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When Andrew Maxwell arrived in East Lansing in the late summer of 2009, he could have easily kept his mouth shut, endured his redshirt season and spent the next two years toiling anonymously in the shadow of all-time Michigan State wins leader Kirk Cousins. No one would have blamed the backup quarterback for taking the quiet route for three years before blossoming in 2012.

Maxwell wasn’t looking for anything like that. Instead of dutifully playing the freshman role, he went about the business of constructing relationships with players — even upperclassmen — in preparation for the day he would take over for Cousins. That’s not cockiness, but rather a sound leadership strategy by a young man who stands ready to run the Spartan offense and become the face of a program that has made a U-turn from its old image.

“When I got on campus, I started leading right away by building bridges with teammates,” Maxwell says. “That way, when it became time to be the starter, it would be easier to lead.

“If you just change into a person you haven’t been, the guys aren’t going to respond. If you continue to be yourself, you’ll be a more effective leader.”

Maxwell may be the same out-front guy he was when he came to school, but the Michigan State program has transformed itself dramatically over the past couple seasons. Two straight 11-win seasons and a pair of New Year’s Day bowl games — including a win over Georgia in last year’s Outback Bowl — have put the Spartans in position to assume a role of influence and status in the Big Ten. Over the past four seasons, MSU has won more conference games than all but one other school (Ohio State) in the league, has beaten Michigan four straight times and has, most important, shed the reputation as the program that could always be counted on to make a key gaffe or have an off-field issue at the wrong time.

The problem at Michigan State has never been talent. The Spartans have had that. From 2000-07, MSU had 28 players drafted, including four first-rounders. That was only 10 fewer than Michigan produced over the same time frame. But during that period, MSU won only 45 games, while the Wolverines captured 73. Lack of discipline, off-field problems and some mystifying turns of fortune during games torpedoed the Spartans’ efforts. When someone sent out the S.O.S. in East Lansing, it meant “Same Old Sparty.”

That started changing in 2007 when Mark Dantonio took over as head coach. Though low-key in his demeanor and mannerisms, Dantonio is a rock-solid leader who values character above everything else. During a March interview, he spoke of the 150 straight days the program had enjoyed without an off-field incident. While that could change in the heartbeat of a 19-year-old, it demonstrated the standard he had established, and more importantly enforced, within the program.

“He’s honest, competent, caring and loving,” Maxwell says of Dantonio. “One of the best compliments you can give a coach is that he cares about you on and off the field.”

By recruiting players who can thrive on the field and lead off it, Dantonio and his staff have created a new ethos at MSU. In 2009, the Spartans were 6–7 and dropped an Alamo Bowl decision to Texas Tech. The enemy wasn’t necessarily youth, although it was a younger team; it was the lack of a strong example from the team’s upperclassmen. Although three of them were voted captains, the fourth captain was Cousins, then a sophomore, who was only the second Spartan sophomore ever to receive that distinction. The younger players who ended up being the cornerstones of the success of the last two seasons didn’t click with their elders, most of whom had been recruited by previous MSU coach John L. Smith. “We didn’t have good chemistry that year,” defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi admits.

That has not been the problem the past two seasons, and it’s unwise to discount the value of such chemistry. Successful teams feature leaders who take direction from the coaches and hold their peers accountable. That may not have been lacking completely before in East Lansing, but it is in evidence now. Twenty-two wins in two seasons provide the proof.

“It is as important as anything,” junior linebacker Max Bullough says. “The guys on the football team are friends with each other. We are together day and night. If somebody gets into something, the guys next to him are getting out of the situation.”

There are four games scheduled on Aug. 31 involving FBS teams, but the one expected to attract the most attention is Boise State’s visit to MSU. Although the Spartans also play Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Notre Dame, the matchup with the Broncos will allow Michigan State to take the national stage and deliver something that will gain attention.

“If we want to go where we want to go, we have to make a statement in the Boise State game,” Dantonio says.

It’s interesting that a Big Ten team would consider a game with a Mountain West opponent (BSU moves to the Big East in 2013) as a yardstick for its program, but the Spartans feel as if this is their time to take some steps outside the neighborhood. AD Mark Hollis has inked agreements with Boise State, Alabama, West Virginia, Oregon and Miami, giving the Spartans a fortified schedule and allowing them to reach out to constituencies beyond the state of Michigan. There is little chance Dantonio and his staff will be recruiting heavily in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, but this is an opportunity for a program that has been in the shadow of Big Ten rivals to extend its sphere of influence — as the highly successful Spartan hoops team has done.

“I did most of the basketball scheduling, and I’m doing the football scheduling,” Hollis says. “I’m going to schedule like basketball. We’re setting up the kinds of games kids want to play, and that sets the bar with some big expectations.”

One gets the impression that Michigan State feels it is ready to make a move into the national hierarchy. That’s why it’s scheduling up, why it is adding a giant, $10 million video board to Spartan Stadium and why it is launching a full assault on Michigan, which for decades has adopted a smug attitude toward its “little brother.”

College athletics are filled with relationships like the one that has prevailed between the Wolverines and Spartans. Alabama considers itself superior to Auburn. Texas makes Aggie jokes at the expense of Texas A&M. University of Washington is the cosmopolitan school, and Washington State is the farm. You can still find bumper stickers in Ann Arbor referring to Michigan State as “Moo U,” a nod to the school’s agricultural roots. And for all the references to the “Arrogant Asses” at U-M, a designation coined by former Spartan coach Darryl Rogers, there remains something of an air of superiority amidst the Wolverines. But ever since former Michigan running back Mike Hart referred to MSU as the “little brother,” there has been a change going on.

The four-game winning streak has fueled it, yes, but the attitude in East Lansing has changed, too. Dantonio has made no secret of his dislike for Michigan, and last winter, MSU hoops coach Tom Izzo weighed in, too. The Spartans aren’t behaving like aggrieved smaller siblings, but rather like newly pumped-up equals who aren’t having any more of the condescension.

“I grew up in the state (Midland), and I grew up with the attitude that Michigan was the elite program, and Michigan State was the other one,” Maxwell says. “The tide has changed. Our success against them demands that.”

That can’t be enough for Michigan State. Winning in the sandbox is good. Taking it to the rest of the playground is better. The Spartans have more character than in recent years, and they have been able to back it up with what Dantonio and his staff consider some good recruiting classes. Dantonio was able to redshirt all but two of last year’s newcomers and expects many of them to contribute next year, particularly on defense.

“To me, it doesn’t make a difference what ‘star’ a player is,” Dantonio says, referring to recruiting rankings. “They’re not sending you to a bowl game if your recruiting class is in the top 10. You go to bowl games and championship games because you’re in the top 10 or top 20 on the field.”

As Maxwell assumes the starting quarterback role for Cousins, who amassed several records, he is something of a symbol for MSU’s future. If Maxwell steps in and delivers, the Spartans will likely continue their prosperity. All that’s missing from the offense is a proven wideout. Michigan State fans have waited a long time for the kind of sustained success that the team seems to be on the verge of achieving. Some say the next chapter begins Aug. 31 against Boise State. Those who know realize it started more than five years ago, when Dantonio arrived on campus.

The story continues this fall, and Spartan fans are hoping that each turn of the page brings something wonderful — and new.

— by Michael Bradley

This article appears in Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Preview Annual.

Related Big Ten Content

Athlon’s 2012 Big Ten Predictions
Athlon’s 2012 All-Big Ten Team

Michigan State Spartans 2012 Team Preview

Michigan State’s Top 10 Players for 2012

Big Ten’s Top Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Michigan State Football: Spartans Emerging as Big Ten Power</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-defensive-lines
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Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Pac-12's Defensive Lines for 2012

1. Oregon – Utah should have a strong defensive line in 2012, but a slight edge goes to the Ducks as the Pac-12’s top group. End Dion Jordan earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last year after collecting 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Taylor Hart was solid last season, recording 44 stops and 2.5 sacks. He is expected to start at end, but could also see snaps on the interior. Isaac Remington and Wade Keliikipi are expected to start at tackle, while Ricky Heimuli and Jared Ebert will see playing time. Arik Armstead ranked as the No. 8 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and will be expected to contribute to the rotation this year. This group allowed 142.8 rushing yards per game last season but also led the Pac-12 with 45 sacks.

2. Utah – When you have a Star of this caliber up front on the defensive line, you will always have a chance to win. The Utes finished in the top 30 nationally in sacks, finished 1st in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense and 20th in America against the run (3rd in the Pac-12). And it all starts with All-American nose tackle, and reigning Morris Trophy winner Star Lotulelei. Add in two more returning upperclassmen in tackle Dave Kruger and end Joe Kruger, and Kyle Whittingham has one of the most stable front lines in the nation. Nate Fakakafua and Niasi Leota, among others, will compete for the final starting spot at end. This is a veteran group that could easily end up being the Pac-12’s best unit.

3. USC – This unit easily has the most question marks of any on the Trojans’ defense. Three starters have expired their eligibility, including first-team All-Pac-12 end Nick Perry. Tackles Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris were underrated and will be missed against the run. Although this unit is a concern, the cupboard isn’t bare. Seniors Devon Kennard and Wes Horton will anchor the end spots, with junior college transfer Morgan Breslin and redshirt freshman Greg Townsend providing depth. George Uko is a player to watch after recording 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks as a freshman in 2011. The other tackle spot will likely go to sophomore J.R. Tavai. However, look for Antwaun Woods, Leonard Williams and Christian Heyward to figure into the mix. This group will be young and depth is a concern. However, if USC avoids injuries and can work some of the young players into the mix, this unit should be solid in 2012.

4. Stanford – Two of the three starters will return for a unit that helped Stanford lead the Pac-12 in rushing defense — good for third best nationally behind only Alabama and Florida State. End Ben Gardner has been receiving rave reviews from his coaching staff and should be one of the league’s top edge players. Senior tackle Terrence Stephens also returns to a line that was second in the Pac-12 in sacks a year ago. Replacing Matt Masifilo will be key, but Josh Mauro and Henry Anderson look capable of filling the void. Much like the offensive line, David Shaw has recruited incredibly well along the D-line and should have plenty of contributors in the 2012 class.

5. California – Even with the departure of ends Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu, this unit should still perform at a high level in 2012. The Golden Bears ranked fourth in the Pac-12 against the run last season and allowed only 17 rushing scores. Deandre Coleman and Mustafa Jalil are expected to assume the starting spots at end and both will be breakout players to watch in 2012. Coleman recorded 19 tackles and two sacks in limited time last year, while Jalil made 13 stops. Coleman is an Athlon Sports third-team All-Pac-12 selection for 2012. Senior Aaron Tipoti anchors the interior, while Kendrick Payne and Viliami Moala will provide depth.

6. UCLA – If fans want to pinpoint one sleeper defensive line that could totally shock the league in 2012 - it might be UCLA. The level of talent throughout this D-line depth chart is outstanding. But the Bruins finishing 11th in rushing defense and 11th in sacks in the Pac-12 last season isn’t getting the job done. Elite recruits Cassius Marsh, Datone Jones, Brandon Willis, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and incoming freshman Ellis McCarthy has as much ability as any team in this league. Developing this talent and playing sound football up front will go along way to improving the UCLA defense. Look for the new toughness Jim Mora Jr. is instilling to pay off in this group the most this fall.

7. Washington – The biggest difference between Washington and its North Division counterparts has been defense. And it starts up front with a rebuilt defensive line. Getting sophomore end Hau’oli Jamara back healthy should be a huge step in the right direction, while fellow sophomore Josh Shirley should be improved as well. Danny Shelton, should he get the start at nose tackle, gives the new Husky defensive staff three sophomores along its three-man front. The good news for a team that ranked 76th in rushing defense and allowed at least 65 points twice last year is the veterans on the depth chart. Talia Crichton and Semisi Tokolahi are seniors who have experience. Line coach Tosh Lupoi is one of the nation’s best, but he has his work cut out for him with this talented but youthful group.

8. Oregon State – The Beavers ranked dead last in rushing defense last fall by allowing 196.8 yards per game. Needless to say, the interior of the defense has to play better if Mike Riley expects his team to return to the postseason. Scott Crichton and Andrew Seumalo have the end spots anchored for now and should be improved. But Castro Masaniai or Mana Rosa — or whoever else gets a shot — has to provide some toughness up the middle for Oregon State to improve in this area. Or it could be a another long season on defense for the Beavs.

9. Arizona State – With a new coach taking over and only eight combined returning starters, it’s likely to be a rebuilding year for the Sun Devils in 2012. The line lost two solid contributors – end Jamaar Jarrett and tackle Bo Moos – and the linebacking corps must be revamped. One bit of good news for Arizona State’s defensive line is the status of end Junior Onyeali. He missed spring practice due to a suspension but is on track to return to the team in August. Junior Davon Coleman (42 tackles, 2.5 sacks in 2011) is expected to start opposite of Onyeali at end. The interior is in good shape, led by junior Will Sutton and senior Corey Adams. Junior college transfer Mike Pennel was a key pickup for coach Todd Graham and his size (6-foot-5, 340 pounds) should help the Sun Devils stuff the run in 2012. This unit has a lot of question marks but could end up as a strength if Onyeali stays out of the doghouse, and Pennel lives up to the hype.

10. Washington State – With Mike Leach’s arrival in Pullman, there’s no question the Cougars are going to score plenty of points in 2012. However, getting to a bowl game could rest heavily on how much the defense improves this year. Washington State is switching to a 3-4 scheme, with standout Travis Long moving to a rush end position. Long should be one of the conference’s best defenders in 2012 and will easily top last season’s numbers (42 tackles and 4 sacks). Senior Anthony Laurenzi and freshman Xavier Cooper are expected to start at end, while Kalafitoni Pole will start at nose tackle. The Cougars allowed 157.2 rushing yards per game and ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense last year. Both of those numbers must decrease in 2012 if Washington State wants to make a run at seven wins.

11. Colorado – When the first line of the Athlon Sports breakdown reads “this is the most depleted are of the team,” you know you’ve got issues up front. Three names return with experience up front in senior tackle Will Pericak, jack-back hybrid Chidera Uzo-Diribe and sophomore end Juda Parker. Big things will be expected from a freshman class that includes Josh Tupou, Kisima Jagne and Tyler Henington. Any time three freshmen are filling the top six slots on your depth chart, you could be in a long season. 

12. Arizona – A year after ranking 33rd nationally against the run and recording 33 sacks, the Wildcats slumped to finish last in the Pac-12 in pass and total defense. Arizona’s rush defense allowed an average of 161.6 yards per game in 2012 and registered a paltry 10 sacks all season. New defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has a lot of work to do to get this unit playing at a high level, and that task will be even tougher with the return of only four starters. C.J. Parish (32 tackles) and Mohammed Usman (19) have expired their eligibility, leaving very little depth at end. Senior Willie Mobley missed all of 2011 with a knee injury, but his return should help this unit. Junior Sione Tuihalamaka is the favorite to start at the other end spot in Arizona’s 3-3-5 scheme. Tackle Justin Washington was one of the Pac-12’s biggest disappointments last year, but will have an opportunity to thrive under the new coaching staff. This unit should be better than it was last year, but there may be a transition period as this team moves from a 4-3 to a 3-3-5.


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

Related Pac-12 Content

Ranking the Pac-12's Offensive Lines for 2012
Ranking the Pac-12's Wide Receiving Corps for 2012

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers for 2012

Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

Top 25 Pac-12 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 05:52
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-big-12s-basketball-coaches
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The Big 12’s trade of Missouri and Texas A&M for West Virginia and TCU appears to be a small downgrade as far as basketball is concerned.

 

Although the league loses a consistent Missouri and newly solid Texas A&M, the Big 12 will upgrade its coaches. 

 

West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and TCU’s Trent Johnson have more than twice as many career wins than outgoing coaches Frank Haith and Billy Kennedy and 30 more NCAA Tournament wins.

 

Most of that belongs to the Hall of Famer Huggins, but Johnson, with 226 career wins and five Tourney victories, alone has more than either Haith or Kennedy.

 

West Virginia and TCU have major adjustments ahead of them in the Big 12, but at least on the bench the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs have a leg up on some of the competition.

 

Here are our rankings of the Big 12’s top basketball coaches for 2012-13.

 

Note: Coaches are ranked on a mix of past accomplishments with consideration for career trajectory over the next five seasons or so. Rankings take Xs and Os acumen and recruiting prowess into account along with success in the regular season and postseason.

 

1. Bill Self, Kansas

Overall record: 476-158 (33-13 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Kansas: 269-53 (124-24 Big 12)

Great players come and go in Lawrence, but Self is leading one of the most consistent winners in the country. Thomas Robinson replaces the Morris twins, the Morris twins replaced Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, Collins and Aldrich replaced Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers. Despite the turnover, Kansas has won a share of the Big 12 in eight consecutive seasons, four consecutive outright titles and five of the last seven Big 12 Tournament titles. Self once had the stigma of losing early in March, but Kansas is 17-4 in the NCAA Tournament, including the 2008 title, in the last five seasons.

 

2. Bob Huggins, West Virginia

Overall record: 638-242 (27-20 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at West Virginia: 120-56 (52-29 Big East)

Huggins’ 2011-12 season was a good lesson in perspective. The Mountaineers went 19-14, including 9-9 in the Big East and reached the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season. For some programs, that’s a success. For Huggins, it was one of the worst seasons of his career. The .500 conference record was the first time Huggins failed to post a winning conference record since his first season at Akron in 1984-85. It was only the fourth time in his 27 years in Division I he failed to win 20 games. His 710 career wins, including 71 in the NAIA, are the most among active coaches without a national championship.

 

3. Rick Barnes, Texas

Overall record: 544-271 (20-20 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Texas: 342-137 (158-63 Big 12)

The Barnes’ era can be confounding, but it’s at least consistent. Since 2004-05, Texas has had eight players drafted in the first round, including four lottery picks. But the Longhorns reached the Sweet 16 only twice in eight years. In addition, Texas hasn’t won an outright Big 12 title since 1998-99 and has never won the Big 12 Tournament. That said, Texas never struggles to bring in talent nor struggles to get to the NCAA Tournament. Barnes’ 17 consecutive Tournament appearances is tied with Mike Krzyzewski for the longest active streak and is six short of the all-time record held by Dean Smith.

 

4. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

Overall record: 494-320 (14-13 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Oklahoma: 15-16 (5-13 BIg 12)

After facing NCAA sanctions under two coaching staffs, Oklahoma made the astute hire in Kruger. Although he’s rarely mentioned as one of the game’s elite coaches, he’s one of the nation’s best rebuilders. He revived troubled programs at Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV before landing at Oklahoma. If Kruger can navigate recruiting sanctions at Oklahoma, he could be the first coach to lead five different teams to the NCAA Tournament.

 

5. Scott Drew, Baylor

Overall record: 177-135 (6-3 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Baylor: 157-124 (52-86 Big 12)

In 2003-04, Drew assumed one of the toughest jobs in college basketball history following Dave Bliss’ exit in disgrace. Baylor hasn’t operated at full strength until the last five seasons, where the results have been mixed. The Bears reached the Elite Eight twice in the last three seasons -- an incredible feat considering Baylor had gone to one NCAA Tournament in 53 years before Drew’s arrival. However, the other three of the last five seasons have been marked by second-half collapses. Considering the influx of talent to Waco, Baylor could deliver more consistent results.

 

6. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

Overall record: 39-27 (1-1 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Iowa State: 39-27 (15-19 Big 12)

“The Mayor” had a long track record as an NBA player and in professional front offices but no experience as a head coach. Despite Hoiberg’s personal popularity, the hire of the former Cyclone was a bit puzzling. As it turns out, Hoiberg is a pretty good coach, sharing Big 12 Coach of the Year honors with Bill Self last season. Iowa State improved from 3-13 in the Big 12 to 12-6 in his second season. Iowa State’s 23 wins last year was the most since 2001. Now, Hoiberg will have to prove he can win without Royce White.

 

7. Bruce Weber, Kansas State

Overall record: 313-155 (11-8 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Kansas State: first season

Weber went 89-16 overall and 39-9 in the Big Ten in his first three seasons at Illinois, a run that included a trip to the 2005 national championship game. He never hit those heights again in his final six seasons at Illinois. He had trouble winning consistently at Illinois, a job that could be one of the best in the Big Ten. Weber could benefit from a fresh start at Kansas State, but he’ll have to overcome the reasons -- poor chemistry, lackluster recruiting -- his tenure went sour  in Illinois.

 

8. Trent Johnson, TCU

Overall record: 226-186 (5-5 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at TCU: first season

After successful tenures at Nevada and Stanford, Johnson stepped out of a geographical comfort zone in the Southeast at LSU. The Tigers went 27-8 overall and 13-3 in the SEC in his first season in 2008-09, but the success was short-lived. LSU won five conference games the ensuing two seasons. Johnson saved face with trip to the NIT last year before getting ahead of the hot seat talk by taking the TCU job. The Horned Frogs likely will struggle in the Big 12, but Johnson already built a winner from a moribund program with Nevada. Still, the learning curve is a little steeper in the Big 12 than in the WAC.

 

9. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State

Overall record: 203-170 (1-3 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Oklahoma State: 80-55 (31-35 Big 12)

Ford is entering the fifth season of a nondescript tenure at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have never been awful under Ford (6-10 in the Big 12 in 2010-11), but they’ve never been great either (9-7 in each of his first two seasons). Oklahoma State could have one of the best homecourt advantages in the country, but the Cowboys haven’t given Stillwater many reasons to fill Gallagher-Iba Arena with raucous crowds.

 

10. Billy Gillispie, Texas Tech

Overall record: 148-108 (3-4 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Texas Tech: 8-23 (1-17 Big 12)

Not many coaches have had a career arc like Gillispie. He was a miracle worker at UTEP and Texas A&M, taking the latter to the Sweet 16 in 2007. He was greeted with open arms at Kentucky, but that dissipated in less than two years. He went 40-27 in Lexington, including a first-round NCAA Tournament exit in his first season and an NIT bid in his second. He returned to Texas last year to oversee the Red Raiders’ worst season since 1990-91. If there’s any glimmer of hope, it’s that Gillispie went 6-24 in his first season at UTEP and 24-8 the second.

-David Fox 

@DavidFox615

Other coach rankings:
ACC
Big East

Big Ten

Pac-12

SEC

Atlantic 10

Best of the rest

July 30: National 

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Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big 12's Basketball Coaches</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 05:11
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-sun-belt
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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 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Sun Belt in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Sun Belt All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected 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—Ryan Aplin, Sr. (Arkansas State)

Last season:  Passed for 3,588 yards and 19 TDs, rushed for 588 yards and 10 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; So. Alabama, @ Louisiana, Bye, @ No. Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  LA-Monroe, @ Troy, Bye

 

QB—Blaine Gautier, Sr. (Louisiana)

Last season:  Passed for 2,958 yards and 23 TDs, rushed for 486 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; @ No. Texas, Arkansas St, Bye, @ LA-Monroe

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Florida, Western Kentucky, So. Alabama

 

RB—Kedrick Rhodes, Jr. (Florida International)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,149 yards and 8 TDs, 27 receptions for 252 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11-12; W. Kentucky, @ So. Alabama, Bye, FAU

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ FAU, UL-Monroe

 

RB—David Oku, Jr. (Arkansas State)

Last season:  Transferred from Tennessee.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; So. Alabama, @ Louisiana, Bye, @ No. Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  LA-Monroe, @ Troy, Bye

 

RB—Antonio Andrews, Jr. (Western Kentucky)

Last season:  Rushed for 42 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; Mid Tenn., FAU, @ Louisiana

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  FAU, @ Louisiana, No. Texas

 

WR—Javone Lawson, Sr. (Louisiana)

Last season:  63 receptions for 1,092 yards and 8 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Lamar, @ Troy, @ Oklahoma St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Florida, Western Kentucky, So. Alabama

 

WR—Josh Jarboe, Sr. (Arkansas State)

Last season:  54 receptions for 730 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; So. Alabama, @ Louisiana, Bye, @ No. Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  LA-Monroe, @ Troy, Bye

 

WR—Eric Thomas, Jr. (Troy)

Last season:  Led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs (67-875-9).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6-7; @ No. Texas, @ So. Alabama, Bye, W. Kentucky

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Navy, Arkansas St, @ Mid Tenn.

 

TE—Jack Doyle, Sr. (Western Kentucky)

Last season:  Led the team in receptions and receiving yards (52-614).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7-8; Arkansas St, Bye, @ Troy, LA-Monroe

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  FAU, @ Louisiana, No. Texas

 

FLEX—Brandin Byrd, Jr. (North Texas)

Last season:  Rushed for 83 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 11-12-13; So. Alabama, @ LA-Monroe, @ W. Kentucky

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  So. Alabama, @ LA-Monroe, @ W. Kentucky

 

K—Bret Baer, Sr. (Louisiana)

Last season: 18 of 20 on FG attempts, 46 of 50 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; Tulane, @ No. Texas, Arkansas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bowling Green, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

 

DEF/ST—Florida International Golden Panthers

Last season:  No. 14 scoring defense, No. 30 total defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11-12; W. Kentucky, @ So. Alabama, Bye, FAU

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ FAU, UL-Monroe

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Corey Robinson, Jr. (Troy)

RB—Jyruss Edwards, Jr. (LA-Monroe)

RB—Alonzo Harris, So. (Louisiana)

WR—Brent Leonard, Sr. (LA-Monroe)

WR—Chip Reeves, Sr. (Troy)

 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Sun Belt</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 03:09
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-july-16
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for July 16, 2012.

 

  1. Rangers—All-Star Matt Harrison pitching like Cy Young Matt Harrison.

 2. Yankees—Odds-on favorite to be first team to clinch.

 3. Nationals—Pine tar flap with Ozzie didn’t faze Bryce Harper.

 4. Braves—Hottest team in the National League putting heat on Nats.

 5. White Sox—Two more one-run wins over the weekend.

 6. Angels—Continue tough stretch, four at Detroit, three vs. Texas.

 7. Giants—Will Giants trade for a hitter again this season?

 8. Reds—Fans enjoyed flashing the brooms over the weekend.

 9. Dodgers—Defense gave away a game — can’t afford many of those.

10. Pirates—Stay in first place was brief, but upcoming schedule is friendly.

11. Tigers—Beginning to look like a team deserving of division title.

12. Rays—Offense still nowhere to be found.

13. Orioles—Wheels beginning to come off at Camden Yards.

14. Blue Jays—Chance to make a statement this week at N.Y. and Boston.

15. Red Sox—Return of Jacoby Ellsbury should spark offense.

16. Cardinals—Bullpen wasn’t up to challenge at Cincinnati.

17. A’s—Creeping into the wild card discussion.

18. Mets—Falling out of contention fast.

19. Indians—Slipped into third in AL Central.

20. Brewers—Playing nine in a row vs. top three teams in NL Central.

21. Diamondbacks—Mustered only three runs over the weekend at Wrigley Field.

22. Marlins—Offense will struggle without Giancarlo Stanton.

23. Phillies—Time to see just how much pride this team has.

24. Royals—11 of next 14 games are against Twins and Mariners.

25. Twins—Trying to avoid worst record in the league two years in a row.

26. Mariners—Just can’t generate any offense.

27. Cubs—Hottest team in the majors over last three weeks.

28. Padres—Will San Diego begin the trading frenzy?

29. Rockies—Wasting away Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez primes.

30. Astros—Last season in National League turning into a disaster.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 16:32
All taxonomy terms: Big Board, Fantasy, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-big-board
Body:

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is officially here. 

Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are complete. Bye week cheat sheets are everywhere. The creative juices are flowing with hysterical team names. And the all-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board continues to grow into the best fantasy ranking on the web.

Typically a championship fantasy GM will have his own research, analysis and gut instincts reflected in his or her individually constructed Big Board. But that takes months of time, lots of practice reports and loads of web surfing. So instead of 112 Google searches per day, just let Athlon Sports handle the legwork for you.

New to this list is NFL.com's initial NFL fantasy rankings as we have expanded from seven lists to eight. We also added a "previous ranking" column to indicate the previous ranking. Athlon will continue to broaden and deepen its trademark consensus Big Board all summer long.

Special thanks to the people over at FantasyRundown.com for their support.

CBS: CBSSports.com (Updated: 7/13/12)
PFF: ProFootballFocus.com (Updated: 6/26/12)
ESPN: ESPN (Updated 6/20/12)
FFT: FFToolbox.com (Updated 7/15/12)
Y!: Yahoo! Sports (Updated 6/23/12)
NFL: NFL.com (2012 Debut)
FOX: FoxSports.com (Updated 5/31/12)
AS: Athlon Sports (Updated 7/1/12)

Updated: 3:00 PM CT, July 16, 2012

Rank Previous Player: Team Pos | CBS PFF ESPN FFTB Y! NFL FOX AS
1 1 Arian Foster HOU RB | 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1
2 2 Ray Rice BAL RB | 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 2
3 3 LeSean McCoy PHI RB | 3 4 3 3 3 4 4 3
4 4 Aaron Rodgers GB QB | 4 5 4 7 6 2 1 4
5 5 Calvin Johnson DET WR | 7 6 7 4 4 8 6 5
6 6 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC RB | 6 11 5 6 7 7 7 6
7 8 Ryan Mathews SD RB | 8 3 12 5 5 9 11 13
8 9 Drew Brees NO QB | 5 17 8 8 11 6 9 8
9 7 Chris Johnson TEN RB | 9 7 9 10 8 11 10 9
10 12 Tom Brady NE QB | 10 25 6 9 12 5 5 7
11 10 Larry Fitzgerald ARI WR | 16 9 10 19 10 12 16 10
12 14 Cam Newton CAR QB | 14 10 23 11 13 13 8 19
13 17 Andre Johnson HOU WR | 13 15 11 26 28 15 12 18
14 11 Darren McFadden OAK RB | 12 27 30 12 16 19 15 14
15 21 Matthew Stafford DET QB | 15 42 13 24 19 10 13 11
16 18 Roddy White ATL WR | 19 8 15 32 17 18 23 16
17 15 Matt Forte CHI RB | 22 33 18 15 15 16 19 12
18 13 Marshawn Lynch SEA RB | 11 37 17 17 18 27 14 15
19 16 Rob Gronkowski NE TE | 26 44 14 13 14 14 17 25
20 20 DeMarco Murray DAL RB | 18 16 21 18 22 25 18 34
21 22 Greg Jennings GB WR | 23 14 16 36 23 20 22 24
22 26 Wes Welker NE WR | 24 28 20 25 30 17 24 23
23 19 Jimmy Graham NO TE | 28 38 22 20 20 21 20 29
24 23 Trent Richardson CLE RB | 17 29 36 14 9 22 41 33
25 30 Adrian Peterson MIN RB | 27 19 28 21 21 30 36 22
26 25 Jamaal Charles KC RB | 49 23 24 16 25 29 28 17
27 24 Steven Jackson STL RB | 20 21 31 23 37 31 25 36
28 27 AJ Green CIN WR | 32 31 26 27 24 26 33 26
29 29 Hakeem Nicks NYG WR | 35 12 25 28 39 33 30 27
30 28 Mike Wallace PIT WR | 31 39 19 30 29 28 29 28
31 34 Julio Jones ATL WR | 34 22 33 22 31 23 42 30
32 33 Victor Cruz NYG WR | 38 26 29 29 26 36 46 32
33 39 Michael Vick PHI QB | 29 13 32 53 43 41 26 47
34 31 Fred Jackson BUF RB | 33 52 34 34 32 44 21 38
35 35 Jordy Nelson GB WR | 30 57 39 37 33 35 44 31
36 37 Steve Smith CAR WR | 46 43 40 41 34 24 39 40
37 32 Michael Turner ATL RB | 21 96 37 33 35 43 27 21
38 38 Brandon Marshall CHI WR | 51 49 35 45 27 34 38 35
39 36 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG RB | 25 41 44 31 45 45 40 46
40 43 Dez Bryant DAL WR | 59 32 41 40 47 38 45 37
41 41 Marques Colston NO WR | 55 24 46 42 44 39 52 39
42 47 Tony Romo DAL QB | 40 35 45 58 53 40 32 41
43 44 Darren Sproles NO RB | 41 56 43 35 40 47 47 44
44 46 Demaryius Thomas DEN WR | 37 20 63 51 41 32 49 60
45 48 Eli Manning NYG QB | 36 53 27 54 50 63 35 42
46 40 Frank Gore SF RB | 62 79 38 44 52 42 31 20
47 42 Reggie Bush MIA RB | 57 47 51 38 42 56 43 45
48 45 Miles Austin DAL WR | 53 36 48 55 36 48 55 52
49 49 Percy Harvin MIN WR | 50 46 55 48 48 37 48 56
50 50 Dwayne Bowe KC WR | 61 34 57 63 51 46 50 57
51 51 Jeremy Maclin PHI WR | 60 45 59 57 46 49 58 50
52 55 Philip Rivers SD QB | 44 61 64 75 59 50 37 43
53 52 Vincent Jackson TB WR | 65 40 53 52 67 57 56 53
54 57 Peyton Manning DEN QB | 47 48 49 78 58 59 34 73
55 56 Antonio Gates SD TE | 42 54 56 68 49 53 62 63
56 54 Kenny Britt TEN WR | 73 18 74 49 54 52 65 74
57 53 Roy Helu WAS RB | 67 87 42 39 61 61 57 48
58 58 Brandon Lloyd NE WR | 68 59 47 62 56 51 59 62
59 61 Shonn Greene NYJ RB | 66 68 58 50 70 58 63 55
60 65 Doug Martin TB RB | 54 60 83 43 38 54 88 68
61 60 Beanie Wells ARI RB | 43 94 62 46 77 55 61 58
62 70 Antonio Brown PIT WR | 75 6 66 77 68 84 53 67
63 59 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN RB | 45 115 52 47 65 60 70 54
64 62 Willis McGahee DEN RB | 70 73 50 73 79 62 54 49
65 66 Jason Witten DAL TE | 48 58 69 72 63 72 51 80
66 63 Aaron Hernandez NE TE | 39 66 93 61 55 70 68 70
67 73 Matt Ryan ATL QB | 52 64 73 66 76 65 60 81
68 67 Vernon Davis SF TE | 56 76 61 65 60 77 66 79
69 68 DeSean Jackson PHI WR | 63 74 71 69 71 78 71 61
70 71 Stevie Johnson BUF WR | 72 50 60 64 64 67 127 59
71 69 Jermichael Finley GB TE | 64 72 87 59 57 74 69 83
72 72 Jonathan Stewart CAR RB | 88 89 54 56 69 68 82 65
73 78 Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB | 58 86 79 80 62 71 64 71
74 75 Torrey Smith BAL WR | 76 65 82 76 80 76 91 72
75 76 Isaac Redman PIT RB | 77 117 72 67 73 81 75 64
76 64 Robert Meachem SD WR | 81 62 77 70 81 73 98 85
77 74 Eric Decker DEN WR | 80 55 68 104 74 66 85 99
78 84 Jahvid Best DET RB | 101 75 70 91 85 64 77 69
79 79 Donald Brown IND RB | 97 63 95 96 82 92 80 75
80 83 Pierre Garcon WAS WR | 109 71 80 82 84 83 89 82
81 81 Mark Ingram NO RB | 113 102 78 90 92 69 87 51
82 77 DeAngelo Williams CAR RB | 100 - 67 74 78 80 72 66
83 82 James Starks GB RB | 96 81 92 60 90 85 99 88
84 86 Reggie Wayne IND WR | 78 51 103 94 83 79 106 98
85 85 CJ Spiller BUF RB | 89 83 81 79 89 88 115 78
86 94 Robert Griffin III WAS QB | 82 30 101 - 75 82 79 110
87 80 Fred Davis WAS TE | 83 106 108 71 66 102 78 106
88 87 Anquan Boldin BAL WR | 90 85 94 99 99 91 84 86
89 93 Denarius Moore OAK WR | 91 78 84 106 93 86 111 84
90 91 Peyton Hillis KC RB | 86 99 88 98 88 94 107 90
91 88 Matt Schaub HOU QB | 69 - 86 85 111 89 67 94
92 92 Sidney Rice SEA WR | 87 69 98 101 86 134 83 97
93 96 Jay Cutler CHI QB | 99 127 99 95 72 97 73 101
94 95 Tony Gonzalez ATL TE | 85 84 105 83 103 103 92 112
95 89 Michael Bush CHI RB | 95 - 76 84 97 87 86 93
96 90 Brandon Pettigrew DET TE | 98 98 115 81 98 116 74 92
97 98 Lance Moore NO WR | 93 90 91 118 109 96 94 87
98 97 Santonio Holmes NYJ WR | 102 122 89 102 87 90 81 108
99 99 Stevan Ridley NE RB | 84 123 75 - 101 75 100 76
100 101 Ben Tate HOU RB | 107 - 65 119 94 95 102 77
101 111 Josh Freeman TB QB | 128 70 104 116 116 101 97 102
102 106 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK WR | 117 82 106 113 95 99 119 105
103 102 Justin Blackmon JAC WR | 106 134 113 92 108 110 95 96
104 103 Toby Gerhart MIN RB | 94 - 90 105 117 93 117 89
105 100 LeGarrette Blount TB RB | 103 109 121 117 119 120 76 100
106 113 Michael Crabtree SF WR | 111 119 96 120 115 100 114 109
107 109 Jacob Tamme DEN TE | 121 91 132 86 102 112 96 -
108 104 Malcolm Floyd SD WR | 112 103 85 112 104 114 116 146
109 110 Titus Young DET WR | 92 95 112 100 137 119 122 121
110 117 Greg Little CLE WR | 114 80 - 109 91 104 137 118
111 108 Pierre Thomas NO RB | 105 107 119 132 107 108 105 130
112 115 David Wilson NYG RB | 127 125 97 134 105 98 139 91
113 107 Mikel LeShoure DET RB | 79 - - 115 96 106 110 116
114 114 Mike Williams TB WR | 119 105 120 97 100 142 121 123
115 105 Brent Celek PHI TE | 74 114 140 89 114 - 123 126
116 112 Jermaine Gresham CIN TE | 71 124 - 87 110 - 108 138
117 119 Andy Dalton CIN QB | 116 126 110 110 129 113 109 128
118 118 Felix Jones DAL RB | 110 112 102 - 127 121 113 114
119 130 Carson Palmer OAK QB | 108 110 126 - 122 111 126 104
120 124 Laurent Robinson JAC WR | 135 111 118 108 131 130 93 -
121 127 Nate Washington TEN WR | 126 100 125 - 124 107 131 119
122 121 Joe Flacco BAL QB | 130 101 122 - 130 133 90 127
123 140 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF QB | 143 77 137 - 135 122 103 -
124 128 Owen Daniels HOU TE | 124 139 134 103 118 - 129 125
125 120 Jared Cook TEN TE | 134 135 123 93 126 - 141 124
126 125 Dustin Keller NYJ TE | - 133   88 128 125 120 134
127 129 49ers SF DST | 150 - 109 122 146 109 - 95
128 139 Andrew Luck IND QB | - 92 138   136 105 112 -
129 123 Michael Floyd ARI WR | 141 93 131 129 120 - 130 -
130 131 Santana Moss WAR WR | 104 - - - 121 115 144 111
131 116 Daniel Thomas MIA RB | 131 - 111 - 133 143 101 129
132 122 Mario Manningham SF WR | 136 - 128 107 144 117 118 -
133 126 Ryan Williams ARI RB | 115 - - 136 112 147 128 117
134 133 Shane Vareen NE RB | 125 - - 114 123 131 138 133
135 141 Doug Baldwin SEA WR | - 116 - 121 134 126 - 122
136 137 Ronnie Hillman DEN RB | 122 104 - 131 113 - - -
137 147 Bernard Scott CIN RB | 140 121 116 - - 137 - 115
138 167 Alex Smith SF QB | - 120 107 - - 138 124 -
139 136 Coby Fleener IND TE | 123 131 - 124 132 136 - -
140 135 Texans HOU DST | - - 114 128 - - - 103
141 138 Vincent Brown SD WR | 144 - - 111 138 - 134 120
142 157 Sam Bradford STL QB | 146 - 130 - - 124 104 -
143 134 Mike Tolbert CAR RB | 129 - 127 - 142 - 132 131
144 142 Bears CHI DST | - - 124 150   118 - 132
145 144 Davone Bess MIA WR | - 88 - - 140 - - -
146 151 Ravens BAL DST | - - 129 123 - 139 - 141
147 132 Reuben Randle NYG WR | - 113 117 - - - - -
148 156 Randy Moss SF WR | 118 145 135 - - - 136 -
149 162 Austin Collie IND WR | 148 97 - 147 143 - - -
150 143 Eagles PHI DST | - - 142 130 - - - 113

The 2012 Athlon Sports Consensus Fantasy Football Big Board:

Next 10: Rashad Mendenhall, RB, PIT, Tim Hightower, RB, WAS, Pittsburgh, DST, Mike Goodson, RB, OAK, Brian Quick, WR, STL, Brandon LaFell, WR, CAR, Jacoby Ford, WR, OAK, Joseph Addai, RB, NE, Matt Flynn, QB, SEA, Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, ATL

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Updated: 11:00 AM CT, June, 8, 2012

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I

2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Fantasy Football Big Board</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 14:30
Path: /nascar/kasey-kahne-wins-new-hampshire
Body:

NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship wild card hunt took a definitive turn at the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Denny Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team dominated the LENOX Industrial Tools 301, leading 150 laps. However, miscommunication during the final round of pit stops on lap 235 of 301 between Kahne and crew chief Darian Grubb dropped their Toyota from first to 14th.

At issue was their decision to take two tires or four under caution. Hamlin’s team put four tires on, while the majority of the leaders only took two. The time lost in the pits handed the lead to Kasey Kahne, who led the final 66 laps — the only laps he led all day — en route to his second win of the season.

Hamlin staged an epic run through the field in the closing laps, but came up shy, finishing second.

“If he (Hamlin) was to keep the track position, I never would have passed him,” Kahne said. “For him to be on four tires and us on two, he was catching us pretty fast. (It’s) just what they chose to do. Somebody said they said something about tires — they took four, he meant two — I don’t know how it happened.

“We had great luck today. For those guys to miscommunicate, that helped us a ton. I’ll take ’em any way we can.”
 

Teaser:
<p> Kasey Kahne took advantage of a Denny Hamlin miscue to win the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 13:04
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-head-coaches-who-hot-seat
Body:

NFL Training Camps open up in a little more than a week, which means players will soon start fighting for coveted roster spots. Players aren’t the only ones, however, who could be fighting for their jobs. A number of coaches enter the upcoming season on the proverbial “hot seat.”

Below is a look at the coaches who really need to win in 2012 or otherwise start polishing up their resume.

2012 NFL Head Coaches Hot Seat Rankings

1. Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
After missing the playoffs for a second straight season with a team that many expected to contend for a Super Bowl title, some were surprised that Turner got a reprieve for this season. There’s little doubt that this is Turner’s last stand with the Chargers, who should be able to compete with the now Peyton Manning-led Broncos for AFC West supremacy in 2012. For his career, Turner has a sub-.500 record (107-113-1) in 14 seasons and has only been to the playoffs four times. Two of those appearances have come in his five seasons with the Chargers, but if Turner has any hopes of keeping his job, just making the playoffs may not be enough this season.

2. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
Reid is the most tenured coach in all of the NFL as he enters his 14th season leading the Eagles. The franchise’s all-time leader in wins (126), Reid has taken the team to the playoffs nine times, won six division titles, one NFC Championship, and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIX following the 2004 season. However, after signing several marquee free agents, the Eagles’ so-called “Dream Team” stumbled out of the gates in 2011, starting the season 1-4. They never really got any momentum going until the end, when they won four in a row against non-playoff teams, and finished the season a disappointing 8-8. Owner Jeffrey Lurie has not come out and said so publicly, but it’s pretty clear that Reid and the Eagles need to not only make the playoffs this season, but get beyond the first round. Otherwise there will probably be significant changes, starting at the top.

3. Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Last season was the first in three that Ryan did not lead his Jets to the playoffs, although he did get them to just a win away from the Super Bowl in his first two. However, when the team you share the city with has two world championships in the past five seasons, it’s pretty clear that you need to do more than just talk a good game. Ryan seems to have moved on from his annual Super Bowl guarantees, which is a wise move on his part. Besides, if he and the Jets don’t fare better than 8-8 this season, the only guarantee he will need to worry about is one coming from owner Woody Johnson about his job security.

4. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Garrett may be entering just his second full season as a head coach, but let’s not kid ourselves here, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t your typical NFL franchise. Garrett has posted a winning record (15-13) in his tenure, but the ‘Boys went 8-8 in 2011, missing the playoffs for the second straight season. Jerry Jones isn’t known for being a patient man and with a potential coaching free agency pool that could include the likes of Super Bowl winners Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Brian Billick and Jon Gruden, Garrett can ill afford a slow start or losing season.

5. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings
Just like Garrett, Frazier has been in charge of the Vikings for only one full season. However, that’s where the similarities end between the two coaches as the Vikings and Cowboys are in two entirely different situations. The Vikings are in complete rebuild mode and no one is expecting them to compete for a playoff spot in 2012. That said, if Frazier isn't even able to improve on last year’s 3-13 dismal showing then no one would be surprised if owner Zygi Wilf goes with someone else to oversee the rebuild in Minnesota.

6. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Lewis has accomplished quite a bit in his nine-season Bengals’ tenure, most notably two division titles and three playoff appearances. However, he’s yet to post consecutive winning seasons or playoff berths either, and overall has a losing record (69-74-1). If the Bengals are unable to build upon last season’s wild card berth, this may end up being Lewis’ last season in Cincinnati.

7. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears
After starting the 2011 season 7-3, the Bears stumbled miserably down the stretch finishing 1-5 and missing the playoffs. Season-ending injuries to both Jay Cutler and Matt Forte played a significant role behind the team’s collapse. That’s why new general manager Phil Emery addressed the depth at both quarterback and running back as well as added wide receiver Brandon Marshall during the offseason. With these moves and others, Smith and the Bears really have no excuses should they miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons. If that happens, Smith’s run in the Windy City could come to an end.

8. Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills
Like the Bears, the Bills got off to a great start (5-2) last season, before watching it all come apart and finishing a disappointing 6-10. The Bills focused their offseason efforts on upgrading the defense, highlighted by the signing of marquee free agent Mario Williams. If the team doesn’t show signs of taking that next step in 2012 and posts an eighth straight losing season, the first casualty will more than likely be the 60-year-old Gailey.

9. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns
The Browns haven’t been in the playoffs since 2002 and have had two winning seasons in the past 10. No one is expecting them to contend for a playoff spot in 2012, especially since they are in the same division as Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but there’s no reason they can’t win more than four games this season either. The Browns have put together several solid drafts recently, highlighted by this year’s first-round picks Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. If Shurmur and his team doesn’t start showing some results on the field, chances are someone else will get the chance to coach the young pups in 2013.

10. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs
Injuries devastated the Chiefs early and often last season, but that still wasn’t enough of an excuse for Todd Haley to save his job. Crennel took over, went 2-1 in the final three games, and should get a healthy Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and other key players back this season. Now it’s up to Crennel to show he’s the right man to lead the Chiefs back to the playoffs. Even though he and general manager Scott Pioli have a relationship that goes back to their days with the Patriots, Crennel’s track record as a head coach (24-40 with Cleveland from 2005-08) isn’t exactly the strongest.

Four More Names to Watch

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
Kubiak led the Texans to their first-ever 10-win season, division title, playoff appearance and playoff victory in 2011 and then signed a two-year contract extension that takes him through the 2014 season in June. So why is he even mentioned here, you ask? Because for the first time in franchise history, the Texans are not only expected to make the playoffs, but compete for a spot in the Super Bowl. Kubiak’s never had to coach a team with such high expectations, so what happens if the Texans don’t meet said expectations?

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Yes Payton won’t be coaching this season, so he can’t do anything to “hurt” his resume, if you will. However, given the damage done, not only to Peyton’s reputation and wallet, but also to the Saints’ franchise itself, because of the bounty scandal, you can’t help but wonder if perhaps Payton has already coached his last game for the Saints. He is under contract through the 2015 season, but I have to think should he want out of the Big Easy or vice versa, something can be worked out. Did I mention Payton has a house in Dallas?

Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins
What’s a coach with 157 career wins (14th all-time) and two Super Bowl titles have to worry about? Perhaps nothing, but Shanahan has gone just 11-21 in his first two seasons in Washington. His contract runs through 2014 and it pays him $7 million a year, but money has never been an issue for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Shanahan's best seasons came when he had a quarterback named John Elway on his roster. Will he be able to revisit that success with his new field general, No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III? More importantly, will he get enough time to even find out?

Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
Whisenhunt has won two division titles and led the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII in his five seasons so far in the desert. The problem is, both playoff appearances and the NFC Championship came with Kurt Warner leading the offense. Since Warner’s retirement, the Cardinals have gone 13-21 and missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Arizona’s quarterback situation entering training camp is uncertain at best and how that turns out this season could play a significant role in Whisenhunt’s future with the team.

— By Mark Ross, published on July 16, 2012

Related NFL Content

Ranking the NFL's Top 10 Head Coaches in 2012
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the NFC's Best Coach?
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best Coach?

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters

Ranking the NFL’s Best Backup Quarterbacks

The 10 Worst NFL Teams Since Expansion

NFL Quarterbacks Rewrote Record Books in 2011

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Dan Marino: An NFL Horror Story

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC South
Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings


NFC South
Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2012 Preview magazine

Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Head Coaches: Who is on the Hot Seat?</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/top-professional-coaches-under-50
Body:

Veterans can be they key to any championship season. However, that doesn’t always extend to the bench or the dugout.

In June, Erik Spoelstra coached the Miami Heat to an NBA title at age 41, but he had to go through Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks, 46, to do it.

In the NFL, three consecutive coaches under the age of 50 -- Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy -- led their teams to Super Bowl victories from 2008-10. Three of the last seven Stanley Cup-winning coaches were younger than 45 years old. So were the World Series-winning managers in 2006 and 2009.

Coaches and managers in their 60s remain formidable opponents. Just ask Tom Coughlin, Charlie Manuel and the recently retired Tony La Russa.

Still, it’s a good time to be a young coach.

Here are our picks for the top professional coaches under the age of 50 in the big four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL).

Note: For the sake of clarity and consistency, we are listing all ages as of Sept. 1, 2012.

1. Jim Harbaugh
Team:
San Francisco 49ers
Age: 48
Why is Harbaugh atop this list, ahead of three Super Bowl-winning coaches? He’s the king of the turnaround. In his first season with San Francisco, he led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game and resurrected the career of quarterback Alex Smith. The Niners’ 13-3 record was the franchise’s best mark since 1997 and first winning season in a decade. Before San Francisco, Harbaugh pulled Stanford from greater depths, leading the Cardinal to a 12-1 season and an Orange Bowl victory in his fourth and final season. Harbaugh paid his dues with a 29-6 record in three seasons at University of San Diego of the Pioneer Football League, a non-scholarship conference in the FCS.

2. Sean Payton
Team:
New Orleans Saints
Age: 48
The bounty scandal will be an ugly footnote Payton’s career, but New Orleans will welcome him back from his year-long suspension with open arms. Payton led the Saints to their only Super Bowl in franchise history and a 37-11 record in the last three seasons. He’s an offensive mastermind who oversaw the Saints’ record-breaking 2011 season. New Orleans set single-season records for total yards (7,474), net passing yards (5,347) and first downs (416). With four trips to the postseason, Payton joins Jim Mora as the only coaches in franchise history to lead the Saints to multiple playoff appearances.

3. Mike Babcock
Team:
Detroit Red Wings
Age: 49
Coaching for the NHL’s top franchise has its advantages, and Babcock hasn’t squandered them. Along with Scotty Bowman and Glen Sather, he’s one of three coaches in NHL history to win 300 games in a six-year span. He also became the first coach to win 50 or more games in each of his first four seasons with a franchise. In 2007-08, Babcock led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup and returned to the finals a year later. In his debut season as a head coach at age 39, he led Anaheim to the Stanley Cup finals in 2003.

4. Mike McCarthy
Team:
Green Bay Packers
Age: 48
Say this for McCarthy’s Green Bay teams -- they don’t take the easy route. Following the 2010 season, the Packers were only the second team to win three road games as a No. 6 seed on the way to a Super Bowl championship, joining the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers. After that, Green Bay went 15-1 despite finishing last in the NFL in defense. Along the way, the Packers won 19 consecutive games without trailing in the fourth quarter, the first time any team accomplished such a feat. Green Bay’s 36 wins over the last three seasons trails only New England’s and New Orleans’ 37 wins each.

5. Joe Girardi
Team:
New York Yankees
Age: 47
Even during his playing days, Girardi was pinpointed as a potential manager, and a good one at that. However, his career in the dugout had a rocky start. Although he won National League Manager of the Year honors with the Marlins in 2006, Girardi clashed with ownership and was fired after one season. The Marlins’ internal friction was the Yankees’ gain. New York turned to their former catcher to replace Joe Torre in 2008. Girardi responded with a World Series title in 2009 and three American League East titles in five seasons.

6. Scott Brooks
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Age: 47
With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City is one of the NBA’s youngest and most exciting teams, but the Thunder’s coach is one of the most unassuming in the game. That’s not for a lack of results, though. Brooks took over 14 games into the Thunder’s first season since moving from Seattle. In three full seasons since, Oklahoma City has increased its win percentage and advanced further in the playoffs in each season, culminating with a 47-19 regular season and a trip to the NBA Finals this year.

7. Mike Tomlin
Team:
Pittsburgh Steelers
Age: 40
One reason the Steelers have hired only three coaches since 1969 is that all three were consistent winners. Another reason is that all three -- Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin -- were hired in their mid-30s. Tomlin was a Steelers outsider with only six seasons of NFL coaching experience, but the results through his first five seasons topped those of his two predecessors. His 55 wins topped Cowher’s 53 in his first five seasons. In 2008, Tomlin became the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl at age 36. He returned to the Super Bowl two seasons later in a loss to Mike McCarthy’s Packers.

8. Peter Laviolette
Team:
Philadelphia Flyers
Age: 47
One of the most well-traveled coaches on this list, Laviolette coached three franchises, taking all three to the playoffs. His most successful run came with the Carolina Hurricanes, who won the Stanley Cup in 2005-06. Carolina fired Laviolette two years later, but he returned to the bench when the Flyers fired John Stevens after 25 games in 2009-10. It turned out to be a good move when Laviolette returned to the Stanley Cup finals with the Flyers that season. Philadelphia topped 100 points in each of the last two seasons under Laviolette.

9. Dan Bylsma
Team:
Pittsburgh Penguins
Age: 41
The Penguins’ midseason coaching move to replace Michel Therrien with Bylsma in 2008-09 resulted in the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 17 years. Bylsma took over in February 2009 and went 18-3-4 before defeating Mike Babcock’s Red Wings in seven games for the title. Despite having the face of the franchise, Sydney Crosby, in and out of the lineup, Bylsma has led the Penguins to the playoffs and at least 47 wins in each of the last three seasons.

10. Ozzie Guillen
Team:
Miami Marlins
Age: 48
Notes: Guillen’s star has faded a bit since leading the White Sox to their first World Series title since 1917. Then again, Guillen probably hasn’t helped his reputation with comments on Fidel Castro and Dwyane Wade -- and that’s just from his first season in Miami. Guillen won 272 games in his first three seasons as a manager, but he’s barely a .500 manager since then.

-David Fox 

@DavidFox615

Teaser:
<p> Top Professional Coaches Under 50</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 09:14
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Maryland Terrapins
Path: /college-football/maryland-football-can-randy-edsall-turn-things-around-2012
Body:

The Maryland Terrapins were going through their spring football paces — not that anyone noticed. Practices were generally closed, and there ­wasn’t much buzz coming out of College Park, something that would seem to be a problem for a program desperate to generate revenues.

So what was getting out of College Park? The players — 25 of them since coach Randy Edsall took what he famously called his “dream job” in January 2011.

Columnists all over the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., media fishbowl called for Edsall’s job during the 2–10 debacle that was his first season at Maryland. Gloom and doom dominated the offseason, low-lighted by the departure of the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year, quarterback Danny O’Brien, who added his name to the list of transfers. He’s ticketed for Wisconsin, suddenly the preferred destination for ACC quarterbacks looking to finish their careers elsewhere — after NC State’s Russell Wilson headed to Madison last year.

Edsall said he was “disappointed” about O’Brien’s decision but said he wanted players who were “all in.” That announcement came less than two weeks after Edsall and his revamped coaching staff brought in a 25-man recruiting class that was ranked sixth in the ACC by Athlon Sports.

“I think everyone has a bad taste in their mouth in terms of what took place last year,” says Edsall. “We’re going to focus on 2012 and work to improve each and every day, and know we have to let our actions speak louder than our words.”

Straight from central casting as a granite-jawed football coach, the tall, fit Edsall took over for frumpy Ralph Friedgen and was charged with building on the Terps’ nine-win 2010 season.

“Good to great,” is how then-fledgling Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson characterized the move.

“I came here to win championships,” Edsall said in his introductory press conference. “I’m a coach, and I want to win at the highest level. Every year our goal is to win the ACC championship. That’s what we’re going to shoot for each and every year, because if you don’t, there’s no sense for me to be here.”

What a difference a year makes.

“When you go through change and a transition, being in this as long as I have, it doesn’t happen overnight,” the coach said this spring. “It’s not basketball, you can’t change it with one guy. I just wish every season ticket holder could have come to watch our workouts.”

Heck, Anderson wishes fans would just show up at all. He’s got eight varsity sports on the chopping block because of flagging revenues, in large part because the Terrapins can’t sell football tickets in a tough market. From Day 1, Edsall did little to move the needle with fans, who saw him as a fallback choice and would have preferred the offensive fireworks of Mike Leach.

Edsall couldn’t get out of his own way after taking over. His original transition plans took a hit a month into his tenure when his defensive coordinator, holdover Don Brown, left to become the coordinator at Connecticut, of all places. The bad publicity continued when, in an informal press gathering, Edsall mentioned offhandedly that he couldn’t believe what a state the team’s academic affairs were in.

Suddenly, as he had forecast, Edsall was losing players to academics (and losing three scholarships to an Academic Progress Rate that was substandard in 2009-10). It was soon announced the Terps would lose practice time as well, the result of Friedgen’s team breaking rules by working out too much in 2010.

Edsall and the Terrapins administration self-reported the violations and imposed a penalty of two-and-a-half fewer hours of practice time per week. It was a move that proved disastrous as injuries forced young players into expanded roles, particularly on defensive coordinator Todd Bradford’s side of the ball. Bradford’s defense allowed 457.2 yards and 34.2 points per game, figures that ranked near the bottom of the FBS. The Terrapins allowed fewer than three touchdowns only once all season, and opponents never scored fewer than 28 points in the last seven games.

Of course injuries quickly cut into the team’s experience and depth; notably, converted All-ACC safety Kenny Tate suffered a knee injury before he could get comfortable as a linebacker. But the Terrapins never adapted to the new defensive system, giving up an average of 5.9 yards per play and allowing foes to convert 54 percent on third downs.

The Terrapins built an 18-point lead against Clemson only to go into a shell and fall 56–45. They lost 38–7 to a Temple team that simply ran over them, a sign of big trouble in the fourth week.

Ballyhooed offensive coordinator Gary Crowton’s system didn’t fit either. A hurry-up offense couldn’t protect that shorthanded defense, and the spread option didn’t suit the pass-happy O’Brien.

The loss of Torrey Smith in the NFL Draft hurt the receiving corps. Returning receivers dropped the ball literally and figuratively. Injuries on the offensive line, most notably to team leader Andrew Gonella, hampered the running attack and limited O’Brien’s effectiveness in play-action. Special teams were far from special. Seemingly each week, the coverage units gave up a big play or suffered a big penalty that helped unhinge a team that had little margin for error.

Not surprisingly, Edsall now has three new coordinators. Former NFL defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, late of the University of Houston, has come aboard to install an attacking 3-4 scheme loaded with guys who played last year thanks to all those injuries. Eight starters, including the entire linebacking unit, were sidelined for at least three games.

Running backs coach Andre Powell takes over the special teams, having served in a similar capacity at Clemson and North Carolina.

On offense, former Maryland assistant Mike Locksley, recently the head coach at New Mexico, returned to put in a pro-style spread that should be able to take advantage of quarterback C.J. Brown’s strengths. Locksley, who has always made his bones as a recruiter, came aboard in time to help the Terps sign the surprisingly strong recruiting class.

Stefon Diggs, a 5-star athlete/receiver from nearby Olney, Md., is the biggest signee in recent Maryland history, and one of a handful of newcomers who is expected to inject some life back in the offense.

Meanwhile, Edsall is doing a lot of the things he said he would. The team’s grade-point average in the spring and fall — the first two full semesters on his watch — were the first two times the Terps had a cumulative GPA over 2.5 in eight years.

And as for the 25 departed players over the past year? In some ways, it is addition through subtraction, particularly if Edsall & Co. can recruit like they did this winter.

“I think all of our players understand what the program is that we have at the University of Maryland,” he says. “They get that we’re trying to make them better people, better students and better athletes. They understand that and they’re all in.”

— by Mike Ashley

This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 ACC Preview Annual

Related ACC Content

Ranking the ACC Wide Receiving Corps for 2012
Ranking the ACC Offensive Lines for 2012

Grading CFB's First-Year Coaches from 2011

College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers

ACC's 2012 Heisman Contenders

Athlon’s 2012 ACC Predictions

Athlon’s 2012 All-ACC Team

2012 Maryland Terrapins Team Preview

ACC’s 2012 Heisman Contenders

Teaser:
<p> Maryland Football: Can Randy Edsall Turn Things Around in 2012?</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 06:13
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-defensive-lines
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the SEC's Defensive Lines for 2012

1. LSUIt seems like a broken record, but once again, the Tigers are absolutely loaded on the defensive line. Michael Brockers departed a year early to the NFL, but Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson and Bennie Logan are more than capable of holding down the interior of the line. Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo could be one of the top pass-rush combinations in the nation. These two players combined for 17 sacks in 2011 and could increase that number in 2012. Senior Lavar Edwards and sophomore Jermauria Rasco will provide the depth at ends. This unit allowed only 90.1 rushing yards per game last year and led the SEC with 39 sacks.

2. South Carolina  Replacing a talent like Melvin Ingram won’t be easy at all, but the Gamecocks are one of the few teams that could afford the lose of two starters. In fact, the Carolina front line might even be better, which is a scary thought for SEC backfields. Jadeveon Clowney, the nation’s No. 1 prospect last year, posted 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles and didn’t even know where to lineup. He now has a better grasp on the playbook and will team with Devin Taylor to form one of the nation’s top DE combos. Byron Jerideau appears to be poised for his best season and Kelcy Quarles is going to be that much better as a sophomore on the interior. Few teams have as much raw talent along the line as the Gamecocks.

3. Georgia – Todd Grantham wants his 3-4 scheme to be led by a mamouth, run-stuffing, space-eating defensive line. With 700 pounds of between John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers stuffing the middle of the line, he has just that. They are impossible to move and will slow any rushing attack. Meanwhile, a versatile collection of defensive ends lead the way on the edge. Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington are seniors who bring a veteran presence while talented youngster Ray Drew and experienced Garrison Smith bring plenty of upside. These four should all get plenty of snaps. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is easily the best pass rusher on the team and plays the hybrid DE/OLB position that 3-4 coordinators so desperately need.

4. Alabama – Shockingly, Bama returns a defensive line in which no player has more than one sack. Finding pass rushers will obviously be a primary focus for Nick Saban. Ed Stinson, Quinton Dial and Damion Square provide loads of experience and leadership as all three are upperclassmen. However, names like Jeoffrey Pagan will provide a youthful spark off the bench. Look for former end Jesse Williams to slide inside to tackle where he will join Brandon Ivory and Wilson Love. Getting pressure on the QB isn’t always the D-Lines job, however, and players like Xzavier Dickson, Ryan Anderson and Dillon Lee would be considered defensive ends by most teams. At Alabama, they are outside linebackers. Will this group be as strong as the 2009 or 2011 title winning defensive lines? Likely not, but the Tide isn’t hurting for talent up front.

5. FloridaThis unit has the potential to finish higher on this list this year, but injuries to Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley have clouded its potential or 2012. The Gators were solid up front last season, finishing fifth in the SEC in rush defense and registering 28 sacks. Junior Sharrif Floyd is poised for a breakout year after recording 46 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He will anchor the interior of the line, while senior Omar Hunter and junior college recruit Damien Jacobs will fill the other tackle spot. Dominique Easley is expected to man the 3-4 end spot, but he suffered a torn ACL late in the 2011 season. It usually takes a full year to recover from ACL injuries, but all signs point to a return at full strength by the season opener. The buck/rush end position was expected to be a strength, but it’s uncertain if Powell will be able to return at 100 percent in 2012. With Powell potentially sidelined for the first month of the season, look for senior Lerentee McCray, sophomore Gideon Ajagbe or freshmen Dante Fowler to help pickup the pass rush.

6. AuburnThere’s no question the strength of Auburn’s defense will be the line. Four starters are back from last year, and the depth is improving with another offseason for the young players to develop in the strength and conditioning program. End Corey Lemonier is back after recording 9.5 sacks in 2011 and is an Athlon Sports second-team All-American for 2012. Nosa Eguae is expected to man the other end spot after registering 38 tackles last season. Juniors Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter will anchor the middle, but sophomores Gabe Wright and Angelo Blackson will compete for snaps. Auburn allowed 189.2 rushing yards per game last season – a number that is sure to decrease with the talent and depth returning in 2012.  

7. Arkansas – The middle of this unit shouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, the deep collection of tackles might be one of the best in the league. D.D. Jones, Byran Jones, Alfred Davis, and Robert Thomas form one of the best two-deeps at the position in the nation. Losing Jake Bequette, who was dealt with nagging injuries all season last year, will hurt, but the coaching staff felt comfortable enough with the returning names that Tank Wright was moved to linebacker. Chris Smith and Trey Flowers will get the first shot at starting with Austin Flynn and Colton Miles-Nash used off the bench to rush the passer.  The Hogs could be strong again on defense but the D-Line will be measured how they perform against LSU and Alabama — two teams that rushed for a total of 483 combined yards in Arkansas’ only two losses last fall.

8. Mississippi State The Bulldogs quietly ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring defense last season. Seven starters are back from that unit, including senior tackle Josh Boyd and standout cornerback Johnthan Banks. The line allowed 153.5 rushing yards per game last year but registered 27 sacks. Tackle Fletcher Cox will be missed, but Boyd’s return should keep this unit playing at a high level. Sophomore Curtis Virges finished spring atop the depth chart at the other tackle spot, but P.J. Jones, Devin Jones and touted freshman Quay Evans will see snaps. The Bulldogs need more production from the ends, and the pass rush should get a boost with junior college transfer Denico Autry winning one starting spot out of spring practice. Sophomore Kaleb Eulls is back after recording 30 tackles and one sack as a freshman last year.

9. Vanderbilt – This defense was hit hard with graduation, but not the defensive line. Certainly, they don’t have NFL stars like LSU or South Carolina, but this is a veteran group with plenty of experience. Walker May, Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter return to the line and Johnell Thomas steps into a starting roll, giving the Dores three seniors and one junior up front. May might have the most upside and needs to pressure opposing quarterbacks. The two-deep will have some intrigue to it as Barron Dixon and Kyle Woestmann offer a solid glimpse of the future. This was an underrated defense last year, but was led by the back seven. The front line needs to step to the forefront this fall.

10. MissouriThis unit has been a strength in recent years but injuries and the loss of three key players has created question marks. End Brad Madison is capable of contending for All-SEC honors in 2012, but he missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. If Madison is able to return at full strength, he should push for eight sacks in 2012. Sheldon Richardson was solid in his first year at Missouri, recording 37 tackles (eight for a loss) and two sacks. However, he also missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. Sophomore Kony Ealy is a potential breakout candidate at end, while sophomore Matt Hoch or senior Jimmy Barge will start at opening at defensive tackle. If Madison and Richardson return at full strength, this unit will finish higher on this list. However, with the uncertainty surrounding both players, combined with the departure of underrated nose guard Dominique Hamilton, Missouri has to be ranked in the bottom half of the league. 

11. Tennessee – Trying to quantify the defensive front at Tennessee might take all season. New coordinator Sal Sunseri is still trying to slot the pieces into the right places in an effort to improve the 69th-rated rush defense and the second-to-worst pass rushing team (1.33 sacks per game, 100th nationally). Jacques Smith has the skills to be a terror off the edge if he can realize his full potential and Marlon Walls returns with a steady game that fits in most schemes. Daniel Hood, Maurice Couch, Steven Fowlkes and junior college transfer Darrington Sentimore will all get time at tackle. Sentimore will be joined by fellow JUCO prospect Daniel McCullers — who is listed at 6-foot-6, 360 pounds. There are a lot of bodies up front for the Vols, but sorting out what system and what players work best could be a work in progress all fall long.

12. Texas A&M If the Aggies want to contend for the SEC West title in the next five years, this is one area of the team that has to improve, especially in terms of depth. Texas A&M gave up only 101.9 yards per game on the ground last season, but end Tony Jerod-Eddie and tackle Eddie Brown have finished their eligibility. The headliner should be junior Damontre Moore, who registered 8.5 sacks as a 3-4 linebacker/end last season. He will be counted upon to be the unit’s top pass rusher once again in 2012. Spencer Nealy is expected to start at the other end spot after recording 45 tackles in 2011. While the end spots are in good shape, the interior is a question mark. Jonathan Mathis missed most of last season with an injury, and the coaching staff hopes he can start at one tackle spot. The other spot on the interior will likely go to Kirby Ennis, while Shayvion Hatten and Gavin Stansbury compete for snaps.

13. Kentucky The SEC is full of solid defensive lines, so it’s a bit misleading to call this area a weakness for the Wildcats. Three starters are back from a unit that ranked 10th in the SEC against the run and registered 20 sacks last year. The production has to be better in 2012, but that shouldn’t be a problem with Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble returning to anchor the middle. Both players recorded over 30 tackles last season and should help Kentucky’s run defense improve in 2012. End Collins Ukwu brings experience but needs to raise his sack total from last year (2.5). The other spot on the line is a hybrid linebacker/end position, which will go to sophomore Alvin Dupree. 

14. Ole Miss – The Rebels defensive line was 112th in the nation in stopping the run and 110th in sacking the oppositions quarterback. Both were the worst in the SEC last fall and things aren’t pointing to a quick turnaround for Hugh Freeze. At least two sophomores will be starting with a couple other underclassmen dotting the two deep. Freshman Channing Ward could see playing time early if he lives up the recruiting hype. Seniors Uriah Grant and Gerald Rivers will attempt to lead this unit while C.J. Johnson might have the most upside. This unit has little experience, some upside and needs to add depth. It could be another long year in The Grove.

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

Related SEC Content

SEC Offensive Line Rankings for 2012
SEC WR Unit Rankings for 2012

2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
Introducing Texas A&M to the SEC
Introducing Missouri to the SEC
How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return in 2013?

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 06:02
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-accs-basketball-coaches
Body:

Athlon Sports likes a challenge.

 

Our conference-by-conference basketball coach rankings begin with the ACC, a  league dotted by new faces on the bench over the last two seasons.

 

The top of our rankings don’t bring too many surprises with Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams (right) in the top two. Even our No. 3 coach in the ACC, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton, was a fairly easy choice. Hamilton, after all, went 4-1 against Duke and North Carolina last season, including back-to-back victories over both to win the ACC Tournament. FSU also finished third in the ACC in each of the last three seasons.

 

After Krzyzewski, Williams and Hamilton, the ACC coaching pecking order is tricky. Eight coaches in the league will enter their first, second or third seasons with their school in 2012-13.

 

The churn of new coaches in the league means a handful of successful coaches at previous stops are now trying to turn around one-time ACC powers, such as Tony Bennett at Virginia, Mark Turgeon at Maryland and Mark Gottfried at NC State. Will those three coaches and others be able to challenge Duke and North Carolina’s dominance, as Florida State did last season? That remains to be seen.

 

Note: Coaches are ranked on a mix of past accomplishments with consideration for career trajectory over the next five seasons or so. Rankings take Xs and Os acumen and recruiting prowess into account along with success in the regular season and postseason.

 

1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

Overall record: 927-291 (79-24 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Duke: 854-232 (336-149 ACC)

In 2011-12, Krzyzewski continued to add to his long list of achievements, surpassing mentor Bob Knight’s record of 902 Division I wins. The 65-year-old remains one of the game’s elite coaches despite changing times: He is 152-30 over the last five seasons, including 63-17 in the ACC. In the NCAA Tournament, he’s proven he can still win titles, as Duke did in 2010. Meanwhile, he continues to be the coach a handful of fans like to watch lose, as Duke did to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the 2012 Tournament. As always, Krzyzewski will continue to win his share of games. He remains in striking distance of the men’s collegiate wins record, held by Philadelphia University’s Herb Magee (941 wins and counting) and the all-time collegiate record, held by Tennessee’s Pat Summitt (1,098).

 

2. Roy Williams, North Carolina

Overall record: 675-169 (61-20 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at North Carolina: 257-68 (105-39 ACC)

Krzyzewski has the overall series lead (15-11 and 12-10 since Williams landed in Chapel Hill), but Williams claimed four the last five outright ACC titles. Already an elite coach at Kansas from 1988-2003, Williams became a champion when he returned to North Carolina by winning the 2005 and 2009 titles. Williams-coached teams have missed the NCAA Tournament only twice in his career, his first year at Kansas and 2010 at North Carolina when the bulk of his title-winning roster went to the NBA. After back-to-back Elite Eight appearances, Williams again must restock after losing Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall and John Henson to the NBA.

 

3. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State

Overall record: 401-337 (6-7 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Florida State: 201-127 (80-80 ACC)

Leading one of the stingiest defensive teams in the country, Hamilton has coached Florida State to one of the best four-year runs at Florida State. For the first time in program history, the Seminoles won at least 20 games and at least 10 ACC games in four consecutive seasons. A one-point loss in overtime to VCU in 2011 prevented the Seminoles from reaching the Elite Eight. Although Florida State failed to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament last year, the Seminoles became only the second team not named Duke or North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament since 1996. Hamilton has proven himself capable of building consistent basketball programs at football schools by leading Miami to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances to wrap up his 10-season tenure with the Hurricanes in 2000.

 

4. Tony Bennett, Virginia

Overall record: 122-74 (3-3 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Virginia: 53-41 (21-27 ACC)

Virginia isn’t the same program it was in the 1980s and early ‘90s, but the Cavaliers finally might have the right coach. Although not as accomplished as other ACC coaches and he doesn’t provide the most entertaining brand of basketball, Bennett’s results are impressive. The Cavaliers’ overall record and ACC record has improved each season under Bennett, culminating in the Cavs’ first NCAA appearance since 2007. At Washington State, Bennett finished the rebuilding job his father, Dick Bennett, started by leading the Cougars to a 52-17 combined record in 2006-07 and 2007-08, including the Sweet 16 in ’08.

 

5. Mark Turgeon, Maryland

Overall record: 267-174 (5-5 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Maryland: 17-15 overall (6-10 ACC)

Don’t overreact to Turgeon’s first-season numbers with Maryland. In replacing the retired Gary Williams, Turgeon took over a former power that had sputtered in recent seasons. Considering injuries and lack of depth, winning 17 games was something of an accomplishment. With a top-15 signing class in 2012, help is on the way. Before Maryland, Turgeon picked up where Billy Gillispie left off at Texas A&M, leading the Aggies to 97 wins and four NCAA Tournament appearances in four seasons. An assistant at Kansas for Roy Williams first four seasons in Lawrence, Turgeon is a three-time conference coach of the year, twice at A&M and once at Wichita State. Turgeon put the Shockers back into postseason contention through the course of his seven-year tenure, leading Wichita State to a 26-9 record and the Sweet 16 in 2005-06.

 

6. Jim Larranaga, Miami

Overall record: 462-322 (5-5 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Miami: 20-13 (9-7 ACC)

Reducing Larranaga’s accomplishments to George Mason’s 2006 Final Four run is a disservice. Since 1993-94, Larranaga, who also coached at Bowling Green, had a losing season in conference just once, his first year at George Mason in 1997-98. The trend continued at Miami, where the Hurricanes had their first winning ACC season since 2001-02. At 62, Larranaga has a chance for a successful run near the end of his career with most of Miami’s key players returning in 2012-13.

 

7. Brad Brownell, Clemson

Overall record: 205-112 (1-4 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Clemson: 38-27 (17-15 ACC)

Brownell’s teams rarely are outworked. That’s a good trait to have at Clemson, which is far from a consistent ACC power. The Tigers went 22-12 overall and 9-7 in the ACC with a veteran team in Brownell’s first season before slipping to 16-14 and 8-8 in 2011-12. Before Clemson, Brownell led UNC-Wilmington and Wright State to a combined three NCAA Tournaments and six 20-win seasons in eight years.

 

8. Steve Donahue, Boston College

Overall record: 176-173 (2-3 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Boston College: 30-35 (13-19 ACC)

Donahue built Cornell essentially from scratch -- handy experience since Boston College bottomed out at 9-22 last season. The good news is Donahue’s freshman-laden team will be a sophomore-laden team in 2012-13. Plus, there’s precedent for Donahue rebuilding a program thanks to a core group of players. Donahue went 9-33 in the Ivy League in his first three seasons at Cornell, but he recruited a standout group of 3-point shooters to win three consecutive Ivy titles in his final three seasons with the Big Red. 

 

9. Mark Gottfried, NC State

Overall record: 302-168 (7-8 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at NC State: 24-13 (9-7 ACC)

NC State is starving to be named alongside Duke and North Carolina, and Gottfried gave the Wolfpack a glimmer of home in his first season out of the broadcast booth. NC State reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005 and won 24 games for the first time since 1987-88 under the late Jim Valvano. More could be on the way: Gottfried inherited a talented team last season and adds a top-five signing class for 2012. That said, the final five seasons of Gottfried’s tenure at Alabama was undistinguished before he spent two seasons out of basketball. He’ll have talented players with the Wolfpack. Now it’s time to coach them up.

 

10. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech

Overall record: 172-94 (1-2 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Georgia Tech: 11-20 (4-12 ACC)

The hire of Gregory, a former Tom Izzo assistant, to replace Paul Hewitt didn’t make much of a splash, and it’s easy to see why. The signature moments of Gregory’s seven-season tenure at Dayton were either an NCAA first-round win over Kansas in 2009 or the 2010 NIT title over North Carolina. After going 22-10 in the Atlantic 10 in his first two seasons at Dayton, Gregory went 52-48 in the conference over his last six seasons at one of the nation’s better mid-major jobs. Gregory’s 2009-10 team started the season ranked in the polls, but finished seventh in the A-10. Expectations are even higher at Georgia Tech.

 

11. Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest

Overall record: 132-147 (0-1 in the NCAA Tournament)

Record at Wake Forest: 21-42 (5-27 ACC)

Bzdelik was a miracle worker in two seasons at Air Force, in which the Falcons won 50 games in two seasons. In five seasons since at Colorado and Wake Forest, Bzdelik has won 57 games. Three times in five seasons, Bzdelik’s teams have finished last in their conference and twice went 1-15. Whatever worked at Air Force has not worked elsewhere for Bzdelik, who has lost 100 games in the last five seasons.

 

12. James Johnson, Virginia Tech

Overall record: First season

Johnson is a rarity in college basketball on a couple of levels. He’s the rare coach who earned his first head coaching gig at the major-conference level. Moreover, he was an assistant for the head coach who was just fired. After the dismissal of Seth Greenberg, Johnson landed a job on the Clemson staff only to return to the Hokies as head coach weeks later. Despite his youth, the 40-year-old has 19 years of experience as an assistant coach, including time on the George Mason staff that reached the 2006 Final Four under now-Miami coach Jim Larranaga. Johnson is one of only three ACC coaches in the last 20 seasons to get an ACC job without previously being a head coach. The others were Bill Guthridge at North Carolina and Frank Haith at Miami.

-David Fox 

@DavidFox615

Other coach rankings:
Big 12

Big East

Big Ten

Pac-12

SEC

Atlantic 10

Best of the rest

July 30: National 

Related Content
College Basketball's Top 10 Coaching Hires for 2012

Top College Coaches Under 40

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the ACC's Basketball Coaches</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 06:02
Path: /college-football/college-football-bowl-projections-2012
Body:

Whether you hate or love the BCS, the bowl season is exciting time for college football fans. Although there are too many bowl games, it's one last chance to see teams before the long offseason sets in. 

Athlon has released its 2012 rankings but it's time to unveil where teams will be spending the postseason.

USC and LSU are Athlon's prediction to play in the national title game, but who will play in college football's remaining 35 bowls?
 

2012-2013 College Football Bowl Projections

Bowl Date Tie-In Projected Matchup
New Mexico Dec. 15 MWC vs. Pac-12 Arizona vs. Colorado State
Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 15 MAC vs. WAC Louisiana Tech vs. Western Michigan
Poinsettia Dec. 20 BYU vs. MWC BYU vs. Nevada
Beef 'O'Brady's Dec. 21 Big East vs. C-USA Vanderbilt* vs. Southern Miss
New Orleans Dec. 22 Sun Belt vs. C-USA UL Lafayette vs. Tulsa
Las Vegas Dec. 22 MWC vs. Pac-12 UCLA vs. Boise State
Hawaii Dec. 24 C-USA vs. MWC Wyoming vs. SMU
Little Caesars Dec. 26 Big Ten vs. MAC Washington State* vs. Toledo
Military Dec. 27 ACC vs. Army Marshall* vs. Air Force*
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East Virginia vs. Pittsburgh
Holiday Dec. 27 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Washington vs. Kansas State
Independence Dec. 28 ACC vs. SEC Miami vs. Mississippi State
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 ACC vs. Big East South Florida vs. Clemson
Meineke Car Care Dec. 28 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Baylor vs. Purdue
Armed Forces Dec. 29 C-USA vs. MWC Houston vs. Fresno State
Kraft Fight Hunger Dec. 29 Pac-12 vs. Navy Navy vs. Utah
Pinstripe Dec. 29 Big East vs. Big 12 Rutgers vs. Notre Dame*
Alamo Dec. 29 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Stanford vs. Oklahoma State
Buffalo Wild Wings Dec. 29 Big Ten vs. Big 12 TCU vs. Northwestern
Music City Dec. 31 SEC vs. ACC Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech
Sun Dec. 31 ACC vs. Pac-12 NC State vs. California
Liberty Dec. 31 SEC vs. C-USA East Carolina vs. Texas A&M
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Virginia Tech vs. Florida
TicketCity Jan. 1 Big Ten vs. C-USA Texas Tech* vs. Illinois
TaxSlayer.com Gator Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Auburn vs. Iowa
Capital One Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Georgia vs. Wisconsin
Outback Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten South Carolina vs. Michigan State
Cotton Jan. 4 Big 12 vs. SEC West Virginia vs. Arkansas
BBVA Compass Jan. 5 SEC vs. Big East Missouri vs. Cincinnati
GoDaddy.com Jan. 6 MAC vs. Sun Belt Arkansas State vs. Ohio
       
BCS Bowls      
Rose Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Michigan vs. Oregon
Orange Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Florida State vs. Louisville
Sugar Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Alabama vs. Texas
Fiesta Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
National Title Jan. 7 BCS vs. BCS USC vs. LSU



*  According to our projections, the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, Army and Big 12 will fail to to fill their allotted slots.


Related College Football Content

2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers

Ranking College Football's New Head Coaches for 2012

College Football's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College Football Bowl Projections for 2012</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-defensive-lines
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big 12's Defensive Lines for 2012

1. Texas Defensive tackle Kheeston Randall is gone, but the Longhorns should still own the Big 12’s top defensive line. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor form one of the nation’s best end duos after combining for 14.5 sacks last year. Both players have the potential to be first-round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft. Junior Ashton Dorsey is a rising star and will anchor the interior. Sophomore Desmond Jackson is expected to start at the other tackle spot, but junior college transfer Brandon Moore will contribute immediately. Texas finished sixth nationally against the run and ranked 29th with 30 sacks last year. With the talent returning in Austin, the Longhorns could improve those numbers in 2012. 

2. OklahomaThe Sooners need to show vast improvement on defense if they expect to compete for a national title in 2012. The rush defense was average (43rd nationally) but replacing two stars on a unit that was eighth nationally in sacks (3.08 spg) will be tough. Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis’ shoes will be filled by uber-recruit turned senior starter R.J. Washington, who needs to realize his long-assumed athletic ability, and David King. The duo combined for 7.0 sacks last year and needs to develop into leaders. They both received second-team All-Big 12 honors this preseason. The tackles returned largely intact, as a trio of talented options — Stacy McGee, Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland — are looking to fulfill their own lofty recruiting hype. Junior college transfer Chaz Nelson and a host of talented underclassmen will provide plenty of depth. Oklahoma has no issues with depth and talent, but the task charged with Mike Stoops is to return the Sooner defense to prominence and a rebuilt line is atop his priority list. It helps that all four starters should be seniors.

3. TCU This unit may not be vintage TCU, but Stansly Maponga will make sure it holds its own. He led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles a year ago and has All-American-type potential. His bookend buddy, Ross Forrest, is a fellow returning starter and is the lone senior along the defensive line. At tackle, Jon Lewis and David Johnson both return with plenty of starting experience for Gary Patterson. The starting four has plenty of talent, but the Frogs need to develop some depth behind the front line. This unit finished 25th nationally in rushing defense and only 59th in sacks (1.92 spg) and with most of the talent back in 2012, it could be improved - provided it can stay healthy.

4. Kansas State This unit was underrated nationally last year, as the Wildcats finished 37th in rush defense and held opponents to an average of 4.0 yards per carry. This group returns a couple of key contributors, but will miss second-team All-Big 12 tackle Ray Kibble. Although he didn’t post huge stats (38 tackles), Kibble was a good run-stuffer and will be missed. Meshak Williams led the team with seven sacks last season and is expected to be Kansas State’s top pass rusher once again in 2012. He will be joined at end by senior Adam Davis. Replacing Kibble and Raphael Guidry on the interior will likely fall to seniors Vai Lutui, Javonta Boyd and John Sua. Lutui is the most accomplished out of that group, as he recorded 34 tackles and one sack last year. There’s not a ton of depth coming back, but Williams, Davis and Lutui is a good trio to build around.

5. Oklahoma StateDespite the departures of ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, the Cowboys’ coaching staff is positive about the outlook for this unit in 2012. Blatnick and Jones combined for 12 sacks last year, so it will be up to seniors Nigel Nicholas (moving from defensive tackle) and Ryan Robinson (21 tackles last year) to generate a pass rush in 2012. Fellow senior Cooper Bassett will also be expected to contribute significantly to the rotation at end. The interior lacks a standout, but the coaching staff has assembled solid depth. Junior college recruit Calvin Barnett is a name to remember for the fall, while junior Anthony Rogers and sophomore Christian Littlehead have significant experience. 

6. West Virginia This team has few glaring weaknesses, but the defensive line might be the biggest. At least, it is the most unknown position on the Mountaineers roster. Losing sackmasters Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller is going to hurt this unit severely. Will Clark is a third-team All-Big 12 pick in the preseason and should be the best of the bunch, while Jorge Wright returns to the nose guard spot in the new 3-4 scheme. These two tackles will need to anchor the middle while Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson find people to rush the passer. Juniors Tyler Anderson and Chidoziem Ezemma need to lock down the defensive end position. The good news for WVU fans is the linebacking corps has plenty of experience and should help get after the quarterback in the new formation.

7. Iowa State While there are no questions with the Cyclones linebackers, coordinator Wally Burnham knows he needs to find answers up front. Losing two veterans from this group will hurt, but senior Roosevelt Maggitt’s return from injury will be closely monitored. He missed all but one game last fall with a knee injury, and should he return to form, has a chance to improve this unit significantly. Otherwise, nose guard Jake McDonough is the lone returning starter. The good news is there are five seniors and a junior in the two-deep, giving this group plenty of experience. Maggitt will be the key, however, if ISU wants to improve on its 98th-ranked rushing defense from a year ago.

8. Baylor Improving the defense is the top priority for coach Art Briles and coordinator Phil Bennett this offseason. This unit gave up 37.2 points a game, while ranking last in the conference in pass defense. Eight starters are back in 2012, but the Bears still have question marks at each level of the unit. The line was pushed around last season, allowing 197.4 yards per game on the ground and barely generated a pass rush (19 sacks). Terrance Lloyd, Gary Mason and Chris McAllister return at end, while the coaching staff anxiously awaits the arrival of Javonte Magee – ranked as the No. 18 overall defensive lineman by Athlon Sports in the 2012 recruiting class. Tevin Elliott was expected to be a key contributor for this unit, but he was suspended indefinitely due to a violation of team rules after spring practice. The interior of the line is a huge concern, especially with the departure of Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson. Converted fullback Kaeron Johnson and senior Nick Johnson will get the first opportunity to start at the tackle spots.

9. Kansas One look at the Jayhawks’ depth chart in Athlon’s 2012 Big 12 Preview Annual should say all you need to know about Kansas’ defensive line in 2012. Four newcomers could crack the post-fall two-deep, and there’s very little in the way of proven depth. Senior Toben Opurum is the unit’s biggest reason for hope, and the coaching staff hopes to take advantage of his abilities by sliding him into a hybrid end/linebacker role. Opurum recorded 45 tackles and four sacks last year. Keba Agostinho is a returning starter, but is expected to be pushed by Nebraska transfer Josh Williams for time. The interior of the line is a major concern, especially after Richard Johnson and Patrick Dorsey finished their eligibility last year. Junior college recruits Jordan Tavai and Ty McKinney are expected to contribute right away, while Pat Lewandowski and John Williams will also rotate into the mix. 

10. Texas Tech The defense was a train wreck last fall and the defensive line was a major reason why. Tech ranked 120th in the nation against the run — yes, there were only 120 teams in the country last year. At 1.33 sacks per game, or 100th nationally, the Red Raiders weren’t any better at getting to the quarterback either. The bad news is only one starter returns, while the good news is only one starter returns. Kerry Hyder and Delvon Simmons will man the interior with Leon Mackey and Dennell Wesley backing them up. There is plenty of experience up the middle. Meanwhile, freshman Branden Jackson and sophomore Pete Robertson will hold down the outside with veteran Dartwan Bush relegated to spot duty. Tommy Tuberville has shifted players around, signed junior college athletes, and will play freshman in an effort to somehow improve what is the league’s worst defensive line.

 

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

Related Big 12 Content

Big 12 Offensive Line Rankings for 2012
Big 12 Wide Receiver Rankings for 2012
Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

Big 12 Heisman Contenders for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
The History of Big 12 Realignment
Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12
TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big 12 Defensive Lines</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 05:45
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News, Olympics
Path: /overtime/25-twitter-accounts-follow-2012-summer-olympics
Body:

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games kick off soon, and it's easy to get overwhelmed with information. To help you cut through all the noise, we’ve rounded up our Top-25 favorite London-bound Twitter accounts to offer insight into the lives of your favorite Olympic athletes, the most up-to-the-minute coverage of Olympic news and in-depth analysis from the top sports journalists covering the London Games. 

25.  @ShawnJohnson

Shawn Johnson was one of the breakout stars from the 2008 Olympics, leaving Beijing with four medals for Team USA Gymnastics.  Johnson had hoped to overcome a knee injury that had plagued her training since 2010 but recently announced her retirement from gymnastics and will not compete in the London Games.  However, Johnson has stated that she will be cheering Team USA on from the stands. With a loyal following of 160,000+, Shawn Johnson may be the most influential Twitter source on women’s gymnastics. We expect her to provide quality analysis from gymnastics events at this year’s Olympic Games.  

 

24.  @KelliAndersonSI

Despite being a relative newcomer to the world of social media, Kelli Anderson, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, offered solid online coverage of the US Olympic Swimming Trials.  Look to Kelli to provide valuable insight on the proceedings in the pool at the London Games.  

 

23.  @AroundTheRings

Around The Rings is the self-described “world leader for news coverage of the Olympics” and has covered every Olympics since 1992.  They’ll have reporters on the scene at the London Games, so look to Around the Rings for exclusive content and interviews with your favorite Olympians.  With the London games rapidly approaching, their Twitter presence has grown tremendously with an abundance of Olympics-related news being posted daily. 

 

 

22. @BBC2012

Judging from their extensive coverage of the Olympic torch relay, the BBC will serve as the go-to source for content from the host country.  

 

 

21.  @USOlympic

Follow the official Twitter page of the U.S. Olympic Committee to receive up-to-the-minute news about Team USA from the Olympic Trials through the London Games. Expect to see links to stories featuring Team USA athletes and live updates from the London Olympics.  

 

20.  @hunterkemper

Four-time Olympian Hunter Kemper competes in one of the most grueling events in all of sports, the triathlon. The 36-year-old interweaves training details with comical tweets chronicling the trials of being a young father.

 

19.  @FranklinMissy                 

A year after she won five medals at the World Aquatic Championships, 17-year-old Missy Franklin is poised to turn into a bona fide star. She actively updates her Twitter feed, keeping an open dialogue with her fans.  Follow her on Twitter now to get a head start on getting to know one of the promising young athletes for these upcoming games.  

 

18.  @NBCOlympics

For those of us in the States, NBC is the exclusive broadcaster of the games. Their tweets should be a great resource for coverage and links to live video.

 

 

17. @Mo_Farah

Unfamiliar with Mo Farah?  This Somali-born distance runner is the UK’s “finest ever distance runner” and is a favorite to medal in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters following an outstanding performance at the 2011 World Championships. He already has 110,000 people following him on Twitter, and for good reason. His #MoBot move has recently gone viral, and he allows fans an inside glimpse into the training regimen of an elite Olympic athlete.

 

16. @rebsoni

Rebecca Soni is a USA Swimming Olympian who medaled 3 times (1 gold, 2 silver) in the 2008 Olympic Games. She was the 2011 World Swimmer of the Year and should be a leader of the 2012 iteration of Team USA Swimming. 

 

15.  @AshtonJEaton

Ashton Eaton, a 24-year-old phenom, seems ahead of schedule in his rise to Decathlon stardom after unseating Trey Hardee and Bryan Clay at the Olympic Trials and setting a new world record score of 9039 despite very wet conditions.  Eaton enters  as the favorite to win the Decathlon, although anything can happen in this event as 2008 Gold Medalist Bryan Clay’s failure to qualify for Team USA illustrated. On Twitter, Eaton converses with fans and fellow competitors and will certainly be updating his fans with inside information as the “world’s greatest athlete” attempts to improve upon his world record.  

 

14.  @hopesolo

Hope Solo is still riding a wave of support following the US Women’s Soccer National Team’s run to the finals of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She, along with many of her teammates, has used Twitter to increase awareness and interest in women’s soccer.  Follow her to read the inside scoop on Team USA’s attempt to avenge their loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup Finals.

 

13.  @MichaelPhelps

Michael Phelps will again dominate media coverage of the upcoming Olympic Games. Despite increased competition from teammate Ryan Lochte, Phelps will likely cap his athletic career in London by becoming the most decorated Olympian since the modern games began. The reason he is not higher on this list is that his tweeting is pedestrian, at best. Regardless, Phelps is one of the most dominant athletes of all time and will be a topic of conversation throughout the Summer Olympics.

 

12. @usainbolt

Usain Bolt may be the most electrifying athlete in all of sports, and all eyes will be on him as he attempts to not only win Olympic Gold, but improve upon his own records in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Bolt likes to post images of his training using Instagram and provides a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at how this dynamic track athlete trains.  

 

11. @ryanlochte

Ryan Lochte, two-time winner of the World Swimmer of the Year Award, may just eclipse his rival Michael Phelps at the London Olympics. Lochte’s pre-Olympic hype is so great that even despite a less-than-stellar Twitter feed, he is a must-follow athlete. Lochte interacts consistently with his nearly 120,000 followers and offers fans previews of his upcoming training and races.  

 

10.  @stevewilsonap

Steve Wilson is the European AP Sports Editor and has been covering the Olympics for 20 years. Residing in London, Steve will be one of the leading journalists covering these Olympic games. He will be a go-to source for all breaking Olympic news.

 

9/8. @gabrielledoug and @jordyn_wieber

Just as Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson captured the hearts of the American people back in 2008, 16-year-old Gabby Douglas and 17-year-old Jordyn Wieber should continue the storied legacy of Team USA Gymnastics in London. Jordyn Wieber looks the part of a champion; she has been nearly unbeatable over the last four years, conceding an all-around title only twice over this time period. One of those defeats, however, came at the hands of Douglas in the VISA Championships, which also served as the US Olympic Trials.

Both athletes are very willing to interact with their fans on Twitter and offer a glimpse into the everyday lives of these incredible athletes as they train for the biggest moment of their athletic careers.

 

7.  @AbbyWambach

Abby Wambach, five-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and co-captain of Team USA Women’s Soccer, is one of our favorite athletes to follow on Twitter.  Constantly tweeting admiration for fellow Team USA athletes, Wambach’s Twitter page beams with USA pride. 

 

6/5. @mistymaytreanor and @kerrileewalsh

For two Olympics, the dynamic duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh has dominated the sport of beach volleyball. They’ll be back again to defend their gold medal from Beijing; however, they face stiffer competition this time with Brazil’s top pair acting as the defending world champions from last summer.  Both women have embraced Twitter as a means of expanding their sport's exposure, providing a daily account of their preparation for the Summer Olympics. A new mother, Walsh tweets often about her two young children and the challenges of parenthood. Chances are that if you tweet at one of the two, they’ll answer your question. 

 

4. @alexmorgan13

The youngest player from the US Women’s National Soccer Team, Alex Morgan burst onto the scene last summer in the FIFA World Cup with fiery play at forward in addition to her jaw-dropping looks.  Her nearly 540,000 followers receive constant updates of Team USA’s training and commentary on other sporting events.  Follow her now and be kept in the loop as the USWNT tries to avenge their loss to Japan in last year’s World Cup Finals.  

 

3.  @KingJames

When he’s not dominating the basketball court, LeBron James takes to Twitter to share the perks of being a star NBA athlete, and photos of Team USA's basketball team. Choose him if you’re going to follow any of the basketball players from this year’s version of the "Dream Team." We figure 5.4 million followers can't be wrong.

 

2. @Olympics

With over 1 million followers, the Olympics tweets should be filled with behind-the-scenes photos and insight and links to breaking news.

 

1. @lolojones

Lolo Jones was a near lock for Olympic gold in 2008 when an unfortunate misstep on the penultimate 33-inch hurdle resulted in a disappointing 7th-place finish.  In the past month, Lolo has received enormous attention for her HBO Real Sports inteview in which she admitted that her most arduous challenge has not been training for the Olympics, but rather keeping her vow to remain a virgin until the 29-year-old is married. However, her sex life (or lack thereof) should not be the reason to follow Lolo on Twitter. Her social media talent matches her talent on the track. Unafraid to poke fun at herself, Lolo loves interacting with her fans and should provide some witty tweets from London. She hopes to put the ghosts of her past behind her and finally bring home Gold for Team USA in the 110m high hurdles.  

 

—by Eric Chalifour

Teaser:
<p> Tweeting all the inside scoop from London.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 05:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, MAC, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-mac
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 2012. 

2012 Preseason MAC All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected 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—Tyler Tettleton, Jr. (Ohio)

Last season:  Passed for 3,302 yards and 28 TDs, rushed for 658 yards and 10 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; Norfolk St, @ UMass, Buffalo

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bowling Green, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

 

QB—Alex Carder, Sr. (Western Michigan)

Last season:  Passed for 3,873 yards and 31 TDs, Rushed for270 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; UMass, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Buffalo, E. Michigan, Bye

 

RB—Branden Oliver, Jr. (Buffalo)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,395 yards and 13 TDs, 38 receptions for 365 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012: Weeks 11-12-13; W. Michigan, @ UMass, Bowling Green

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  W. Michigan, @ UMass, Bowling Green

 

RB—David Fluellen, Jr. (Toledo)

Last season:  Rushed for 493 yards and 4 TDs, 16 receptions for 155 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Bowling Green, Co. Carolina, @ W. Michigan

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ No. Illinois, Akron

 

RB—Anthon Samuel, So. (Bowling Green)

Last season:  Rushed for 844 yards and 5 TDs, 15 receptions for 93 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Miami (OH), @ UMass, E. Michigan

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Ohio, Kent St, Buffalo

 

WR—Nick Harwell, Jr. (Miami (OH))

Last season:  Led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs (97-1,425-9).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; UMass, @ Akron, @ Cincinnati

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Kent St, @ C. Michigan, Ball St

 

WR—Bernard Reedy, Jr. (Toledo)

Last season:  40 receptions for 758 yards and 9 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ W. Michigan, C. Michigan, @ E. Michigan

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ No. Illinois, Akron

 

WR—Eric Monette, Sr. (Western Michigan)

Last season:  29 receptions for 306 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; UMass, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Buffalo, E. Michigan, Bye

 

TE—Garrett Hoskins, Sr. (Eastern Michigan)

Last season:  22 receptions for 328 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; Kent St, Temple, Army

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  C. Michigan, @ W. Michigan, No. Illinois

 

FLEX—Titus Davis, So. (Central Michigan)

Last season:  40 receptions for 751 yards and 8 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Navy, Ball St, Akron

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ E. Michigan, Miami (OH), @ UMass

 

K—Matt Weller, Sr. (Ohio)

Last season: 25 of 34 on FG attempts, 48 of 49 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ UMass, Buffalo, Akron

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bowling Green, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

 

DEF/ST—Ohio Bobcats

Last season:  No. 32 scoring defense, No. 46 scoring defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; Norfolk St, @ UMass, Buffalo

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bowling Green, @ Ball St, @ Kent St

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Jordan Lynch, Jr. (NIU)

QB—Zac Dysert, Sr. (Miami (OH))

RB—Jahwan Edwards, So. (Ball St)

RB—Jawon Chisholm, So. (Akron)

WR—Donte Foster, Jr. (Ohio)

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the MAC</p>
Post date: Sunday, July 15, 2012 - 15:33
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/july-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 14:46
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Links, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-7
Body:

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

• The Phillies are upping their offer to star pitcher Cole Hamels before he becomes a free agent after the season.

• USA Basketball's Olympics team cruised to a win over the Dominican Republic, but Blake Griffin will miss the London Games.

• ESPN blogger Ted Miller has the latest on the cancellation of the planned Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling alliance.

• Mandatory.com has some interesting facts about the cult classic, “Friday the 13th.”

• Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times believes that Penn State should suspend football for two years.

• It may not the Whizzinator, but already-suspended Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams had the ole “non-human urine” during a previous drug test.

• Check out Texas A&M’s new uniforms as the Aggies prepare to play in the SEC.

• The Washington Nationals have quite the dilemma as they plan on shutting down ace Stephen Strasburg in the middle of a pennant race.

• You have to like a company paying its employees big money to go on vacation, as long as they make sure to truly get away and agree not use Twitter, Facebook or email.

• The ACC will feature some top defensive backs this season.

The “Call Me Maybe” fad is getting a little ridiculous, but mascots tend to be funny. It looks like the Big Ten was a little slow to this video craze, but we’ll give them a break simply because of the Nebraska cheerleaders. Enjoy.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 12

• The Freeh Report is out, and it is as damning as the Penn State community feared. It points to a sickening cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes by Joe Paterno and other top PSU leaders.

• FOX’s Jen Floyd Engel believes Penn State football deserves the death penalty.

• Bleacher Report’s Timothy Rapp looks at how much blame Joe Paterno deserves in the Sandusky-Penn State scandal.

Kobe Bryant stirred up Michael Jordan by saying that the current USA Olympic basketball team could beat the 1992 Dream Team.

• SI.com’s Tom Verducci looks at all 30 MLB teams as they head into the second half of the season.

• A Texas woman owes $179,596.43 in unpaid tolls. Wow.

• College basketball will tip off in a big way with the Duke-Kentucky and Kansas-Michigan State matchups.

• The Saints and Drew Brees seem like they are not even close on a new contract for the star quarterback.

• Today is the 50th anniversary of Mick Jagger joining the Rolling Stones.

• The Cleveland Browns selected former Baylor wideout Josh Gordon in the second round of the NFL’s Supplemental Draft.

• There was a very inspiring and emotional Pat Summitt tribute last night, as the former Tennessee women's basketball coach won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. She represents everything that is good about collegiate sports.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 11

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has some interesting perspective from Chipper Jones and Tony La Russa in their finals All-Star games.

• So how does Melky Cabrera repay the Royals for trading him? He wins the All-Star Game MVP — in Kansas City.

• Bleacher Report tweeted out a picture of the University of Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) football field yesterday, and we were not sure if it was a joke. It was not. The NAIA school probably has the ugliest field in America.

• Dave Miller of the National Football Post looks at non-AQ teams who could make some serious noise during this college football season.

• The Lakers have already acquired Steve Nash this offseason, and now they have their sights set on big man Dwight Howard.

• The Penn State community is bracing for the release of the Freeh Report.

• This Rockies fan has seen enough bad baseball.

• Unfortunately, Utah and BYU football will not play in 2014 or 2015.

• Nebraska defender Eric Martin goes on an epic Twitter rant. Apparently, he wants….CHECKS!

• Will Jose Canseco ever just go away?

• The day after the All-Star Game tends to be the most barren day in sports during the year, so we went off the beaten path for the Video of the Day. Nowhere in the history of the world has there ever been a man happier about feeding a baby rhino. This guy truly achieves personal nirvana.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 10

• Will the Brooklyn Nets be able to engineer a deal for star center Dwight Howard, now that other teams are back in the bidding?

• Prince Fielder won the Home Run Derby, but the hot topic today is Kansas City fans and their non-stop booing of Yankees All-Star Robinson Cano.

• Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee sees an opportunity for the SEC to feature its rivalries on Thanksgiving night.

• ESPN’s Matt Fortuna looks at the compatibility of Notre Dame and the Big Ten.

• How about Kansas coach Bill Self hitting a home run in the Celebrity Softball Game in conjunction with MLB’s All-Star Game?

• The Yankees are telling Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson to stay away from the team after his recent controversial comments.

• Want to play a bad joke on a friend? Send them this minute-long video of Chris Berman calls from last night’s Home Run Derby.

• ESPN’s Marc Stein has all of the details on how the Steve Nash-Lakers deal came together.

• Former Georgia coach Vince Dooley believes the Bulldogs are better off without “bad apple” Isaiah Crowell.

Stanford athletics suffered a terrible loss over the weekend when Peter Sauer, a co-captain on the 1998 Final Four team, died from a head injury suffered during a pickup basketball game.

• Since Royals fans were angry without a local player in the Home Run Derby, we’ll throw them a bone with Bo Jackson’s mammoth home run to lead off the bottom of the first in the 1989 All-Star Game.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 9

• FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi has a great column on young MLB stars like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper playing a more exciting brand of baseball than the Steroid Era.

• So in 2003, a gambler bet that Roger Federer would win seven Wimbledons before 2019. Upon his death, the man left the betting slip — which just paid off – to his favorite charity Oxfam.

• ACCSports.com looks at the Robert Nkemdiche saga regarding his power play for other recruits in a “package deal” to Clemson.

• Mandatory.com has an excellent slideshow of “only in America” foods. Check out this awesomeness of bacon, sausage, bacon, corndog pizza, bacon, etc.

• There is plenty of debate regarding the choice San Francisco’s Matt Cain over New York’s R.A. Dickey as the National League’s starter in the All-Star Game.

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg has an interesting look at the league’s programs and how they are defined by past coaches.

• Actor Jon Hamm — Don Draper on the wildly-popular Mad Men and a St. Louis Cardinals fan — talks about watching David Freese’s home run in Game 6 of the World Series on the set of his show.

• CBS’ Bruce Feldman looks at the Penn State scandal and whether or not the NCAA will get involved.

• So apparently the intoxicated drummer for Ted Nugent’s band jumped into a golf cart after a recent show and got a little crazy. Still looks happy in the mug shot.

• Sadly, the inventor of the game “Electric Football” has passed away.

Phillies slugger Hunter Pence took a circuitous route to home plate over the weekend, including bowling over third-base coach Juan Samuel. The former MLB star looks none too pleased about Pence running through him.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-acc-offensive-lines
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the ACC's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. North CarolinaThe Tar Heels averaged 28 points a game last year but could raise that number in 2012 with the arrival of new coach Larry Fedora. Quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard will be two of the top players in the ACC, and both players will operate behind the No. 1 offensive line in the ACC. Left tackle James Hurst earned second-team All-ACC honors last year and could push for All-American status with a standout 2012 campaign. Senior Jonathan Cooper is also one of the best guards in the nation. Seniors Travis Bond and Brennan Williams are back as returning starters on the right side of the line. The biggest question mark will be replacing the steady Cam Holland at center. It’s not a particularly strong year for offensive lines in the ACC, but the Tar Heels have two likely first-team All-ACC players and should cut down on the 27 sacks allowed last year.

2. NC State The Wolfpack are a trendy sleeper pick to contend in the Atlantic Division. Quarterback Mike Glennon returns after a solid 2011 season, and the offensive line returns four starters from last year. Center Camden Wentz has made 26 consecutive starts and is an Athlon second-team All-ACC selection for 2012. Left tackle R.J. Mattes has started 30 contests in his career and will solidify the left side of the line. Andrew Wallace will likely start at left guard after missing most of 2011 with an injury. Rob Crisp ranked as the No. 2 offensive lineman in the 2010 recruiting class by Athlon Sports and all signs point to a breakout year in 2012. 

3. Georgia Tech Considering the Yellow Jackets’ option offense, it’s a little difficult to evaluate how this unit stacks up against the rest in the ACC. Georgia Tech allowed 13 sacks last year, but attempted only 167 passes. The good news for this unit is rushers averaged 5.7 yards per carry and recorded 45 scores on the ground last year. Four starters are back in 2012, including standout guard (and Athlon 2012 All-American) Omoregie Uzzi. Ray Beno (tackle), Will Jackson (guard) and center Jay Finch are back as returning starters. The lone spot up for grabs (tackle) on the line is expected to be decided between Morgan Bailey or Tyler Kidney.

4. VirginiaOne of the big reasons for Virginia’s improvement on the ground last year is due to the performance of the offensive line. This group led the way for rushers to average 4.3 yards per carry last season and allowed only 16 sacks. Guard Austin Pasztor and center Anthony Mihota must be replaced, but three starters are back for 2012. Left tackle Oday Aboushi should contend for All-American accolades, while right tackle Morgan Moses is a rising star in the ACC. Luke Bowanko started all 13 games and will return to man the right guard spot.

5. ClemsonThis unit had its share of ups and downs last year, but with three key starters departing, it will be a struggle up front once again in 2012. Tackles Phillip Price and Landon Walker and guard Antoine McClain started all 14 games last season and will be missed. However, the cupboard isn’t completely bare, especially with center Dalton Freeman returning. He garnered first-team All-ACC honors in 2011 and should be one of the top linemen in the conference for 2012. Brandon Thomas started at guard last year but will shift to left tackle this season. Junior Tyler Shatley switched from the defensive line to guard in the spring and is expected to start this year. Kalon Davis and Gifford Timothy will likely win the other two spots. 

6. DukeThis group has been a source of frustration for coach David Cutcliffe during his tenure in Durham, but the Blue Devils may be ready to turn a corner in 2012. Four starters are back along the offensive line, and this group will regain the services of center Brian Moore, who missed nearly all of 2011 due to an arm injury. Laken Tomlinson started all 12 games as a freshman last year and is an Athlon third-team All-ACC selection for 2012. Juniors Dave Harding and Perry Simmons are expected to return as starters, while Takoby Cofield will take over at left tackle. The Blue Devils allowed only 19 sacks last year, but need to find a way to open up more rushing lanes after rushers averaged only 3.1 yards per carry in 2011.

7. MiamiWith a new quarterback taking over, the departure of running back Lamar Miller to the NFL and two receivers (Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin) finishing their eligibility, the Hurricanes could have a few growing pains on offense this year. The line allowed only 19 sacks last season, but must replace center Tyler Horn, guard/tackle Brandon Washington and guard Harland Gunn. Right guard Brandon Linder is expected to be the leader for this group after starting 12 games in 2011. Jon Feliciano will likely start at left guard, while Shane McDermott has the early edge to replace Horn at center. The key to this unit’s performance will be the play of Seantrel Henderson. The junior arrived at Miami as one of the top high school recruits in the nation but has yet to live up to that potential.

8. Florida StateIf the Seminoles want to contend for a national championship, this is the unit that has to make the most progress in the fall. Florida State’s offensive line allowed a league-high 41 sacks last year, and rushers averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Line coach Rick Trickett tried a handful of different players in the starting lineup last season, but the unit seemed to find some success in the second half of the Champs Sports Bowl victory against Notre Dame. It’s possible five sophomores could crack the starting lineup, including Cameron Erving, who switched from defensive tackle to left tackle in the spring. There’s a lot of youth, but it’s difficult to see this unit struggling as much as it did in 2011.

9. Boston CollegeThe Eagles are usually solid along the offensive line, but 2011 was a disappointing year for this group. This unit allowed 24 sacks (65th nationally), but rushers averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last season. There’s hope for improvement in 2012, especially with the return of four starters, and the addition of former Ohio State offensive line coach Jim Bollman. Tackles Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel are solid, with Ian White and Bobby Vardaro returning as starters. Cleary is the best player on this unit and should contend for All-ACC honors. The biggest loss is center Mark Spinney, but it appears White will shift from guard to anchor the middle.

10. Virginia TechJust like ACC title contenders Florida State and Clemson, the Hokies have significant question marks about its offensive line. Four starters – including All-ACC selections Blake DeChristopher and Jaymes Brooks – are gone from a unit that allowed 17 sacks last season. The lone returning starter is Andrew Miller, who could be one of the ACC’s top centers in 2012. The rest of the group is up for grabs, with Georgia transfer Brent Benedict expected to work his way into the mix at one of the guard spots. Senior Nick Becton should be solid at left tackle, but there’s a lot of pressure on inexperienced left guard David Wang and right tackle Vinston Painter to perform right away in 2012.

11. MarylandNot much went right on offense for the Terrapins last season. The quarterbacks struggled to adapt to Gary Crowton’s scheme, the receivers were inconsistent, and Maryland ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring offense. This group had some promise surrounding it at the close of 2011, but the decision by Max Garcia and R.J. Dill to transfer has clouded the outlook for 2012. Guard Bennett Fulper is an All-ACC performer, but there are few proven options around him. Justin Gilbert’s return from knee injuries should help fill the void at tackle, but the overall depth and talent of this line is a concern.

12. Wake Forest This unit allowed 2.7 sacks a game last year, and the Demon Deacons averaged only 114.6 rushing yards per game. Although this group’s experience was valuable to helping quarterback Tanner Price develop as a starter, it has to be better in 2012. Making that task more difficult is the loss of four starters. The lone returning starter from last season is center Garrick Williams. The rest of the group is a question mark heading into fall practice and there could be some position shuffling before the 2012 season begins. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related ACC Content

Ranking the ACC Wide Receiving Corps for 2012
College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers for 2012

Ranking College Football's Best and Worst Coaching Hires for 2012

Al Golden Has Miami Back on Track

Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team

Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions

Top 25 ACC Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 ACC Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-ten-offensive-lines
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big Ten's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. Wisconsin — Gone are three first-team All-Big Ten performers — and the Badgers won’t miss a beat along the offensive front. A staple since Barry Alvarez took over the program more than two decades ago, Wisconsin’s offensive line will once again be among the nation’s most dependable. Ricky Wagner will push for another UW Outland Trophy at left tackle, while the versatile Travis Frederick slides over to center. Both could be the best at their position in the Big Ten. Rob Havenstein, who conjures images of Aaron Gibson at 6-foot-8 and 343 pounds, will take over at right tackle while Ryan Groy will settle in nicely at left guard. Robert Burge, Casey Dehn and true freshman Dan Voltz should battle for snaps at right guard. With elite players at the top, depth in the middle and another stellar incoming class, the Badgers should have no issues with three new starters.

2. Michigan State — Mark Dantonio has to be excited about at least one part of his offense. His offensive line in 2012 could be the best he has ever had in East Lansing despite losing the best blocker from last year’s squad, Joel Foreman. The tackle tandem of Dan France and Fou Fonoti should be as stable as any bookend duo in the nation, while sophomore center Travis Jackson has as much upside as any hog molly of the Dantonio era. Chris McDonald is a stable, veteran presence at right guard, while Blake Treadwell will take over for Foreman. The best way to break in a new quarterback is with an athletic versatile group like Michigan State will have in 2012.

3. Michigan — Replacing the nation’s top center, David Molk, won’t be easy, but Brady Hoke’s front line looks to have plenty of talent and potential. Rocky Barnum takes over at center with guard Patrick Omameh and tackle Michael Schofield returning to anchor the right side. Taylor Lewan has a chance to be the top tackle in the league should he continue to develop into the future NFL talent many believe him to be. He is the leader of this unit and will be called upon to help develop younger players since the lack of depth might be the only issue. Sophomores Joey Burzynski and Krisitan Mateus, as well as freshman Kyle Kalis, Jack Miller and Chris Bryant, should all expect significant playing time. Potential right guard Elliot Mealer is the only other upperclassmen stepping into regular playing time.

4. Nebraska — Guard Spencer Long, Tim Beck’s top “war daddy” in the running game, and Seung Hoon Choi, the top pass blocker on the roster, will lead the way for another solid Cornhusker front line. On the edge, Tyler Moore, Jeremiah Sirles and bounce-back candidate Andrew Rodriguez provide plenty of talent at the tackle positions. Replacing Mike Caputo at center will be the tallest order, as the undersized Cole Pensick steps into the pivot role. There is plenty of talent and bodies but getting enough reps to win the Big Ten will be the difference for a relatively inexperienced group. Look for Ryne Reeves, Brandon Thompson and Brent Qvale to provide breathers.

5. Ohio State — Like any Ohio State roster, this group has plenty of elite recruits vying for playing time. Realizing their lofty potential, for guys like Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell, will either stabilize a position of concern for Urban Meyer or rebuild an always strong Ohio State front line in short order. Corey Lindsey looks poised to take over at center for four-year starter Michael Brewster and Jack Mewhort, if he can stay focused, should be the best and most consistent blocker on the roster. He will need to be solid to protect Braxton Miller’s blindside at left tackle. Converted tight end Reid Fragel, converted defensive lineman Darryl Baldwin and a pair of highly touted freshman in Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson will push for time at right tackle. This is a very talented group, but dependable experience is clearly lacking and Meyer is hoping his quicker, smaller offensive line comes together quickly.

6. Purdue — The good news is three starters are back on a unit that averaged over 180 yards rushing per game in 2011. The bad news is two projected starters, Justin Kitchens and Peters Drey, missed all of spring practice. Center Rick Schmeig and left tackle Trevor Foy also return to the field of play, and Kevin Pamphile is penciled in as the left guard. This group could be very athletic and possesses loads of experience as it could start two seniors and three juniors. Should this group come together quickly in the fall, Purdue could challenge in the Leaders Division.

7. Iowa — No one simply replaces two NFL draft picks, but that is what Kirk Ferentz must do after losing Riley Reiff and Adam Gettis. But new OL coach Brian Ferentz has younger brother and three-year starter James Ferentz back at center to lead the unit. Fellow senior returning starter Matt Tobin also returns alongside the youngest Ferentz. The rest of the spots are up for grabs as youthful but talented options like Brandon Scherff (LT) and Austin Blythe (RG) will join with potential veteran right tackles Brett Van Sloten and Nolan MacMillan to fill out the rest of the line. Expect Conor Boffeli and Andrew Donnal, Jordan Walsh and Drew Clark to all see reps in fall camp. This group was last in the Big Ten in rushing a year ago and needs to improve if Iowa expects to improve in 2012.

8. Illinois — This unit regressed in 2011 and finished a pathetic 102nd nationally in sacks allowed. It also couldn’t run the ball like Illini teams have been able to do in the past. Enter a new coaching staff that includes Luke Butkus (yes, that Butkus). He will begin his work with All-Big Ten center Graham Pocic and senior left guard Hugh Thornton. These two must be the veteran rocks on the interior of a line that will surround them with underclassmen. Sophomore Simon Cvijanovic looks to be headed for left tackle with freshman Ted Karras leading the way at right guard. Sophomore Michael Heitz returns to the left tackle position. The group was a huge reason why Illinois stumbled to 0-6 down the stretch last year and must show marked improvement if Orange Crush fans want to contend in the Leaders this fall.

9. Penn State — Normally a major strength for the Nittany Lions, Bill O’Brien will need to find replacements for four starters this summer. Center Matt Stankiewitch is the lone returner and will anchor the line from the pivot position. Talented redshirt freshman Donovan Smith will battle with senior Mike Farrell at right tackle while Adam Gress appears to have the left side locked down. The guard position seems more fluid as big-time recruit Miles Dieffenbach will get the first crack at left guard while John Urschel, Eric Shrive and Angelo Mangiro press for playing time as well. This group has plenty of talent but needs to jell quickly to make things better for the entire offense — and open up lanes for Silas Redd.

10. Northwestern — Pat Fitzgerald has improved recruiting across the board at Northwestern, and nowhere does he need the results more than along the offensive line. Two four-year starters are gone in Al Netter and Ben Burkett and both will be sorely missed on a unit that disappointed last fall. The good news is the left side of the line returns with Brian Mulroe at guard, Patrick Ward shifting from right to left tackle and center Brandon Vitabile building on his solid redshirt freshman campaign. The right side of the line will be key as Neal Dieters, Jack Konopka, Paul Jorgensen, Shane Mertz and Chuck Porcelli battle for two spots. The running game has to get some sort of traditional push in 2012.

11. Minnesota — There could only be one upperclassmen starting along this line and no seniors are listed in the two deep. This means Gophers fans can be cautiously optimistic about the future of its line — especially after playing 11 different players last fall. But it also means that this group is very green. Ed Olson is a junior and could be a special player as the clear leader of the group. A host of talented sophomores, led by big-time recruit Jimmy Gjere are penciled in to the other spots. Olson should be joined by his brother, Tommy, along the left side and coaches want to see junior Zach Mottla start at center due to his experience. This group has loads of upside and only allowed 21 sacks last fall (fifth in Big Ten) and could eventually be one of Minnesota’s better units. It remains to be seen if that can happen in 2012 or if its still a year or two away.

12. Indiana — This team finished ninth in the Big Ten in rushing (mostly because of quarterback Tre Roberson’s improvisational skills) and allowed 2.58 sacks per game (96th nationally). Four players with starting experience return but nearly every spot on the line is up for grabs. Center Will Matte is the most entrenched and should be the leader of the group as a Rimington Award candidate. Bernard Taylor has serious upside at left guard as well. The rest of the line is in a fluid state as the entire group needs to improve across the board.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related Big Ten Content

Ranking the Big Ten's Wide Receiving Corps for 2012
College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers for 2012

Ranking College Football's Best and Worst Coaching Hires for 2012

Urban Meyer's Arrival Has Ohio State Back on Track

Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions

Top 25 Big Ten Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/top-college-coaches-under-40
Body:

What would recent Final Fours be without Butler and VCU? And how boring would college football be without coaches like Lane Kiffin and Pat Fitzgerald.

There’s an intriguing youth movement afoot in college sports where Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart, both under the age of 40, have reached the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament and subsequently turn down big-time jobs to continue building their mid-major programs.

In football, Kiffin, at age 37 and on his third head coaching job, has gone from being an annoyance to his rival coaches (and at one time, his owner) to being the coach of Athlon Sports’ preseason No. 1 team. If USC delivers on the preseason ranking, Kiffin will be among the youngest in either sport to win a national title, though the youngest remains Clemson’s Danny Ford, who won the national title weeks after his 34th birthday.

In addition to Stevens, Smart and Kiffin, here are our picks for the top college football and men’s basketball coaches under 40.

Note: For the sake of clarity and consistency, we are listing all ages as of Sept. 1, 2012.

1. Brad Stevens
Team: Butler basketball
Age: 35
Before the 2009-10 season, Stevens could have been mistaken for an assistant or team manager. After back-to-back national championship games with Butler, he’s on the short list of top coaches in the game. In 2010, the 33-year-old Stevens became the second-youngest coach to reach the Final Four since 1972. Indiana’s Bob Knight was 32 when he reached his first Final Four in 1973. A year later, he became the only coach since 1972 to reach the Final Four twice before his 35th birthday. Beyond the NCAA Tournament success, Stevens holds records for most wins in his first five (139), first four (117) and first three (89) seasons.

2. Shaka Smart
Team: VCU basketball
Age: 35
Smart was something of an unknown when VCU hired the former Florida and Clemson assistant less than a week before his 33rd birthday. VCU had a good track record of hiring young coaches in Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant, but the Rams outdid themselves with Smart. Where Stevens is calm and deliberate, Smart is frenetic, but the results are similar. Smart led VCU from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011. With a limited returning cast last season, VCU still managed to win 29 games and upset fifth-seeded Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament. Only a two-point loss to fourth-seeded Indiana prevented VCU from reaching the Sweet 16.

3. Pat Fitzgerald
Team:
Northwestern football
Age: 37
The two-time Bednarik and Nagurski Award winner was named Northwestern’s coach under the most unfortunate of circumstances when he took over for Randy Walker, who died suddenly in June 2006. For two seasons, Fitzgerald was the youngest coach in the FBS, competing against the likes of Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel and Lloyd Carr. A noted recruiter as a secondary and linebacker coach, Fitzgerald has been able to get the most out of Northwestern’s modest resources, tradition and recruiting base. He’s 40-36 in six seasons, but he’s the first coach in Northwestern history to lead the Wildcats to four bowl games, all in the last four seasons.

4. Lane Kiffin
Team:
USC football
Age: 37
For most of Kiffin’s head coaching career, his brash demeanor and the controversy that followed took precedent over his results. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for Kiffin. He went 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders and 7-6 with Tennessee, with only a handful of players remaining in Knoxville from his troubled, but highly ranked 2009 signing class. At USC, he has guided the Trojans out of probation. The Trojans are still recruiting front-line talent, just in smaller quantities. After going 10-2 last season, USC is Athlon’s preseason No. 1 team with a shot to unseat the SEC as the king of college football.

5. Kevin Willard
Team:
Seton Hall basketball
Age: 37
Willard hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament yet, but his chance is coming. The son of former Pittsburgh and Western Kentucky coach Ralph Willard and a former Rick Pitino assistant at Louisville and in the NBA, Kevin Willard hasn’t had many easy jobs in his five seasons as a coach. At Iona, he took over a team that went 2-28 in 2006-07. Iona improved from 1-17 in the MAAC that season to 8-10 the following year under Willard and then improved to 12-6 in 2009-10 before Willard landed at Seton Hall. In his second season at Seton Hall in 2011-12, the Pirates went 21-13, their best record since 2003-04.

6. Steve Prohm
Team:
Murray State basketball
Age: 38
Murray State had its share of standout moments under Prohm’s predecessors Billy Kennedy and Mick Cronin, but Prohm took the Racers to new heights in his first season as head coach. Murray State went 31-2 last season, losing only once during the regular season. A longtime assistant under Kennedy, Prohm paid his dues as an assistant at Murray, Southeastern Louisiana, Tulane and Centenary before getting his shot at a head coaching job. With point guard Isaiah Canaan returning, Prohm will have a chance to build on his gaudy debut season.

7. Steve Sarkisian
Team:
Washington football
Age: 38
Like Kiffin, Sarkisian was an offensive assistant under Pete Carroll at USC. And like Kiffin, Sarkisian took over a Pac-12 program facing adversity. Washington, however, was trying to break out of a malaise that included an 0-12 season in 2008 and 1-10 season in 2004. With standout quarterbacks Jake Locker and Keith Price, Sarkisian returned Washington to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2002. Over a defensive coaching staff overhaul, Washington will look to return to Pac-12 title contention.

8. Willie Taggart
Team:
Western Kentucky football
Age: 37
The Hilltoppers would be hard-pressed to find a better fit to lead their program into the FBS. The former Western Kentucky All-America quarterback served as co-offensive coordinator under Jack Harbaugh until 2002, when the Hilltoppers won the Division I-AA championship. He joined Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, where he coached Heisman runner up Toby Gerhart. After going 2-10 in Taggart’s debut season, Western Kentucky went 7-1 in the Sun Belt in his second season in Bowling Green.

9. Josh Pastner
Team: Memphis basketball
Age: 34
Following John Calipari at Memphis is no easy task. Pastner has had mixed results so far, but he hasn’t lacked for talent. The former Arizona walk-on displayed his zeal for recruiting first with the Wildcats as a full-time assistant under Lute Olson at age 26. Pastner has had nationally ranked recruiting classes at Memphis, but not a lot of experience on his roster. That’s starting to change as Memphis went 26-9 overall and 13-3 in Conference USA last season. Pastner is one of only two coaches in Memphis history to reach the NCAA Tournament in two of his first three seasons.

10. Fred Hoiberg
Team:
Iowa State basketball
Age: 39
“The Mayor” was a puzzling hire for Iowa State when he arrived in 2010. Although he was popular as a player in Ames, Hoiberg spent more time in NBA front offices than on the bench. The Cyclones went 16-16 in his first season, but they were one of the surprise teams of 2011-12. Led by NBA first-round draft pick Royce White, Iowa State went 16-6 in the BIg 12 and defeated defending national champion Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament.

-David Fox 

@DavidFox615

Related Content

College Football's Top 25 Coaches for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Top College Coaches Under 40</p>
Post date: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 05:25
Path: /college-football/washington-football-husky-resurgence-coming-seattle
Body:

Steel rubble was strewn everywhere. Wooden seats were shredded into kindling. The artificial playing surface was ripped out of the ground in chunks. This was Husky Stadium just weeks after the 2011 season ended, gutted and subjected to massive renovation. Once stately and sacred, the place was a mess.

This also aptly described the University of Washington football program during the darkest period of its 122-season existence: Specifically, an agonizing seven years through 2009 bereft of postseason games and winning records. Among the low points of the fallout, a near whiff (a 1–10 finish in ’04) and a complete whiff (an 0–12 showing in ’08).

While contractors are now busy reshaping Husky Stadium into something decidedly smart and high tech, aiming for a 2013 unveiling, fourth-year coach Steve Sarkisian has been remodeling everything else. By all accounts, with consecutive winning records (both a modest 7–6) and bowl trips (Holiday, Alamo) as the barometer, the youthful and energetic leader has a Husky resurgence well under way.

“I like him,” former Huskies coach Don James says. “I think he’s a competitor. It’s real solid looking. I think he does a lot of things real well.”

After leaving his USC offensive coordinator post to come to Seattle, Sarkisian gained immediate credibility by beating a third-ranked Trojans team in his first season. In his second season, he enhanced that credibility by upsetting USC and Nebraska, including toppling the Cornhuskers in the Holiday Bowl. Sarkisian has brought life to a program that had been sadly mishandled, and he put fans back in the seats, even if those seats were old and worn.

Yet for every two steps forward for the UW newcomer, there has been a stumble. After it was noted repeatedly how Sarkisian had kept his staff together and consistent for three seasons, he was forced to replace five of his nine assistant coaches this past winter, firing three on his defensive staff following Baylor’s 67-point outburst against the Huskies in the Alamo Bowl. And after signing the state’s top five prospects for his second recruiting class, in effect closing down the borders, Sarkisian landed only one of the five best locally produced players this past February, his home territory duly compromised.

“Steve realizes he has to continue to grow and get better,” UW athletic director Scott Woodward says of the staff turnover.

No one said it was going to be easy. While the legendary James brought the Huskies a co-national championship in 1991, countless pro football-bound players, and 14 bowl games in his 18 seasons, Sarkisian represents the fifth coaching successor in the 19 years to have followed the James era. The other four were fired. Plus, the talent level was extremely worrisome when Sarkisian inherited the Huskies: In the two NFL drafts preceding his arrival in Seattle, no UW players were selected.

Sarkisian, 38, has used his enthusiasm and a UW checkbook flush with Pac-12 TV money to restock the coaching staff, pulling touted defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, both former Oregon players, away from Tennessee; offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and defensive line coach and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi from California; and reputable secondary coach Keith Heyward from Oregon State.

“The challenge for myself is to not just incorporate these guys to our staff, but we need to really get this camaraderie, this cohesiveness, and I think we can be there,” Sarkisian says.

Adds Woodward: “It was obvious there needed to be a change. There’s a case to be made for continuity, and (a) case to be made for new blood coming in.”

The UW coach also has used his considerable charm and energy to compile recruiting classes steadily ranked among the top nation’s 25, landing such 5-star players as tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, wide receiver Kasen Williams and safety Shaq Thompson.

“I could have gone anywhere, but I wanted to come make my mark where you could do something special,” says Seferian-Jenkins, who picked the Huskies over Texas and a host of others. “You could go to a lot of places that have won national championships. I wanted to do something different, and that’s build this place from the ground up.”

Usually when a college football program collapses to such epic depths, severe NCAA violations are involved. In this case, the erosion began when the Huskies fired Rick Neuheisel in 2003 for casually betting in an NCAA Tournament basketball pool. The erosion gained serious momentum when offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson reluctantly replaced Neuheisel and couldn’t hold things together, and it became epidemic with the hiring of Tyrone Willingham, whose old-school demeanor never connected with recruits, fans or media members.

Some righteous alums have pointed out that this disastrous period could have been avoided: Gary Pinkel, the successful Missouri coach and former UW offensive coordinator, was passed over when Neuheisel was hired to replace a fired Jim Lambright. Instead, a coaching carousel resulted, and lopsided losses in front of diminishing crowds became commonplace.

“We were on the cusp of it getting a lot worse,” says Ron Crockett, Emerald Downs horse racing track owner and a leading UW athletic donor. “If this had gone one more year, we would have lost a significant (portion of the) fan base. And the fans don’t come back right away.”

The Huskies have everyone on board now as the recovery process picks up steam. Players and fans are caught up in Sarkisian’s enthusiasm. Alums have supplied the necessary funding to overhaul Husky Stadium. There is a rampant impatience to restore UW football to its past glory — hence the recent mass coaching casualties, which included defensive coordinator Nick Holt, someone whom Sarkisian had brought with him from USC.

As a new Husky Stadium rises from its lakeside location, and the team is temporarily housed in the Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field across town, UW fans have purchased most of the 3,200-plus premium seats seen only on websites and in drawings, up from 550 in the old stadium configuration. Among them are 45 patio suites, which have sold out and drew nearly double the necessary number of people or groups willing to purchase them.

Stadium renovation was debated tediously without resolution for six years before Woodward stepped up and said it was time to get it done. He challenged others to jump on board, and they did. Everyone understands the commitment involved now.

“I feel like they know what they’re doing, all the way down,” says Seferian-Jenkins, only a sophomore and an All-America candidate. “To have those coaches replaced, it was sad to see them go — I loved all of them. But it’s a business, first and foremost, and you don’t forget that. I’m happy where we’re headed.”

— by Dan Raley

This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Preview Annual.

Related Pac-12 Content

Ranking the Pac-12 Wide Receiving Corps for 2012
Ranking the Pac-12 Offensive Lines for 2012

Athlon’s 2012 Pac-12 Predictions

Athlon’s 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

2012 Washington Huskies Team Preview

Washington Huskies Top 10 Players for 2012

Pac-12 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Washington Football: A Husky Resurgence Coming to Seattle</p>
Post date: Friday, July 13, 2012 - 05:04
Path: /nascar/more-questions-answers-nascar-drug-policy-penalties
Body:

We live in an instant gratification society. Fair or not, Facebook and Twitter breaks the news of the world long before Brian Williams clears his throat and gets ready to report it on NBC. Groupon provides us with deal-a-day discounts, making cheap choices so we don’t have to search for them. Direct Deposit removes the need to go to the bank; YouTube keeps you at home instead of the movies. Technological advances are made with the concept that 21st-Century humans have run out of patience.

In some ways, NASCAR brass has finally caught onto the concept. The conversation about shorter races, while I’m in objection to it, has some merit; fans no longer want to sit on their couch for four hours when 1,000 entertainment distractions reside all around their doorstep – sometimes right inside the house. The sport’s evolution with social media, despite the controversy over the #NASCAR/Twitter partnership, gives its base instant access the likes of which its stick ‘n’ ball brethren would kill for. Despite an unrelenting mountain of criticism these days, there’s actually only two pieces of the publicity puzzle where NASCAR remains as Neanderthal as they come.

Too bad they’re the most important ones: penalties and drugs.

This week was another reminder of that, with more questions than answers to leave fans scratching their heads instead of discussing the consistency and timeliness of their decisions. Take a penalty on Daytona winner Tony Stewart, for example, who failed post-qualifying inspection the Friday before the race. Once he did so, the time was disallowed which, in certain circumstances, would keep the car from making the race altogether. But Smoke’s team gets a mulligan. As part of NASCAR’s exclusive “top 35,” which guarantees a spot on the grid to the first 35 cars in owner points, he could cheat as much as possible and still start the race from the rear.

Huh? That’s like Brian Urlacher getting a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer but getting it taken off the board because he’s one of the NFL’s best players. In the end, Stewart used his 42nd starting spot to win the race, earning the maximum amount of points only to get docked six for the penalty in question. Six points? When subtracted from the total, that still leaves the man with the third-most points from the race itself, a compromise the antithesis of Goldilocks in that nothing feels exactly right. Some will say that since Stewart started the race with a legal car – it was fixed after inspection – there shouldn’t have been any consequences at all. Others, knowing the advantage these types of infractions can give a driver during a plate race, feel the book should have been thrown straight at the No. 14. Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus, after all, was threatened with a six-race suspension (ultimately erased on appeal) for a pre-practice Daytona 500 violation on his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet.

Or take the case of Danny Stockman, Austin Dillon’s crew chief who was suspended two weeks from the Nationwide Series after a post-qualifying violation of his own down at Daytona. For Stockman, it was the second violation that occurred during a probationary period but the first one didn’t result in missing time. Compare that to Kurt Busch, whose initial probation violation for cussing out a reporter — not a scenario that created an on-track advantage — resulted in him getting shutout of the racetrack, his ride, and a paycheck for a week. Confused? I’m sure. How in the world do these penalties compare?

Simple answer: they don’t. I’d love to point out these violations in the rulebook, educating you all, but in this age of transparency NASCAR doesn’t even have one available for public viewing. If I write down the answers (and I’m one of the lucky ones), even if the sanctioning body remains inconsistent you have to trust my responsibility as a journalist instead of looking up the text yourself – a next-step ability in this age of Wikipedia more and more people are expecting to legitimize the sports they watch. Gone are the days when a good ol’ boy family network can run things with an iron fist. Today, that’s a little too “conspiracy theorist” for a sporting audience that’s grown too smart for any secrets. 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles says NASCAR's handling of drug issues and technical violations leave more questions than answers.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 17:38
Path: /mlb/2012-mlb-pennant-races-sizing-second-half
Body:

In the 17 seasons that have concluded with a postseason since baseball expanded to the three-division format in 1994, 66 of the 102 teams that were in first place at the All-Star break went on to win their division (64.7%). Of the 136 teams in line for a playoff spot, 87 of them actually made the playoffs (64.0%). So, there’s a pretty good chance that four of the six division leaders will hang on to their leads. So which teams are most likely to see their leads vanish?

Here’s a look at how the races might shape up in the second half.

AL East
While the Orioles and Rays toyed with fans earlier this season, no one really believed that the Yankees and Red Sox would finish near the bottom of the division. Baltimore is hanging around longer than expected, but the wheels are beginning to come off. Three members of their opening week rotation are now working in the minors. The Rays may have a late charge in them if a healthy Evan Longoria can lift the struggling offense, and the Red Sox are too talented not to find their way into the race. But this is New York’s division to lose, and the Yankees won’t let it slip away in September.

AL Central
The Detroit Tigers are the most disappointing team in the American League. And Chicago may be the most surprising. Playing with as many as 10 rookies and a rookie manager (at any level), the Sox are beginning to build a little cushion. But Detroit started to put some wins together at the end of the first half and will find a way to win this division. The lineup is potent, the bullpen is sound, and the rotation is good enough. It’s the defense that must improve, and expect manager Jim Leyland to see that it does.

AL West
Most fans thought when the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson that this would be a dogfight to the finish. The Rangers are just too good for the Angels this season. Texas has a deeper lineup and a much better bullpen than their adversaries on the West Coast. Los Angeles had a terrific June but gained no ground on Texas. This could be a runaway for the Rangers.

AL Wild Card
The Angels will secure the first wild card spot, but the second will be up for grabs through the final weekend of the season. Both Boston and Tampa Bay from the East will be in the race, while Chicago or Cleveland could take advantage of a softer division schedule in the Central. Tampa Bay finishes the season with trips to Boston and Chicago before hosting the Orioles in the three series that could determine the final wild card spot. Expect the Rays’ starting pitching to be the deciding factor and give Tampa Bay the final playoff spot.

NL East
The Marlins are streaky enough to put together at least one more run. The Mets have provided a great story this season, especially when R.A. Dickey is on the mound. But this isn’t the Mets’ year. Atlanta will hang with Washington behind the Braves’ solid pitching and deep bullpen. The Nationals, who own the best record in the NL, have the best pitching and a talented, energetic lineup. However, the Nats don’t exactly have pennant race experience on the field. But their manager Davey Johnson knows how to navigate pennant races. It will get tense down the stretch, but Washington will hang on and bring postseason baseball to our nation’s capital for the first time since 1933.

NL Central
This may prove to be the most exciting, free-for-all race in the majors this season. With the division-leading Pirates, the second-place Reds and defending world champion Cardinals, the NL Central could go any of three ways. The Reds, who finish the season with a road trip to Pittsburgh and St. Louis, don’t seem to have enough pitching to win this division, and the Pirates may not have enough offense. Will that open the way for the Cardinals? This race will stay tight, and the two factors that will likely determine the outcome will be health and acquisitions. The Cardinals are the deepest team that can withstand injuries, but also have a roster full of injury-prone players. One or two minor injuries in Pittsburgh could easily derail that team. St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak has shown the moxie to make shrewd deals during the season. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates are willing to part with some young talent and swing a major trade of their own. While we can’t expect magic dust to settle in St. Louis again this season, I’ll still give a slight edge to the experienced Cardinals at the wire.

NL West
Over the past few weeks, the Dodgers and Giants have exchanged blows and swapped a little time in first place. Somehow the Dodgers continued to win without Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, who provide the bulk of the Los Angeles offense. With Kemp coming back after the break and strong pitching, the Dodgers will finish in first place.

NL Wild Card
Talk about a real free-for-all that could see lead changes multiple times over the last couple of weeks of the season. The Braves, Giants, Marlins, Cardinals, Pirates, Reds and maybe even the Diamondbacks, Mets or Phillies could be a factor. When it all shakes out, it will be the Giants hosting the second-place team in the Central division. And we’re going with the Pirates, who will make their first postseason appearance since 1992.

Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Can Nats, Pirates and White Sox hang on?</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 15:53
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-july-12
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

First-Half Fantasy Duds
The National League All-Stars vanquished their American League brethren 8-0 in Kansas City on Tuesday. This means two things: 1) the NL champion will have home field advantage in the World Series and 2) all teams will return to game action on Friday. Is there any doubt as to which of these is more important?

That said, in conjunction with our Fantasy All-Stars that we unveiled last week, here are Athlon Sports’ first-half Fantasy Duds. These are the guys who were drafted high, but have yet to produce in accordance with where they were taken.

Remember, for the purposes of this exercise, it’s all about production, value and ADP (Average Draft Position). This also is not meant to serve as any prediction on whether he or not we think they will produce more along the lines of their high ADP in the second half. This is merely an informed opinion based on what these players have already done.

Note: ADP values listed are according to Yahoo!
UD = Undrafted

Catcher: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (ADP 44.2)
Simply in terms of catcher-eligible players, Santana (.221-5-30) has been awful. But when you add his lack of production to the fact that on average he went in the middle of the fourth round, he’s been atrocious. Twenty-one other catcher-eligible players have more home runs than Santana’s five, including the likes of A.J. Ellis and Michael McKenry. Notorious strikeout-machine J.P. Arencibia (76 K in 249 at-bats so far) has a higher batting average than Santana right now (.225 to .221), not to mention eight more home runs and 11 RBIs.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers; Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox (9.6)
While Albert Pujols may have not played up to his top-five overall status in the first half, he has been swinging the bat considerably better lately. After starting off with a .217-0-4 April, The Machine put together a .326-4-19 June. The power’s still not what we are used to seeing from Pujols (eight in May, only six since), but his 14 home runs on the season are still eight more than Gonzalez has hit. A top-10 overall player in his own right, Boston’s first baseman hasn’t hit for power, which has hampered his run production (45 RBI). On top of that, his average (.283) is currently 55 points lower than what he managed last season. Put it all together and you get a first-round pick that’s been out-performed by the likes of Allen Craig, Adam LaRoche, Chris Davis and Tyler Colvin, to name a few. And all have done so with considerably fewer at-bats.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Santana, Cleveland Indians; Napoli, Texas Rangers; Michael Young, Texas Rangers; Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

Second Base: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers (89.7)
Dustin Pedroia (.266-6-33) has certainly been a disappointment, but he’s been dealing with a thumb injury that finally put him on the disabled list right before the All-Star break. Dustin Ackely (.233-5-24) has yet to live up to the hype, but he’s also in his first full season in the majors. Weeks has no one but himself and his free-swinging (100 Ks so far, 107 all of 2011) ways to blame. Weeks enters the second half with a batting average (.199) under the Mendoza line and he hasn’t put up the power (8 HR, 29 RBI) or provided the speed (8 SB) to offset what has always been a weakness in his game. Weeks was 10th in ADP at his position and was taken on average in the middle of the eighth round, but at this point he’s probably nothing more than waiver wire fodder.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Young, Texas Rangers; Pedroia, Boston Red Sox; Howie Kendrick, Los Angels Angels; Ackley, Seattle Mariners

Third Base: Michael Young, Texas Rangers (57.3)
Evan Longoria gets a pass here because he’s been injured most of the season. Even though his owners have undoubtedly paid a price due to his extended absence, which has now reached who-knows-when-he-will-be-back territory, they can’t say he didn’t produce (.329-4-19, 15 R in 82 at-bats) when he was in the lineup. Instead, we have to head to the end of the alphabet to find the most disappointing third baseman to this point with Young edging out Ryan Zimmerman (ADP 36.2) for this “honor.” Neither has done all that much at the plate, but in Zimmerman’s case, he can at least lay some of the blame to the fact he has, yet again, been slowed by injuries. Still with nearly 60 fewer at-bats than Young, Zimmerman has out-performed his hot corner counterpart across the board, with the exception of average (.243 compared to Young’s .270). Sadly, it appears that age may finally be catching up to the 35-year-old versatile Ranger.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Zimmerman, Washington Nationals; Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

Shortstop: Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins (20.6)
Similar to Longoria at third, Troy Tulowitzki avoids the LVP tag at shortstop because of his extended stint on the DL. Reyes, on the other hand, isn’t as lucky. It’s not that Reyes has been horrible in his first season in a Marlins’ uniform, it’s just that he has come nowhere near to producing along the lines of his ADP. The second shortstop to go off of the board after Tulowitzki, Reyes is currently hitting .264, which is more than 70 points lower than he did last season when won the NL batting title with the Mets. And when it comes to Reyes, if he doesn’t get on base, he can’t do what he does best — steal bases (20 so far) and score runs (41). While he is currently tied for sixth in the majors in stolen bases, it should be pointed out that Zack Cozart is among those shortstop-eligible players who have scored more runs than Reyes to this point.
Dis-Honorable Mention: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles; Erick Aybar, Los Angels Angels; Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

Outfield: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks (12.5)
Identifying the LVP outfielders is no easy task as injuries have certainly impacted the position (Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, etc.), not to mention there are some, like the aforementioned Gonzalez, who also have outfield eligibility that have severely under-performed. In the end, however, there is little question that Upton has been the biggest disappointment in the outfield thus far. Big things were expected of the Diamondbacks slugger, who after finishing fourth in the NL MVP last season was fourth among OFs in terms of ADP. Going in the middle of the second round on average, Upton has been hampered by a thumb injury and just hasn’t produced (.273-7-37) like an MVP candidate. He’s certainly capable of a monster second half, but the whispers that the Diamondbacks may be looking to trade the 24-year-old can’t help his confidence right now.

Outfield: Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays (48.5)
Jennings suffered a sprained knee in May, which sidelined him for more than three weeks, and the speedy Ray has struggled to get it going at the plate since his return. Much was expected of the 25-year-old, who was drafted along the lines of a top-15 outfielder after a promising 63-game sample the end of last season. In fact, Jennings has played the same number of games (63) this season as he did following his call up last July 23, but hasn’t been able to match last season’s production. Jennings posted a .259-10-25 line with 20 stolen bases and 44 runs scored in 2011, compared to the .231-5-23 line with 15 stolen bases and 32 runs scored he has so far in 2012.

Outfield: Michael Morse, Washington Nationals (69.1)
Morse, like Jennings, has spent a fair amount of time on the DL already as he didn’t even make his 2012 debut until June 2. However, Morse grabs the final outfield spot here because he was the No. 18 overall outfielder in terms of ADP, and to this point he has managed a grand total of four home runs and 16 RBIs. No question Morse was one of last season’s breakout fantasy stars after he posted a .303-31-95 campaign, but I also think owners were a little too eager in expecting an encore. At this point, owners will gladly welcome Morse finishing the season with totals that are similar to his second-half production (.299-16-46) in 2011.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox; B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays; Kendrick, Los Angels Angels; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners; Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks; Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres

For both SP and RP we will pick one fantasy dud from each league.

AL SP: Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels (49.9)
Neither league is devoid of candidates for first-half LVP at SP, although injuries do have quite a bit to do with that. In the AL, the race comes down to Haren and Jon Lester, both of which were top-15 starting pitchers in terms of ADP, have ERAs above 4.40, WHIPs above 1.30, and to this point have combined for the same number of wins (11) that Texas’ Matt Harrison has. Even though Haren has apparently been bothered by back stiffness for most, if not all, of the first half, it didn’t shelve him until his last start before the All-Star break. So whether he was just trying to be a gamer and pitch through the pain or not, he’s the first-half AL Cy Yuk winner, if you will. Haren was the fifth AL SP to come off of the board on average, meaning he was being taken around the fifth round. In 17 stars so far this season, he has a grand total of six quality starts, while he’s given up five or more earned runs in six other starts. Yes, he’s been the victim of some poor run support a few times, but of his six wins, two of them came when he gave up six and five earned runs, respectively. He’s also given up 122 hits in 103 2/3 innings. Haren owners can only hope that his back issues are the source of all that ails him and that he can return pain-free and look more like his old self in the second half.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Lester, Boston Red Sox; Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays; Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays; Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels

NL SP: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco (27.8)
As bad as Haren, Lester and some other SPs in the AL have performed, there are no Cy Young Award winners among them. That’s not the case in the NL where two-time recipients Lincecum and Roy Halladay, along with Cliff Lee, all have failed to pitch according to their top-five SP ADP. Halladay can lay some of the blame to a lat injury, while Lee has a grand total of one win – that’s right one – in 14 starts. But then there’s Lincecum. If he’s hurt, neither he nor the Giants are telling, and at this point there’s not even a reason for them to try and hide it. In 18 starts, Lincecum has twice as many starts in which he’s given up five earned runs or more (8) than he does quality starts. The strikeouts are still there (104 in 96 2/3 innings), but he’s already walked nearly half as many (50) as he’s struck out and he’s surrendered 103 hits. His ERA currently stands at 6.42, which is nearly two and a half runs higher than the 4.00 ERA he posted as a rookie in 2007, and nearly three and a half runs higher than his 2.74 ERA from last season. It’s not like Lincecum has a hit a speed bump, it’s more like he’s fallen off of a cliff.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Lee, Philadelphia Phillies; Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks; Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs

AL RP: Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers (109.4)
Even more so than with starting pitchers, injuries have completely devastated the RP ranks. In the AL alone Joakim Soria was lost for the season before it even started, while Andrew Bailey has yet to throw a pitch for the Red Sox. Then you had future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera and Sergio Santos go down after that. So while Valverde hasn’t been horrible (3 W, 16 SV), his inclusion here is related to the fact he was the second AL closer in terms of ADP, behind only Rivera. Valverde was taken on average in the middle of the 10th round and while that may not seem all that high, there’s a saying in fantasy baseball that goes “don’t chase saves.” Valverde was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities last season. He’a already blown three this season and his 16 ER in 35 innings (4.11 ERA) is just two less than he gave up all of last season in 72 1/3 innings.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels; Brandon League, Seattle Mariners; Francisco Cordero, Toronto Blue Jays

NL RP: Heath Bell, Miami Marlins (100.1)
The NL RP ranks were not immune to the injury bug either as Ryan Madson was lost before the season, Drew Storen has yet to throw a pitch this season, and Brian Wilson had to have Tommy John surgery in late April. Several other closers either lost their jobs, temporarily or permanently, and/or have spent time on the DL themselves. Bell gets the nod here because he hasn’t been hurt and even though he was removed as the Marlins’ closer at one point, he got his job back. However, it looks as if that will change as soon as the Marlins get back on the field Friday with manager Ozzie Guillen saying he will employ the closer-by-committee approach. Then again that’s what happens when you blow six of 25 save opportunities, while giving up nearly twice as many walks and hits combined (63) as innings pitched (34 2/3). That’s bad for any closer, but Bell was the sixth closer in terms of ADP, meaning he was picked, on average, even earlier than his AL LVP counterpart Jose Valverde.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs; John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers; Jonny Venters, Atlanta Braves

DL Watch and Other Injury News

*Roy Halladay is scheduled to make a rehab start on Thursday and could be back in the Phillies’ rotation as early as next week. Halladay went on the DL in late May with a right latissimus dorsi strain. Halladay (4-5, 3.98 ERA) hasn’t pitched like his usual self, so it will be interesting to see if he returns to his Cy Young form or not.

*Matt Kemp (hamstring) is expected to return to the Dodgers’ lineup soon, perhaps as early as Friday. Kemp has been on the DL since May 31 with the hamstring issue and the Dodgers have sorely missed his bat. Although he didn’t play in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, Kemp did captain the NL team in the Home Run Derby on Monday. He only hit one home run in the first round, but some questioned him even participating in the first place. If his expected return ends up getting delayed, Kemp will have some explaining to do. The Dodgers also hope to get Andre Ethier back soon as well. Ethier went on the DL effective June 28 with a left oblique injury, but has played in a couple of minor league games recently and said he hopes to be activated on Friday too.

*Atlanta sustained a big blow on Sunday when rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons broke his right little finger sliding into second base in the game against the Phillies. Simmons is expected to be out at least a month. Besides fielding everything in sight, the 22-year-old was hitting a respectable .296 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 115 at-bats since making his major-league debut on June 2.

*Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton had surgery on Sunday to remove some “loose bodies” from his right knee. He is expected to be out anywhere between four to six weeks. Justin Ruggiano will probably get the bulk of the playing time in Stanton’s place and could be worth a look if you have room on your roster. Ruggiano is batting .390 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in only 82 at-bats.

*The Braves also placed set-up man Jonny Venters on the DL last Thursday with a left-elbow impingement. Venters, who was so important to the Braves’ success in 2011 prior to the team’s late-season collapse, hadn’t pitched nearly as well (3-3, 4.45 ERA) prior to him going on the DL.

— By Mark Ross, published on June 12, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: July 12</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 13:43

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