Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Essential 11
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-8
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for July 8.

• Country songbird and Eric Decker better half Jessie James might be our new favorite WAG. Here are a few reasons why.

Here's how Andy Murray spent his post-Wimbledon morning. I'd say Britain is pleased — as were Bradley Cooper and Gerard Butler at their bro-tastic best.

Mr. and Mrs. RG3 made a weird, creepy video together and posted it on Facebook.

Here are 21 ways not to celebrate a championship. My only quibble with the list: Nothing wrong with hitting up Denny's. A grand slam breakfast is a perfectly good way to celebrate.

• Sometimes, ESPN does things well. This is one of those times. A moving story of a producer and two special athletes.

The Seahawks got together with Fail Mary replacement ref Lance Easley for a charity softball game, where Easley posed for a photo with Golden Tate that will be like picking a scab for Packers fans. 

• Pro hoops has a new power couple: Kevin Durant is engaged to Minnesota Lynx player Monica Wright.

Saturday Down South picked East-West SEC All-Star Teams a la MLB. That's a game I'd pay to see.

• More Roger Goodell moralizing: The NFL reportedly is considering not inviting academically ineligible players to the NFL Combine.

• Interesting historical footnote: Kid Rock was present for the Malice at the Palace.

• Manny Machado went all Brooks Robinson on the Yankees yesterday.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/who-best-worst-starting-quarterback-nfl-2013
Body:

Statistical production, raw talent, supporting cast, level of competition, individual awards and records are help to define hierarchies in sports debates. However, in the NFL, greatness is defined most about winning and losing. Sure, coaching, scheduling, injuries and many other factors influence the ability for any given NFL team to succeed on Sundays.

But who is under center playing quarterback is still the most important piece to the Super Bowl puzzle. With that in mind, who is the best quarterback in the NFL today? Who is the worst? Who gives your team the best possible chance to win the Lombardi Trophy in 2013? Don't worry, Athlon Sports has the answer.

The NFL's Best Quarterbacks in 2013 (age as of Sept. 1 and win-loss records):

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (29)
W/L: 52-26 (5-3) YPG: 254.8 QBR: 104.9 TD-INT: 171-46 Rush: 1,442 yds TD: 18

There is little doubt that Rodgers isn't the best player at his position right now. He is only 29 years old, already has one Super Bowl Championship, has posted the most efficient single season by any quarterback in history (122.5, 2011) and has won 46 games in the last four seasons (46-16). His uncanny ability to extend plays with his legs and fire accurately on the run makes him the perfect athlete to play the modern role of dual-threat quarterback. He wins, doesn't turn the ball over, is an elite athlete and is the consummate professional off the field. He is the best in the game today. 

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans (34)
W/L: 99-70 (5-4) YPG: 270.1 QBR: 94.3 TD-INT: 324-86 Rush: 570 yds TD: 9

Brees gets the slight nod over Tom Brady and Peyton Manning based somewhat on his age. At 34, Brees still has a few more seasons of elite-level play than either Brady or Manning. And elite level of play means back-to-back 5,000-yard passing seasons and three in the last five years. He has never been the most talented or physically gifted but the intangibles are off the charts, the leadership is second to none and he has been a winner every step of his career a state champion in Texas at Austin (Texas) Westlake, a Big Ten champ at Purdue and Super Bowl champ in 2009 for the Saints.

3. Tom Brady, New England (36)
W/L: 136-39 (17-7) YPG: 253.1 QBR: 96.6 TD-INT: 334-123 Rush: 748 yds TD: 14

The big edge for Brady in the statistical category comes in the win-loss column. He has won nearly twice as many playoff games as any other active NFL quarterback and has won more than 77 percent of his career starts. He is second only to Rodgers in quarterback efficiency for his career among quarterbacks with more than one year of starting experience. With three Super Bowl titles and five Super Bowl appearances on his resume there is nothing else to prove. That said, he is 36 years old and probably has just a couple more seasons left of elite play.

4. Peyton Manning, Denver (37)
W/L: 154-70 (9-11) YPG: 265.6 QBR: 95.7 TD-INT: 436-209 Rush: 728 yds TD: 17

Manning could easily lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl championship in 2013 and should he accomplish the ultimate goal for a second time in his career, it is likely he would walk away from the game like another famous Denver signal-caller. At 37 and having been forced to sit out all of 2011, Manning doesn't have much time left in this league. Yet, from a preparation and football IQ level, he has few peers ever in the history of the game and that won't change anytime soon. His age is the only thing that keeps him from the top spot.

5. Eli Manning, New York Giants (32)
W/L: 78-57 (8-3) YPG: 230.1 QBR: 82.7 TD-INT: 211-144 Rush: 395 yds TD: 4

The numbers aren't nearly as impressive as compared to Rodgers, Brees, Brady or Manning and, in fact, the younger Manning's stats pale in comparison to those quarterbacking juggernauts. He doesn't throw for as many touchdowns or yards. He turns the ball over more. And he doesn't win regular-season games at an elite rate. But he has more Super Bowl championships (2) than each of the aforementioned quarterbacks with the exception of Brady. Manning has proven he has what it takes to perform in clutch situations and his calm, quiet demeanor helps him succeed in the world's largest media market. 

6. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (23)
W/L: 11-5 (0-1) YPG: 273.4 QBR: 76.5 TD-INT: 23-18 Rush: 255 yds TD: 5

This is optimistic, certainly, but Luck is the best NFL pro prospect since John Elway entered the league in the mid '80s and Luck just posted the single greatest rookie season by an NFL quarterback... ever. He is a special talent who is cut from the Rodgers mold of athletic ability, leadership, intelligence, toughness and accuracy. Few can throw on the run like Luck, and, since he is bigger than Rodgers, may end up being better than the Packers' signal-caller. There is no weakness to Luck's game.

7. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (28)
W/L: 56-22 (1-4) YPG: 243.0 QBR: 90.9 TD-INT: 127-60 Rush: 500 yds TD: 5

Calm under pressure is the name of the game for Ryan. Few have ever won games right out of the gate like Ryan — he has five winning seasons in five years — but he simply needs to finish games when it counts the most. He posted a career best in completion percentage (68.6) and QB Rating (99.1) a year ago while increasing his touchdown total for a fifth consecutive season. He overcame a big hurdle by getting his first career postseason win last year, but the Falcons crumbled around him against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Take one or two more steps for Atlanta and Ryan will be in the Rodgers class of talent and success.

8. Joe Flacco, Baltimore (28)
W/L: 54-26 (9-4) YPG: 220.4 QBR: 86.3 TD-INT: 102-56 Rush: 430 yds TD: 7

He isn't the fastest, smartest, strongest, most successful or most efficient. But few players in the history of the sport have ever posted a postseason run like Flacco did in the 2012 playoffs. He threw 11 touchdowns against no interceptions and carried his team to a Super Bowl championship with pristine quarterbacking play. At nine playoff wins, Flacco has as many as Peyton Manning and one more than Eli. Like Ryan, he's never had a losing season as an NFL quarterback.

9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (31)
W/L: 87-39 (10-4) YPG: 235.0 QBR: 92.7 TD-INT: 191-108 Rush: 1,036 yds TD: 14

The Steelers won one Super Bowl because of Big Ben and won another one in spite of Big Ben. He has an uncanny ability to prolong the action and make brutally tough plays in the face of certain disaster. There is no doubt that Roethlisberger is a big winner for a franchise that is one of the most demanding in the league. He is just 31 years old, but he has taken a beating and it is beginning to cost him. Big Ben hasn't played 16 games in a season since 2008 and has missed eight games over the last three seasons.

10. Tony Romo, Dallas (33)
W/L: 55-38 (1-3) YPG: 212.7 QBR: 95.6 TD-INT: 177-91 Rush: 508 yds TD: 5

From a statistical standpoint, Romo is one of the most underrated signal-callers in the game today. For an organization that is poorly managed from the top, Romo's career QB rating trails only Rodgers, Brady and Peyton Manning among quarterbacks with more than one year of starting experience. He has produced big numbers with little to no support from a running game and/or offensive line and it has led to multiple injuries. That being said, winning once in four postseason tries — including a memorable fumbled snap — and losing each of the last two regular-season finales with postseason berths hanging in the balance will always keep him being considered as one of the NFL's elite.

11. Robert Griffin III, Washington (23)
W/L: 9-6 (0-1) YPG: 213.3 QBR: 102.4 TD-INT: 20-5 Rush: 815 yds TD: 7

The former Heisman Trophy winner has all of the physical tools to become one of the game's greatest players. He has electric speed, a huge arm, great size, high football IQ, great work ethic and tremendous toughness. However, fans in D.C. have already seen how fragile his style of play can be on the NFL level. To that end, a second major knee injury in three years last fall doesn't bode well for a long career in the NFL unless RG3 can modify his style of play to protect himself.

12. Russell Wilson, Seattle (24)
W/L: 11-5 (1-1) YPG: 194.9 QBR: 100.0 TD-INT: 26-10 Rush: 489 yds TD: 4

Wilson has a lot of Drew Brees to his game. Undersized, savvy, hard-working, underrated athletically and a lightning-quick right arm. Cut from the Rodgers-Luck dual-threat cloth, Wilson is constantly looking to extend the play and make a big throw. He can run around and pick up first downs with his legs if need be, but he's also adept at throwing on the run. This, and his compact frame, gives him a better chance at staying healthy over other true dual-threats. His statistical and win-loss records as a starter both in college and his first year in the pros speak for themselves.

13. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (25)
W/L: 19-13 (0-2) YPG: 220.8 QBR: 83.9 TD-INT: 47-29 Rush: 272 yds TD: 5

He won't ever be confused with the most talented in the league and his long-term upside may still be in question. But Dalton simply wins games. He has two winning records and two playoff appearances in as many years for a team not normally accustomed to playing in the postseason. He is efficient, more athletic than expected and plays to his strengths. 

14. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (25)
W/L: 17-28 (0-1) YPG: 284.6 QBR: 82.8 TD-INT: 80-54 Rush: 323 yds TD: 7

Stafford is the exact opposite of Dalton. He is dripping with elite athletic talent from his burly frame to supercharged right arm but seems to be lacking in the intangibles section. He returned the Lions to the postseason, which is no easy feat, but he also has missed extended time due to injuries and regressed last fall. His 2013 might be one of the most important in the NFL.

15. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco (25)
W/L: 5-2 (2-1) YPG: 115.6 QBR: 97.9 TD-INT: 10-3 Rush: 413 yds TD: 5

College football fans were not surprised in the least by the Niners' postseason sensation a year ago. One of the most dynamic college quarterbacks to ever play the game is forcing NFL defenses to find ways to slow him down. He has a cannon for a right arm, a huge frame and tremendous feet and speed. Time will tell if he can protect himself from the big hits. 

16. Cam Newton, Carolina (24)
W/L: 13-19 (0-0) YPG: 247.5 QBR: 85.3 TD-INT: 40-29 Rush: 1,447 yds TD: 22

Newton has certainly outperformed expectations in his first two seasons. Many doubted his accuracy, attitude and ability to run a pro offense. He still turns the ball over too much and needs to be more efficient but his production in two short years have proven many of those doubters wrong. The next step for Newton will be proving he can consistently win games on this level.

17. Jay Cutler, Chicago (30)
W/L: 51-42 (1-1) YPG: 229.2 QBR: 84.0 TD-INT: 136-100 Rush: 1,116 yds TD: 6

That "1-1" postseason mark is a pretty glaring number for a player as accomplished as Cutler. He has over 21,000 yards passing and nearly 150 touchdowns, but has been to the playoffs just one time in seven years. He has just two winning seasons over that time and is on his second team. He is turnover prone and has had plenty of attitude issues. Time is running out for Cutler to prove he is a legitimate franchise quarterback.

18. Sam Bradford, St. Louis (25)
W/L: 15-26-1 (0-0) YPG: 223.3 QBR: 77.3 TD-INT: 45-34 Rush: 216 yds TD: 2

There is some Andy Dalton to his game in that he doesn't appear to be the most gifted of athletes and his fragility is a huge concern. But in the right situation with an actual offensive line, Bradford has a chance to make a big statement this year. He topped 3,500 yards in each of his 16-game seasons and has a surprisingly solid 14-17-1 record during those two years for a team that has been long considered a doormat.

19. Matt Schaub, Houston (32)
W/L: 44-38 (1-1) YPG: 186.0 QBR: 91.9 TD-INT: 120-70 Rush: 328 yds TD: 4

There isn't much else to learn about the former Virginia Cavaliers quarterback. When healthy, he is a solid player who is capable of winning games and producing big numbers. He also played just 11 games in 2007 and '08 and just 10 in '11. One has to be on the field to win games and time is running out for the 32-year-old.

20. Philip Rivers, San Diego (31)
W/L: 70-42 (3-4) YPG: 240.4 QBR: 94.5 TD-INT: 189-93 Rush: 338 yds TD: 3

Consider Rivers a more volatile version of Jay Cutler. The mouthy signal caller has had a fall from grace unlike anything this league has ever seen. There is no doubting his physical talent, but Rivers has gone from leading the NFL in yards (4,710 in 2010) to becoming a walking turnover and .500 quarterback. Rivers is 15-17 with 35 interceptions and 24 lost fumbles in the last two seasons. 

21. Carson Palmer, Arizona (33)
W/L: 54-67 (0-2) YPG: 241.5 QBR: 86.2 TD-INT: 189-130 Rush: 372 yds TD: 7

Palmer will likely never be given his due as a solid NFL quarterback. He helped rebuild a perennial doormat when he led the Bengals back to the postseason and, frankly, Joe Montana at his best couldn't win in Oakland these days. He just posted his best yardage total in six seasons, topping 4,000 yards for just the third time, and now has Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd at his disposal. Expect a rejuvenation.

22. Michael Vick, Philadelphia (33)
W/L: 56-44-1 (2-3) YPG: 167.6 QBR: 80.6 TD-INT: 123-82 Rush: 5,551 yds TD: 34

The issue has been and will always be health with the player who takes more hits than anyone else in the NFL. Since coming back from prison, Vick has played in 12, 12, 13 and 10 games in four seasons and doesn't seem to be capable of changing his style of play. Until that happens, he is much more of liability than a champion.

23. Alex Smith, Kansas City (29)
W/L: 38-36-1 (1-1) YPG: 178.5 QBR: 79.1 TD-INT: 81-63 Rush: 761 yds TD: 4

Has anyone noticed that Alex Smith has played eight years in the NFL? He has a winning career record and is 19-5-1 over his last two seasons as a starter with just 10 total interceptions during that span. He also isn't playing for Jim Harbaugh any longer and is dealing with concussion issues. But still, eight years?

24. Jake Locker, Tennessee (25)
W/L: 4-7 (0-0) YPG: 169.9 QBR: 78.4 TD-INT: 14-11 Rush: 347 yds TD: 2

The Titans quarterback has awesome athletic ability but some glaring question marks. First, he simply isn't that accurate of a passer and, generally, that cannot be corrected. A 55.5 percent career completion rate won't win games in the NFL. Additionally, he has a long track record of injuries that have already impacted his pro career. 

25. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (26)
W/L: 33-29 (4-2) YPG: 195.0 QBR: 71.7 TD-INT: 68-69 Rush: 342 yds TD: 12

Where to begin? The facts are that Sanchez is a winning quarterback for his career who has played in two AFC Championship games —  out-performing Tom Brady in the process — and progressed statistically in his first three years. However, he regressed massively a year ago and has never become a play-maker. The leash is awfully short.

26. Ryan Tannehill, Miami (25)

W/L: 7-9 (0-0) YPG: 205.9 QBR: 76.1 TD-INT: 12-13 Rush: 211 yds TD: 2

The athletic ability is incredibly impressive and the first-year numbers are more than adequate. That said, there are still major doubts about his ability to be a pro quarterback. A year of small developmental steps and another 7-9 record would set him up for much bigger expectations in 2014.

27. Matt Flynn, Oakland (28)
W/L: 1-1 (0-0) YPG: 29.3 QBR: 92.0 TD-INT: 9-5 Rush: 14 yds TD: 1

The numbers tell the picture of what is known about Flynn. He has two career starts, one major contract and one major trade. On his third team in as many years, Flynn will finally get a chance to prove himself on the NFL level after winning a national title at LSU.

28. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (29)

W/L: 5-10 (0-0) YPG: 225.7 QBR: 72.6 TD-INT: 14-17 Rush: 111 yds TD: 0

Entering his second season at 29 years old isn't ideal and he did little a year ago to prove he was deserving of his first-round status. However, he also proved he belonged in the NFL year last year and should grow in Year 2. The upside is limited but he is serviceable for the time being.

29. Christian Ponder, Minnesota (25)
W/L: 12-14 (0-0) YPG: 177.3 QBR: 77.1 TD-INT: 31-25 Rush: 472 yds TD: 2

Ponder helped lead the Vikings to the playoffs last year but questions still remain about his ability to make plays in key spots against tough competition. He did win his final four starts last season and played big against the Lions, Texans and Packers, but he still has much to prove.

30. EJ Manuel, Buffalo (23)
W/L: N/A YPG: N/A QBR: N/A TD-INT: N/A Rush: N/A TD: N/A

There is a ton to like about the young first-round pick from Florida State. He has excellent mental make-up and will be a tremendous leader in the huddle. He is big, fast, physical, was one of the most efficient passers to play for the Seminoles, and is one of only two players in college football history to start and win four bowl games. There should be doubts but there is a lot more upside with Manuel than most acknowledge.

31. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (25)
W/L: 24-32 (0-0) YPG: 227.4 QBR: 79.8 TD-INT: 78-63 Rush: 902 yds TD: 4

Since his days at Kansas State, Freeman has been a turnover machine. He has 63 interceptions and 36 fumbles in four NFL seasons after 34 interceptions in three college seasons. That is 97 interceptions in seven seasons of football. There is a reason Mike Glennon was drafted.

32. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville (23)
W/L: 5-19 (0-0) YPG: 155.0 QBR: 70.2 TD-INT: 21-17 Rush: 154 yds TD: 0

Many times in the NFL a player falls into a horrible situation and is given very little chance to succeed. That is certainly the case with Gabbert, however, he has shown little in the way of true NFL upside.

Teaser:
Who is the best, worst starting Quarterback in the NFL in 2013?
Post date: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-accs-best-traditions
Body:

There are many reasons a sports fan can come to the realization that the college game is a better product than the professional version. Some of that has to do with charming, sleepy college towns and the scenic tailgating. The college game has bigger stadiums filled with more dedicated fans, historic bands and student sections. The offenses are more innovative and the rivalries are drenched in decades of bitterness.

Last but certainly not least, are the college games' traditions. Important locations, songs, items and activities give a deeper meaning and create a deeper connection among fans and the teams they love. And to each other as well. The sense of community at a great college game is stronger than in any other major American sport. The ACC has its fair share of historic practices and strange behaviors. From a legendary rock in South Carolina to a beat-up old lunch pail in Virginia, the ACC can match up with any other league in the nation when it comes to traditions. Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:

Howard's Rock and The Hill
Legendary Clemson coach Frank Howard was given a massive rock from Death Valley, Calif., back in the early 1960s. It sat in Howard's office for years until IPTAY executive director Gene Willimon placed it atop a pedestal in 1966 at the top of the east end zone on the "hill" that the team runs down before entering Memorial Stadium each home game — the legend says Howard actually asked Willimon to throw the rock away. The next year, the team started rubbing the rock for good luck in the season opener and have been doing it ever since. The crowd comes to a rolling boil before each game while the Tigers players gather atop the hill waiting for the word to charge the gridiron. Many have called it the most exciting 25 seconds in sports.

Chief Osceola and Renegade
The planting of the spear at Doak Campbell Stadium is one of college football's finest traditions. Chief Osceola and his Appaloosa horse Renegade are the official symbols of the Florida State Seminoles, and they both ride out to midfield before each home game to slam a burning spear into the 50-yard line logo. With the support of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Osceola has been making this pre-game journey since 1978.

The Hokie Slab and "Enter Sandman"
There is little history or tradition with the "Enter Sandman" entrance theme for the Virginia Tech Hokies. In 2000 after playing the BCS title game the year before, Virginia Tech put up a massive new video screen and outsourced the pre-game video production. However, the powers that be in Blacksburg had to pick the song and, clearly, they chose wisely. Besides the signature entrance music, the players also gather in a long tunnel from the lockers to the field and slap a slab of signature Hokie Stone before emerging into a frenzied Lane Stadium.

Georgia Tech's Ramblin' Wreck
When that 1930 Ford Model A Sport coupe comes peeling across Bobby Dodd Stadium at historic Grant Field, the Yellow Jackets faithful go berserk. Bearing the same name as the student body population, The Ramblin' Wreck has been leading the football team into home games since 1961. With cheerleaders draped all over the sides and crisp, whitewall tires, the car is not only an amazing college football tradition but also a work of art.

Miami's Smoke Tunnel
Using plumes of billowing smoke isn't some new or unique tradition reserved for Miami alone. However, the U is one of the originals, as the Hurricanes have been charging the field before home games through a cloud of smoke since the 1950s. Led by Sebastian the Ibis, powerhouse teams in South Florida have been demoralizing opponents by simply running out onto the field.

The Sod Cemetery
A professor issued a challenge in 1962 that Florida State team captain Gene McDowell was happy to meet. He was asked to return to FSU with "some sod" from Between the Hedges at Georgia. Ever since, before leaving for road games in which Florida State is the underdog, facing Florida or any championship game, FSU captains explain the significance of the Cemetery to their teammates. Captains continue to return home with a piece of the opponents' turf to be buried just outside the gates of the practice field.

Florida State's War Chant
There are various historical takes on when, where and how this Florida State tradition began, but many point to a big game against Auburn in 1984. The band played the traditional cheer but the student section continued chanting after the band finished and it stuck. By the next season, it was a stadium-wide phenomenon that birthed the now-historic tomahawk chop.

Best of the Rest:

Touching Testudo
Purchased in 1933 by University of Maryland students, the statue of Testudo (formerly Gorham) is a 300-pound bronze statue of a Chesapeake Bay Diamondback Turtle. The members of the football team touch the statue before taking the field of play at each home game.

Virginia Tech's Lunch Pail
Then co-defensive coordinators Rod Sharpless and Bud Foster brought a beat-up, old coal miner's lunch pail from New Jersey in 1995 to use as a motivational ploy. Now a well-known and established tradition of the Hokies' program, each week, the pail contains goals, hurdles and mission statements.

Pitt's Cathedral of Learning
At 535 feet, Pitt's tower is the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere. And the "victory lights" on the top floors are lit after every Pitt win.

Syracuse's No. 44
Retired in 2005, only the best Orange Men have ever been worthy of wearing the prestigious No. 44, including Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little.

NC State's Fury The Wolf
Former NC State head coach Tom O'Brien created Fury the Wolf to bolster the Wolfpack's entrance to Carter-Finley Stadium. The 400-pound bronze wolf was installed in 2008. Packaged with Tuffy the live Finish Tamaskan Dog, there is no mistaking the canine pride at NC State.

Rolling the Quad at Wake Forest
When Wake Forest moved to Winston-Salem in 1956, students needed to replace the ringing of the Wait Hall bell. So they began rolling Hearn Plaza, better known as the Quad.

NC State's re-entry policy
This is much less tradition as much as it is just awesome. Very few stadiums and arenas allow re-entry and Carter-Finley Stadium is one of them. I wonder what the students do out there in the parking lot?

Duke's Cameron Crazies
No, this one doesn't count but it does deserve mention as few hoops traditions compare to the football versions. This one most definitely does.

Teaser:
From a legendary rock in South Carolina to a beat-up old lunch pail in Virginia, the ACC can match up with any other league in the nation when it comes to traditions. Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites.
Post date: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/tcus-casey-pachall-ready-second-chance
Body:

By all accounts, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall had a great spring. The Horned Frogs’ mystery man earned praise throughout spring drills, and though the status of his competition with Trevone Boykin remains officially unresolved, Pachall’s return to the starting lineup seems inevitable. How well Pachall performs after a trying 2012 season, though, could determine whether TCU is ready to compete for the Big 12 title in only its second season in the league.

The senior, who left the team after four games in 2012 to seek treatment for substance abuse, returned to the school in January after completing a three-month program. The next question — at least from a football standpoint — is whether Pachall is ready to face LSU in Cowboys Stadium on Aug. 31.

Coach Gary Patterson dropped subtle hints during the spring that his mind was made up. “When he left last year, he was rated the No. 1 quarterback in the nation and we were 4–0,” Patterson reminded the media in March. “The other guy (Boykin) learned because he had to by fire. He did a tremendous job for what we threw him into. I’ve got until August (to choose). Casey is the older one, but both of them can do good things. (Boykin) can move around, gets himself out of trouble, (Pachall) gets himself out of trouble with his arm. In some ways, it’s hard to compare those kinds of things.

“So it’s great competition between him and Casey. They’re both taking reps with the ones. Casey is taking most of them.”

Read into that what you will.

With Pachall under center, the offense was more dynamic and dangerous. As a first-year starter in 2011, Pachall set TCU records for yards (2,921), completions (228) and completion percentage (66.5), while passing for 25 touchdowns. When he left in 2012, he was fifth nationally in pass efficiency and had thrown for 10 touchdowns and one interception.

This isn’t a question of production. Rather, the uncertainty around Pachall’s return involves his mental state and his ability to rebuild trust and team chemistry.

In October, Pachall left the team in the wake of an early-morning arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. By then, he had already admitted to police in February 2012 that he had smoked marijuana, tried cocaine and ecstasy, and failed a team drug test. Pachall’s admission came amid a campus investigation that led to the arrest of four TCU players — including Pachall’s roommate, linebacker Tanner Brock — for selling drugs on campus.

It would have been understandable had Patterson cut Pachall loose after his arrest. But that wasn’t going to happen, for a couple of reasons: Banishing Pachall sent the wrong message about second chances and young adults earning redemption, Patterson said. Plus, an outright dismissal could have opened up the school to legal issues.

Instead, Patterson left the door open for the troubled quarterback.

The week before Pachall returned to campus in January, his father Stan Pachall, a former Texas Highway Patrol officer, thanked fans for their support.

“Casey is doing well and we are very proud of the progress he has made,” he wrote in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Some people are just haters and want to see people fail. To the haters, I hope that they never have anyone close to them that suffers from addiction of any substance. And to the people that support and have prayed for Casey’s recovery — THANK YOU.”

Meanwhile, TCU’s first season in the Big 12 went on with Boykin at quarterback. Before he took over, Boykin had 10 career pass attempts to his name. He went 3–6 as a starter, with all nine games coming against bowl teams (in comparison, Pachall faced one bowl team, SMU). TCU also was playing without leading rusher Waymon James, who was out with an injury for the final 11 games. Another top running back, Matthew Tucker, also was out with an injury during Boykin’s first start — an ugly, turnover-plagued loss to Iowa State.

After the game against the Cyclones, the coaching staff adjusted gameplans to fit Boykin’s skill set, which includes more running ability than Pachall possesses. And Boykin, who didn’t envision starting during 2012, grew into his new role.

In his second start, Boykin was outstanding in a 49–21 win at Baylor, passing for 261 yards and four TDs and rushing for 56 yards and a score. In a 20–13 win at Texas on Nov. 22, Boykin rushed for 77 yards and threw for 82 on an economical 7-of-9 passing.

Patterson, understandably, has several reasons for playing it close to the vest with his quarterbacks this season. For one, Boykin earned enough credibility in the final nine games to at least compete for the job.

“Both quarterbacks want to be the starting guy,” Patterson said early in March. “Everybody knows what strengths both of them have. It just makes us better because now there is competition. We’ll see how it goes.”

Meanwhile, Pachall has declined interviews since returning to the team. Patterson also limits practice access and player availability drastically during the spring, so very little about Pachall’s progress on the field is known besides what Patterson reports to the media — and that is guarded.

Before Pachall left, he got along well with his teammates and was a legitimate team leader, according to several former teammates. Patterson says nothing changed in that regard, and the team welcomed him back with open arms in public comments that are not unexpected given the circumstances.

“There hasn’t been anything said,” Patterson says. “He had a great image with those guys as far as his relationships, and I don’t think the relationship is any different.”

Now, it’s up to Pachall to make a difference on the field.

Written by Stefan Stevenson for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big 12 Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Big 12 season.

Related College Football Content

Big 12 2013 Predictions
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
College Football's Top 15 Winners From Conference Realignment
College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2013
Five Ways to Fix Texas Football
College Football's Top 25 Defensive Heisman Candidates for 2013

 

Teaser:
Casey Pachall's Return is a Huge Boost for TCU
Post date: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 07:03
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-mlb-all-star-ballot
Body:

Tomorrow, MLB will announce the 2013 All-Star teams, and undoubtedly there will be some questions. Anytime you have fans electing players, there’s an overwhelming element of popularity, not necessarily performance. Players have their say as well, with the ability to select a few of the reserves, then the managers — Bruce Bochy of the Giants and Jim Leyland of Detroit — will fill out the enormous rosters of 33 players. I’m pretty sure I’ll disagree with the fans, who will elect the starting lineups, and most likely will disagree with the managers who select the reserves. After that process, and the rosters are announced on Saturday, fans once again will have the opportunity to make the final 34th selection for both teams.  


That’s right. There are 34 players on each All-Star roster. So before we get to my selections, let’s think about that number 34. Of that number, 13 will be pitchers. That leaves 21 position players. If you took the two best players at each position, that accounts for only 16 spots, so if the fans totally screw up and elect a player who is not one of the best two at his position, there is room to cover that mistake, if the managers so choose. And inevitably, there will be the teams that have no true deserving All-Stars, like maybe Houston, Miami and the Cubs, for example. With 21 position players and 13 pitchers, I think there are enough roster spots available to cover that as well.

It’s time to end the argument about having every team represented costing deserving players All-Star recognition. Maybe some players are more deserving, but if players are not one of the best two at their respective position, they have no real argument in my mind. If you take away the rule that every team must be represented, then among the next dominoes to fall should be shrinking the roster to 28 and taking away the fans’ vote.

I like having the fans select the starting lineups. I like having every team represented. I don’t like tying anything about the All-Star Game to where World Series games are played, which is an ill-conceived idea.

But I’ll step off of the soapbox for now. Here are the players who would receive my vote:

American League
(starting lineup and batting order)

LF Mike Trout, Los Angeles

The rising superstar isn’t having quite the season he put together last year, but he’s the best outfielder in the AL.

2B Dustin Pedroia, Boston
There are several reasons the Red Sox quickly erased their struggles from a year ago, but Pedroia has had the biggest impact.

3B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
There is currently no Cabrera-Trout debate for MVP this season — it’s all Miggy, who has 85 RBIs through the Tigers’ first 84 games.


1B Chris Davis, Baltimore
Actually, the MVP debate may be Davis-Cabrera, if there is a debate. Baltimore’s first baseman leads the majors with 32 home runs.

CF Adam Jones, Baltimore
Acquired in a heist from Seattle for pitcher Erik Bedard, Jones has played at an All-Star caliber level for the past five seasons in Baltimore.


DH David Ortiz, Boston
Big Papi is the best DH alive, perhaps in history. He’s been in the top 10 in the AL in average, homers and RBIs for most of the first half.

RF Nelson Cruz, Texas
The Rangers’ right fielder makes the starting lineup because of his ability to hit in the clutch.

C Joe Mauer, Minnesota
OK, maybe his contract is becoming an albatross for Minnesota, but Mauer can still hit and is solid behind the plate.

SS Jhonny Peralta, Detroit
The candidates at shortstop are few in the American League, but Peralta deserves to start even in a crowded field. Only Cabrera has a higher average on the AL Central leaders.


P Max Scherzer, Detroit
Most fans outside Detroit recognize the name Verlander much more quickly, but Scherzer is the Tigers’ best starter with a 13-0 record.

AL Reserves
Sal Perez, C, Kansas City
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland
Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore
J.J. Hardy, SS, Baltimore
Torii Hunter, OF, Detroit
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston
Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto
Clay Buchholz, P, Boston
Hisashi Iwakuma, P, Seattle
Felix Hernandez, P, Seattle
Chris Sale, P, Chicago
Bartolo Colon, P, Oakland
Yu Darvish, P, Texas
Justin Masterson, P, Cleveland
Glen Perkins, P, Minnesota
Mariano Rivera, P, New York
Joe Nathan, P, Texas
Jim Johnson, P, Baltimore
Grant Balfour, P, Oakland

National League
(starting lineup and batting order)

LF Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
CarGo is on the short list of MVP candidates in the NL. His production could suffer without Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup for the Rockies.

CF Andrew McCutchen Pittsburgh
Beyond Gonzalez, there are about six outfielders with equal arguments to start. But McCutchen makes the Pirates go and plays terrific defense.

DH Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Many players believe Votto is the best pure hitter in the game.

1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
The NL RBI leader deserves the start ahead of Votto at first this season, but maybe never again.

3B David Wright, New York
Quickly becoming Mr. Met in New York. The hometown fans will love seeing their superstar at the hot corner on the 16th.

C Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Widely considered the best defensive catcher in the majors, Yadi leads the NL in batting and has 45 RBIs. The Cardinals’ leader sits atop the MVP list for the first half.

2B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis
Having never played second in the minors, and with just 18 innings at the position prior to this season, Carpenter leads all NL second basemen in batting average, runs, extra-base hits and OPS.

RF Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee
Surprise! The outfielder representing the Brew Crew is not named Braun.

SS Sean Segura, Milwaukee
In all fairness, Tulowitzki of Colorado deserves to be the All-Star shortstop, having put together a brilliant first half. But being able to take the field is important for an All-Star and Segura is having a stellar season for the Brewers.

P Matt Harvey, New York
Maybe Adam Wainwright is more deserving to start but not by much. But I can’t resist having the Mets’ youngster throw the first pitch in the midsummer classic in his home ballpark.

NL Reserves
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco
Allen Craig, 1B, St. Louis
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh
Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego
Gerardo Parra, OF, Arizona
Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati
Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia
Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado
Carlos Beltran, OF, St. Louis
Adam Wainwright, P, St. Louis
Clayton Kershaw, P, Los Angeles
Cliff Lee, P, Philadelphia
Patrick Corbin, P, Arizona
Jordan Zimmermann, P, Washington
Travis Wood, P, Chicago
Jose Fernandez, P, Miami
Jason Grilli, P, Pittsburgh
Craig Kimbrel, P, Atlanta
Edward Mujica, P, St. Louis
Jonathan Papelbon, P, Philadelphia
Aroldis Chapman, P, Cincinnati

Teaser:
Tomorrow, MLB will announce the 2013 All-Star teams, and undoubtedly there will be questions. Anytime you have fans electing players, there’s an overwhelming element of popularity, not necessarily performance. I’m pretty sure I’ll disagree with the fans, who will elect the starting lineups, and most likely will disagree with the managers who select the reserves. Here is what my All-Star ballot would look like.
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 19:39
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/floridas-jeff-driskel-signs-red-sox
Body:

If football doesn't work for Jeff Driskel, the Florida signal-caller has a solid Plan B. Driskel was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 29th round of the MLB Draft and signed with the team this week.

Driskel is still eligible to play for Florida this season, marking his second year as the Gators' No. 1 signal-caller. 

Considering the personnel losses Florida suffered on defense, the Gators need Driskel to show improvement for the team to match its win total for 2013. However, the quarterback also needs help from a struggling receiving corps and revamped offensive line. 

Here's what Driskel had about his Red Sox contract on Twitter this week:

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 17:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-releases-hype-video-2013
Body:

After last season's 4-8 record, there's a lot of excitement for the change in Arkansas football behind new coach Bret Bielema.

Bielema comes to Fayetteville from Wisconsin and should have the Razorbacks back in contention for a bowl in 2013.

With over 50 days until kickoff, Arkansas has released a video to get its fans ready for the 2013 college football season. 

It's worth a couple minutes of your time to check out this video. However, you are warned: It will just make you wish kickoff for the 2013 season was tomorrow. 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 17:44
Path: /nascar/can-dale-earnhardt-jr-return-victory-lane-daytona
Body:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.1. Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. win again at Daytona?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has long played the role of favorite in most of the NASCAR races he's run at Daytona International Speedway. His emotional win in the 2001 Pepsi 400, his 2004 Daytona 500 win and his impressive streak of top-10 finishes from 2003-06 helped to cement the status.

But after his second-place run in February's Daytona 500 (his third in four years), Earnhardt has now gone 18 Sprint Cup races at Daytona since pulling into Victory Lane. What's the deal?

"I think we might need to try to be at a better position sooner, where we’re not having to have to do so much right at the end of the race and not have an opportunity to challenge for the win," Earnhardt said Thursday at Daytona.

He's right. A last-lap pass pushed him to Jimmie Johnson's bumper in February's race, and the same thing happened in 2010 when he couldn't overtake Jamie McMurray in the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt is hopeful that the 2.5-mile track looses some grip in the heat and forces car handling to take precedence. To him, that's what makes exciting racing.

"We might have a good opportunity to see a real exciting race and I think when things get more exciting at the plate tracks, I’ve got a better shot at finding my way toward the front for an easier shot at it," Earnhardt said.


2. Restrictor plate results dog Harvick's strong first half
Just twice in 2013 has Kevin Harvick finished worse than 14th. And just twice this season has Harvick finished only 47 laps in a race.

Those stats are pretty remarkable given that 2013 is Harvick's final year at Richard Childress Racing. Then consider how flat the RCR program often was in 2012 and you'll start to understand how it's surprising that both of those DNFs came at the tracks that everyone on the eve of this year's Daytona 500 figured would be most ripe for Harvick's best finishes.

The poor runs came at the series' pair of stops at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, where Harvick was knocked out both times by wrecks caused by Kyle Busch. He was undoubtedly going to be a factor in each — no one was stronger during Daytona's Speedweeks, as Harvick won the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race and one of the two Duel qualifying events — and you've got to think not much will have changed come Saturday night.

Harvick, now fourth in the standings, will be one to watch.


3. TNT abandons "wide open" broadcast concept
A staple of TNT's six-race coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in recent seasons has been its production of the July Daytona race. The "wide open" coverage, as the network called it, covered the screen with commercials just a handful of times for local commercial breaks. Otherwise, the national commercial breaks were run in a unique format that kept the race action on the screen while showing the spots in a side-by-side format.

Advertisers also got heavy play on the screen scoreboard and with pop-up ads.

While imperfect, the coverage style was a drastic improvement of NASCAR on television because viewers rarely missed a beat. Instead of going away, it's a style of NASCAR television that should have been expanded.

Network officials likely decided to abandon the format because advertisers just simply didn't like it and the ratings boost wasn't high enough. Personally, I'd like to see how fans would react if the wide-open coverage was a staple of NASCAR — not just a one-off deal on a summer Saturday night. TNT has promised that the race will not be interrupted by commercials during the final 30 laps.

Saturday night's coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. EST and includes an in-depth feature detailing Carl Edwards both on and off the track.


4. Nationwide drivers go for broke with no changes from February
Just in case Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers didn't want to win bad enough in Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Daytona, each has an extra $100,000 carrot dangling in front of them payable to the driver who finishes first among the four. It's all part of a Nationwide-sponsored incentive program that could see one of the four take home an extra $1 million after Indianapolis in a few weeks.

But those four drivers — plus everyone else entered in the Friday 250-miler — will fight for the win using the same rules package as the series' season-opener in February at the track. That's a bit worrisome if you remember the multi-car, last-lap wreck that sent Larson's car into the catchfence and injured more than 30 fans. Several were hospitalized.

NASCAR has been almost completely mum on the investigation underway from Larson's horrifying incident, and apparently hasn't found anything that needs to change on the competition side to prevent race cars from flying while racing at 200 mph. NASCAR did, however, announce some strengthening of the crossover gates at Daytona and Talladega, a move indicative of no real internal worries about cars getting airborne or in the fence. Officials seem to just want the fence to hold.

Judging by the gut-wrenching, ugly scene that Larson's ripped car left in row after row of Daytona's grandstand just a few months ago, that seems a bit light.


5. Testing brings new Goodyear compounds to Daytona
If you thought February's race at Daytona lacked the expected punch and wildness thanks to a lack of passing in the field, you weren't alone. Drivers were also frustrated with the advantage in that race seemingly coming from merely staying in line.

The race forced NASCAR's tire supplier Goodyear to make amends to the compounds used on the still-new Gen-6 car. To find a new sweet spot of competition and longevity, Goodyear brought nine teams to Daytona in April for a two-day test. Drivers included in the day and night sessions were Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael McDowell (driving Denny Hamlin's No. 11), Trevor Bayne, Austin Dillon and Carl Edwards.

The result was new compounds for each side of the car, and a change to the build of the left-side tires that Goodyear said is similar to tires in use at other Sprint Cup tracks. Hopefully, the new tires — both right and left side tires have never been raced — will add some energy to Saturday night's race.


by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:
@GeoffreyMiller
 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 12:06
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-5
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for July 5.

• Sorry, fellas — Natalie Gulbis is engaged. Oh well. We'll always have the bodypaint spread.

Joey Chestnut ate 69 hot dogs yesterday. As Bob Ley tweeted, this is why our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor.

• As our tribute to American gluttony, here are 25 epic "Only in America" food items.

• It was an especially happy Fourth for one (no doubt long-suffering) Royals fan. A Lorenzo Cain grand slam netted her 25 large.

• Proving that baseball isn't the only sport with insufferable stat nerds, KenPom digs into the value of two-for-ones.

The Bruins hired a guard to prevent Tyler Seguin from partying during the playoffs. Now that's attention to detail.

• Looking to creep our your guests at your next dinner party? Serve them Silence of the Lambs-themed chianti.

• This is a bit random, but whatever: Celtics fan Roddy White is not a fan of the Brad Stevens hire.

• Already thinking about life after Johnny Football? You'll be glad to hear that the future of the quarterback position in the SEC is very bright.

Serena Williams, towel thief?

Mike Scioscia joins the "Yasiel Puig isn't an All-Star" chorus.

• Chris Parmalee didn't care that his team was down 9-1. He was going to catch the baseball.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 11:24
Path: /nfl/12-nfl-running-backs-hot-seat-2013
Body:

While the term "hot seat" is typically associated with head coaches and their job security, they are not the only ones who feel the heat during an NFL season. Along those lines, the official "start" to the 2013 season is less than a month away, as training camps will open and the battle for roster spots begins anew among the players.

How NFL teams use and value running backs is changing. On the one hand, there’s the increasing trend of using backs more in the passing game, especially on screens and other short throws, to give defenses something else to worry about and have to prepare for. On the other, there’s the shift in philosophy as it applies to the decline of the workhorse back and the rise of the committee approach, as well as how teams approach the position through the draft, free agency and contract negotiations.

The shelf life of an NFL running back seems to be decreasing with each passing season. Teams still need them to succeed (six of the league’s top 10 rushing teams made the playoffs last season), but the backs themselves need to show that they can get the job done when given the opportunity. Here are 12 running backs we feel are squarely on the “hot seat,” whether it’s because of team expectations or job security, this season.

1. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Believe it or not, but McFadden will only turn 26 in August even though he’s entering his sixth NFL season. The talent is clearly there for the former first-round pick (No. 4 overall in 2008), but he’s yet to put it all together for a complete season. He has yet to play in all 16 games in a season and has started more than 12 just twice.

After rushing for 1,157 yards in 2010, McFadden has posted a total of 1,321 yards on the ground in the last two seasons combined. Injuries have been largely to blame, including a Lisfranc foot injury that caused him to miss the final nine games in 2011. Last season, he missed four due to a high ankle sprain, but he also posted a career-worst 3.3 yards per carry in the 12 he played in.

McFadden is entering the final year of his contract, so this is clearly a critical season for him. The Raiders have ditched last season’s zone-blocking scheme in favor of a power running system implemented by new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, which should be a much better fit for McFadden. This should provide him with the perfect opportunity to showcase his talents, provided he can stay on the field.

Related: 12 NFL Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat in 2013

2. Maurice Jones Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jones-Drew is entering the final year of his contract and at just 28 years old, he should be one of the top available free agents after this season provided he doesn’t re-sign with the Jaguars. However, a big payday for MJD is anything but a guarantee considering he played in just six games last season and had foot surgery in late December.

The 2011 NFL rushing champion needs to not only show that he’s healthy, but also that he can be the productive workhorse who averaged nearly 1,800 yards from scrimmage from 2009-11. The latter could be easier said than done considering the questions surrounding the Jaguars’ offense, but Jones-Drew needs to take full advantage of his opportunities and prove he’s still one of the league’s top offensive players, especially if he wants to get paid like one.

3. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
Expectations were high for Mathews, who the Chargers traded up 16 spots to grab with the 12th overall pick of the 2010 draft. Anointed as the heir apparent to LaDainian Tomlinson, Mathews was named to the Pro Bowl in 2011 after rushing for 1,091 yards, but otherwise his career in San Diego has been marked by injuries. He has yet to play a full season, as his list of injuries includes two broken collarbones, both of which he sustained last season.

Last August, Mathews broke his right clavicle on his first carry in the first preseason game, which caused him to miss the first two games. He returned in Week 3, but was ineffective, as he averaged less than four yards a carry and didn’t have a single 100-yard game. He then broke his left collarbone in Week 15, finishing his 2012 campaign with only 707 yards rushing and a single touchdown in 12 games.

Not only is Mathews’ durability a concern, but the jury is still out on whether he can be a franchise running back. San Diego would like nothing more than for Mathews, who has two years left on his contract, to establish himself as the lead back. But with a new head coach (Mike McCoy) and offensive coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt) in place and free agent acquisition Danny Woodhead joining the backfield, it’s clear that the team is running out of patience with its former first-round pick.

4. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
Murray burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2011 when the third-round pick rushed for a Cowboys’ single-game record 253 yards against the Rams. Even more was expected of him entering last season, and he got off to a great start, gashing the defending Super Bowl champion Giants for 131 on the ground in a huge Week 1 win.

Things went downhill after that, however, as Murray didn't crack the century mark in any of his remaining games, and was limited to just 10 total because of a foot injury. The pressure is on in Dallas to not only win, but also get to the playoffs and make some sort of run. While most of the heat will be felt by head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo, this is an important season for Murray too.

The 25-year-old needs to show the team he’s the long-term answer in the backfield by staying on the field and getting back to the form he showed as a rookie when he averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Felix Jones is no longer on the roster, but the Cowboys did take Joseph Randle, who like Murray was one of the most productive running backs in the Big 12 during his collegiate career, in the fifth round of April's draft.

5. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
There’s no disputing Jackson’s reliability, as he’s put together an impressive eight straight 1,000-yard seasons. The question is, does he have another one in him? Even though he won’t turn 30 until later this month, the workhorse has amassed more than 2,000 carries over the last eight seasons.

The Falcons seem to think Jackson has plenty of tread left on his tires, since the team released Michael Turner and signed the former Ram as a free agent. The Falcons finished 29th in the league in rushing last season yet still made it to the NFC championship game. The team is hoping that Jackson has enough left in the tank to help carry them all the way to the Super Bowl this season.

6. Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
Williams was the second running back taken in the 2011 draft, behind only Mark Ingram (see below), but he’s yet to have any sort of impact on the field. The former Virginia Tech star has played in a total of five games so far, rushing for a meager 164 yards on 58 carries (2.8 ypc). A ruptured patella tendon wrecked his rookie season, while a shoulder injury ended his 2012 campaign in early October.

The Cardinals were so high on Williams coming out of college because of his quickness and ability to make would-be tacklers miss. The opportunity is still there for Williams in Arizona, but the sooner he can get back to his pre-injury form the better, especially with free agent signee Rashard Mendenhall expected to get the first crack at the starting job. The Cardinals also drafted running backs Stepfan Taylor (fifth round) and Andre Ellington (sixth) in April, adding even more competition for touches during training camp and the preseason.

7. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
How can a rookie be on the hot seat? When the team that drafted you has Super Bowl or bust expectations and is looking to you to lead the way on the ground, that’s how. The former Wisconsin touchdown machine wasn’t drafted until late in the second round, but Denver clearly has high expectations of him in his rookie season.

The team has already released Willis McGahee, last year’s starter, with Ball expected to fill that role this fall. His competition for the job figures to primarily be Ronnie Hillman, a third-round pick in 2012 who averaged less than four yards per carry as a rookie, and Knowshon Moreno, who is recovering from another significant knee injury, this one sustained in the Broncos’ playoff loss to the Ravens in January.

With Peyton Manning at quarterback and wide receiver Wes Welker added in the offseason, it’s not like Denver needs Ball to produce like Adrian Peterson. The running game, however, is a critical part to the Broncos’ offensive game plan and will need to be productive if the team wants to do what it was unable to last season – make it to the Super Bowl.

8. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
Williams would have been higher on this list if not for the fact in May he agreed to restructure the five-year, $43 million deal he signed with Carolina in 2011. This decision alone increases the chances Williams remains with the team for the duration of his deal. That said, the 30-year-old is the oldest member of a crowded Panthers backfield that also includes Jonathan Stewart (see below) and Mike Tolbert, as wall as quarterback Cam Newton, who led the team in rushing last season. While his roster spot appears secure, Williams’ role is anything but, as he’s averaged 644 yards rushing over his last three seasons compared to 1,136 in 2008-09.

9. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
Similar to his teammate DeAngelo Williams (see above), Stewart is a former first-round pick (No. 13 overall in 2008) who inked a lucrative, five-year contract with Carolina (August 2012) that has since been restructured (January 2013). The main differences between the two are that Stewart is younger (26) than Williams and has been more productive than him over the last three seasons, albeit not by much.

Stewart has his own durability issues, as he missed seven games last season with ankle and toe injuries, and he has yet to fully capitalize in games when he’s gotten the lion’s share of carries. The Panthers don’t lack for options in the backfield with Mike Tolbert and Kenjon Barner, the team's sixth-round pick in April's draft, also on the roster, so this season is as good as any for Stewart to establish himself as the lead dog in Carolina.

10. Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams
To say Pead’s rookie season was a disaster would be an understatement. The former Cincinnati Bearcat was taken in the second round (50th overall) of the 2012 draft by St. Louis with the hope that, at worst, he would be a productive backup for Steven Jackson. Pead finished his rookie season with a total of 10 carries and 54 yards rushing, as he struggled to pick up the playbook and saw limited playing time.

Jackson is now in Atlanta, which gives Pead a golden opportunity to seize the starting job. The No. 1 gig won’t be simply handed to Pead, however, as his struggles last season allowed fellow rookie Daryl Richardson the chance to emerge and the Rams drafted Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy in the fifth round in April. Pead also will miss the season opener against Arizona due to an NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. So much for a totally clean slate.

11. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Ingram was the only running back taken in the first round of the 2011 draft, but he has yet to show the power and explosiveness that made him a Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama. Injuries derailed his rookie season and he rushed for just 602 yards in 2012, as his yard-per-carry average in the NFL currently stands at an unimpressive 3.9.

New Orleans head coach Sean Payton has said he wants to re-establish the running game this fall, which is where Ingram comes in. Fellow backfield mate Darren Sproles is more of a weapon out of the backfield and in space, while Pierre Thomas is versatile, but best suited for a supporting role. With Chris Ivory now with the Jets, the Saints really need Ingram to establish himself as the between-the-tackles force he was with the Crimson Tide.

12. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
Miller was selected by the Dolphins in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and rushed for a respectable 4.9 yards per carry in limited action (51 carries) as a rookie. He is in line for considerably more touches this season with Reggie Bush now in Detroit and Miller atop Miami's backfield depth chart. It's now up to Miller to take advantage of this opportunity as the Dolphins also have 2011 second-round pick Daniel Thomas and 2013 fifth-round selection Mike Gillislee on their roster.

Teaser:
12 NFL Running Backs on the Hot Seat in 2013
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 08:20
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-daytona-international-speedway
Body:

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. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s nine-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.

And just like that, the NASCAR season has again circled back to where it all began: Daytona International Speedway. They're not racing the Independence Day anymore, but it's still 400 miles at Daytona in July. Saturday night's race marks the halfway point in the full season slate and by the time it's over, just eight races left to make the Chase. With a new tire combination, we're all hoping the action heats up alongside the Florida summer sun from the so-so February show. Who are the best picks? Find out below:


A List (Pick two, start one)
Kevin Harvick

Without a doubt, Harvick was a favorite for February's Daytona 500. But the winner of both the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race and one of the qualifying races didn't even make it a quarter of the way through the big show before a mindless wreck caused by Kyle Busch took him out on Lap 47. He was shelved from the Talladega restrictor plate race in May on the very same lap in the same manner. If nothing else, Harvick is due for a good finish — and he's got the car that can prove it, should he finish.

Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth has been good in 2013. In fact, Kenseth has been really good in his inaugural year at Joe Gibbs Racing. Without a bum engine in the Daytona 500, there's a strong chance that Kenseth would be a three-time Daytona 500 winner. Instead, his engine gave up that day while after leading 86 of the race's 200 laps. At Talladega in May, Kenseth led a wealthy 142 of 200 laps before he was shuffled from the lead late. That's as dominant as anyone on restrictor plate tracks this season. And this isn’t a one-year anomaly, as his finishes of first, third, third and first on the plate tracks in 2012 prove.

Also consider: Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson

 

B List (Pick four, start two)
Kyle Busch
As much as you hate to burn a Kyle Busch start at a wild card like Daytona — and as little faith as you likely have in the Toyota engines — how can you pass up a guy who's average position at the 2.5-mile legendary track is better than anyone in the last 17 races? Busch has been inside the top 15 at Daytona for 2,171 of the last 3,076 laps (a series high) and has a win from 2008.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
If it feels like a virtual eternity since Earnhardt won a Sprint Cup race at Daytona, you're not far off. His last checkered flag was the 2004 Daytona 500 — a race win that came amid a streak of six top-10 finishes at the track. While Earnhardt has led just 15 laps at Daytona since 2009, he still has four top-5 finishes in his last seven starts. Were this any other driver with that stat line, I’d be billing him as a must-start.

Kurt Busch
Kurt was six laps from the scheduled completion of the May Talladega race with a great shot at a finish near the front when his car suddenly was flipping into Turn 3. In the Daytona 500, he was caught in the early crash induced by his brother. Should Kurt keep the car straight, I like his chances of a Daytona win — especially after his poor Kentucky driving. He's a driver, much like Tony Stewart, who feeds on overcoming adversity.

Jeff Burton
If you're looking for a driver to start who you won't come close to maximizing this season, Jeff Burton is the perfect Daytona candidate. A crash wiped him out of the 500 in February, but in 2012 he landed two top-5 finishes at the grand 2.5-mile track. Richard Childress Racing's fleet has found speed (see: Harvick in February) and the heady Burton should stand to benefit.

Also consider: Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano


C List (Pick two, start one)
David Ragan

He won NASCAR's most recent restrictor plate race. He's won two of the last eight restrictor plate races. Why wouldn't you pick David Ragan for Saturday night at Daytona? Well, easy: he hasn't finished better than 26th since his 2011 Daytona win. Still, though, you've got to think Ragan is a better pick than most in the C territory.

Danica Patrick
Patrick's biggest detriment Saturday night at Daytona could be the pressure she'll feel to replicate her stellar outing there in February. Restrictor plate racing has been her strongest medium to this point in NASCAR, and she'll have a car Saturday night capable of running up front. Managing the car until the end is something she's done before. That likely means she'll be a bit more aggressive — which could lead to trouble. Still, if he works another top-10 finish like February, consider that a win for your C-List.

Also consider: Trevor Bayne, Michael Waltrip


by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:
@GeoffreyMiller
 

Teaser:
Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth lead the contenders for your NASCAR Fantasy squad at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 07:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-big-ten-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Big Ten in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Braxton Miller, Jr. (Ohio State)

Last season:  Passing—2,039 yards, 15TD-6 INT; Rushing—1,271 yards, 13 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; Buffalo, San Diego St, @ Cal, FL A&M

Fantasy Draft Value:  Miller has all the tools to finish as a top-5 fantasy quarterback in 2013 and should be a first-round selection.

 

QB—Taylor Martinez, Sr. (Nebraska)

Last season:  Passing—2,871 yards, 23 TD, 12 INT; Rushing—1,019 yards, 10TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4; Wyoming, USM, UCLA, So. Dakota St

Fantasy Draft Value:  The senior quarterback’s fantasy value hinges on his ability to improve as a passer.  Even though Martinez is careless with the football at times, he is still one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, which is why we project him as a third- or fourth-round pick.

 

RB—Ameer Abdullah, Jr. (Nebraska)

Last season:  Rushing—1,137 yards, 8 TD; Receiving—24 rec. for 178 yards, 2 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4; Wyoming, USM, UCLA, So. Dakota St

Fantasy Draft Value:  The junior running back is a legitimate compliment to quarterback Taylor Martinez.  Abdullah should be in line for another 200-plus carry season and will likely be gone by the end of round three.

 

RB—Venric Mark, Sr. (Northwestern)

Last season:  Rushing—1,366 yards, 12 TD; 20 rec. for 104 yards, TD; 696 return yards, 2TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4; Syracuse, W. Michigan, Maine

Fantasy Draft Value:  Mark was an unknown commodity in fantasy circles before the 2012 season, but expect the senior running back to come off the board in the third round this year.

 

RB—Carlos Hyde, Sr. (Ohio State)

Last season:  Rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; Buffalo, San Diego St, @ Cal, FL A&M

Fantasy Draft Value:  We are projecting the senior running back to surpass the 1,000-yard mark, but quarterback Braxton Miller is option #1 on the ground.  However, if Hyde can duplicate his 16 rushing touchdowns from 2012, he is definitely worth a third-round selection.

 

WR—Allen Robinson, Jr. (Penn State)

Last season:  77 receptions for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 10-11-12; Illinois, @ Minnesota, Purdue

Fantasy Draft Value:  Robinson was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2012, but inexperience at the quarterback position means a WR2 fantasy projection worthy of a selection between rounds 7 and 8.

 

WR—Jeremy Gallon, Sr. (Michigan)

Last season:  49 receptions for 829 yards and 4 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 3-4-5-6; Akron, @ UConn, BYE, Minnesota

Fantasy Draft Value:  Gallon should benefit as the Michigan offense evolves into a pro-style attack led by quarterback Devin Gardner.  The senior receiver should improve on his 49 receptions and 4 touchdowns from 2012, which makes him valuable in rounds 7-9.

 

WR—Kenny Bell, Jr. (Nebraska)

Last season:  50 receptions for 863 yards and 8 TDs.

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4; Wyoming, USM, UCLA, So. Dakota St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Bell’s fantasy value depends on quarterback Taylor Martinez’s improvement as a passer.  The Big Ten is not the best conference to look for fantasy receivers and Bell should be drafted in later rounds to add depth to your roster.

 

WR—Kevonte Martin-Manley, Jr. (Iowa)

Last season:  52 receptions for 571 yards and 2 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  1-2-3-4; No. Illinois, Missouri St, @ Iowa St, W. Michigan

Fantasy Draft Value:  The Hawkeyes should be fine running the football, but the passing game is unproven with a new signal-caller at the helm.  Like Kenny Bell, Martin-Manley should be drafted in later rounds to add depth at the receiver position.

 

FLEX—Melvin Gordon, So. (Wisconsin)

Last season:  837 all-purpose yards, 4 total TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; UMass, Tennessee Tech, @ Arizona St, Purdue

Fantasy Draft Value:  Fellow running back James White has been around longer, but we feel that Gordon has more potential.  Currently, the sophomore running back is projected as a fourth-round pick, but he could climb higher as fall camp progresses.

 

K—Brendan Gibbons, Sr. (Michigan)

Last season:  16-18 FGs; 93 points scored

 

DEF—Michigan State Spartans

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; W. Michigan, South Florida, Youngstown St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Although inexperienced up front, Sparty’s ‘D’ is anchored by the linebackers and secondary.  Plus, Michigan State has a soft early-season schedule and they avoid matchups against Ohio State and Wisconsin in the conference schedule rotation.

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Running Back Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Kicker Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Examining the Top Players in the Big Ten for 2013
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 06:37
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-wisconsin-football-fan
Body:

Until the late 1990s, falls and winters in Madison were especially harsh.

Before Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema, there were precious few moments to excite the fans at Camp Randall.

Wisconsin enduring one of the great revivals in college football, giving Badgers fans two distinct eras for bragging rights -- the late ‘90s and then the early part of this decade. Wisconsin earned these Rose Bowl trips with more let downs than most.

Here are the best and worst times to be a Wisconsin fan.

BEST TIMES TO BE A WISCONSIN FAN

1998-99
Record: 21-3
National championships: 0
Coach: Barry Alvarez
Notable players: Ron Dayne, Aaron Gibson, Tom Burke, Chris McIntosh, Chris Chambers, Brooks Bollinger
Wisconsin had won just two Big Ten titles before Barry Alvarez was hired in 1990. Wisconsin won a conference title in 1993 under Alvarez, but Wisconsin’s shining moment came in 1998 and ’99 when the Badgers won back-to-back Big Ten titles and consecutive Rose Bowls. Ron Dayne became college football’s all-time leading rusher, winning the Heisman in 1999. The defense may have been overlooked in these two seasons as the Badgers held teams to 10.2 points per game. After years as a Big Ten also-ran, Wisconsin finally gave its fans a reason to Jump Around, a tradition started in 1998.

2009-11
Record: 32-8
National championships: 0
Coach: Bret Bielema
Notable players: Montee Ball, Russell Wilson, J.J. Watt, Gabe Carimi, Scott Tolzien, Lance Kendricks, Peter Konz, John Clay
Barry Alvarez handed the baton to Bret Bielema in 2006 when the Badgers went 12-1. The real payoff came four seasons later when the Badgers won the first two of three consecutive Big Ten titles (the third came in 2012 when a seven-win Wisconsin team reached the conference title game while Ohio State was banned). It wasn’t strange to see Wisconsin running backs put up good numbers, but Ball’s 2011 season stood out with a record-tying 39 touchdowns. NC State transfer Russell Wilson was in Madison for one season but made a case to be the Badgers’ best quarterback in school history.

1951-54
Record: 26-8-1
National championships: 0
Coach: Ivy Williamson
Notable players: Alan Ameche
The early ‘50s teams would be eclipsed by the the Alvarez and Bielema eras, but before then, these were the glory years for Wisconsin. The Badgers finished ranked in the top 10 each year, reached the Rose Bowl in 1952 and produced a Heisman winner in the fullback Ameche in 1954.

WORST TIMES TO BE A WISCONSIN FAN

1986-93
Record: 20-58
Coaches: Jim Hilles, Don Morton, Barry Alvarez
Making Wisconsin’s ascent to the top of the Big Ten more dramatic was the period just before. The Badgers finished eighth or worst in the Big Ten for seven consecutive years, including a 1-10 season in Alvarez’s debut season of 1990.

1967-68
Record: 0-19-1
Coach: John Coatta
The Summer of Love this was not. Wisconsin endured a 23-game non-winning streak encompassing all of the 1967 and ’68 seasons. The Badgers were outscored 100-0 during one three-game stretch in 1968.

Teaser:
Best and Worst Times to be a Wisconsin Football Fan
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/rutgers-billboard-preps-b1g-ten-move
Body:

Rutgers was one of the biggest winners in college football’s recent round of realignment, as the Scarlet Knights will be moving from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten.

Rutgers will formally move to the Big Ten in 2014, but the promotion for the switch in conferences has already begun.

This photo tweeted out by Jason Baum (@JasonBaumRU) showcases the promotion for the move to the Big Ten for 2014.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 4, 2013 - 00:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-big-12-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Big 12 in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Clint Chelf, Sr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  Passing—1,588 yards, 15 TD-6 INT; Rushing—162 yards

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; @ UTSA, Lamar, BYE, @ West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  Chelf began the 2012 season as the third-string quarterback, but by season’s end had solidified himself as the clear No. 1.  The Cowboys’ offense should be explosive once again and Chelf projects as a fourth- or fifth-round pick

 

QB—Bryce Petty, Jr. (Baylor)

Last season:  No significant playing time behind starter Nick Florence.

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4-5-6; Wofford, Buffalo, BYE, LA-Monroe, BYE, West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  We are buying into the system that Art Briles has established in Waco—Griffin, Florence and now Petty—and there are plenty of weapons around the junior quarterback.  We have to believe that someone in almost every league has Petty pegged as their third or fourth pick if he is still on the board.

 

RB—Lache Seastrunk, Jr. (Baylor)

Last season:  Rushing—1,012 yards, 7 TD; Receiving—9 rec. for 107 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4-5-6; Wofford, Buffalo, BYE, LA-Monroe, BYE, West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  We did mention that there was no shortage of weapons around quarterback Bryce Petty, right?  Seastrunk gives the offense a big-play threat on the ground and should be considered as a second-round pick.

 

RB—Jeremy Smith, Sr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  Rushing—Rushed for 371 yards and 8 TD behind starter Joseph Randle.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; @ UTSA, Lamar, BYE, @ West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  We believe that Smith’s sample size was big enough as a compliment to the departed Joseph Randle that he will carry tremendous value as a RB2 and should be considered in rounds 4-5.

 

RB—John Hubert, Sr. (Kansas State)

Last season:  Rushing—947 yards, 15 TD; Receiving—18 rec. for 98 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; No. Dakota St, LA-Laf., UMass

Fantasy Draft Value:  Now that Colin Klein is no longer taking snaps in Manhattan, Hubert becomes the main rushing threat in an offense that returns four starters on the O-line.  Hubert is experienced and proven, so fantasy owners would be wise to scoop him up in round 5.

 

WR—Josh Stewart, Jr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  101 receptions for 1,210 yards and 7 TD.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; @ UTSA, Lamar, BYE, @ West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  Not only do we believe that Stewart can duplicate his totals from last season for receptions (101) and yards (1,210), but we are confident he will find the end zone with greater frequency in 2013.  The junior receiver is a legitimate WR1 and would make for a solid second-round selection.

 

WR—Eric Ward, Sr. (Texas Tech)

Last season:  82 receptions for 1,053 yards and 12 TD.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; @ SMU, SF Austin, TCU, Texas St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Ward should be a target early and often in new head coach Kliff Kingbury’s up-tempo offense.  We feel that Ward will be a product of the system and should be drafted in rounds 2-3.

 

WR—Antwan Goodley, Jr. (Baylor)

Last season:  17 receptions for 171 yards and 2 TD, 542 return yards. 

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4-5-6; Wofford, Buffalo, BYE, LA-Monroe, BYE, West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  This is the one player in our rankings that has generated the most response because we have him rated higher than teammate Tevin Reese.  Goodley established good chemistry with quarterback Bryce Petty in the spring and we expect that to carry over into the 2013 season.  Goodley may just be the hidden gem in the draft that you can snag about three rounds later than his fourth-round projection.

 

WR—Jalen Saunders, Sr. (Oklahoma)

Last season:  62 receptions for 829 yards and 3 TD; PR TD.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; LA-Monroe, West Virginia, Tulsa

Fantasy Draft Value:  Saunders returns to lead what we feel is the most dangerous group of receivers in the Big 12.  If the senior receiver can parlay his big-play ability into a few more scores this year, fantasy owners would get good value by selecting him in rounds 6-8.

 

FLEX—James Sims, Sr. (Kansas)

Last season:  Rushing—1,013 yards, 9 TD; Receiving—14 rec. for 168 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; So. Dakota, @ Rice, Louisiana Tech

Fantasy Draft Value:  Sims will be the centerpiece in a very inexperienced offense.  The Jayhawks are not even close to being a serious contender in the Big 12, but a soft non-conference schedule makes Sims valuable in rounds 6-7.

 

K—Aaron Jones Sr. (Baylor)

Last season:  16-27 FGs; 119 points scored

 

DEF—TCU Horned Frogs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; SE LA, @ Texas Tech, BYE, SMU

Fantasy Draft Value:  The Horned Frogs’ defense only allowed 323 yards per game last year—impressive considering they play in the Big 12—and they return nine starters in 2013.
 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite(TheCFFSite.com)

 


Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Running Back Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Kicker Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Examining the Top Players in the Big 12 for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 20:32
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-sec-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for SEC in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Johnny Manziel, So. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  Passing—3,706 yards, 26 TD-9 INT; Rushing—1,410 yards, 21 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 8-9-10; Auburn, Vanderbilt, UTEP

Fantasy Draft Value:  We don’t know how Manziel will top last year’s numbers, but his chances are good enough to make him the preseason No. 1 overall pick.

 

QB—Bo Wallace, Jr. (Ole Miss)

Last season:  Passing—2,994 yards, 22 TD-17 INT; Rushing—390 yards, 8 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 9-10-11-12; Idaho, BYE, Arkansas, Troy

Fantasy Draft Value:  It speaks highly of Wallace’s fantasy potential that we have him ranked above Georgia’s Aaron Murray, but the junior quarterback’s dual-threat ability gives him the slight edge. 

 

RB—Todd Gurley, So. (Georgia)

Last season:  Rushing—1,385 yards, 17 TD; Receiving—16 rec. for 117 yards; 243 return yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 11-12-13; App. St, @ Auburn, Kentucky

Fantasy Draft Value:  Keith Marshall will get a share of carries in 2013, but another 200-plus carry season should yield similar results.  Gurley may be one of the safest first round picks, especially given the fact that the Bulldogs return five starters on the offensive line.

 

RB—T.J. Yeldon, So. (Alabama)

Last season:  Rushing—1,108 yards, 12 TD; Receiving—11 rec. for 131 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6 Colorado St, Ole Miss, Georgia St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Yeldon did his damage on the ground last season with just 175 carries.  In 2013, expect the sophomore running back to get 200-plus carries and post numbers worthy of a first-round pick.

 

RB—Mike Davis, So. (South Carolina)

Last season:  Rushing—275 yards, 2 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ UCF, Kentucky, @ Arkansas

Fantasy Draft Value:  We believe the sophomore running back is worth a fourth-round pick over other SEC running backs like Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins, LSU’s Alfred Blue, and Ole Miss’ Jeff Scott.

 

WR—Jordan Matthews, Sr. (Vanderbilt)

Last season:  Receiving—94 rec. for 1,323 yards, 8 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6; @ UMass, UAB, Missouri

Fantasy Draft Value:  Matthews led the SEC in receptions last year and is a top-10 fantasy receiver headed into the 2013 season.  The all-conference receiver is a solid WR1 and may not make it out of round 3.

 

WR—Mike Evans, So. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  82 receptions for 1,105 yards, 5 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 8-9-10; Auburn, Vanderbilt, UTEP

Fantasy Draft Value:  Evans should be even more dangerous now that he has a year of experience under his belt.  We’re hopeful that he will utilize his 6’5” frame and produce more red zone scores this season, which would make the sophomore receiver a nice fourth- or fifth-round pick.

 

WR—Amari Cooper, So. (Alabama)

Last season:  59 receptions for 1,000 yards, 11 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6Colorado St, Ole Miss, Georgia St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Cooper had a sensational freshman season, but he wasn’t much of a fantasy factor until Week 5 last year.  Expect the sophomore receiver to start much faster in 2013 and legitimize our fourth- to fifth-round projection.

 

WR—Donte Moncrief, Jr. (Ole Miss)

Last season:  66 receptions for 979 yards, 10 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 9-10-11-12; Idaho, BYE, Arkansas, Troy

Fantasy Draft Value:  Moncrief caught at least six passes in 8-of-13 games last season, but finished five games with fewer than 40 yards receiving.  The junior receiver should be a little more consistent in 2013 and projects somewhere between rounds 6-8.

 

FLEX—Ben Malena, Sr. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  Rushing—808 yards, 8 TD; Receiving—18 rec. for 111 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 8-9-10; Auburn, Vanderbilt, UTEP

Fantasy Draft Value:  We believe that Malena may be one of the toughest players to project heading into 2013.  If the senior running back is utilized as a true RB1, he will be worth a third-round pick in that potent Aggies offense.  However, given the talent that exists at the running back position in College Station, we are not convinced Malena will earn much more than 150 carries, which makes him more of a sixth- to seventh-round selection.

 

K—Taylor Bertolet, So. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  13-22 FG; 106 points

 

DEF—Alabama Crimson Tide

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6 Colorado St, Ole Miss, Georgia St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Eight starters return on a defense that ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense, rushing defense, and scoring defense.

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Running Back Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Kicker Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 20:28
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-acc-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for ACC in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)
 

Starters

QB—Tajh Boyd, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Passing—3,896 yards, 36 TD-13 INT; Rushing—514 yards, 10 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; So.Carolina St, BYE, @ NCSt, Wake Forest

Fantasy Draft Value:  The return of four O-linemen and playmaker Sammy Watkins should ensure a first-round selection.

 

QB—Logan Thomas, Sr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Passing—2,976 yards, 18 TD-16 INT; Rushing—524 yards, 9 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 2-3-4; Western Carolina @ ECU, Marshall

Fantasy Draft Value:  In his third season as the starter, we’re hopeful that Thomas will show improvement in his decision-making and accuracy, which would justify a seventh- or eighth-round selection.

 

RB—Duke Johnson, So. (Miami)

Last season:  Rushing—947 yards, 10 TDs; Receiving—27 rec., 221 yards, Kick Returns—892 yards, 2TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 12-13-14; @ Duke, Virginia, @ Pitt

Fantasy Draft Value:  Johnson should put up big numbers as his workload increases, especially with the return of five starters on the O-line.  The sophomore running back will likely be among the first 20 overall players drafted.

 

RB—Isaac Bennett, Jr. (Pitt)

Last season:  Bennett rushed for 141 yards and 3 TDs behind Ray Graham and Rushel Shell.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 8-9-10; Old Dominion, @ Navy, @ Ga. Tech

Fantasy Draft Value:  Except for Pitt’s season-opener against Florida State, the first two months of their schedule is rather inviting to select Bennett in rounds 6-8.

 

RB—A.J. Blue, Sr. (North Carolina)

Last season:  Blue rushed for 433 yards and 9 TDs behind starter Gio Bernard.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; Mid Tennessee, BYE, @ Ga. Tech, ECU

Fantasy Draft Value:  Blue may lose a few carries to sophomore Romar Morris, but the senior running back should get most of the carries in short-yardage and goal line situations.  Blue is projected as a RB3 or FLEX in most formats and should be considered after round 6.

 

WR—Sammy Watkins, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  57 receptions for 708 yards, 3 TDs; 257 return yards; rushing TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; So.Carolina St, BYE, @ NCSt, Wake Forest

Fantasy Draft Value:  Watkins is a legitimate game-breaker and should be one of the top receivers in the country this season.  Top-tier receivers are hard to come by on draft day, which makes Watkins a possible first-round selection.

 

WR—Quinshad Davis, So. (North Carolina)

Last season:  61 receptions for 776 yards, 5 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; Mid Tennessee, BYE, @ Ga. Tech, ECU

Fantasy Draft Value:  Davis ended 2012 on a high note, catching 38 passes for 484 yards and three touchdowns in the final four games of the season.  We believe that four-game stretch was a preview of things to come in 2013, which makes the sophomore receiver worthy of a fifth- or sixth-round selection.

 

WR—Jamison Crowder, Jr. (Duke)

Last season:  76 receptions for 1,074 yards, 8 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 3-4-5; NC Central, Memphis, @ Wake Forest

Fantasy Draft Value:  Quarterback Anthony Boone’s mobility may end up extending plays for the Duke offense, which will create downfield opportunities for his main receiving threat.  The Blue Devils may end up in quite a few shootouts, so expect Crowder to start disappearing off draft boards in round seven.

 

WR—Stefon Diggs, So. (Maryland)

Last season:  54 receptions for 848 yards and 6 TDs; 713 KR yards, 2 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; FIU, Old Dominion, @ Connecticut

Fantasy Draft Value:  Diggs has a ton of potential, but consistent play from the quarterback position may be a bigger challenge than opposing DBs.  In league formats that include return yards, Diggs may go as early as round six, but in standard PPR leagues expect Diggs to still be available in round seven.

 

FLEX—Michael Campanaro, Sr. (Wake Forest)

Last season:  79 receptions for 763 yards, 6 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6; Army, Duke, @ Maryland

Fantasy Draft Value:  Campanaro could very well be in line for an 80-plus catch season, but his 2012 yards per catch average is the reason we believe drafting him before round seven is a stretch.

 

K—Chandler Catanzaro, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  18-19 FGs; 111 points scored

 

DEF—Clemson Tigers

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; So.Carolina St, BYE, @ NCSt, Wake Forest

Fantasy Draft Value:  The Tigers are always a threat in the return game, but their high-powered offense will put a lot of pressure on opposing teams to score, which will create plenty of opportunities for their experienced defense. 


Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite) (TheCFFSite.com)


Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Running Back Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Kicker Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 20:21
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/five-ways-fix-texas-football
Body:

After a second straight blowout loss to Oklahoma last October, a large number of Texas fans seemed to turn on Mack Brown in a way never seen in his previous 15 years in Austin. Brown appeared to be on his way to winning some of those fans back after reeling off four straight victories following that 63–21 loss to OU. But then came a loss at home to TCU on Thanksgiving followed by a 42–24 defeat at Kansas State.

A come-from-behind victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl gave Texas a hint of momentum going into 2013. But the big picture is not pretty: Texas is 22–16 overall in the past three seasons, including an unfathomable 11–15 in the Big 12.

Texas football is broken. Here are five ways to fix the Longhorns.

HOLD MACK BROWN ACCOUNTABLE

This appears to be a make-or-break year for Mack Brown at Texas in the eyes of most Texas fans. The faithful won’t tolerate another four- or five-loss season or another blowout loss to Oklahoma.

Not when Texas A&M is writing storybooks in College Station as a member of the SEC. Not when Will Muschamp, former defensive coordinator at Texas, is going 11–1 in the regular season and playing in a BCS bowl in Year 2 at Florida.

Texas has the most returning starters (18) and the most experienced quarterback (David Ash) of any team in the Big 12. Yet few are picking Texas to win the 2013 race, instead going with the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or TCU.

Brown vowed two years ago that Texas would play for a national title in either 2013 or 2014. Texas has a talented junior class, and Brown is counting on this group to lead the Longhorns to big things this season. But last year’s defense was the worst in school history statistically and just lost NFL Draft picks Kenny Vaccaro (safety) and Alex Okafor (end).

Ash got off to a great start last year but then was benched in the blowout loss to OU and again against Kansas, TCU and Kansas State. Quarterback is not a position of strength at Texas.

The schedule is also tricky in 2013, with non-conference games at BYU and at home against a much-improved Ole Miss team.

With DeLoss Dodds’ contract as athletic director expiring in August 2014, this could be the last season in which Brown would have Dodds’ undying support. A new athletic director could mean big changes, especially for the football coach.
 

DEVELOP TOP RECRUITS INTO TOP DRAFT PICKS

Texas hasn’t had a single offensive lineman drafted since 2008. That’s five years and counting since tackle Tony Hills was selected by Pittsburgh in the fourth round. Texas also didn’t have a single offensive player taken in the 2011 or 2012 NFL Drafts.

Brown believes that current offensive line coach Stacy Searels is recruiting and developing the next wave of NFL talent. But it’s hard to look at the current starters and see any difference-makers who will be playing on Sundays at this point.

Texas has recruited plenty of 4- and 5-star prospects on the offensive line in recent years. But they have failed to be developed into pro-level players, and Texas has constantly struggled to run between the tackles. Considering that some of the best offensive linemen in college football are from Texas — including Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, both of whom went to Texas A&M — the Longhorns have to do better.

Texas signed 20 players in the 2009 class. Only five ended up contributing — six if you count Garrett Gilbert, who transferred to SMU after the 2011 season. This speaks to both Texas’ poor job evaluating prospects and its poor job developing them.
 

MODERNIZE PLAYER EVALUATION

When Mack Brown announced the hiring of new player personnel director Patrick Suddes, a former football operations assistant at Alabama, Texas finally added a position to its staff that Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh added in 2007 and Nick Saban added in 2009.

The hope is that Suddes can bring some of the savvy from Saban’s well-oiled football office that numbers 40 people and more closely resembles an NFL front office. Texas expects to end up with about 15 people in its new personnel department, including a handful of new quality control coaches.

All of this is aimed at tightening up some of the player evaluation mistakes of the past. In 2007, there were camps in which quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Garrett Gilbert were competing head to head. Coaches from Alabama and Michigan walked away clearly giving the edge to Andrew Luck.

But Texas wasn’t in attendance. The Longhorns had already made up their mind to go with Gilbert, the local product  who had won 30 straight games and two state titles at nearby Lake Travis. Luck, of Houston Stratford, attended a junior day at Texas. Not only did Luck not get a scholarship offer, but the Texas coaches basically ignored the future No. 1 overall NFL pick. There is no rule that states you can’t recruit more than one quarterback in the same class.

And it’s well documented that Texas didn’t believe Robert Griffin III or Johnny Manziel (above) — the past two Heisman Trophy winners — could play quarterback for the Longhorns.

Mack Brown knows all too well the importance of the right quarterback. He won his only two conference titles in 28 years as a head coach with quarterbacks named Vince Young and Colt McCoy.
 

OUT-RECRUIT THE IN-STATE RIVALS

When Brown took over at Texas, Texas A&M was two years into a 15-year period of mediocrity under R.C. Slocum, Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman. Texas won most of the head-to-head recruiting battles between the two schools and dominated the series on the field.

Now, A&M is in the SEC and fresh off a 10–2 season that featured the first freshman, Manziel, to win the Heisman Trophy. The Aggies’ coach, Kevin Sumlin, has been dominant on the recruiting trail. Two players in the Class of 2013 who had been committed to Texas ended up signing with A&M, including highly regarded receiver Ricky Seals-Jones.

Brown didn’t have to worry about Baylor and TCU in recruiting or on the field during most of his time at Texas. That has changed. Baylor’s Art Briles and TCU’s Gary Patterson have elevated the profiles of their respective programs and have claimed victories both on the field and in recruiting.

Brown has always seen himself as the pied piper of the Texas high school coaches, always showering them with praise in hopes they’ll help encourage recruits to pick the Longhorns. But Briles, a former Texas high school coach, has equally strong ties at the high school level. And Patterson has won big with Texas talent.

Brown used to watch the fish jump into the boat. Not anymore. He has been out on the road recruiting more than ever, and it will take that kind of effort for Texas to re-establish itself as the top destination in the Lone Star State.
 

LIVE A CHAMPIONSHIP MENTALITY

The championship drive of a team has to be established from the top down. And an increasing number of Texas fans are doubting that Brown has what it takes to compete with the likes of Saban at Alabama and Urban Meyer at Ohio State any longer.

Brown was either confused or deliberately trying to deceive when he made it sound like the player personnel director position that Texas created in early 2013 was the result of new recruiting rules.

That position has been around for five years. Texas just this year got around to creating it. And based on Texas’ high number of misses in recruiting recently, it’s a position Brown could have benefited from if it was filled in 2007, when Harbaugh did the same at Stanford.

The NCAA also doesn’t currently have a limit on the number of quality control coaches you can hire. Saban has at least nine. Brown had three in 2012.

And while Brown has always been credited with having a great family atmosphere that is attractive to recruits, no one uses words like “physical” to describe the Longhorns. That has to start at the top and be an everyday way of life.

While coaches such as Saban, Meyer and Muschamp are notorious for breathing fire during practices to get players on edge, Brown is often standing at practice with the boosters he courts very carefully while leaving the coaching to his assistants.

And the question has to be asked: Does Brown still have enough competitive fire to compete on the field and on the recruiting trail with the likes of Bob Stoops? The Longhorns’ Red River rivals have won three in a row against the Horns, the last two by an average of 40 points — with OU teams that weren’t close to the best Stoops has had. That’s alarming.


Written by Chip Brown for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big 12 Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Big 12 season.

 

Related College Football Content

Big 12 2013 Football Predictions
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Ranking the Big 12's Heisman Contenders for 2013
5 First-Year Starting QBs That Can Win the National Title
College Football's All-America Team for 2013
College Football's Top 15 Winners from Realignment
College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013

Teaser:
Texas football is broken. Here are five ways to fix the Longhorns.
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 19:44
Path: /college-football/brad-stevens-celtics-questions-and-potential-candidates
Body:

Butler’s Brad Stevens pulled off the shocker of shockers when the two time national-runner up coach landed with the Boston Celtics on Wednesday afternoon.

Stevens, who turned Butler from overachieving mid-major to national brand, had been a candidate for some of college basketball’s most high-profile jobs, including UCLA following the 2012-13. The Bulldogs coach has been one of college basketball's most respected coaches after becoming the youngest coach to reach the Final Four since Bob Knight in 1973 and winning more games (166) than any coach in the first six years of his career. Now, the basketball world knows what kind of job it would take to pry the 36-year-old from Butler.

The job won't be easy, though. Stevens takes over for Doc Rivers, who left for the Los Angeles Clippers on June 24. The Celtics are also rebuilding after trading stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Stevens is the another high-profile hire from the college ranks, joining Rick Pitino. After leaving Kentucky in 1997, Pitino endured four losing seasons with the Celtics before returning to the college game.

Here are three key questions we have following Wednesday's move:

Can Stevens turn the trend of college coaches in the NBA?
College coaches have a checkered history in the recent NBA ranks, most of them ending badly: Pitino already failed in Boston. John Calipari, Mike Montgomery, P.J. Carlesimo, Tim Floyd and Jerry Tarkanian all had failed tenures in the pro ranks after leaving college. Stevens is considered one of the brightest minds in the college game, and his cool demeanor may prove an asset. Still, he’s 36 and his recruiting approach and situation in the Horizon League and Atlantic 10 rarely brought in pro-sized egos.

What’s the future for Butler?
Butler has been one of the most successful programs in a mid-major conference thanks to a steady stream of good hires for the last 20 years. Barry Collier, now the athletic director, made Butler a winning program as Thad Matta (24-8 in one season) and Todd Lickliter (two Sweet 16 appearances) continued to build. Butler reached unprecedented heights under Stevens with back-to-back appearances in the national title game. Butler won’t have margin for error as the Bulldogs have moved from the Horizon to A-10 to the restructured Big East. Facing Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova and Xavier on a regular basis will be a new challenge.

Who is Butler’s next coach?
Stevens gave no public signs he intended to leave Butler, so we’ll find out how prepared Collier is to hire a new coach, especially after every vacant college job has been filled for months. Here are some guesses of where he make look:

Matthew Graves, South Alabama. This would be the logical move and the one with the greatest track record — had Stevens left in March. Graves, a former Butler player who had been on the staff since 2001, was hired this offseason as the head coach at South Alabama. The last three Butler coaches — Thad Matta, Todd Lickliter and Stevens — were all promoted from within. Graves played at Butler and has been on the staff since 2001.

Terry Johnson, Butler assistant. The longest tenured remaining assistant at Butler has been on the staff since 2007 and previously served in an administrative post. He played high school basketball in Indiana and coached and played at IPFW.

 

Brandon Miller, Butler assistant. The Butler alum has served two terms as an assistant at his alma mater, replacing Graves this offseason. Before that, he spent three seasons under Matta at Ohio State.

Jeff Boals, Ohio State assistant. An assistant for Matta at Ohio State, Boals has spent most of his career in the midwest at Robert Morris and Akron before Columbus. He’s ready for his first top job.

 

LaVall Jordan, Michigan assistant. Another assistant with Butler connections. Jordan started at Butler from 1998-2001 before serving as an assistant and coordinator of operations under Lickliter. He's spent the last four seasons at Michigan working with guards Trey Burke and Darius Morris.

Bryce Drew, Valparaiso. Knows the territory of Indiana basketball and has won two Horizon League regular season titles at his alma mater. Seeing him anywhere other than Valpo would be a strange sight, though.

Todd Lickliter, Marian (NAIA). He led Butler two the Sweet 16 twice in six seasons before a 38-57 tenure at Iowa. If Butler wants to go back to the well, he’s down the street in Indianapolis at Marian of the NAIA after spending last year as an assistant at Miami (Ohio).

Teaser:
Stevens shocks basketball world with move, leaves questions in wake
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 18:53
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-50-defensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

Greatness is defined in so many different ways. Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, level of competition, raw talent and athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.

So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest defensive linemen of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 defensive lineman since the BCS was implemented in 1998:

Agree or disagree with our ranking of College Football's Top 50 D-Linemen of the BCS Era? Let us know on Twitter at @AthlonSports, using the hashtag #AthlonDL50.

1. David Pollack, DE, Georgia
The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS era. Pollack is a three-time first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice earning consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice in 2002 and '04 as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades. His highlight-reel plays — namely against South Carolina — and UGA all-time sack record (36.0) makes him the greatest defensive lineman of the BCS era.

2. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
If anyone is as decorated as Pollack it’s the Boy Named Suh. The star defensive tackle from Portland (Ore.) won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award when he came up just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57 for a loss, 24 sacks and six blocked kicks.

3. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
The local kid from Baton Rouge won everything there is to win in the college ranks. He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey wound up ninth in the Heisman voting '07 too. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27 for a loss and 13 sacks. He started 31 of his 52 career games and was drafted fifth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

4. Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State
The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. That year, Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies as well. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss and forced six fumbles that year tool. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss, 44 sacks and 14 forced fumbles. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

5. Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina
From a talent standpoint, few players have ever been able to match Peppers' freakish quickness and size. As a two-sport star in Chapel Hill, Peppers was a freshman All-American in 1999 before leading the nation in sacks (15.0) as a sophomore. He capped his junior season as a consensus All-American along with Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Trophy honors. Peppers finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2001. He started 33 of 34 possible career games and finished with 167 tackles and 30.5 sacks. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

6. Corey Moore, DE, Virginia Tech
The undersized linebacker turned defensive end helped establish the modern era of Hokies football. By his junior season, Moore earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors with 67 tackles, 18.5 for a loss and 13.5 sacks for a team that beat Alabama in the inaugural Music City Bowl. A year later, Moore set the Big East single-season record with 17 sacks en route to the BCS National Championship game. He was a unanimous All-American, Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award winner and earned his second Big East Defensive Player of the Year award. He finished his collegiate career with 58.0 tackles for a loss and 35.0 sacks.

7. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Certainly there is some projecting with this freakish athlete but no player has had a two-year start to a career like Clowney. He started as the SEC Freshman of the Year and earned freshman All-American honors after 36 total tackles, 12 for a loss, eight sacks and five forced fumbles. He refined his craft and exploded as a sophomore with 54 tackles, 23.5 for a loss and 13 sacks to go with three more forced fumbles, as he finished sixth in the Heisman voting a year ago. He was a unanimous All-American, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award recipient. Should he bring the school’s first SEC crown to Columbia, he may have a case as the greatest defensive lineman in the BCS era.

8. Chris Long, DE, Virginia
The son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie, Long entered the starting lineup as a sophomore, totaling 46 tackles, 10 for a loss and two sacks. As a junior, Long posted 57 tackles, 12 for a loss and four sacks. As a senior, he claimed ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as the Dudley and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American after 79 total tackles, 19 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks in his final season, in which he also finished 10th in the Heisman voting. He finished his career with 182 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 20 sacks before being selected No. 2 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

9. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Louisville
After a slow first two seasons in Louisville, Dumervil burst onto the national scene with a 10-sack junior campaign. That was only a glimpse of things to come, however, as Dumervil posted one of the greatest single-seasons in NCAA history. As a senior, he set the NCAA record with six sacks against Kentucky and broke Dwight Freeney’s Big East single-season record with 20 sacks. He also set the NCAA record with 10 forced fumbles and claimed Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski, Hendricks and consensus All-American honors. He finished 10th in the Heisman voting that year as well before going in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft.

10. John Henderson, DT, Tennessee
As a freshman, Henderson helped lead the Vols to the 1998 BCS National Championship. By the time he had reached the end of his senior season, Henderson had posted 165 tackles and 20.5 sacks — a huge number for an interior defensive lineman — in two first-team All-American seasons. He is one of just four defensive players of the BCS era to claim the historic Outland Trophy and was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. 

Related: The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

11. Dwight Freeney, DE, Syracuse
Starring during the glory years of Orange football, Freeney left school as a two-time, first-team All-Big East performer after setting the conference’s single-season sack record (17.5). He finished with a school-record 34 career sacks and, at one point, posted 17 consecutive games with at least one QB takedown. His record-setting 2001 campaign made him a unanimous All-American and he finished ninth in the Heisman voting. Freeney posted 51.0 tackles for a loss in a Syracuse uniform and was the 11th overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

12. Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
The trophy case for the former Longhorn defensive end is packed with Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Nagurski, Lombardi, and Hendricks trophies. He was an All-American who played in 47 career games in Austin, posting 132 tackles, 38 tackles for a loss, 22 sacks and six forced fumbles in his tenure. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American saw his career slowed by a knee injury in 2007 or else his numbers would be even higher. He was a contributing member in all 13 games of the 2005 BCS National Championship run and was taken 13th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.

13. Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
After filling a backup role for his first two seasons, Hughes took over as a full-time starter in 2008. He recorded 18.5 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks and forced six fumbles en route to his first of two Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year awards. He also earned All-American honors that year. He returned to Fort Worth as a senior and posted 54 tackles and 11.5 sacks in his second MWC DPOY and All-American season. He was awarded the Hendricks and Lott Trophies in 2009 before being a late first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Hughes ended his Horned Frogs career with 139 tackles, 39 for a loss, 28.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

14. Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon
Arguably the best NFL defensive tackle of his generation, Ngata had to overcome a torn ACL in college. Once he recovered, the big interior stuffer posted 107 tackles, 17.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks over his final two seasons in Eugene. He was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and the Morris Trophy winner before being selected 12th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft

15. Tommie Harris, DT, Oklahoma
Harris was a dominant interior lineman for three of the better Sooners teams of the BCS era. He helped lead his team to the BCS championship game in 2003 while claiming the Lombardi and Willis trophies. He was a two-time consensus All-American and the 14th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

16. Lamarr Woodley, DE, Michigan
The Wolverines' terror off the edge posted 12 sacks as a senior en route to the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American before being drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Steelers.

17. Alex Brown, DE, Florida
The two-time, first-team All-American set the school record for sacks before his Gators career ended. Brown was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and helped Florida claim the 2000 SEC title. He was a three-time, first-team All-SEC player and finished his career with 161 tackles, 47 for a loss and 33 sacks before getting taken in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft.

18. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The No. 1 prospect in the nation battled a knee injury during his sophomore year but still posted 58 tackles — including 11 in the ACC Championship game win over Georgia Tech — 10.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. However, Bowers exploded as a senior by leading the nation in tackles for a loss (26.0) and sacks (15.5) to go with his 67 total stops. He was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous first-team All-American and claimed both the Nagurski Trophy and the Hendricks Award.

19. Rien Long, DE, Washington State
The All-American who stayed in his home state is one of just four defensive players to win the Outland Trophy during the BCS era. He was a first-team consensus All-American in 2002 before leaving early for the NFL Draft, where he was a fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.

20. Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
Ellis was one of the big fellas up the middle who helped the Trojans to four straight conference titles and two BCS championship appearances (2004-05). He was a Morris Trophy winner and the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and a unanimous All-American in '07. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. 

Related: The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

21. Casey Hampton, DT, Texas
From 1997-2000, Hampton started 37 straight games for the Horns. He posted an absurd 329 tackles and nine forced fumbles. He was a consensus All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 before being taken in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

22. Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama
A two-time All-American, Cody helped lead Alabama back to the national championship promised land in 2009. He finished his two-year SEC career with 51 total tackles, 10.5 for a loss and two key blocked kicks. He was a second-round pick by the Ravens in 2010.

23. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
This strong bull in the middle is one of the greatest players in OSU history. He was a two-time Morris Trophy winner in the Pac-10 and earned conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010. The consensus All-American was a second-round pick of the Bears in the 2011 NFL Draft.

24. Vince Wilfork, DT, Miami
Although Wilfork didn’t start until his third year, he was still a proven commodity on teams that played for a BCS national title in 2001. A track and field star as well, Wilfork was a first-team All-Big East performer and has gone onto a Hall of Fame-caliber NFL career.

25. Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State
Reynolds helped lead the Seminoles to three consecutive BCS national championship games. He was named the Lombardi and Willis Trophy winners after a 58-tackle, 12-sack season in 2000. He was named a unanimous All-American and taken in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

26. David Ball, DE, UCLA
The Bruins' edge rusher led the nation in sacks in 2003 with 16.5 and finished with a school-record 30.5 career sacks. He was the Morris Trophy winner, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American in 2003.

27. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
The 2006 ACC Defensive Player of the Year finished with 157 total tackles, 41.5 tackles for a loss and 26 sacks in 46 career games. He was a unanimous All-American as a senior and was taken fourth overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. Adams tragically passed away from cardiac arrest in 2010.

28. Corey Simon, DT, Florida State
A consensus All-American, Simon helped lead Florida State to back-to-back BCS championship games with a win in the final game over Virginia Tech in 1999. He left school with a then-record 44.0 tackles for a loss and was taken sixth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.

29. Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State
A unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Hali pushed Penn State to its last Big Ten championship as well as a win in the Orange Bowl following the 2005 season. He led the Big Ten with 17.0 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks before being picked 20th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft.

30. Darnell Dockett, DT, Florida State
The four-year starter for Florida State was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2003. He left Tallahassee with 247 total tackles, 10.5 sacks and a school-record 65 tackles for a loss. He was a third-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Related: The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

31. Shaun Cody, DT, USC
Consensus All-American who won back-to-back national championships with the Trojans.

32. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Star end posted 106 tackles, 36.5 TFL and 11.5 sacks in just two seasons in Madison.

33. Chad Lavalais, DT, LSU
National Defensive P.O.Y. in 2003 who won the BCS national title and started 41 career games.

34. Jevon Kearse, DE, Florida
The Freak played just one year in the BCS era but helped lead the Gators to a national title in 1997.

35. Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College
Two-time All-American, Big East Defensive Player of the Year and three-time all-conference player.

36. Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Played in the 2008 BCS title game and finished with 33.0 tackles for a loss and 14.5 career sacks.

37. John Abraham, DE, South Carolina
Posted 23.5 career sacks and was a first-team All-SEC performer.

38. Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin
Willis Award winner, consensus All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

39. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
All-American who won the Hendricks and Willis Awards after leading the nation in sacks (16.0).

40. Courtney Brown, DE, Penn State
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Related: The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

41. Richard Seymour, DE, Georgia
42. Marcus Spears, DE, LSU
43. Mario Williams, DE, NC State
44. Will Smith, DE, Ohio State
45. Justin Smith, DE, Missouri
46. Shaun Ellis, DT, Tennessee
47. Kevin Williams, DT, Oklahoma State
48. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
49. Tom Burke, DE, Wisconsin
50. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Related: The Top 50 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era

The Next 25:

51. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
52. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
53. John Simon, DE, Ohio State
54. Devon Still, DT, Penn State
55. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
56. Kenechi Udeze, DE, USC
57. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee
58. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
59. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Boston College
60. Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma
61. Jared Devries, DE, Iowa
62. Demarcus Ware, DE, Troy
63. Rod Wright, DT, Texas
64. George Selvie, DE, USF
65. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
66. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
67. Justin Tuck, DE, Notre Dame
68. Gerard Warren, DT, Florida
69. Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
70. Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan
71. Dan Bazuin, DE, Central Michigan
72. Bill Swancutt, DE, Oregon State
73. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pitt
74. Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois
75. Jason Babin, DE, Western Michigan

Top 50s of the BCS Era:

The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era


Agree or disagree with our ranking of College Football's Top 50 defensive linemen of the BCS Era? Let us know on Twitter (@AthlonSports), using the hashtag #AthlonDL50

Teaser:
College Football's Top 50 Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 15:36
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/will-ferrell-harry-caray-hilariously-sings-ho-hey-song
Body:
Yes, it is as awesome as you think it's going to be.
 

Teaser:
Yes, it is as awesome as you think it's going to be.
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 15:30
Path: /college-football/top-25-defensive-heisman-candidates-2013
Body:

Heisman voters are beginning to see the error of their ways.

Yes, the quarterback is still the most important position on the field. And no, offensive linemen are not going to start dominating college football's most prestigious award anytime soon. And no true defensive player has yet to win the award. However, defensive players are finally starting to get their due

A defensive player has been a Heisman finalist in three of the last four seasons. Nebraska's nose tackle supreme Ndamkong Suh finished fourth behind Colt McCoy, Toby Gerhart and Alabama's first Heisman winner Mark Ingram in 2009. In 2011, the voters sent special teams dynamo and opportunistic defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to New York. And in the most recent voting, Manti Te'o finished second behind Johnny Manziel after leading Notre Dame to a perfect regular season in 2012.

South Carolina's freak of nature Jadeveon Clowney isn't the frontrunner to win the 2013 Heisman Memorial Trophy. However, there is no reason to believe he won't be in Manhattan come December. And he certainly leads a long and impressive list of amazing college football defenders who absolutely deserve to be mentioned among "College Football's Most Outstanding Player(s)."

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (12/1)
There is little doubt that Clowney is the most physically gifted player in the nation. He is a near lock as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. And because he set the table as a sophomore with a monster hit against Michigan and huge numbers statistically, he has a great chance at landing in New York. The monster defensive end finished third in the nation in sacks (1.08 pg) and second nationally in tackles for loss (1.96 pg). He enters his third year with 21.0 sacks, eight forced fumbles and 35.5 tackles for a loss and because he plays a stat-heavy defensive position, his box score will speak for itself. However, winning the SEC East might be a must if Clowney hopes to take home the trophy.

2. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
He is a first-team All-American. He is the top linebacker prospect in the nation for next year’s NFL Draft. He plays a stat-heavy position as the leader of the defense for the two-time defending BCS champs. He led the Crimson Tide in tackles a year ago and enters his final season with 211 tackles, 14.0 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, five interceptions and three career defensive touchdowns. And his team will be preseason No. 1 again. He could very easily be this year’s Manti Te’o in terms of team success and individual production.

Related: The SEC's Top Heisman Candidates in 2013

3. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
The freakish, five-star athlete from Los Angeles Loyola broke onto the national scene in 2012. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound edge rusher led the Bruins in sacks (13.5) and tackles for a loss (21.5) and constantly disrupted the opposing backfield. He makes plenty of big plays — Barr had four forced fumbles and a blocked kick last year as well — and plays for a team with conference championship hopes. Packaged with his elite first-round NFL upside, Barr has a chance to win all types of national awards this fall.

4. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
There may not be a harder hitter in the nation than Shazier and that includes Clowney. He flies all over the field with elite speed and athleticism as he led the 12-0 Buckeyes in tackles (115) and tackles for a loss (17.0). He posted five sacks, forced three fumbles and returned his only interception for a touchdown. He has electric ability and looks to make the big play at all times. Once he refines his craft and plays more under control, he will have a chance to make some Heisman waves — especially, if the Buckeyes go unbeaten once again.

Related: The Big Ten's Top Heisman Contenders in 2013

5. Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
From a physical standpoint, Tuitt might be one of the few players in the nation who can compete with Mr. Clowney. A potential top-10 NFL pick, Tuitt brings elite size, speed and skill to a position that produces big-time highlights — like this one. The massive sophomore led the team in sacks (12.0) a year ago and returns to what should be the nation's top defensive line. Tuitt will be the Irish's star defender this year.

6. Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia
The guy taking over for Jarvis Jones will pleasantly surprise in 2013. Jenkins is bigger and more physical than Jones and brings an elite work ethic to the rebuilt Georgia 3-4 defense. He played in all 14 games as a true freshman a year ago and finished second on the team in sacks (5.0). With a chance at a national title at a playmaking, stat-heavy position, Jenkins could easily find himself where Jones couldn't — in New York at season's end.

7. Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
The Cougars' outside defender is penciled in as a first-round selection next May as he returns to lead one of the more underrated defenses in the nation. The do-everything linebacker posted an absurd 22.0 tackles for a loss to go with 53 total tackles, 13.0 sacks, six forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and a pair of interceptions — one returned for a touchdown. With Ziggy Ansah in the NFL this fall, Van Noy takes over as the star of the BYU defense.

Related: 2013's Top Independent Heisman Candidates

8. Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
The star defensive end came to TCU as one of the most heralded recruits to ever sign with the Horned Frogs. He didn't wait long to make his mark and prove the hype was legit, as he finished third in the Big 12 in sacks (10.0) a year ago. Fields led the league's top defense by posting 53 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and an interception. He is suspended for the season opener against LSU meaning he will miss a national opportunity to make a big statement, otherwise he would have a strong argument as a top-5 candidate on this list.

9. Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
Lynch is clearly the most talented defender in the newly minted American Athletic Conference. The monstrosity of a defensive end starred as a true freshman at Notre Dame in 2011, leading the team in sacks. After his breakout debut in South Bend, he transferred back home to Florida and sat out last season. Now eligible, Lynch could swing the balance of power in the AAC with his play along the line of scrimmage. He could easily be a top-10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

Related: The American Athletic Conference's Top Heisman Contenders in 2013

10. Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State
The star defensive lineman for the Sun Devils led the Pac-12 in sacks (13.0) and tackles for a loss (23.5). He was virtually unblockable last season and he was rewarded with Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He returns for his senior season and leads what was one of the best defenses west of the Mississippi. If ASU can win the South it will be because of Sutton's play and that could get him some Heisman love.

11. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The No. 1 safety in the nation is returning as one of the defensive leaders for the two-time defending BCS national champions. He dominated the back end of arguably the best defense in the nation, patrolling the secondary to the tune of five interceptions a year ago. He makes plays against the both the run and the pass and has to be considered the most complete, best all-around defensive back in the nation.

12. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
There are three superstars on the Cardinal's defense this fall and Murphy is the most likely to get some Heisman publicity. He led the team in sacks (10.0) and tackles for a loss (18.0) while posting 56 total tackles and returning his lone interception for a touchdown. With marquee showdowns and national championship aspirations, Murphy could find himself in the mix for the stiff-armed trophy.

Related: The Pac-12's Top Heisman Contenders in 2013

13. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Despite missing the final seven games of the season, Jeffcoat still finished second on the Longhorns in sacks (4.0) and tackles for a loss (11.0) as well as fumbles forced (2). The son of Jim Jeffcoat is a refined, polished pass-rusher who proved his recruiting hype was real when he posted a great sophomore season (8.0 sacks, 16.5 TFL). If Texas has a defensive turnaround like many in Austin are hoping for, it will be because of the electric play of Jeffcoat.

Related: The Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders in 2013

14. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
The first-team All-American patrols the back end of the Cardinal secondary. He is a projected first-round NFL Draft pick heading into his final season for Stanford after a huge 2012 campaign. Reynolds totaled 47 tackles and returned six interceptions for 301 yards and three touchdowns. More big plays like that from Reynolds and he will be getting much-deserved Heisman love.

15. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
Unfortunately, defensive tackles have to be truly transcendent (e.g., Suh or Oregon's Haloti Ngata) to be considered legitimate Heisman contenders. This LSU star could easily be the best player in the nation at his position, as he is now one of the most experienced members of the Bayou Bengals' defense. He should build substantially on his 30-tackle, 3.0-sack, 10.0-TFL sophomore season.

16. Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
This might be a bit optimistic but Thompson has all the tools to become one of the nation's best players as just a sophomore. He posted 74 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions and recovered one big fumble against Washington State last season. Now he shifts from safety to linebacker to get around the football more. Fans in the Northwest can bet that UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will will find all sorts of ways to utilize this future superstar on the field.

17. A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
The star tackler for the Vols led the SEC in stops last year and was fourth nationally (138 total tackles). Yet, on a team that was horrendous on defense and didn't make a bowl game, he needs some extra pizzazz to be mentioned among the nation's top defenders. Well, he scored six rushing touchdowns a year ago as a goal-line back on 12 carries. Lead the nation in tackles and score six more touchdowns again this fall and Johnson will get plenty of national respect.

18. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
The Beavers' edge rusher is one of the most underrated defensive players in the nation. He finished with 44 total tackles, 9.0 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss for arguably the most improved defense in the nation last year. With Pac-12 North division title expectations looming in 2013, Crichton won't be an unknown for much longer.

19. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
As long as he stays healthy, Borland is as big a playmaker as there is in the nation. He enters his senior season with 13 career forced fumbles, three career interceptions, 13.0 career sacks and a ridiculous 41.0 tackles for a loss. All of this alongside his 309 career total tackles for the three-time defending Big Ten champions.

20. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The issue with cornerbacks and the Heisman is the lack of opportunities. The best covermen are left alone by opposing quarterbacks so one would have to be special (e.g., Charles Woodson) to compete for this award. But I.E.O. makes enough big plays — see 2012's four interceptions and six forced fumbles — to deserve consideration.

21. Morgan Breslin, DE, USC
If USC expects to return to Pac-12 contention, Breslin needs to build on his outstanding 2012 campaign. He was tied for fifth nationally in sacks a year ago (13.0) in his first season at Heritage Hall. He added 19.5 tackles for a loss and 62 total tackles.

22. Lamarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State
The former elite five-star recruit is rounding into form for the defending ACC champion Seminoles. He makes big plays in the secondary and leads a defense that could once again be one of the nation's best. What gives Joyner an edge, however, might be his special teams play. He averaged nearly 25 yards per return on 18 kick returns last year.

Related: The ACC's Top Heisman Contenders in 2013

23. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
The supremely talented coverman should get national respect for his overall ability. He posted 78 total tackles, forced four fumbles and blocked two kicks a year ago, but what makes him a Heisman contender is his versatility. Should Will Muschamp need Purifoy on offense or special teams, he could deliver big-time plays.

24. Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
The junior could be the next big star nationally for the Broncos' defense. He posted 48 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles and an interception last year. Should Boise State run the table or finish 12-1, Lawrence will get much of the credit on defense.

25. Andrew Jackson, LB, Western Kentucky
There is a good chance WKU becomes a huge story in 2013 with Bobby Petrino leading the way and Jackson would be both the reason and a beneficiary. Jackson totaled 122 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 2.0 sacks and four forced fumbles a year ago. Look for Jackson to become more of a household name this fall.

Best of the Rest:

Domnique Easley, DT, Florida
Dion Bailey, S, USC
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU
Hayes Pullard, LB, USC
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
Josh Harvey-Clemons, S/LB, Georgia


Related College Football Content

Athlon Sports' 2013 All-America Team
College Football's Top-10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-Freshman Team
Ranking College Football's Conferences for 2013
Comparing College Football's 2013 Preseason Rankings

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
The Top 25 Defensive Heisman Candidates in 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 14:53
Path: /college-football/top-independent-heisman-contenders-2013
Body:

Notre Dame is tied with USC (counting Reggie Bush) and Ohio State for the all-time NCAA lead with seven Heisman Trophy winners. Army has three such awards and Navy has a pair of stiff-armed trophies.

That being said, only one of those 12 Heisman campaigns — Tim Brown in 1987 — took place after 1965. Needless to say, it has been a long drought for these three formerly esteemed programs. Manti Te’o nearly ended that trend last year with a remarkable senior season.

While Army, Navy and Notre Dame have been the preeminent Independent programs for nearly two decades in college football, Independent Heisman Trophies were much more common place than one might imagine. Miami’s Vinny Testaverde in 1986, Boston College’s Doug Flutie in 1984, South Carolina’s George Rogers in 1980 and Pitt’s Tony Dorsett in 1976 all won the great honor as an independent.

So who are the best Independent Heisman candidates in 2013? 

1. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
A potential top-10 NFL draft pick next spring, Tuitt is one of the most physically impressive ends in the nation. The first-team All-American will spearhead one of the nation’s best defensive lines and plays a stat-heavy position, unlike teammate Louis Nix. Tuitt posted 47 total tackles, 12.0 sacks, 13.0 tackles for loss, forced three fumbles, blocked a kick and provided one of the most exciting highlights of last season with his 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Navy.

2. Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
The Cougars' outside defender is also penciled in as a first-round selection next May as he returns to lead one of the more underrated defenses in the nation. The do-everything linebacker posted an absurd 22.0 tackles for loss to go with 53 total tackles, 13.0 sacks, six forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and a pair of interceptions — one returned for a touchdowns.

3. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy
The young, hard-working freshman from Nashville, Tenn., took some time to earn his spot in the starting lineup. But when he finally broke through in Week 6 against Central Michigan, he blossomed into one of the more impressive first-year players in the nation. He finished with 898 yards passing and a 9:2 TD:INT ratio to go with his 649 yards rushing and 10 scores on the ground. More importantly, he led the Midshipmen to a 6-2 record. The Middies' sophomore signal-caller could explode onto the national scene in 2013.

4. Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU
Wide receivers simply don’t get many Heisman votes but Hoffman is one of the nation’s top pass-catchers. He hauled in 100 passes for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. He has to break in a new quarterback this time around, but new starter Taysom Hill (more on him in a second) has tons of ability and the system is a very statistically friendly one.

5. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU
This sophomore from Pocatello, Id., is one of the most gifted athletes on the Cougars roster and he has fans excited about the future of BYU football. He missed the final seven games of the year but showed flashes of elite ability as just a freshman before getting hurt. He threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 336 yards and four more scores on the ground as Riley Nelson’s backup.

6. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Elite All-American player who plays an unheralded position that doesn't pad stats.

7. George Atkinson III, RB, Notre Dame
Is the starter for now and has speed to burn. He will post big numbers if he gets 250 touches.

8. Raymond Maples, RB, Army
Could build on his 223-att., 1,215-yard, 2-TD season from a year ago if he can hold onto the ball.

9. Greg Bryant, RB, Notre Dame
The Irish's sleeper has elite ability and could easily take over the starting role.

10. Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State
Posted 74 receptions, 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore last year.

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
The Top Independent Heisman Contenders in 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 14:44
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten
Path: /college-football/big-tens-top-heisman-contenders-2013
Body:

The Big Ten dominated the Heisman Trophy in the 1990s.

From 1991 to '99, the Big Ten claimed four Heisman Trophies — Desmond Howard (1991), Eddie George ('95), Charles Woodson ('97) and Ron Dayne ('99). However, since the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher won the award 14 years ago, only one Big Ten player has claimed the most coveted trophy in sports (Troy Smith, 2006).

That trend could change this year. If one league is going to knock the SEC off its recent Heisman pedestal — it’s won four of the last six — it might be the Big Ten.

Elite national championship-caliber quarterbacks and productive, extremely versatile All-American tailbacks fill the list of potential Big Ten Heisman Trophy contenders in 2013 (complete with updated Vegas odds):

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (13/2)
The Buckeyes' quarterback was easily the biggest finalist snub this past season, as he ended up finishing fifth in the voting. As the unquestioned leader of an unbeaten Ohio State squad, Miller single-handedly carried the Bucknuts to victory week after week. He was fourth in the Big Ten in rushing (105.9 ypg), second in passing efficiency and second in total offense. Few players on this list can improve their numbers like Miller will in his second year in Urban Meyer's unstoppable spread scheme. His electric, playmaking ability, raw toughness and perfect fit in the system make him a virtual lock as a Heisman contender next season — as well as a potential top overall NFL Draft pick.

2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska (18/1)
Few players make the eye-popping plays in the backfield like Martinez. He showed marked improvement in efficiency and decision making this fall, leading the Big Ten in total offense (277.9 ypg) and passer rating (141.59). He finished with 2,871 yards passing, 1,019 yards rushing and accounted for 33 total touchdowns. A pair of potential showdowns with Braxton Miller will likely determine T-Magic’s Heisman fate. Four more losses for the Big Red and Martinez will find it hard to get to New York without elite statistics.

3. Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan (33/1)
Fans in Ann Arbor have been waiting for Gardner for years and 2013 will be his chance to shine. In just five starts last year, the former elite recruit accounted for 18 touchdowns, just five interceptions and 264 yards of offense per game. He fits Brady Hoke's scheme better than Denard Robinson yet Gardner has similar athletic ability. His ability to pass the football could set him apart from his former teammate and could make him the Big Ten Player of the Year.

4. Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
The Northwestern offense is as dynamic as any in the nation and Mark will be the centerpiece. He rushed for 1,366 yards, caught 20 passes and scored on two punt returns. He can do everything for a team looking to win its first Big Ten title since 1995. With exciting players returning around him, Mark's only negative heading into the season will be the losses along the offensive line. That said, the Wildcats normally plug in the next guy on a roster that isn't ever overloaded with talent.

5. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (25/1)
Nebraska has always loved to run the football and the explosive back will finally be the full-time starter in Lincoln. After then-incumbent Rex Burkhead went down with an injury last season, Abdullah stepped in and the sophomore provided big support in the running game. He posted six 100-yard efforts over a nine-week span in place of Burkhead and he should get the lion's share of carries this fall.

6. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
As a redshirt freshman a year ago, Gordon rushed for over 600 yards on more than 10 yards per carry. His 216-yard effort against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game was a glimpse of his elite upside. And he did all of that as the third stringer behind Montee Ball and James White. With Ball gone, it should be the bigger, more physical Gordon not the smaller more all-purpose White who gets the feature back workload for new Badgers coach Gary Andersen in 2013.

7. Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
Not many players can boast a stat line like Colter’s. In 2012, he threw for 872 yards and eight touchdowns and also rushed for 894 yards and 12 touchdowns. And over the last two seasons, he has caught 59 passes for 635 yards and three scores. He will continue to split time with the more pro-style Trevor Siemian and that will impact Colter's Heisman upside. But make no mistake, Colter has electric athletic ability and he will be at his best now with two full seasons under his belt.

8. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
If Hyde can stay on the field and hold off a deep and talented depth chart of running backs, he has a chance to be one of the league’s most productive players. He averaged nearly 100 yards per game a year ago (97.0) and scored 16 touchdowns, including at least one score in each of the final seven games of the year. He is a perfect fit for the Miller-led, Urban Meyer-designed spread offense.

9. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
He will have to break in a new quarterback (who could be a true freshman) but Robinson established himself as the league’s premier wide receiver in 2012. He was the only Big Ten player to top 1,000 yards receiving (1,018), 70 receptions (77) or 10 touchdown receptions (11). If this offense can find some consistency at quarterback, Robinson could post an All-American season for Bill O’Brien’s potent and creative offense.

10. Indiana’s Quarterback
Tre Roberson appears to be the frontrunner here, but it may not matter who gets the snaps. Roberson is an electric athlete who was off to a huge start last year through six quarters — 368 yards, 2 TD, INT, 133 yards rushing, 3 TD — before being lost for the season with an injury. That said, Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld helped this offense lead the Big Ten in passing (311.2 ypg). As long as Kevin Wilson is calling the plays, whoever is under center for the Hoosiers will have a big season.

11. James White, RB, Wisconsin
The former high school teammate of Giovani Bernard, White may be destined to be the greatest backup running back in amateur football history. He posted 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman behind John Clay. He then rushed for 713 yards and six scores behind Montee Ball. Last year, he posted 806 yards and 12 scores behind Ball again. With Gordon taking over as the primary back, White is once again in a supporting role.

12. Taylor Lewan, OL, Michigan
A big body and a big personality make this offensive tackle one of the most high-profile hog mollies in the nation. Lewan will be the heart and soul of this Michigan offense in 2013 — one that could win the Big Ten championship. His first-round NFL Draft potential helps his case as well.

13. Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
Bell has one major advantage over Penn State’s Robinson in the race to be the Big Ten’s best wide receiver. He has a great quarterback in Taylor Martinez. Bell has the speed and big-play ability to land in the national conversation. He just needs to build on his 50-catch, 863-yard, 8-TD sophomore season.

14. Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa
The guy whose name rhymes with Heisman was forced into action last year and quickly became an Iowa cult hero. The burly, blue-collar runner stepped into the lineup and rushed for four consecutive 100-yard games before getting nicked up late in the year. Should he stay healthy and get the carries, Weisman will post big numbers.

15. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
It will be very interesting to see how the new offensive coaching staff impacts the production in the passing game for the Badgers. Abbrederis figures to be the most dependable and most consistent receiver in the league once again and could see a boost in his production in the new scheme.

Big Ten Team Previews

Leaders DivisionLegends Division
IllinoisIowa
IndianaMichigan
Ohio StateMichigan State
Penn StateMinnesota
PurdueNebraska
WisconsinNorthwestern

Best of the Rest:

16. Zach Zwinak, RB, Penn State
17. Derrick Green, RB, Michigan
18. Donnell Kirkwood, RB, Minnesota
19. Michigan State’s Running Back
20. Akeem Hunt, RB, Purdue
21. Spencer Long, OL, Nebraska
22. Stephen Houston, RB, Indiana
23. Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois
24. Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan
25. Jacob Pederson, TE, Wisconsin

Five Defensive Players to Watch:

Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Fooball Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
The Big Ten's Top Heisman Contenders in 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 14:19
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/secs-top-heisman-trophy-contenders-2013
Body:

Much like the rest of college football, the SEC has taken over the Heisman Trophy debate.

Herschel Walker (1982) and Bo Jackson ('85) won memorable Heisman Trophy awards in the early 1980s. However, between 1986 and 2006, the league won one stiff-armed trophy (Danny Wuerffel, 1996).

Yet, the SEC wasn’t satisfied with just winning the BCS National Championship every single year. The league has won four of the last six Heisman Trophies, including the first such award for the Alabama Crimson Tide (Mark Ingram, 2009).

With the defending Heisman Trophy winner, the nation’s No. 1 defensive player, the two-time defending BCS champion quarterback and a quarterback who will own every major career SEC passing record returning to the nation’s best conference, there is no reason to think this trend will end in 2013.

Here are the SEC’s top Heisman Trophy candidates for 2013 (complete with updated Vegas odds):

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (14/1)
There is little doubt that Clowney is the most physically gifted player in the nation. He is a near lock as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. And because he set the table as a sophomore with a monster hit against Michigan and huge numbers statistically, he has a great chance at landing in New York. The disruptive defensive end finished third in the nation in sacks (1.08 pg) and second nationally in tackles for loss (1.96 pg). He enters his third year with 21.0 sacks, eight forced fumbles and 35.5 tackles for loss and because he plays a stat-heavy defensive position, his box score will speak for itself. However, winning the SEC East might be a must if Clowney wants to become just the second true defensive player to ever win the Heisman.

2. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (9/2)
What else is there to say about Manziel? His numbers speak for themselves and his Cotton Bowl performance will go down in Aggie lore as one of the greatest postseason performances by a Heisman winner of all time. But Tim Tebow couldn’t repeat. Neither could Mark Ingram, Matt Leinart or Sam Bradford. All were elite talents like Manziel, but the odds of repeating are 1-in-77. And now that SEC defensive coordinators will be spending the next five months figuring out ways to stop him, a repeat of his production seems highly unlikely mostly because he set the bar so high for himself in 2012.

3. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (12/1)
The Dawgs' signal caller will make a push to rewrite the Georgia and SEC record books with another big year in Athens. He led the nation in passing efficiency and has 77 total touchdowns in the last two seasons. With a loaded offense returning around him, Murray just needs to eliminate the bizarro game from his resume — e.g., Florida and South Carolina in 2012, Mississippi State in '11 — to be an NYC finalist. He might also need to finish a season in Atlanta with a win instead of a loss.
4. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama (12/1)
Looking for another true sophomore to win the award? Look no further than the extremely gifted Yeldon. As just a freshman, he rushed for 1,000 yards and 10 scores as a backup last season en route to a national championship. Nick Saban’s offense is a proven Heisman commodity for running backs and Eddie Lacy has moved on to the NFL. If Yeldon gets 200+ touches, he easily has the skill to make it to New York.

5. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
It will be tough for Gurley to top his freshman numbers in the brutal SEC, but his quarterback and offensive line return intact. He led the league in rushing by a running back and scored 17 times. Only Trent Richardson has ever scored 20 rushing TDs in SEC history as a running back. With Murray and Gurley in the same backfield, one has to wonder if the UGA vote will be split between two elite players.

6. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (10/1)
A big part of why Yeldon will be successful will be the return of McCarron. The O-line will have to be rebuilt (to some extent), but the talent at the skill positions could be better than Saban has ever had at the Capstone. If McCarron goes for 30 TDs and just three interceptions again, he will most definitely be in the Heisman race. The biggest issue is his offensive system may never allow for big numbers from the quarterback as names like Ingram, Richardson, Lacy and Yeldon get most of the attention.

7. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
He is a first-team All-American. He is the top linebacker prospect in the nation for next year’s NFL Draft. He plays a stat-heavy position and runs the defense for the two-time defending BCS champs. And his team will be preseason No. 1 again. He could very easily be this year’s Manti Te’o in terms of team success and individual production.

8. Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida (40/1)
The Gators quarterback flashed brilliance through the air at times last year (see the Tennessee game) and on the ground all season (see the Vanderbilt game). If the Gators can provide him with a capable supporting cast, his raw athletic ability will shine in 2013. He has all the physical tools to take the next step in his development and become one of the nation’s breakout stars this fall.

9. Ben Malena, RB, Texas A&M
If fans want a deep sleeper pick for a monster 2013 campaign it would be the Aggies running back. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and scored nine touchdowns despite only getting 138 carries on the ground. Now with Christine Michael gone and Kevin Sumlin wanting to keep his star quarterback healthy, the powerful Malena could break onto the national scene as one of the SEC’s best running backs.

10. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Few players in the nation have as explosive a first step as Cooper. He was on full display in the SEC and BCS championship games a year ago. He finished with 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns as just a true freshman on 59 receptions for a hefty 16.9 yards per catch. With a great offensive line, quarterback and running game, Cooper could be facing single coverage all season.

11. Ladarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs tailback won’t ever be confused with the burly power backs this league has been known for, but he has tons of ability and proved himself a year ago. In his first season as the starter, the explosive and versatile Perkins rushed for 1,024 yards and eight touchdowns. He also is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and will get plenty of touches in Dan Mullen’s spread offense.

12. Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia
As a true freshman, change-of-pace, backup last year, Marshall rushed for 759 yards and scored nine total touchdowns. Behind an offensive line with all five starters back and Murray at quarterback, Marshall has a chance to improve on those numbers significantly this fall. The only thing keeping him from an All-American season might be fellow backfield mate Todd Gurley.

13. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The heady wide receiver had as good a season as any Vandy wideout in history. He led the SEC with 94 receptions, was second with 1,323 yards and caught eight touchdowns. He will have to try to repeat those numbers with a new quarterback under center this fall.

14. Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia
The big-play dynamo for the Dawgs should quickly establish himself as one of the nation’s most explosive wideouts now that he is a full-time offensive player. He can stretch the field and excels in the slot and will have one of the nation’s top offenses returning around him.

15. Tyler Russell, QB, Mississippi State
The Dan Mullen-coached quarterback showed great signs of growth last year, finishing with one of Mississippi State’s best passing seasons in history. Should he improve even slightly on his numbers (2,897 yards, 24 TD, 10 INT) and pull an upset or two, he could place himself as the league’s No. 4 passer

16. HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The nation’s best safety is eyeing a third straight BCS national title.

17. Jake Matthews, OL, Texas A&M
The pedigree, track record and NFL upside are there. Will be protecting Manziel’s blindside.

18. Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia (pictured below)
Taking over for Jarvis Jones as SEC’s top outside linebacker/pass rusher.

19. Cyrus Kouandjio, OL, Alabama
Arguably the top left tackle prospect in the nation on potential three-time BCS champ.

20. Wesley Tate, RB, Vanderbilt
Very talented runner who has plenty of competition in the Dores backfield.

21. Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina
If he can stay on the field, he could be the best darkhorse candidate in the SEC.

22. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Topped 1,000-yards last year and set to be unleashed in new, up-tempo offense under Guz Malzahn.

23. Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
Second-best tight end in the nation is wildly underrated by fans — not by opposing coaches.

24. Antonio Richardson, OL, Tennessee
First-round talent with elite upside and a chance to prove himself against Clowney.

25. Matt Jones, RB, Florida
Could also be Mack Brown or Kelvin Taylor. A Gators workhorse back would be in the mix.
Best of the Rest:

26. Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
27. Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
28. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
29. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
30. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
31. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
32. Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
33. Brandon and Trey Williams, RB, Texas A&M
34. Marlin Lane, RB, Tennessee
35. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
36. Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss
37. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss
38. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
39. A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
40. Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama 

2013 SEC Team Previews

East DivisionWest Division
FloridaAlabama
GeorgiaArkansas
KentuckyAuburn
MissouriLSU
South CarolinaMississippi State
TennesseeOle Miss
VanderbiltTexas A&M

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
The SEC's Top Heisman Trophy Contenders in 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 13:58

Pages