what will happen after that.

Rather than presenting a pick-by-pick mock of how the first round could go, here are some key storylines, players and teams to watch as the action on Thursday night unfolds.

Who's No. 1?
As hard as it may be to believe, Kansas City actually picked a bad year to have the No. 1 overall pick. It's not that the Chiefs won't end up with a quality player who has the potential to be really, really good, it's just that there isn't a surefire, no-doubt No. 1 option on the board. Last year you had two in Luck and Griffin III. This year's draft class has much more of an eye-of-the-beholder feel to it with some team's apparent preferences dictated somewhat by positional need.

Which bring us back to Kansas City. Even though it may not be unanimous, the general consensus among so-called draft experts appears to be that Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel is the No. 1 player on the board. The problem for the Chiefs is that they don't really need a left tackle, since they have Branden Albert already on the roster, for now anyways. The Chiefs used the franchise tag on Albert this offseason, and he has made it known that he would prefer a long-term deal instead. Adding to the intrigue is that Albert also has said he doesn't want to move to the right side of the line to make room for Joeckel. Thus the numerous that the Chiefs and Dolphins are in trade discussions regarding Albert.

Not only is there not a no-doubt No. 1 option on the board, there doesn't seem to be any interest whatsoever in a team swapping places with the Chiefs either. So Kansas City and new head coach Andy Reid, barring a late development, will be making this pick. But who will it be? There seems to be plenty of smoke to the Albert trade talk with the Dolphins, which then seemingly would result in the Chiefs taking Joeckel. If Albert doesn't get traded, do the Chiefs still stick with the former Aggie and worry about bruised egos later? Or do they change gears and go with the second-best available offensive lineman on the board, which happens to be another tackle in Central Michigan's Eric Fisher?

I think it's between Joeckel or Fisher, but it also wouldn't shock me if the Chiefs went a completely different direction and took a defensive player. It's going to be that kind of draft folks.

Moving Up or Moving Down?
Last year 14 picks in the first round alone were traded and that doesn't include two other picks that were involved in previous transactions. Of those 14 traded picks, two were traded a second time before a team selected a player.

While it's almost a guarantee that several picks will be swapped before the night is done, the interesting thing about this year's draft is that there appears to be more interest in trading down rather than trading up. Again some of this is due to the general perception that the talent level among the top players is generally even.

Last year, Washington initially had the sixth pick, but then swapped places with St. Louis for the No. 2 pick, which the Redskins used to take Griffin III. Minnesota and Jacksonville, who already were among the top seven picks, also worked out trades to move even higher up and Dallas also got into the act, trading the 14th pick to St. Louis for the sixth pick the Rams got from the 'Skins.

This year, the Cleveland Browns are in the No. 6 spot and are one of the many teams rumored to be interested in moving down, not up. While there are undoubtedly some teams that would love to move up to increase their chances of getting their guy, it remains to be seen if they are willing to pay the price. St. Louis got three first-round picks and a second rounder from Washington for one pick. Considering how well Griffin performed in his rookie season, no one's really second-guessing Washington for making the trade at this point. But again, there's no RGIII in this year's draft.

In the end, there may not be many trades in the first round simply because there are no takers for those earlier picks. However things play out, this certainly bears watching as all it takes is one team to move up a few spots to shake things up the rest of the way.

Quarterback Questions
Not only did Luck and Griffin III go in the first two picks of last year's draft, but Ryan Tannehill (No. 8) and Brandon Weeden (No. 22) also went in the first round. And of course, we can't forget about Russell Wilson (3rd, No. 75) either. What about this year? How many signal callers will hear their name called tonight?

There could just be one quarterback taken in the first round and it may not be the one you think. West Virginia's Geno Smith is widely considered to be the best available quarterback in this year's draft, but that doesn't guarantee he will be taken in the first round.

Several of the teams seemingly in need of a quarterback - like Jacksonville, Arizona, Buffalo and the New York Jets - are in the top 10, but none seem that interested in going that high to take Smith. In fact, the general feeling is that if the Bills do decide to draft a quarterback with their pick, No. 8, they will take Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and not Smith.

Nassib's ties to new Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone, who was the quarterback's coach at Syracuse, are hard to ignore, but my guess is that the Bills' desired preference would be to move down in the first round to get Nassib. That may not be possible, however, with the Bills' AFC East rivals, the Jets, lurking at Nos. 9 and 13. One way or another, the Bills will draft at least one quarterback by the end of this draft, it's just a matter of who and where.

Now back to Smith, if the Bills are focused on Nassib where does that leave him? Again, I don't think the Jaguars or Cardinals will take him where they sit right now, picking second and seventh respectively. That would put the Jets in play, but after that I don't see another team that would take Smith, let alone a quarterback in the first round.

A potential dark horse in the Smith sweepstakes is Philadelphia. The Eagles are currently sitting at No. 4, but Smith seems to be an ideal fit for new head coach Chip Kelly's offense, at least when you consider the type of quarterbacks he had at Oregon. I don't think the Eagles will pull the trigger if they stay where they are. If they move down, however, that changes things.

In the end, I think one quarterback is all but guaranteed to go in the first round. I'm leaning Nassib to the Bills, who decide to stay put after being unsuccessful in trading down, but I'm also not ruling out one of the aforementioned teams either moving down or trading back into the first round late (more on that later) to grab Smith. If he doesn't get taken in the first round, Smith's wait shouldn't last very long once the second round gets going on Friday.

Where are the Running Backs?
Can you name the last time no running back was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft? Don't be ashamed if you can't. The last draft that did not feature at least one running back taken in the first round was the 1963 NFL Draft, which consisted of a total of 14 picks. For what it's worth, there were no backs taken in the first round (8 picks) of the AFL Draft that year either.

While I don't think we will witness history in that respect tonight, that's not to say there's no chance of that exact scenario playing out either. Last year, three running backs were picked in the first round. Cleveland selected Alabama's Trent Richardson with the third overall pick (after moving up from No. 4 by trading with Minnesota), while Tampa Bay traded back into the first round to grab Boise State's Doug Martin at No. 31 and the New York Giants ended the first round by taking Virginia Tech's David Wilson with the 32nd pick.

The last time only one running back went in the first round was just two years ago when New Orleans took Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram with the 28th pick, and I think another Alabama back will factor into the first round discussion this year. Eddie Lacy has seemingly established himself as the top option at his position, but similar to Geno Smith, that doesn't guarantee him as a first-round lock.

Although Lacy played at Alabama like Richardson and Ingram and had a hand in multiple national championships, he doesn't come into the draft with the same Heisman pedigree or track record of production as that of his fellow Crimson Tide. Simply put, Lacy isn't viewed the same way Richardson or Ingram were, which affects his first-round chances.

Another factor hurting not only Lacy's draft stock, but every other running back in this year's class is the fact that the NFL as a whole is going away from the workhorse running back and moving to more of a timeshare or two-back system. This committee approach, if you will, alone places less of an emphasis or impacts the perceived value of running backs, especially come draft day.

So will we see history happen tonight or can Lacy (or someone else) keep the running back's first-round streak alive? The teams to watch in this regard are St. Louis (Nos. 16 and 22) and Green Bay (No. 26) and maybe the Jets (Nos. 9 and 13) or Cincinnati (No. 21), especially if they are able to move down. It's also possible that one of these teams or a mystery team (San Diego? Pittsburgh?) could try and sneak back in at the end of the first round should Lacy fall that far.

Save the Best for Last?
And speaking of sneaking back in, a draft that's seemingly as wide open and up in the air as this one is shaping up to be is an excellent candidate for a flurry of activity, such as trades, as the first round winds down. Last year, Minnesota and Tampa Bay both worked trades so they each could take another player in the first round.

Depending on how things shake out early, the same could happen this year, especially if teams that don't currently have a first-round pick (Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington) see someone they really like and are able to work something out with one of the teams at the end of the round.

Should that happen, that could then make teams picking early in the second round, such as Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati or Cleveland, think long and hard about trying to move up themselves in order to ensure they get the guy they were hoping would be there for them initially. The ingredients are certainly there for some late fireworks. It's just a matter of a team or two lighting the fuse.

Other Players to Watch

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The dynamic, all-purpose threat that teamed with Geno Smith to put up ridiculous numbers at West Virginia is considered the top wide receiver on the board. Last year, Jacksonville took Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon fifth overall followed by Arizona selecting Notre Dame's Michael Floyd at No. 13. I don't see Austin matching Blackmon's spot, but I do expect him to be off the board not too long after the 13th pick, if not before. If everyone stays where they are, I think either St. Louis at No. 16 or Pittsburgh at 17th are the farthest the diminutive (5-8) Mountaineer will fall.

After Austin, the question then becomes who's the next wide receiver taken and how many total go in the first round. California's Keenan Allen, Tennessee's Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, and USC's Robert Woods are probably next on most team's draft boards in some order, and outside of the Rams and Steelers, teams like Minnesota (No. 23 and 25), Houston (No. 27) and even New England (No. 29) could be in the market for another wideout option. The same could be said for the Browns, Chargers, Jets and Raiders, who all pick earlier.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
There's no questioning the talent and his production (14.5 sacks, 24.5 TFL last season) in the SEC, but the former All-American's Pro Day performance left much to be desired and there appear to be plenty of questions regarding his maturity and character. His stock has definitely slipped, but there are several teams (Chicago, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tennessee) that could use someone with his athleticism and talent. Does the potential trump his apparent warts? Or is it possible teammate Alec Ogletree and/or another linebacker ends up going ahead of Jones? I don't see him falling past the Bears at No. 20, if he even lasts that long.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
At one point the Utes' defensive star was considered the No. 1 overall prospect. But then red flags were raised when he was prevented from working out at the Combine based on some test results on his heart. Lotulelei was medically cleared soon after the discovery, but the damage had already been done regarding his draft prospects despite a strong showing at his Pro Day. I fully expect him to be a top-10 pick, but will that be as high No. 2 overall to Jacksonville or will he "fall" all the way to Tennessee at No. 10?

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
There's little dispute that Milliner is the top defensive back in this year's draft class, if not a top-five prospect overall. Milliner, however, has a fairly large medical folder of his own as he has undergone five surgeries. His most recent one was on his shoulder, which was done in March and will reportedly sideline him until the start of training camp in the fall. Will this affect his draft status? At what point does the potential reward outweigh the risk for any team interested in taking him? I think his ceiling is around the fifth pick to Detroit and his floor is no lower than 15th. There's a good chance Milliner may be hanging around in the green room tonight a little longer than he anticipated.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
It has quieted down somewhat, but you know ESPN is going to milk all the air time they can out of the Te'o soap opera, especially if he happens to fall down the board. For all the attention he's received for his off-the-field matters, Te'o is still considered a first-round prospect and you can't dispute how good he was for the Fighting Irish last season. Even though Notre Dame got blown out by Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, the Irish wouldn't have been there if not for the efforts of Te'o. Now all that matters is which team is the one to call his name tonight? If Jarvis Jones is off the board when Chicago comes up at No. 20, I think the Bears will think long and hard about giving Te'o a chance at filling Brian Urlacher's big shoes. If not there, I don't think Te'o will have to wait much longer, not with Cincinnati and Minnesota next up. I also wouldn't rule out Baltimore with the last pick (No. 32), but I doubt Te'o will last that long. Probably would make ESPN happy though.

Teams to Watch

Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have 10 picks this year, thanks to the Carson Palmer trade with Oakland that netted them an extra second-rounder. (How did that deal work out for you Oakland?) The Bengals could package one of their second-round picks with their first (No. 21) if they wanted to try to improve their position. The Bengals don't seem to have a huge need along either the offensive or defensive lines, which is where the majority of the perceived top players are in this year's draft class, so they may not want to move up. Perhaps they shift gears and consider using their extra draft ammo to acquire an additional first-round pick?


Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins were one of the busier teams in free agency this offseason, signing wide receiver Mike Wallace and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe among others, but the team also could be in for a productive draft. Miami has 11 picks, which include two each in the second and third rounds thanks to the Brandon Marshall and Vontae Davis trades respectively. The Dolphins have the 12th pick and need a new left tackle as former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long left as a free agent to sign with St. Louis. The roster also could use an upgrade at cornerback. Miami may try to use its extra picks to either move up to ensure they end up with one of the best tackles available or perhaps Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, who may or not be there at No. 12.


Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings got Seattle's first-round pick in Percy Harvin trade, so they are currently sitting at Nos. 23 and 25. Minnesota signed former Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings as a free agent, but could use another weapon to line up alongside him. They also are in need of a difference-maker at linebacker. Solid options to fill both of these needs should be there for them where they are right now, but they also could try and package the two to move up if there's one player (Tavon Austin? Jarvis Jones? Barkevious Mingo?) they really want. There should be no lack of potential suitors for the Vikings to try and work out a deal with. It's just a matter of how high the Vikings want to get and is the cost worth it?


New York Jets
The Jets changed their draft outlook when they sent All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay earlier this week. New York got the Buccaneers' first-round pick (No. 13) and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2014 that could end up being a third in the deal. With the trade, the Jets now have the No. 9 and 13 selections, putting them in the catbird's seat in many ways. The Jets could simply stand pat and use the two first-rounders to address two positions of need, namely quarterback, safety, linebacker or offensive tackle. Or they could trade one or both to acquire even more picks, should they find the right buyer. This is a make-or-break year for head coach Rex Ryan, so if he still has any pull in the organization, I think he keeps the picks and goes pass-rusher on the first (Barkevious Mingo? Star Lotulelei?) and will take the best available at the next greatest area of need with the second, either a linebacker or tackle. I'm not ruling out quarterback, but I would be somewhat surprised unless the Jets' reported late interest in Ryan Nassib is more than just trying to make division rival Buffalo nervous.


San Francisco 49ers
The defending NFC champions have a whopping 13 picks in this year's draft, including two each in the second, third and sixth rounds. The 49ers don't really have a lot of areas of weakness so they can package some picks to try and move up in the first or improve the position of their second-round pick (already own Kansas City's second-rounder, No. 34), which is at the end right now, to focus on specific targets. The team also could look to make deals with other teams to stockpile future picks, especially if another team's willing to pay a decent price. Otherwise, look for the 49ers to go after certain players to further strengthen the team's depth, especially along the defensive line and in the secondary.


St. Louis Rams
The Rams, just like the Jets and Vikings, have two first-round picks. Theirs is No. 16 and they also have Washington's (No. 22) thanks to last year's trade for the No. 2 overall pick. St. Louis lost wide receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson in free agency, so it's all but given the Rams will be taking a wide receiver with one of these picks. If Tavon Austin is their target, the team will have to watch closely to see how things unfold before them in case they need to try and move up a few spots to get him. If the board works out in their favor, then the Rams should be in good shape to get Austin first and then either take Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro with their next pick or use it on an offensive lineman or linebacker. Unless something crazy happens, the St. Louis war room should be full of plenty of smiling faces by the end of tonight.
 

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NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Defensive Tackles

NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Middle Linebackers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Outside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports looks at some storylines, players and teams to watch as the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft unfolds on Thursday night</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 10:45
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-toyota-owners-400-richmond
Body:

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit up the road to Richmond, Va., on Saturday for the Toyota Owners 400. To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List.

So, without further ado, Goeffrey’s fantasy predictions for Richmond ranked according to each driver's likelihood of taking the checkered flag — or at least finishing toward the front:


A List
1. Clint Bowyer

Fourteen career Richmond starts. Two wins. Eight top 10s. Thirteen lead lap finishes. Don't tell me you're gonna pick against Clint freakin' Bowyer — in anything — on a Saturday night.

2. Tony Stewart
Smoke has the most points scored in the last four races at RIR, and is the only driver with four top 10s. One would think, because it's not a 1.5-mile track, that Stewart won't continue his early season stink.

3. Kevin Harvick
Harvick, twice a winner at Richmond, has led two of the last four races there. But he's only got one top 10 this year, and a grand total of one lap led. His 15 career top 10s at RIR are the most of any track on his Sprint Cup resume — even with Ricky Rudd stealing one away prior to a hood stomping in ’03.

4. Jeff Gordon
In 40 career starts, he boasts the best average starting spot (7.9) of any current driver and the most Richmond top 5s (16) of all current full-time drivers. Oddly, he hasn't won there since Bill Clinton was president (2000).

5. Jimmie Johnson
Led just three laps at Richmond last season and his last win at RIR was in 2008. Most widely celebrated Richmond moment was when he wrecked Kurt Busch intentionally in 2011. More people have him on their Richmond roster than any other driver, though.

6. Kasey Kahne
Held off Stewart for his first career victory at RIR in 2005 before performing a miracle at the .75-mile track in 2011: earning a top-3 finish in a Red Bull Racing car. Average finish of 8.5 last year in Hendrick equipment, and potentially still has Richmond beef with Marcos Ambrose.

7. Brad Keselowski
As long Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans — still angry about him "causing a caution" that hosed the No. 88 at Kansas — don't run him out of town, Keselowski figures to be average in Richmond. Two top 10s last year were his best yet, but he's still never led a lap at RIR.

8. Matt Kenseth
One top 5 since 2006 at Richmond for Kenseth doesn't make Saturday night's race look promising. However, he did race unusually well at Martinsville, so perhaps the JGR equipment can help him again. Don't expect that advantage to come from the engine, though.

9. Denny Hamlin
Not racing, but still has a better chance to win at Richmond than most. Obviously, take a pass this week.
 

Teaser:
<p> Geoffrey Miller ranks each driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit for this weekend's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 10:43
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Maryland Terrapins, News
Path: /college-football/will-maryland-terrapins-make-bowl-2013
Body:

Maryland is just 6-18 in the last two years, but there’s some optimism surrounding this team for 2013.

Despite a rash of injuries at the quarterback position, the Terrapins were able to improve their win total by two games last year. And with a full complement of passers back for 2013, Maryland should be in better shape on offense. There’s also a handful of playmakers ready to emerge on offense to help sophomore standout Stefon Diggs, including junior college transfer Deon Long and running backs Albert Reid, Brandon Ross and Wes Brown.

The schedule isn’t overwhelming, but Maryland has to rebuild a defense that ranked third in the ACC in yards allowed last season.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Will the Maryland Terrapins Make a Bowl in 2013?

Patrick Stevens, D1scourse.com, (@D1scourse)
It might seem a bit optimistic given how the last couple years have gone in College Park, but there's a very real chance this happens.

Maryland is not without its questions. Will quarterback C.J. Brown, who established himself as a capable rusher in 2011, come back and be effective after his ACL tear last August? Can the Terrapins stitch together even a decent offensive line? With five starters lost in the front seven, how much of a drop-off will occur there?

If Brown is good to go, it will help solve the offensive line question. Maryland's offense was probably at its sharpest in the second half of its loss to N.C. State, when it put the elusive Devin Burns in at quarterback after Perry Hills got hurt. With someone who could nimbly run the zone read, the Terps suddenly could move the ball. But then Burns got hurt and didn't play for the rest of the year, and within a couple weeks Maryland was playing a linebacker at quarterback. That turned out pretty much as expected.

If the best thing going for Maryland is an influx of skill position talent (notably sophomore Stefon Diggs and junior college transfer Deon Long at wideout), the schedule isn't too far behind. The Terps won't be in the neighborhood of Clemson or Florida State, but the rest of their division games (Boston College, N.C. State, Syracuse and Wake Forest) are all winnable. So is a date with Virginia, an opening stretch against Florida International, Old Dominion and Connecticut and perhaps even a meeting with depleted West Virginia in Baltimore.

There's six wins to be had there --- it is hardly a certainty, but it is far from an impossibility. Barring another absurd rash of injuries, Maryland has the look of a roster that could wind up in one of the ACC's lower-tier bowls (perhaps the nearby Military Bowl?) without too much trouble and perhaps do better with a few breaks.
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This may be the year where Randy Edsall and Maryland stop being a punchline. Now, that doesn’t mean Maryland will be particularly good, but there’s enough here for the Terrapins to get to six or seven wins. The Terps finally have a little bit of stability after all the transfers in Edsall’s first season and all the injuries in his second. Maryland had the second-most turnovers in the ACC last season, thanks to the most lost fumbles. The Terrapins’ 18 lost fumbles in 2012 was more than the last two seasons combined (11). That kind of bad luck, along with the deluge of quarterback injuries, isn’t going to happen again. C.J. Brown, who ascended to the starting job in 2011, will be healthy, and he just has to find a way to get the ball to Stefon Diggs. The Terps also found a quality running back tandem in Brandon Ross and Albert Reid, who both topped 100 yards in the spring game. Improving personnel on offense along with a defense that allowed five yards per play (fourth in the ACC) and 3.5 yards per carry (second in the ACC), means Maryland has the ability to turn some close losses into wins. 
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
In a word? Yes. Randy Edsall was left little in the way of talent or camaraderie when he arrived in College Park and has slowly, but surely rebuilt the roster. He doubled his win total from 2011 to 2012 and it could have been even better had the Terrapins finished one or two of their four losses which came by one score or less. There is no possible way his team could endure as many quarterback injuries as they did a year ago and Stefon Diggs is a special player who will break onto the national scene in 2013. This should allow the offense — rated 12th in the ACC last year — to catch up with the defense — rated third in the ACC last year. With a weak schedule in the weaker Atlantic Division, Maryland has a chance at seven wins this fall.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Randy Edsall’s tenure in College Park got off to a rough start, but it seems the Terrapins are back on track in their final year in the ACC. After going 2-10 in 2011, Maryland went 4-8 last season, despite numerous injuries at the quarterback position. With C.J. Brown, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe returning from injury, along with the arrival of transfer Ricardo Young, there’s plenty of depth at the quarterback position, and the passing attack should show significant progress in 2013. The receiving corps is solid, led by Stefon Diggs and junior college transfer Deon Long. And the running back position has some intriguing options ready to break out in 2013.

The biggest obstacle for Maryland to get back to a bowl is the personnel losses on defense. Replacing the production from linemen A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano, linebackers Demetrius Hartsfield and Kenny Tate won’t be easy. However, getting defensive end Andre Monroe back from injury should ease the losses in the trenches, and the secondary returns three key performers from a unit that ranked 30th nationally against the pass.

Helping Maryland’s case to return to the postseason is a weak conference. Outside of Florida State and Clemson, there are no guaranteed top-25 ACC teams for 2013. The Terrapins also won’t play Georgia Tech, North Carolina or Miami – arguably three of the top four teams from the Coastal Division – in crossover play. With Virginia, Syracuse and Boston College coming to College Park, there’s enough wins on the schedule for Maryland to get to 6-6 or 7-5 this year and go bowling for the first time under Edsall.
 

Anson Whaley, Founder and Editor of Cardiac Hill@PittPantherBlog
Maryland returns a pretty big core of their offense in quarterbacks Perry Hills, Shawn Petty, and CJ Brown, running backs Brandon Ross and Wes Brown, and receivers Stefon Diggs and Marcus Leak. The good news for the Terrapins is that, with the exception of Brown, all of those guys were underclassmen last year and should improve significantly in 2012. And with all of the injuries the offense endured, it's hard to envision that side of the ball being as bad as it was last year when they ranked near the bottom of the FBS in several statistical categories. The schedule is also manageable in my mind. Maryland gets some winnable games at home with FIU, Old Dominion, Boston College, Virginia, and Syracuse. And while road games against Wake Forest and North Carolina State aren't gimmes by any stretch for them, those teams didn't finish very far ahead of the Terrapins last season. It'd be easy to look at their four wins from last year and wonder if they can improve enough. But in 2010, Maryland won nine games fresh off of a two-win 2009, making a huge turnaround. And don't forget, the team was more competitive than their record would indicate in 2012, losing three games by three points or less. I'll go ahead and tentatively predict at least six wins for the Terps in 2013.

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
Maryland still has plenty of work to do, but things are starting to look up for Randy Edsall's Terrapins. Injuries were a big issue for this team last year, especially under center, and still are a bit of a question mark entering the fall. If projected starting quarterback C.J. Brown can make it back from knee surgery and be ready to go in the fall, this could be a sneaky offense with Brown, running back Wes Brown and dynamic wide receiver/return specialist Stefon Diggs leading the way.

The defense suffered some pretty big losses in All-American defensive lineman Joe Vellano and a pair of linebackers in Demetrius Hartsfield and Kenneth Tate. Still, the talent level and depth has been getting better in College Park, as evidenced by the Terps' doubling their win total last season compared to 2011. Don't get me wrong going from two to four wins isn't that big of an accomplishment, but Maryland also lost three games last season by three points or fewer.

What's more, Maryland's 2013 schedule shapes up pretty well, as the Terps open with FIU and Old Dominion at home and also get Virginia, Syracuse and Boston College at home. Early road tests at Connecticut and a matchup with a rebuilding West Virginia team in Baltimore, will serve as a barometer for how far this team has come. If Maryland can continue to get better as the season progresses it could be playing for a bowl bid by the time the aforementioned Eagles come calling and the Terrapins travel to Raleigh to face NC State to finish the regular season. The optimist in me says that Edsall has enough talent and will get a few more breaks injury-wise this fall to earn that much-desired postseason invite. The only caveat is it's critical that the Terrapins get off to a good start as their margin of error is razor thin.


Related College Football Content

Ranking the ACC Running Backs for 2013
Ranking the ACC Quarterbacks for 2013
Syracuse or Pittsburgh: Who Will Have More ACC Wins in 2013?

Ranking the ACC Coaches for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Head Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top Assistant Coach Hires for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Head Coaches on the Rise

Teaser:
<p> Will the Maryland Terrapins Make a Bowl in 2013?</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-running-backs-2013
Body:

The Pac-12 is loaded with potential standout running backs for 2013.

Leading the way is Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, who should be a first-team All-American selection this year. Carey rushed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns last season and should be well over 1,500 yards once again in 2013. Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas should see more carries with Kenjon Barner off to the NFL, and the junior could establish himself as one of the nation’s top all-around running backs. Washington’s Bishop Sankey quietly rushed for 1,439 yards last season and could exceed those numbers in 2013 with more help from his offensive line.

Outside of the top four names, California’s Brendan Bigelow, Oregon State’s Storm Woods and Stanford’s Barry Sanders are running backs that could have a breakout year.

College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top running backs in each conference.

Ranking the Pac-12 Running Backs for 2013

1. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona (JR)
The star tailback from Tucson (Ariz.) Canyon del Oro might have been the most underrated player in the nation in 2012. Yet, after leading the nation in rushing (1,929 yards), setting multiple school and Pac-12 records and a few ugly off-the-field incidents, the junior-to-be is flying anything but under the radar in 2013. He is a workhorse back who can do anything he wants on the field and needs to learn that doesn’t apply to his personal life. A domestic abuse incident with his girlfriend as well as a run-in with campus police has his long-term future in question at Arizona. Should he walk the straight and narrow, Carey will be a Heisman candidate in Rich Rodriguez’ zone-read option scheme. If he cannot behave himself, he will find himself suspended or worse.
 

2. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon (JR)
Gone is LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, leaving ‘DAT’ a shot at a huge 2013 season. The diminutive do-everything dynamo from Los Angeles has electric speed to burn and the ability to contribute in a variety of ways. He has scored 18 rushing touchdowns on 147 attempts, 14 receiving touchdowns on 91 receptions and four return touchdowns through just two seasons of action. He is a perfect fit for Oregon’s offense, be it run by Chip Kelly or Mark Helfrich, and could see his workload increase in 2013. Pac-12 defenses beware.
 

3. Bishop Sankey, Washington (JR)
Steve Sarkisian might not be able to provide consistent production on both sides of the ball from year to year, but he has proven the ability to develop tailbacks. Sankey, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior-to-be from Spokane, Wash., exploded for 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012 — numbers good for 17th and 15th nationally. More impressively, he produced those numbers behind a porous and oft-injured offensive line. With improved play from Keith Price at quarterback, Sankey could be in for a big season this fall.
 

4. Silas Redd, USC (SR)
With Penn State dealt a postseason ban, Redd transferred to USC in hopes of competing for a national title. Things didn’t quite go according to plan last year, as the Trojans finished 7-6, and Redd finished with 905 yards and nine touchdowns. The Connecticut native had three games of 100 yards or more, including 155 in the 24-14 win over Washington. In his career, Redd has 2,583 yards and 18 rushing scores. With USC breaking in a new starting quarterback, the senior should be the focal point of the offense early in the year. Redd has the talent to be an All-American, and in his final year in college, expect him to produce more than 1,000 yards on the ground for the second time in his career.
 

5. Marion Grice, Arizona State (SR)
In his first year at Arizona State, Grice led the team with 679 yards and 11 scores. The junior college transfer finished the year by recording back-to-back 100-yard performances, including 156 in the win over in-state rival Arizona. Grice also was a factor in the passing attack, catching 41 passes for 425 yards and eight touchdowns. The Texas native was one of the top big-play threats for the Sun Devils, averaging a touchdown every 7.6 touches. With Cameron Marshall departing, Grice should handle more of the workload this year. DJ Foster will see plenty of carries, but the senior has the size to approach 200 carries. After finishing off 2012 with momentum, look for Grice to top 1,000 rushing yards in '13.
 

6. Storm Woods, Oregon State (SO)
Oregon State has a rich history of producing great running backs since Ken Simonton helped lead the Beavers to a Fiesta Bowl win in 2000. This includes great freshman performers like Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers. Woods, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last year, is just the next in this long line of OSU tailbacks. The Pflugerville (Texas) High product finished his first season strongly by scoring seven touchdowns in the last four games. He is ready to make a name for himself in 2013.
 

7. Brendan Bigelow, California (JR)
Yet another star sophomore out West, Bigelow teased the fans with glimpses of brilliance in 2012. His two long touchdown runs against Ohio State were jaw-dropping — he rushed four times for 160 yards in the Horseshoe. But he was buried behind Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson on the Cal depth chart. As an upperclassman now, the Fresno (Calif.) Central East has the football all to himself and a new offensive whiz calling plays in Sonny Dykes. Look for the explosive all-purpose back to continue to drop jaws and pop eyes in 2013.
 

8. Byron Marshall, Oregon (SO)
As a freshman from San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian, Marshall quickly endeared himself to Ducks fans. He earned the No. 3 job (behind Barner and Thomas) last year and averaged more than five yards per carry for the season. He didn’t get a ton of work (87 carries) but has a more physical style of running and posted a career high 125 yards against Tennessee Tech. Look for him to complement Thomas perfectly in the Oregon backfield as the next potential developing star in Eugene.
 

9. DJ Foster, Arizona State (SO)
Just like Marion Grice, Foster made a huge impact in his first season on campus. The Arizona native rushed for 493 yards and two scores on 102 attempts and caught 38 passes for 533 yards and four touchdowns. Foster didn’t record a 100-yard rushing effort, but he had 49 yards in the huge in-state win over Arizona and 61 in the 45-43 loss to UCLA. With Cameron Marshall out of eligibility, Arizona State will lean even more on Grice and Foster in the backfield. Foster should see an increase in carries and overall touches, which certainly isn’t a bad thing for the Sun Devils, especially since the Arizona native averaged 4.8 yards per rush last year.


10. Anthony Wilkerson, Stanford (SR)
Trying to continue the power running tradition started by Toby Gehart and Stepfan Taylor is a tall order. But the senior from Foothill Ranch (Calif.) Tustin might get the first crack after playing the role of primary backup to Taylor last year (224 yards, TD). The 220-pounder will battle with fellow senior powerback Tyler Gaffney and young speedster Barry Sanders Jr for primary ball-carrying honors in 2013. There may not be a true workhorse in Palo Alto but fans can bet David Shaw will run it early and often.
 

11. Christian Powell, Colorado (SO)
There were few bright spots for Colorado last season, but Powell quietly turned in a productive year. Despite missing two games due to injury, he recorded 691 yards and seven scores. Powell only caught seven passes for 30 yards but with receiver Paul Richardson sidelined with an ACL tear, he was Colorado’s most reliable player on offense last year. The converted fullback should see plenty of carries in 2013, as the Buffaloes enter the season with uncertainty surrounding the quarterback situation, but return a veteran offensive line. If Powell stays healthy, surpassing last year’s totals are a reasonable expectation.
 

12. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford (SR)
A two-sport star from San Diego (Calif.) Cathedral Catholic, Gaffney enters his senior season ready to compete for lead back carries on The Farm. The 220-pounder is a physical back who gives Shaw what he wants from that position but to earn carries he will have to beat out Anthony Wilkerson and Barry Sanders Jr. for time.


13. Thomas Tyner, Oregon (FR)
The record-setting in-state true freshman with elite power and speed might be the most talented running back recruit to sign with Oregon. Yes, that includes De'Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, Lache Seastrunk and Jonathan Stewart. He’s that good.


14. Barry Sanders Jr., Stanford (FR)
There’s no question Sanders has the talent to be an All-Pac-12 running back. However, Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney are likely to see more carries than the talented freshman this season, so he may have to wait until 2014 for his turn as the starter. The son of former NFL standout Barry Sanders should at least see limited action this year, before emerging as Stanford’s top back next season.
 

15. Kelvin York, Utah (SR)
John White’s departure leaves some big shoes to fill in the Utah backfield. York is expected to get the first opportunity to start for the Utes. The Louisiana native showed potential in limited opportunities last season, rushing for 273 yards on 60 attempts. Interestingly enough, York shared time as a high school senior with former Alabama running back Eddie Lacy and was committed to USC before joining Utah. The Utes have the makings of a solid offensive line, and York seems to have the talent to have a productive year if he holds off Lucky Radley, James Poole and Devontae Booker for the starting job.
 

16. Paul Perkins, UCLA (FR)
Replacing Johnathan Franklin’s production won’t be easy for UCLA in 2013. The Bruins lack a clear replacement, as Perkins, Damien Thigpen, Jordon James and Malcolm Jones are all battling for time. Perkins was a high school teammate of Bruins’ quarterback Brett Hundley and ranked as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com in the 2012 signing class. Perkins is the early frontrunner, but UCLA could use a committee of backs in 2013.
 

17. Jordon James, UCLA (JR)
James was rated as one of the top high school backs in the nation in 2010 but has yet to make an impact during his first three years on campus. He rushed for 54 yards and one touchdown as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and recorded 215 yards and two scores on 61 attempts last year. With Johnathan Franklin out of eligibility, James, Paul Perkins, Malcolm Jones and Damien Thigpen will compete for the starting nod this preseason.
 

18. Justin Davis, USC (FR)
Although Silas Redd is entrenched as USC’s No. 1 back, don’t be surprised if Davis sees plenty of carries this year. The true freshman enrolled early and impressed the coaching staff in the spring, staking his claim to the backup spot and playing time in 2013. Davis ranked as the No. 16 running back by Athlon Sports in the 2013 recruiting class and is someone to watch once the season kicks off.
 

19. Terron Ward, Oregon State (JR)
The junior-to-be from Antioch (Calif.) De La Salle came on in the second half of the 2012 season. He rushed for 383 of his 415 yards and all six touchdowns over the final six games of the year. The 200-pounder plays much bigger than his 5-foot-7 frame would indicate.
 

20. Teondray Caldwell, Washington State (SO)
The 5-foot-8, 197-pound sophomore-to-be came to Pullman from Los Angeles (Calif.) Venice. The Cougars rushing attack was pathetic last year but at almost five yards per carry, Caldwell is their best hope at reestablishing some sort of ground attack.
 

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)


Related College Football Content

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Ranking the Pac-12 Quarterbacks for 2013
Washington or Oregon State: Which Team Finishes Higher in the North in 2013?

Ranking the Pac-12 Coaches for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

Washington or Oregon State: Who Will Have More Wins in 2013?

Pac-12 Schedule Analysis for 2013

Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Pac-12's Running Backs for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 07:19
All taxonomy terms: NFL Draft, NFL, Monthly
Path: /nfl/big-names-big-health-concerns-2013-nfl-draft
Body:

Size, speed, stats and awards don’t matter if a prospect is Physically Unable to Perform. Here are biggest health concerns in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Matt Barkley QB, USC (Shoulder)

After suffering a sprained AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder on Nov. 17, Barkley missed USC’s final two games of the season and was unable to throw at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. Arm strength was already an issue for Barkley, whose draft stock has plummeted from the preseason projected No. 1 overall pick to that of anxious prospect just hoping to hear his named called on Thursday night.

 

Jarvis Jones OLB, Georgia (Neck)

Jones was a freshman at USC when it was discovered he suffered from spinal stenosis — an abnormal narrowing of the spinal column. The Trojans’ medical staff refused to give Jones medical clearance, going so far as to suggest he retire from football due to his condition. He was among the SEC’s most feared defenders after transferring to Georgia. Now NFL teams must decide just how far they’re willing to stick their neck out with Jones’ medical risks.

 

Marcus Lattimore RB, South Carolina (Knee)

After missing half of the 2011 season with an ACL tear in his left knee, Lattimore suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his right knee on Oct. 27 last fall. Despite a decorated high school and college career — as well as the recent rehab success of runners such as Adrian Peterson — there is still cause for concern when drafting a back who has had devastating injuries to both knees in consecutive seasons.

 

Star Lotulelei DT, Utah (Heart)

A routine medical test at the NFL Scouting Combine uncovered an abnormally low ejection fraction for Lotulelei, whose left ventricle of the heart was pumping blood at a reported 44 percent, compared to the normal 55 to 70 percent. Rapid weight loss has been the rumored cause of the problem. Before drafting the versatile Lotulelei, teams will need to feel certain that the 320-plus-pounder has a healthy heart.

Teaser:
<p> Big Names with Big Health Concerns in the 2013 NFL Draft</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL Draft, NFL, Monthly
Path: /nfl/top-foreign-players-2013-nfl-draft
Body:

The NFL is interested in expanding its presence internationally, and the world is reciprocating by providing talent for league teams. Kansas City Pro Bowler Tamba Hali (Liberia), standout Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski (Poland) and Giants end Osi Umenyiora (England/Nigeria) are just a few of the many imports found on NFL rosters last year. Expect that number to swell in 2013, thanks in part to these four top prospects.

 
Ezekiel Ansah
DE, Ghana
NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock watched Ansah practice prior to the Senior Bowl and wondered why everyone was so enamored of the 6'5 ¼", 271-pounder. Then, during the game, he watched Ansah track down a receiver on a reverse and was sold. “He is very raw but freakishly gifted,” Mayock says. “He can bend, dip and burst off the end.”
 
“I didn’t think there was any way he could get him,” Mayock says. Ansah showed that remarkable athletic ability frequently at Brigham Young, but he remains raw. “He’s so gifted, but how quickly will you see a return?” Mayock asks. Ansah ran a 4.63 at the Combine and had a vertical leap of 34 ½ inches, impressive numbers made more remarkable when one considers Ansah did no special training for the event, choosing instead to focus on his studies.
 
 
Margus Hunt
DE, Estonia
If the “Eastern Block” doesn’t make it as a full-time end, he should make his mark swatting away kicks. While at SMU, the 6'8", 277-pound former discus and shot put standout knocked down 17 of them. But he wasn’t just a specialist. Hunt registered 11.5 tackles for a loss last year, including eight sacks. Hunt lit up the Combine. He ran a 4.6 40, jumped 34 ½ inches and hoisted 225 pounds 38 times on the bench press.
 
He has the potential to be a 5-technique end in a 3-4 or a base end in the 4-3. NFL Network Draft expert Mike Mayock says Hunt “has a little bit of a tendency to play high,” making him more easily blocked, but he has a pile of potential and should be a second-round pick. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he went higher,” Mayock says.
 
 
Bjoern Werner
DE, Germany
The ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year could have stuck around Florida State for another season, but why bother? The former youth soccer player has blossomed into an all-around end, posting 13 sacks last year. “He doesn’t have enough of a quick twitch to go against left tackles,” says Mayock. “But he is a first-round pick.”
 
Werner projects as an end in a 4-3 scheme, and Mayock says he would be best deployed on the left side, against opposing right offensive tackles. 
 
 
Jesse Williams
DT, Australia
Williams’ journey to Alabama wasn’t an easy one — he signed with Hawaii and played at Arizona Western College before arriving in Tuscaloosa — but he demonstrated tremendous strength against the run as a nose tackle or defensive end. At 6'3", 323, Williams has the size necessary to handle the middle spot on a 3-4 line. “He’s excellent against the run,” Mayock says. “He can push the pocket some on the pass rush with strength and leverage.”
 
Although Williams didn’t run at the Combine, due to a knee injury, he ran in the 4.9 range at the Alabama Pro Day and displayed solid athleticism (he played rugby and hoops as a youth) in the three-cone drill.
 
 
By Michael Bradley
Teaser:
<p> Top Foreign Players in the 2013 NFL Draft</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 15:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-running-backs-2013
Body:

The Big Ten doesn’t have the deepest set of running backs in the nation, but the 2013 group still boasts plenty of talented options.

Northwestern’s Venric Mark shined in his first full year at running back, while Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah kept the Cornhuskers’ rushing attack going with Rex Burkhead sidelined due to a knee injury. Montee Ball is gone at Wisconsin, but James White and Melvin Gordon could be among the nation’s best one-two combinations.

After the top group, there’s plenty of intriguing options waiting to step up, including Michigan’s Derrick Green, Purdue’s Akeem Hunt and Ohio State’s Jordan Hall.

College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top running backs in each conference.

Ranking the Big Ten Running Backs for 2013

1. Venric Mark, Northwestern (SR)
In his first full season at running back, Mark emerged as one of the Big Ten’s top rushers. Mark spent the first two years at receiver but caught only six passes during that stretch. Moving the Texas native to running back proved to be a shrewd coaching decision by Pat Fitzgerald, as Mark ended the year with 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns, while catching 20 passes for 104 yards. His best performance came against Minnesota, recording 182 yards and two touchdowns on 20 attempts. Mark also rushed for 162 yards against Iowa and 104 yards against Michigan. At 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, Mark isn’t the biggest back, so Northwestern will have to be careful not to overwork him in 2013.
 

2. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska (JR)
Despite losing Rex Burkhead to a knee injury early last season, Nebraska’s rushing attack never missed a beat. Abdullah became the Cornhuskers go-to back in 2012, recording 1,137 yards and eight scores. He also caught 24 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Abdullah recorded six 100-yard efforts, including four consecutive games in the middle of the season. His best performance came against Arkansas State, rushing for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while recording 116 in the 32-23 win over Penn State in early November. With Burkhead out of eligibility and Braylon Heard transferring, Abdullah is clearly set as Nebraska’s top back for 2013. With one of the top offensive lines in the conference blocking for him, Abdullah should push for first-team All-Big Ten honors.
 

3. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (SO)
The heir apparent to Montee Ball’s ridiculous production will be the redshirt sophomore from Kenosha (Wisc.) Bradford. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is one of the most talented runners in the Big Ten and has a chance to pick up where Ball left off. Gordon has the power and burst through the hole as he averaged over 10 yards per carry as a freshman in 2012. He showed the nation how good he could be in last season's Big Ten title game against Nebraska, rushing for 216 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. James White will get plenty of touches but Gordon is the most talented runner on the UW roster.
 

4. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State (SR)
The 240-pound bowling ball from Naples (Fla.) High had a breakout second half in 2012. After missing two games early in the year to injury, Hyde returned to the lineup and rushed for 14 of his 16 touchdowns over the final seven games. He posted four games of at least 137 yards rushing over that span and was just 30 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. The Ohio State system will always spread the ball around but the senior-to-be’s proficiency around the goal line and in short yardage situations makes him the ideal complement to dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller.


5. James White, Wisconsin (SR)
The 5-foot-10, 197-pound runner is destined to be one of the best No. 2 backs in history. Even in high school, White was second fiddle to Giovani Bernard at prep powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. White then rushed for 1,052 yards as a freshman behind John Clay before spending the next two seasons behind the record-setting Montee Ball. White enters his final season with an impressive 2,941 career yards from scrimmage and 33 total touchdowns. Yet, he should once again be a more of a complimentary piece to new workhorse Melvin Gordon.
 

6. Zach Zwinak, Penn State (SR)
The burly senior-to-be from Frederick (Md.) Linganore didn’t get the starting call until Week 4 last year but was unstoppable from the word go. He rushed for 94 yards in his first extensive action against Temple before rattling off six 100-yard games in a total of eight Big Ten contests. He rushed for exactly 1,000 yards — all but two of those yards coming in Penn Sate's final nine games — and scored seven total touchdowns. He is a physical, bruising 234-pound converted fullback who will be asked to carry more of the load as Penn State breaks in a new quarterback.
 

7. Mark Weisman, Iowa (JR)
Iowa’s bad luck with running backs continued last season, as an injury to Damon Bullock opened the door for Weisman to become the No. 1 back in Iowa City. After recording just two carries in the first two games, Weisman posted four consecutive 100-yard performances, including 217 yards and three scores against Central Michigan. Weisman also battled injuries late in the year but finished with 91 yards against Nebraska in the season finale. With three starters back on the offensive line and an unproven quarterback taking over, Iowa should lean on Weisman and Bullock to carry the offense in 2013. If Weisman stays healthy, 1,000 yards should be within reach.


8. Stephen Houston, Indiana (SR)
The former junior college transfer hails originally from Little Rock (Ark.) Lakota West. But after 1,082 yards at Independence (Kan.) Community College., Houston landed in Bloomington. In his first season, he sparked the Hoosiers' rushing attack with 711 of his 802 yards and seven of his eight touchdowns in Big Ten play. He increased his workload as a junior last year, scoring 16 times on 198 offensive touches. The 225-pounder has power and speed and gives Kevin Wilson exactly what he wants in his backfield. But keep an eye on sophomore Tevin Coleman, as he could cut into Houston's workload in 2013.
 

9. Akeem Hunt, Purdue (JR)
The Covington (Ga.) Newton prospect has played in 25 of 26 possible career games since coming to Purdue. He has rushed for 622 yards in his first two seasons, acting primarily as a backup to Akeem Shavers (’12) and Ralph Bolden (’11). The 5-foot-9, 184-pound tailback now has a chance to shine as the starter for new head coach Darrell Hazell — who had extremely productive all-purpose backs at Kent State.
 

10. Donnell Kirkwood, Minnesota (JR)
Inconsistency on the offensive line prevented Minnesota’s ground game from getting on track last season, but Kirkwood still finished with 926 yards and six scores. He recorded three 100-yard performances, including 152 yards on 28 attempts against Illinois. Kirkwood had a solid game against Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, rushing for 77 yards and one score on 19 attempts. With sophomore Phillip Nelson still learning the ropes at quarterback, it’s important for Minnesota’s rushing attack to have a big season. Kirkwood has shown potential but needs to top 1,000 yards and become the clear go-to back for the Golden Gophers.
 

11. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan (SR)
Toussaint had a year to forget in 2012. After a suspension to open the year, he suffered a broken leg against Iowa on Nov. 17. Toussaint finished last season with 514 yards and five scores and never topped 100 yards in any one game. Some of the blame for Michigan’s struggles on the ground was due to the offensive line, but Toussaint will be under pressure to perform this fall, especially with top freshman Derrick Green poised to push for time. Considering Toussaint is coming off a significant leg injury, he could be rusty to start the season.
 

12. Derrick Green, Michigan (FR)
Even though Fitzgerald Toussaint is expected to return by the season opener from a serious leg injury, Green could be tough to keep off the field. The Virginia native ranked as the No. 26 overall prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and has the size and skill set necessary to be an every-down back for Michigan. Even if Green plays in just a complementary role, expect him to see plenty of action for the Wolverines as a true freshman.
 

13. Jordan Hall, Ohio State (SR)
The small, speedy Buckeyes running back has played in at least six games in four straight seasons in Columbus. However, the Jeannette (Pa.) High product spent most of last year sidelined with a bizarre foot injury and eventual PCL tear in his knee. He brings speed and big-play ability to the backfield when healthy and should easily top his career highs of 99 carries, 405 yards and two rushing touchdowns in 2013.
 

14. Imani Cross, Nebraska (SO)
With Braylon Heard transferring, Cross is firmly entrenched as the backup to Ameer Abdullah. Last season, the Georgia native rushed for 324 yards and seven scores on 55 attempts. Cross rushed for 100 yards against Idaho State and recorded 35 yards and one score against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, Cross provides more power than Abdullah and should easily surpass last year’s rushing totals.
 

15. Donovonn Young, Illinois (JR)
The 220-pound junior-to-be led the Illini in carries (131) and yards (571) while scoring more rushing touchdowns (3) than every other running back combined. Illinois needs more production from its running game and that responsibility falls on Young in 2013.
 

16. Nick Hill, Michigan State (JR)
Replacing Le’Veon Bell will be a tough task for Michigan State. The Spartans finished spring practice without much clarity in the backfield, and the picture was clouded even more when linebacker Riley Bullough switched to running back and shined in the spring game. Hill is the team’s leading returning rusher, recording 48 yards and one touchdown on 21 attempts last year. Although Hill has the edge on the stat sheet, he needs a big performance in the fall to secure the top spot on the depth chart.
 

17. Akeel Lynch, Penn State (FR)
Lynch, a 215-pounder from Ontario, Canada, redshirted last season but showed fans in spring practice what to expect in 2013. The longtime PSU fan rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown in the spring, giving Bill O’Brien another talented option in the backfield.
 

18. Damon Bullock, Iowa (JR)
The Mansfield (Texas) High product enters his third year after an effective year of spot duty for Iowa. Bullock only played in six games but got at least 22 carries in five of those six and posted 85.5 yards per game when he played.
 

19. Josh Ferguson, Illinois (SO)
The third-year running back from Naperville (Ill) Joliet Catholic saw limited action a year ago, rushing for 312 yards on 75 carries. Yet, he provided a boost in the passing game, catching 29 balls for 251 yards. Look for more work from the all-purpose back this fall.
 

20. R.J. Shelton, Michigan State (FR)
This spot is essentially a placeholder for one of Michigan State’s three incoming freshmen running backs. Shelton, Delton Williams and Gerald Holmes all will have an opportunity to battle Nick Hill, Riley Bullough, Jeremy Langford and Nick Tompkins for the starting job. Shelton was a three-star recruit by Rivals.com and could see significant action in 2013.
 

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
 

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Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big Ten's Running Backs for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/will-tennessee-volunteers-make-bowl-game-2013
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After a 15-21 record in three years on Rocky Top, Derek Dooley was fired as Tennessee’s coach and was replaced by Butch Jones. The Volunteers have missed out on a bowl game in each of the last two seasons and have just two conference wins during that stretch.

Jones did a good job in two previous coaching stops, recording a 27-13 mark in three years with Central Michigan and a 23-14 record at Cincinnati.

Jones seems to have Tennessee back on track, but the Volunteers have a lot of question marks to answer in 2013. 

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Will Tennessee Make a Bowl Game in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
No doubt, the goal for Butch Jones in his first year is a bowl game, but there could be rough waters ahead for the near future. Welcoming Jones to Knoxville is just an overall brutal schedule as the new leader, with road games in back-to-back weeks to Oregon and Florida followed up by the remorseless stretch of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Those five alone will make the hair stand up on any coach’s neck.

Can Tennessee make a bowl game? Sure, but there are too many personnel questions right now to say they will make a bowl game. I could see another 5-7 season for the Vols, but rest assured, there are brighter days ahead with The Butch in command. The only area of the Vols’ team that Jones can even feel remotely positive about is the offensive line. Outside of the big uglies, who are SEC Championship caliber, there are questions all over the roster.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the momentum and direction Jones has created in just his first five months on the job. Tennessee has their man. Now, they must give him time to succeed. But the learning curve for Jones’ first year is just too great to feel good about going to a bowl game, especially with the talent lost on offense. Ironically, Tennessee could be sitting at four wins with Vanderbilt and Kentucky in the last two weeks. The key to the whole season is the Vandy game. 


David Fox (@DavidFox615)
In a few years, Tennessee is going to be happy with Butch Jones. He’s unfairly labeled as standing on Brian Kelly’s shoulders after following him at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. On the contrary, last season was probably his best coaching job. But that’s partly because he rebuilt the foundation with the Bearcats before going 10-3 in 2012. In Knoxville, he may as well be starting from scratch. The defense was so bad last season that even a top-20 offense nationally couldn’t win more than one SEC game. And now Tyler Bray is gone. With a veteran offensive line -- one that allowed the fifth-fewest sacks in the country last season -- the regression for the offense will be mitigated. And this coaching staff already worked miracles with a bad Cincinnati defense it inherited from Kelly’s final season. Tennessee will have to win a handful of games they couldn’t last season, but they were closer to bowl eligibility than we remember last season. The Vols lost in four overtimes to Missouri, by a field goal to South Carolina, by a touchdown to Georgia, not to mention a Florida game that got away from them in a span of a few minutes in the second half. Tennessee should be counted on to win four games, and after that the season hinges on a road trip to Missouri and a home game against Auburn. A bowl seems plausible to me.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Despite the worst two-year SEC run in program history, there are things to like about the Tennessee Volunteers in 2013. New head coach Butch Jones has built a competitive coaching staff that knows how to win (and recruit). But most importantly, the Vols will boast one of the nation's best offensive lines. The ability to run the ball and protect the quarterback will help whoever is under center or catching passes. The schedule has some huge obstacles — at Oregon, Florida and Alabama to go with home games with South Carolina and Georgia. Assuming Tennessee loses all five, that leaves five winnable and two swing games for the Vols to compete for the postseason. Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, South Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky should be wins, leaving a home game with new rival Vanderbilt and a road trip to Missouri left to determine bowl eligibility. One win in those two and Tennessee will likely make it to a bowl. The change from Derek Dooley to Jones should be worth at least one game, right?
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
So far, Butch Jones is making all of the right moves at Tennessee. But winning the off-the-field battles and games in the SEC are two totally different matters.

With the departure of quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, the Volunteers have some gaping holes on offense at both positions. The good news is the offensive line could be the best in the SEC, and running back combination of Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane is solid.

While the quarterback battle is getting the most attention in Knoxville, Tennessee has to find some answers for a defense that was one of the worst in the nation last year. The Volunteers probably weren’t as bad as the numbers indicated, especially since the talent never meshed with Sal Sunseri’s 3-4 approach. With seven starters back, this unit should show some improvement in 2013.

In order to get to a bowl game, Tennessee has to go 3-1 in non-conference play. With Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and South Alabama on the schedule, getting three wins outside of the SEC should be attainable. However, finding three victories in the SEC won’t be easy. The Volunteers’ best chances at victories in conference play will likely come in November, as they play Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. I don’t think it will be easy, but Tennessee should find a way to get to 6-6 and play in a bowl in Butch Jones’ first season. 
 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
As much as I like the Butch Jones hiring, I think he will need some time to get things going in Knoxville. Besides starting over from scratch from not only a coaching standpoint but also the players having to learn new offensive and defensive systems, Tennessee saw a lot of talent leave for the NFL, especially on offense. While the offensive line should be a strength for the Volunteers, there's no Taylor Bray under center or Justin Hunter or Cordarelle Patterson (or Zach Rogers or Mychal Rivera for that matter) to catch passes. Then there's UT's schedule, which has two "guaranteed" wins on it - the season opener against Austin Peay and a Sept. 28 visit from South Alabama - and then four more potential winnable games at best. That would get the Vols to six wins and bowl-eligible, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Western Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn or dare I say it, even Kentucky was able to beat Tennessee this season. I think it's going to be a rocky road for "Rocky Top" this fall as the Vols will miss out on a bowl for the third straight season.
 

Nathan Rush (@AthlonSports)
Butch Jones is no Derek Dooley — and as a result, the Volunteers will make a bowl game this year. But there is little room for error, and the postseason party will almost certainly by an in-state affair at either the Music City or Liberty Bowls, respectively. Gone are the days when you couldn't spell Citrus (now the Capital One Bowl) without "UT," as Steve Spurrier famously quipped during the 1990s heyday of Phillip Fulmer's Big Orange machine. The Volunteers' schedule has five losses built in (at Alabama, at Oregon, at Florida, Georgia and South Carolina). Plus, the "easy" SEC games are on the road (at Missouri and at Kentucky). The cupcakes are South Alabama and Austin Peay. That leaves James Franklin's Vanderbilt, Gus Malzahn's Auburn and Bobby Petrino's Western Kentucky — three winnable (but losable) home games at Neyland Stadium — to decide the fate of Tennessee. Coach Jones needs at least two of those three to take the Vols bowling for the first time since 2010. If Jones can't make that happen, he better plan a Lane Kiffin exit strategy because patience is a thing of the past in Knoxville after the doomed Dooley era.
 

Barrett Sallee, Lead SEC College Football Writer for Bleacher Report (@BarrettSallee)
As long as the secondary can turn things around under first-year defensive coordinator John Jancek, I'd say that's not only a realistic goal, but an attainable one on Rocky Top.

Butch Jones takes over a program that's in a similar state as it was when former head coach Derek Dooley took over before the 2010 season. Scheme changes plus personnel changes doesn't typically equal immediate success, but that doesn't mean that the Vols are set for another rebuilding year.

The front seven for Tennessee will benefit tremendously from the switch back to the 4-3, and you'll see more consistency from the secondary as a result. A stout pass rush creates opportunities in the back end, and that will pay dividends for the Vols in 2013.

The schedule is brutal, and doesn't lend itself to a major turnaround in Year 1. But a .500 record and a lower-tier bowl game is progress. Jones will make that happen with this team.


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Teaser:
<p> Will the Tennessee Volunteers Make a Bowl Game in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 07:10

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