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All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, Greg Hardy, NFC, NFC East, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/greg-hardys-suspension-cut-10-4-games

Several weeks after his appeal, Greg Hardy’s suspension has been cut from 10 to 4 games for the upcoming NFL season. The suspension came about for his alleged involvement in a domestic abuse case. The troubled NFL star was suspended for 15 games last season with the Carolina Panthers.


The Cowboys certainly have to be glad that Hardy will be on the field for more games, having signed him to a one-year deal worth $11.3 million in free agency. The reduced suspension may surprise many, considering all of the backlash for the seemingly lenient punishments last year. It will be interesting to see how people react to this change.

See what Hardy brings to the Cowboys:

Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 14:57
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFC East, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/dallas-cowboys-2015-team-preview-and-prediction

Twenty years have passed since the Cowboys last raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy. They have had only nine winning seasons since, with a 158–146 regular-season record and a 3–8 postseason mark. Yet, Jerry Jones has never lost faith.


This year begins no differently, although the Cowboys owner actually has reason to believe. The team has turned the momentum from last season into real, live Super Bowl hopes. The Cowboys saw a healthy Tony Romo for the first time in three offseasons. They welcome back the same offensive and defensive coordinators for the first time in four years. The league’s best offensive line returns intact. They helped their defense with some offseason additions. “I like the future of this team,” Jones says.


There’s nothing like the present, though.


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The Cowboys believe as long as they have Romo, they have a chance. Romo underwent two back surgeries in two years, and last season he missed a game with two fractures in his transverse process. But he entered the offseason fully healed. Despite throwing for only 3,705 yards, Romo had one of the best seasons of his career with a 12–3 record, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He led the league in completion percentage (69.9), yards per attempt (8.5), passer rating (113.2) and game-winning drives (five), putting his name in the MVP conversation. The Cowboys insist that Romo, 35, has a few good years left. They sought to upgrade their backup quarterback situation, but it appears Brandon Weeden will once again be the No. 2 signal caller.


The Cowboys took pressure off Romo last season by running the ball 508 times (vs. 506 pass plays). They’ll continue that approach in 2015, even though the league’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, left for Philadelphia in free agency. The only change likely comes in how many carries the rushing leader gets. Running back-by-committee appears likely with Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams competing for roster spots, playing time and carries. Randle showed signs last season as Murray’s primary backup, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, but he had only 51 attempts. McFadden, the No. 4 overall pick in 2008, gets a new start with a new team after seven injury-plagued seasons in Oakland. He played a full 16-game season for the first time in his career in 2014.


Jason Witten, 33, made his 10th Pro Bowl in 2014. Now in his 13th season, he shows no signs of slowing down. Witten remains Romo’s security blanket, and the tight end ranked second on the team in catches (64) and receiving yards (703) last season.


Dez Bryant became one of the top receivers in the NFL last season, earning All-Pro honors with 88 catches for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Cowboys applied the franchise tag to Bryant in the offseason, and the two parties have been unable to hash out a long-term contract. Bryant has hinted at the possibility of holding out, even if this means missing regular season games. If it remains unresolved by the time training camp opens, Bryant’s contract situation will no doubt be a hot topic and it remains to be seen if this will develop into a team-wide distraction.


Outside of Bryant,Terrance Williams had stretches where he disappeared, but he averaged 16.8 yards per catch and caught eight touchdowns. Romo trusted Cole Beasley as much as Bryant on third down, and Beasley won the job as the third receiver and a new payday at the end of the season.


Having used three first-round picks on offensive linemen since 2011, the Cowboys have built arguably the league’s best line. Zack Martin, who had never played guard until the Cowboys moved him there after drafting him 16th overall last year, earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie. He was joined by former first-rounders Travis Frederick (center) and Tyron Smith (left tackle) in the all-star game. The Cowboys kept their line intact by re-signing right tackle Doug Free to a three-year, $15 million deal and left guard Ron Leary to a one-year, $585,000 deal. They drafted Chaz Green in the third round to replace swing tackle Jermey Parnell and signed La’el Collins as a free agent after the projected first-rounder went undrafted due to some legal issues.



The Cowboys’ biggest offseason move was the signing of defensive end Greg Hardy. Dallas had only 28 sacks last season; Hardy had double-digit sacks in 2012 and ’13 but played only one game last season before going on the commissioner’s exempt list. Hardy's original 10-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the league was reduced to four games upon appeal. The Cowboys also drafted talented pass-rusher Randy Gregory in the second round, as this defense looks to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. DeMarcus Lawrence, who missed nine games with a broken foot as a rookie last season, will start at left end. Jeremy Mincey, Jack Crawford and Ben Gardner, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, will compete for playing time in the team’s rotation. The Cowboys moved Tyrone Crawford from defensive end to the three-technique last season and were happy with the results. He had three sacks and was solid against the run. Nick Hayden re-signed to play the nose. Terrell McClain also will see playing time in the defensive tackle rotation.


Sean Lee has missed 34 games in his five-year career, including all 16 games last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee on the first day of OTAs. Lee, who has two 100-tackle seasons and 11 career interceptions, will move from middle linebacker to the weak side, the most important linebacker position in the Tampa 2. The Cowboys re-signed Rolando McClain to man the middle, but he will miss the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Anthony Hitchens, who started at all three linebacker positions among 11 starts as a rookie, leads the candidates at strong-side linebacker. McClain


The Cowboys tried to shore up their cornerback position before the 2012 season when they signed Brandon Carr and traded up in the draft to select Morris Claiborne. But Carr hasn’t lived up to the contract, and the Cowboys are expected to ask him to take a pay cut, which could lead to his release. Claiborne missed 12 games last season with a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee. Even when healthy, Claiborne has done nothing to give the Cowboys an indication that he ever will develop into a shutdown corner. Orlando Scandrick has become the team’s most reliable player at the position, but he did not participate in voluntary offseason workouts while seeking a raise. The Cowboys drafted Byron Jones with their first-round pick and expect him to play a big role as a rookie. Starting safeties J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church rarely make game-changing plays but rarely give up big plays and are sure tacklers.



Dan Bailey ranks as the second-most accurate placekicker in NFL history, converting 89.8 percent of his career kicks. He has nine game-winning kicks, including five in overtime, in his career. Dallas re-signed punter Chris Jones, who had a 39.8 net average last season, though Australian Tom Hornsey will compete for the job. The Cowboys will go into training camp looking for return specialists to replace Dwayne Harris.



Jason Garrett kept his job with an unexpected playoff run last season; he’ll be expected to produce even more this season. The Cowboys kept defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and offensive play-caller Scott Linehan. The addition of Hardy should help the pass rush, but a big question remains about how the Cowboys will replace Murray. They should contend for the division title, but the NFC title still might be a few more good players away.


Prediction: 1st in NFC East

Dallas Cowboys 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: Chandler Parsons, Western Conference, NBA, News
Path: /nba/chandler-parsons-has-harsh-words-deandre-jordan

After Mark Cuban explained his frustration in DeAndre Jordan flopping on his contract, Mavericks star Chandler Parsons lashed out at the Clippers’ center. Parsons had been celebrating the new signing, until he found out that he flipped on his decision. On Jordan, he believes that “he wasn’t ready to be a franchise player. He was scared.”


While Parsons saw the huge potential in an increased role for Jordan on the Mavericks, he is now angered and disappointed in the decision. He took this recommitment personally, having spoken to Parsons before and excited to play with him. Now there will certainly be a rivalry between the two teams.

Here is what Jordan will be missing on the Mavericks:

Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 14:22
All taxonomy terms: News, World Cup
Path: /world-cup/uswnt-celebrates-historic-parade-nyc

After defeating Japan in the World Cup this past Sunday, the USWNT celebrated as part of a historic parade in NYC. The parade down the famed Canyon of Heroes honored this team, making them the first women’s sport team to receive such an event.


Ticker-tape parades on this same route in NYC have been ongoing since 1886, often honoring politicians and New York championship teams. The parade, which cost the city $2 million, featured the players aboard different floats, which drove past thousands of screaming fans. Along the way, fans up in buildings covered the streets with confetti, as part of the historic tradition. 

Look at some pictures of the event below:




Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 13:25
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/texans-hard-knocks-trailer-foster-houston-watt-clowney

The Texans are the newest team to be featured on "Hard Knocks," must to the dismay of J.J. Watt.


The Houston star has said he wasn't into the idea of cameras at practice, but he's going to learn to live with it. In the HBO trailer, the show takes a look at the past while giving a sneak peek in to what's to come with the Texans.


Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 13:14
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-gains-verbal-commitment-virginia-cb-wayne-davis

On June 18 a Wayne Davis tweet broke the hearts of 17 schools but kept hope alive for three other programs — the University of Michigan, Virginia Tech and Ohio State. On Thursday he especially broke the hearts of in-state power Virginia Tech when the speedy corner verbally committed to Ohio State.


The 5-foot-11, 187-pound, 4-star recruit from Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk, Va., posted his announcement on Twitter:



Ohio State had an inside edge with former teammate and defensive end Jayln Holmes already in Columbus, but many were hoping the pull of staying in-state would be enough for the Hokies.


There are no points for being a runner-up in recruiting but now at least Virginia Tech’s staff knows what they are up against in hopes of flipping the Tidewater-area star. Other schools like Auburn, Miami, Georgia, Michigan State, Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland, Louisville, Wisconsin, Duke and Clemson all extended early offers.


Ohio State now has 17 verbal commitments to its 2016 recruiting class. Davis joins Baltimore-area talent Kareem Felder (St. Frances HS) as the other slotted cornerback in the Buckeyes' class.


— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Ohio State Gains Verbal Commitment From Virginia CB Wayne Davis
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 12:45
Path: /nfl/jason-pierre-paul-wait-sign-franchise-tender

After Jason Pierre-Paul lost part of his finger after a fireworks incident last week, the New York Giants withdrew their long-term contract offer. Yet, they still left their one-year, $14.8 million franchise tag on him, allowing him to take the deal. However, sources say that Pierre-Paul now seems unlikely to sign that tender until he recovers from the injury.


By choosing to sign it later on, it would potentially prevent the Giants from putting him on the non-football injury (NFI) list. If a player starts the season on the NFI, then they have to sit out the first six games without pay. But by waiting to sign the franchise tender, he will be able to start participating in training camp when he feels he can and thus stay off the NFI for now.

See why the Giants want him back healthy:

Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 12:43
All taxonomy terms: New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-burning-questions-new-england-patriots-start-training-camp

In just a few short weeks the New England Patriots will open training camp as defending Super Bowl champions for the first time in the last decade. But it's been far from a status quo offseason for the Pats, and really, should we expect anything else?


The top four cornerbacks and top two running backs have departed, long-time stalwart offensive lineman Dan Connolly appears ready to retire and Tom Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension continues to hang over the team. However Bill Belichick has never been one to blink. It will be "next man up" and no matter who's on the field, the well-coached Pats will be a beast for every opponent they face.


Here are the five biggest questions that the Pats will face as they start to form their 2015 version in the early days of training camp.


1. Brady's Suspension

Tom Brady's appeal of his four-game Deflategate suspension is the first major piece of the puzzle to fall into place. This will directly affect how the snaps in training camp and preseason must be allotted between Brady and second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If Brady's punishment is reduced to only one or two games, and he accepts that, there should be close to an even split of snaps in August. Perhaps more interesting will be if Brady doesn't accept whatever Commissioner Roger Goodell comes back with and decides to take the fight to court. That could put the entire suspension on the shelf until it's ruled on next year. And if that's the case, Brady will be a full go for 2015.


2. Recovery

The Patriots stayed healthy for the most part last season aside from the loss of linebacker Jerod Mayo. However after the season ended a litany of surgeries were revealed, putting many key players' start to the season in jeopardy. The headline is the linebacker corps, with Mayo (torn patellar tendon), Dont'a Hightower (labrum surgery) and Jamie Collins (unknown) all in some phase of recovery. Mayo and Hightower seem like locks to open on the PUP list, while Collins was in and out of OTAs and is a much-needed presence for the defense in training camp.


The defensive line has questions as well with Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones and Chandler Jones all coming off surgeries of their own. Add in Dominique Easley, who was shut down in late 2014 to get over his back-to-back ACL tears, and that's a significant chunk of key front seven players who might be unavailable at the start of camp.


3. Starting Over at Cornerback

Turnover is a fact of life in the NFL, but rarely do you see a near-complete purge of an entire position like the Patriots had this offseason at corner. Part of it is the fact that the Pats just don't value long-term deals for corners, while another is the upcoming need to pay their high-round, talented front seven players like Collins, Hightower and Chandler Jones. But now the Patriots must find their starting cornerbacks from a mix of devalued veterans like Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain, and unproven youngsters like Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. With 10 corners on the roster there will be plenty of competition, and injuries will likely play a role in determining who plays, but rarely in Belichick's tenure has a position battle been more wide open. Every snap will be vital.


4. Almost Starting Over at Running Back

The presence of Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount doesn't make the running back position quite as wide open as the cornerback one, but there are at least two significant roles up for grabs and a number of unproven faces who could step into them. James White had a redshirt year in 2014 after being selected in the fourth round. He'll compete with free agent Travaris Cadet for the primary receiving back duties, a very important role in the Patriots offense. Meanwhile, second-year player Tyler Gaffney is an unknown commodity in the early-down role. His direct competition will be Jonas Gray, who ran all over the Colts in the middle of last season and was then barely heard from again after arriving late to a meeting because he overslept. 


With Blount being suspended for Week 1, the Pats will open the season with a new look in their backfield regardless, but we can expect the new players will bring a new season-long twist to the offense that can't be predicted.


5. On Guard

The Patriots had plenty of experimentation along the interior of their offensive line early last season. It was settled once Ryan Wendell showed he was more than just a center and did a solid job at right guard. Dan Connolly was a captain at left guard, but upgrading the interior offensive line has been a priority ever since Brian Waters left after just one year. The Pats drafted two rookie guards - Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason - but would they really be comfortable starting two rookies? Wendell is there as an insurance policy, but his starting spot is not etched in stone. Unknowns like Josh Klein, Caylin Hauptmann and Cameron Fleming could also be in the mix, but the uncertainty at the position is the biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball, and one that might not be resolved until a few games into the season. 


— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

5 Burning Questions for the New England Patriots Entering Training Camp
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/jadeveon-clowney-says-he-fell-asleep-during-nick-saban-recruiting-pitch-south-carolina-alabama

Jadeveon Clowney is trying to make a name for himself with the Texans, but there's always time to talk a little college football.


As the nation's No. 1 recruit in 2010, Clowney had his share of visits from coaches all around the country. Although he ended up choosing South Carolina, Alabama's Nick Saban left an unflattering impression on the linebacker.


"I don't see no big deal like everybody else," Clowney told The State. "They'd say, 'He's the king of all of football.' The guy ain't nothing but 5'5. He's a short guy. Everybody's going crazy on Nick Saban."


That wasn't all, the former Gamecock talked about Saban's recruiting pitch.


"He talked the whole time he was there," Clowney said. "I was dozing off. He can talk. A lot. He talked for a whole straight hour."


Clowney did mention that he would've committed to Alabama anyway if they had run his particular style of defense, 4-3, as opposed to the Tide's 3-4. 

Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 12:08
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ohio State Buckeyes, News
Path: /college-football/dont-sleep-these-ohio-state-football-recruits-2015

Fall camp is just around the corner for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes prepare to defend their national title. Head coach Urban Meyer and his staff have already welcomed the incoming freshmen to Columbus. Players have been issued jersey numbers, and are working diligently to make a positive impression upon the coaching staff when fall camp begins.


Related: Ohio State Buckeyes 2015 Preview and Prediction


A challenge for any freshman football player, no matter which program across the country, is to do enough to warrant more and more playing time. Considering Ohio State is coming off a national championship season, with only a handful of players having departed the program for possible NFL stardom, this challenge is even greater.


It would be easy to look at recruiting rankings and suggest this player or that player may be in line for playing time. If that was the case, incoming freshmen linebackers Jerome Baker or Justin Hilliard may be freshmen to keep an eye and ear open for (it is possible either of these players could wind up contributing on special teams from the onset of the season, by the way).


It would also be easy to look at players who redshirted last season, and are prepared to contribute. Defensive end Sam Hubbard is a prominent name who flashed potential in the 2015 Ohio State spring game, and was consistently lauded by Meyer all of last season as a player who possibly should not have redshirted.


Other freshmen enrolled and participated in spring practices. The most impressive of these early enrollees was linebacker Nick Conner, who also played a prominent role in the spring game.


My picks are going to be more of the sleeper variety - players who were somewhat under the radar of recruiting analysts and fans, yet may be able to get playing time in position groups where Ohio State has talent, but may not have tremendous depth.


Rashod Berry, TE

My first pick for a sleeper on the offensive side of the ball is incoming freshman tight end Rashod Berry. Berry was a later addition to the recruiting class, ranked a three-star recruit, and could possibly play at defensive end. Berry intrigues me for these reasons — Nick Vannett will return as the projected starter, with Marcus Baugh the likely backup at the position. Considering the frequency with which Ohio State employs two tight ends, it stands to reason that Berry may get opportunities at tight end, especially in the early portion of the season when Ohio State may be heavy favorites against its opposition.


Robert Landers, DL

My second pick for a sleeper on the defensive side of the ball is incoming freshman defensive lineman Robert Landers. Similar to Berry, Landers was a later addition to the recruiting class. Defensive line, especially along the interior, is usually not a position where freshmen can make an impact. My pick for Landers is based upon Landers' strong performance in the Ohio high school state playoffs last season (which helped to secure Landers his Ohio State offer), as well as the departure of Michael Bennett to the NFL. In 2016 Ohio State will lose Adolphus Washington; it may behoove the coaching staff to get Landers onto the field for needed game experience this season.


Sometimes the best freshmen players are the players who fell under the radar. It will be interesting to note if my sleeper picks contribute in 2015, as well as beyond.


— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Don’t Sleep on These Ohio State Football Recruits in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/examining-overunder-2015-win-totals-big-ten-west-division

The defending national champion may hail from the Big Ten's East Division, but that doesn't mean the West doesn't have its own intrigue. The top storylines to follow this season include new head coaches taking over at Nebraska (Mike Riley) and Wisconsin (Paul Chryst), as well as those (Illinois' Tim Beckman, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Purdue's Darrell Hazell) that find themselves on the hot seat. Elsewhere Minnesota will look to build on its success under Jerry Kill, albeit without a couple of NFL Draft picks, while Larry Fitzgerald and Northwestern hope to turn things around after a couple of disappointing seasons.


Related: Examining the Over/Under 2015 Win Totals for the Big Ten's East Division


For the purposes of this exercise, projected win totals are broken down into three categories — definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. Most of the conference games will in the toss-up category, especially ones on the road. This preview will offer thoughts on each team and if there’s any value either over or under.


Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook


Big Ten West


Illinois Fighting Illini

(Over 3.5 wins -210...Under 3.5 wins +160)


Record Last Year: 6-7, 3-5


Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)


Offense: Wes Lunt gets another year under center after throwing just three interceptions in 2014. He's got Geronimo Allison and Justin Hardee to throw to while Josh Ferguson returns to the backfield. The offensive line could be a concern.


Defense: Jihad Ward gets one more year to wreck havoc on the Big Ten. This unit regularly was gashed, giving up 30 points or more 10 times last year. Plenty of players return and will be looking for improvement.


Schedule: Kent State, Western Illinois and Middle Tennessee all come to Champaign while the Illini travel to North Carolina for their non-conference slate. Wisconsin and Ohio State are both Big Ten home games for Illinois.


Selection: The over is the play. This is an important season for Tim Beckman whose seat has to be getting warm after going 12-25 the last three years.


Iowa Hawkeyes

(Over 7.5 wins -115...Under 7.5 wins -125)


Record Last Year: 7-6, 4-4


Returning Starters: 10 (4 on offense, 6 on defense)


Offense: Iowa's returning starters on this side of the ball consist of three O-linemen and WR Tevaun Smith. C.J. Beathard and Tyler Wiegers will compete for the QB position. Jordan Canzeri tries to replace Mark Weisman, who was the Hawkeyes' leading rusher last season.


Defense: Drew Ott brings fierce pressure from the front line while Desmond King is one of the better CBs in the conference. Everyone else around them are question marks as this unit got roughed up to finish last season.


Schedule: Illinois State, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and North Texas make up Iowa's September. The Hawkeyes finish out the year with home tilts against Minnesota and Purdue and a road game at Nebraska as the final matchup.


Selection: The schedule lends itself to an over for Iowa even with the holes that need to be filled. The Hawkeyes shouldn't lose to rival Iowa State, but the home matchup with Pittsburgh will be tough.


Minnesota Golden Gophers

(Over 5.5 wins -210...Under 5.5 wins +160)


Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3


Returning Starters: 11 (4 on offense, 7 on defense)


Offense: David Cobb and Maxx Williams are gone from an offense that struggled to move the ball through the air. Mitch Leidner had 11 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing TDs. He's going to have to get the ball to Drew Wolitarsky and KJ Maye.


Defense: It will be tough to move the ball through the air against Minnesota with four seniors back there. There's a lot of talent on this side of the ball. Senior punter Peter Mortell flipped the field often for the Golden Gophers.


Schedule: TCU, Kent State and Ohio all come to Minneapolis while a road game exists at Colorado State. In both October and November, the squad starts out with two straight road games before moving to two straight home games.


Selection: There is some value with the under. It's a tough schedule that Minnesota has to navigate. They could lose the first two games and who knows if it spirals a bit after that.


Nebraska Cornhuskers

(Over 8 wins -150...Under 8 wins +110)


Record Last Year: 9-4, 5-3


Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)


Offense: There's a lot to like here as Tommy Armstrong Jr. continues to grow. The signal-caller had 28 touchdowns and gets WR Jordan Westerkamp back. The Huskers will have to find some help in the run game whether it's Terrell Newby or Imani Cross.


Defense: It's not quite the Blackshirts, but Nebraska's defense is getting better. Nate Gerry and Daniel Davie help out the secondary while Maliek Collins solidifies the front line.


Schedule: It's a home-friendly September with BYU, South Alabama and Southern Miss all coming to Lincoln, while there's a trip to Miami in the mix. Last year Nebraska beat the Canes 41-31 at home. The Cornhuskers alternate road and home games in conference.


Selection: No feel for this line. There's a lot of toss-up games for the Huskers. It also depends on Armstrong's continued development as a passer.


Northwestern Wildcats

(Over 6.5 wins +110...Under 6.5 wins -150)


Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5


Returning Starters: 15 (5 on offense, 10 on defense)


Offense: Justin Jackson is a nice place to start, as he finished the year with six 100-yard rushing performances. Christian Jones will be a welcome sight out wide to whomever is under center. Dan Vitale (40 rec. in 2014) is an underrated pass catcher filling the Wildcats' super back role.


Defense: Continuity is nice on this side of the ball. There's a solid mix of youth and seniors here so there should be some improvement from a group that gave up 25.2 points per game last year.


Schedule: Northwestern gets a big shot early with Stanford at home. The rest of the non-conference slate consists of home games against Eastern Illinois and Ball State while making a visit to Duke. Northwestern hosts Penn State in early November.


Selection: Six wins seems about right here. There's a big question at quarterback and that's going to be a problem for a team that struggled in close games.


Purdue Boilermakers

(Over 4 wins -145...Under 4 wins +105)


Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7


Returning Starters: 16 (9 on offense, 7 on defense)


Offense: Austin Appleby has to cut down the turnovers for this offense to work. He had 11 interceptions to just 10 touchdowns. The whole offensive line is back while Danny Anthrop and DeAngelo Yancey line up outside. Anthrop is coming off injury so who knows when he will be 100 percent.


Defense: The good news is that there's a lot returning, but the bad news is that this group was awful last year. This unit needs to find leaders, which shouldn't be too hard with so many juniors and seniors on the depth chart.


Schedule: A road matchup with Marshall starts things off before home tilts with Indiana State, Virginia Tech and Bowling Green. October could be rough with games against Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.


Selection: I like the over. The Boilermakers have a chance to improve on last year. If the defense figures things out, this team could approach six wins and be in the conversation for a bowl berth.


Wisconsin Badgers

(Over 10 wins +160...Under 10 wins -210)


Record Last Year: 11-3, 7-1


Returning Starters: 12 (5 on offense, 7 on defense)


Offense: Things will look different on this side of the ball without Melvin Gordon although the Badgers will be in good hands with Corey Clement and Taiwan Deal. Joel Stave is back under center and he needs to improve after completing just 53.4 percent of his passes.


Defense: Vince Biegel had 16.5 tackles for a loss last year to go with 7.5 sacks. He'll help again this year with the strength of the defense in the secondary. This should be a very solid defense.


Schedule: The season kicks off with another SEC opponent although this one is a bit tougher. The Badgers get Alabama in Arlington, Texas. After that it's Miami (Ohio), Troy and Hawaii. The first true road game isn't until Oct. 10 at Nebraska.


Selection: No feel for this one. It's a high number that you could make the case for in either direction. Once again, if you find that you like the over, then I endorse it at that price.


— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Examining the Over/Under 2015 Win Totals for the Big Ten's West Division
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/contenders-keep-heisman-trophy-pac-12

The Heisman Trophy came to Pac-12 Country in 2014, with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota holding off Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon to win the award.


Mariota may be gone, but the Pac-12 can keep the Heisman under its collective umbrella for the first time since 2004 and '05 — or, for the first time as actually recognized by the Heisman Trust since 1967 and '68.


Bovada released updated odds for the 2015 Heisman Tuesday, with Big 12 representative Trevone Boykin of TCU, the Big Ten’s Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller of Ohio State and SEC players Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) and Nick Chubb (Georgia) comprising the top five.


Of course, preseason odds matter little as the fall unfolds, and the Pac-12 has plenty of worthy contenders who could become the new favorite as the season progresses.


A quarterback has won the Heisman every year since 2010, and all but two seasons since 2000. It stands to reason, then, that the Pac-12’s foremost front-runner to keep the bronze statue out West plays behind center.


The campaign for USC quarterback Cody Kessler began in the 2014 season, when Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian touted Kessler’s lofty numbers following a decimation of rival Notre Dame.


“At some point, people are going to recognize him…These are ridiculous numbers he’s putting up right now,” Sarkisian said. Kessler finished the season with 39 touchdown passes to tie the USC record Matt Barkley set in 2011. He was intercepted just four times.


“This year was not easy for him,” Sarkisian added.


Indeed, Kessler had his struggles that kept him out of the Heisman conversation. Most notably, he threw just four touchdown passes and was intercepted three times against the best of the Pac-12 South.


But those bumps are what Kessler sees helping him in his pursuit of bigger things in 2015.


 “I’ve seen everything from good games, to average games, to bad games,” Kessler said. “And I think that’s really helped me prepare for the future.”


Playing quarterback certainly helps a Heisman candidacy, and especially playing quarterback at USC. The Trojans have produced two Heisman-winning quarterbacks since 2002, and USC quarterbacks were finalists for the award four times since 1988.


From the best positioned role to winning the Heisman to one of the worst, another Pac-12 candidate who gained national attention at season’s end last fall is Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright.


Wright swept the national defensive awards: Nagurski, Bednarik, Butkus. He also was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and finished ninth in the Heisman voting.


No defense-exclusive player has ever won the Heisman. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was close, finishing second to Johnny Manziel in 2012. South Carolina end Jadeveon Clowney had the buildup before the 2013 season, but failed to deliver.


Wright could well have hype approaching that which followed Clowney into the 2013 campaign. Should he live up to the billing, and Arizona again find itself in the hunt for the Pac-12 championship, Wright could be a history-maker.


He’s not the Pac-12’s sole defensive player with a shot at the Heisman, though. Michigan’s Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive Heisman winner, and that’s exactly who Sarkisian compared three-way threat Adoree’ Jackson to following December’s Holiday Bowl.


Jackson’s versatility made him equally effective as a returner and receiver as he is at cornerback, and the only question mark he presents USC coaches is just how to use him.


Oregon had to wait decades to win its first Heisman with a few near-misses along the way. Quarterback Joey Harrington was a finalist in 2001 but finished fourth in the voting. Running back LaMichael James came in third in 2010.


But now that Heisman No. 1 is finally in Eugene, the wait for No. 2 could be as short as 12 months.


Running back Royce Freeman was dynamite in his freshman campaign, complementing Mariota on the quarterback’s way to the Heisman with 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns on 252 carries.


Freeman is just one running back among the conference’s embarrassment of riches at the position. Fellow 2014 newcomer Nick Wilson has Heisman potential at Arizona, while new Arizona State feature back Demario Richard is a potential dark horse to watch.  


Last year’s leading Pac-12 rusher at 1,575 yards, UCLA junior Paul Perkins, is another name to follow in the impending Heisman race.


Perkins is a dual threat who has proven equally effective catching passes out of the backfield as he is taking handoffs.


Like Perkins, Utah’s Devontae Booker was not originally meant to be his team’s No. 1 back. But after breaking off some impressive carries early in the season, Booker took over and never looked back.


His 1,512 yards were second in the Pac-12, giving the Utes a pillar on which to lean while quarterbacks Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson dealt with injuries and inconsistencies.


Head coach Kyle Whittingham started beating the drum for Booker’s candidacy in the spring. Actually saying the H-word might be taboo for some; not Utah’s coach.  


“We expect him to have a big year. That’s something we’re counting on,” Whittingham said. “We think can have a better year than he had last year. He’s in the Heisman conversation if he does the things we hope he’s able to do.”


Ultimately, the success of the team plays a huge part in a player’s Heisman candidacy. As great as Mariota was throughout his Oregon career, it’s no coincidence his first invite to the Heisman ceremony came the same year the Ducks were national championship contenders.


Sarkisian said as much in his early campaigning for Kessler.


“That stuff [individual award recognition] comes with a team that performs consistently at a high level. And I know that’s what he wants,” he said. “But at some point, you can’t ignore [great individual play].”


— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Contenders to Keep the Heisman Trophy in the Pac-12
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/lsu-center-ethan-pocic-named-rimington-trophy-watch-list

The preseason Rimington Award watch list was released on Wednesday with the SEC placing eight players on the list of the top centers in college football. One of the eight is LSU junior offensive lineman Ethan Pocic.


Listing Pocic on the preseason Rimington Trophy watch list is more of a "just in case" type of recognition. Pocic, when playing center, is one of the bigger snappers in the nation listed at 6-foot-7, 301 pounds and certainly deserving of the potential honor.


Since coming on late during his true freshman season in 2013 when he played in six games while earning one start, he has been a mainstay on the Tigers’ offensive line. In 2014 he started and played in 12 of the Tigers’ 13 games, starting nine games at right guard and three at center. He finished the year third on the team with 72.5 pancake blocks.


After spring practice Pocic was moved from right guard to left guard and is penciled to start there when the 2015 season kicks off with freshman Will Clapp expected to earn the starting center spot with sophomore Andy Dodd backing him up.


The other SEC players named to the preseason Rimington Trophy Award watch list include:


Evan Boehm – senior – Missouri

Ryan Kelly – senior – Alabama

Alan Knott – sophomore – South Carolina

Mike Matthews – senior – Texas A&M

Spencer Pulley – senior – Vanderbilt

Mitch Smothers – senior – Arkansas

Jon Toth – junior – Kentucky


Of this group, Kelly is considered the leader and has a great chance of winning the Rimington Trophy.


In total 63 players were named to the Rimington Trophy preseason watch list. The honorees will be pared down over the course of the season with the finalists announced on Dec. 7.


— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

LSU Center Ethan Pocic Named to Rimington Trophy Watch List
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/nfc-north-rookies-watch-2015

With NFL training camps set to open up in a few weeks, it will be the first real taste of being a professional football player for all the rookies who heard their names called in the draft not too long ago. And in some cases, teams may be counting on some of their first-year players to contribute sooner rather than later.


Here is one key rookie for each of the four NFC North teams to keep an eye on during training camp.


Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears

The Bears didn’t disappoint the hometown crowd on the opening night of the draft this year when they selected West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White with the seventh overall pick. The Bears hope White can jump right into a starting role opposite Alshon Jeffery. Both White and Jeffery are listed as 6-foot-3 and around 215 pounds, which makes for nightmare matchups against opposing defensive backs. White could put up some huge numbers in a league where rookie wide receivers took over last season. The x-factor in this equation is how much does Jay Cutler look at White in the red zone given his more established chemistry with Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett, not to mention Matt Forté, whose 102 receptions last season were the most ever by a running back.


Related: Chicago Bears 2015 Team Preview and Prediction


Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions

The Lions ranked 28th in rushing last season, and Reggie Bush left via free agency to sign with San Francisco. Ameer Abdullah looks to continue the success he had with the Nebraska Cornhuskers and make a difference in Detroit. Abdullah will have to compete with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick for snaps. The bright side on being a running back with the Lions is that Matthew Stafford likes to throw the ball to them. Running backs were targeted on more than 28 percent of Detroit’s passing plays last season. If Abdullah can show he’s a reliable receiver out of the backfield, it will only help him carve out a role in this offense.


Related: Detroit Lions 2015 Team Preview and Prediction


Ty Montgomery, WR/KR, Green Bay Packers

When Packers general manager Ted Thompson takes a wide receiver in the early rounds of the draft, it’s best to pay a little attention to him. Ty Montgomery could come in and contribute from the first snap of the regular season. The Stanford product has an uphill climb to get snaps given the presence of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, but Montgomery could make his mark early on through special teams, especially as a kickoff returner. While at Stanford, Montgomery returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 27.4 yards per return over his four years.


Related: Green Bay Packers 2015 Team Preview and Prediction


Eric Kendricks, LB, Minnesota Vikings

The team from the land of 10,000 lakes looks to take the next step this upcoming season and challenge for a playoff spot in the NFC North. A big part of making this happen might be Eric Kendricks, Minnesota’s second-round pick from UCLA. Kendricks becomes the second linebacker drafted in two years by the Vikings, as they took fellow Bruin Anthony Barr in the first round last year. Kendricks got some first-team reps in OTAs and at minimum should get some early looks in the defense’s nickel packages. If Kendricks, who finished his UCLA career as the program’s all-time leading tackler, can adapt quickly to the pro game, then he and Barr could finally bring some much-needed stability to the Vikings’ linebacker corps.


Related: Minnesota Vikings 2015 Team Preview and Prediction


(Kevin White photo courtesy of, Eric Kendricks photo courtesy of


— Written by Josh Koop, who is apart of the Athlon Contributor Network and Director of New Media with the Bemidji Axemen of the Indoor Football League. You can follow Josh on Twitter at @Koopsnet.

NFC North Rookies to Watch in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-ten-stadiums-2015

Last summer, Athlon Sports asked 12 Big Ten experts Gerry DiNardo, Eddie George, Tom Dienhart, David Jones and more to rank their favorite stadiums in the Big Ten.


Based on general atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, surrounding campus and even scoreboards, here is how the voting shook out.


However, attendance is an increasing concern for all athletic directors and tweaks are made to college football stadiums every year. Using our expert rankings, here is a statistical breakdown and update of Big Ten stadiums and how they stack up against each other entering the 2015 season.


1. Ohio Stadium, Ohio State

There is little doubt that the Horseshoe is the Big Ten’s best place to watch a game. The Buckeyes led the nation at 106,296 fans per game in 2014 and finished second in the Big Ten at 101.3 percent capacity. This while being the third-largest building in the conference behind Michigan and Penn State. Urban Meyer is 21-1 in three years at home with that one loss coming to Virginia Tech last fall.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
1922104,944 (3rd)106,296 (1st)101.3% (2nd)

108,362 ('14)

2. Memorial Stadium, Nebraska

This venue has been sold out since 1962. Seriously, 1962! The amazing streak allowed Nebraska to lead the Big Ten in capacity at 104.9 percent full every game. The Big Red finished 10th in the nation in attendance last fall with the fourth-biggest venue in the conference.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192387,000 (4th)91,249 (10th)104.9% (1st)91,471 ('13)


3. Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin

With the fifth-biggest building in the Big Ten, Wisconsin finished 18th nationally in attendance. Virtually every seat was filled a year ago with the fourth-largest average capacity at 99.0 percent. Only Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State could claim a more packed house than UW. 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
191780,321 (5th)79,520 (18th)99.0% (4th)83,184 ('05)



4. Beaver Stadium, Penn State

Normally, 5,000 empty seats would be a big problem but not at Penn State. Despite those empty seats, Penn State still finished fifth in the nation in attendance at 101,623, which actually represented a five percent increase over 2013. So while the 95.4 percent average capacity (8th in the Big Ten) doesn't look great when comparing it to the rest of the conference, the numbers are trending in the right direction for one of the best buildings in the country.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
1960106,572 (2nd)101,623 (5th)95.4% (8th)110,753 ('02)


5. Michigan Stadium, Michigan

Much like Penn State, the Wolverines had 5,000 empty seats at every game but still managed to draw over 100,000 fans per home date. The Maize and Blue finished third in the nation in attendance at nearly 105,000 per game. However, with Jim Harbaugh now in town, expect the six percent attendance drop from 2013-14 to be totally reversed this fall. Season tickets and suite sales are soaring for the Big Blue right now.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
1927109,901 (1st)104,909 (3rd)95.5% (7th)115,109 ('13)


6. Kinnick Stadium, Iowa

How many stadiums seat more than 70,000 people and are just the seventh-biggest building in its own conference? But that is what Iowa is dealing with in the Big Ten. The 67,512 average attendance was 22nd in the nation and up one percent from 2013. Kirk Ferentz is 10-11 at home over the last three years and has lost at least three times in Kinnick in three straight seasons.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192970,585 (7th)67,512 (22nd)95.6% (6th)70,585


7. Spartans Stadium, Michigan State

Michigan State finished in the top 20 nationally in attendance and was third in the Big Ten at 99.6 percent capacity. The Spartans also saw a three percent growth in sales from 2013l. Mark Dantonio and company are 13-1 at home over the last two seasons.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192575,005 (6th)74,681 (20th)99.6% (3rd)80,401 ('90)


8. TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota

The newest building in the Big Ten also serves beer — making it a must-see stop. Until it expands, however, it will still be one of the smallest in the league (11th). Minnesota ranked 45th nationally in attendance last fall and ninth in the Big Ten in average capacity. Jerry Kill is starting to make it work for his team, however, going 11-3 at home over the last two seasons.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
200952,525 (11th)47,865 (45th)91.1% (9th)50,805



9. Memorial Stadium, Illinois

The Illini's home stadium keeps getting nicer but continues to shrink in size. At one time holding nearly 80,000 fans, Memorial Stadium averaged just 41,549 last fall (55th) and is now the eighth-biggest venue in the Big Ten. The five percent dip in attendance last season ranked Illinois ahead of only Purdue in terms of average capacity (68.5 percent). Tim Beckman is 10-13 at home in three years at Illinois (but did post his best season at 5-2 last year).

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192360,670 (8th)41,549 (55th)68.5% (13th)78,297 ('84)


10. Byrd Stadium, Maryland

Surprisingly, Maryland's Byrd Stadium is only bigger than Northwestern's Ryan Field when it comes to capacity in the Big Ten. However, the move to the Big Ten created a 14 percent jump in attendance from 2013, a number only bested by Texas A&M (21 percent) nationally. The Terps finished 48th in total attendance and renovations could be coming soon.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
195051,108 (13th)46,981 (48th)90.7% (10th)58,973 ('75)



11. Ryan Field, Northwestern

The smallest building in the Big Ten finished just 59th in the nation in attendance last fall. Unfortunately, the Wildcats also had one of the worst average capacities as well, filling up just 81.9 percent of their venue on average — better than only Purdue, Illinois and Indiana. Northwestern has won just two of its last 11 home games.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192647,130 (14th)38,613 (59th)81.9% (11th)55,752 ('62)


12. High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers

Rutgers finished 43rd nationally in attendance last fall with the third-smallest building in the Big Ten. However, it was second in the Big Ten with a nine percent jump in attendance and was fifth in the Big Ten at 96.5 percent capacity.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
199452,454 (12th)50,632 (43rd)96.5 (5th)53,737 ('09)



13. Memorial Stadium, Indiana

It's tough to draw fans to Indiana football games, plain and simple. That said, nearly 42,000 fans on average saw the Hoosiers play in person last season. That number only ranks 54th nationally but is only a few thousand behind major winners like TCU (44,719) and Baylor (46,710). Maybe there is hope as Kevin Wilson continues to improve this team.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196052,929 (10th)41,657 (54th)78.7% (12th)56,223 ('69)


14. Ross Ade Stadium, Purdue

There doesn't seem to be much hope at all in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers have the ninth-biggest stadium in the Big Ten but finished last in attendance and just 62nd nationally. Only Duke, Wake Forest, Washington State, Kansas, Vanderbilt and Boston College drew worse crowds last fall among Power 5 teams and the 61.6 percent average capacity was the lowest in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC combined.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192457,236 (9th)35,269 (62nd)61.6% (14th)71,629 ('80)


Ranking the Big Ten Stadiums for 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/accs-10-most-underrated-players-2015

Every college football team has players most would consider underrated. However, defining underrated players is no easy assignment, as that term varies in meaning between fans and experts.


Florida State hopes to win its fourth consecutive ACC title in 2015. However, the Seminoles are reloading – just like the rest of the conference. Clemson suffered heavy losses on defense, but the offense should be solid despite the departure of coordinator Chad Morris and the concerns up front. Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech are the frontrunners to win the ACC, but the personnel departures from each of those programs could open the door for a surprise team to emerge.


With the 2015 season approaching, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some players deserving of more preseason accolades or discussion. In an effort to get to 10 names, we tried to stick to players that had yet to earn all-conference honors in their career. However, a few exceptions were made.


ACC's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015


Sherman Alston, WR, Boston College

Alston quietly emerged as a promising all-purpose threat in 2014, and the New York native is only going to see his snap count increase in 2015. In 12 games, Alston rushed for 352 yards and two scores and caught 15 passes for 169 yards. Alston isn’t the biggest receiver (5-foot-6), but his speed and quickness will be an asset for taking handoffs in the spread or making plays in space as a receiver.


Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team


Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Burns is coming off his first full season as a starter for the Hurricanes and registered 40 tackles and six pass breakups. The Miami native was considered a four-star recruit coming out of Miami Northwestern and played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2013. Burns was a key cog in a secondary that limited ACC quarterbacks to just six touchdown passes in 2014. The junior is not only a breakout candidate, but he’s also one of the ACC’s underrated cover men.


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


David Dean, DT, Virginia

Run-stuffing defensive tackles are often overlooked because they won’t produce huge tackle or sack totals. Dean fits that mold, as the 295-pound senior recorded only 40 stops in 12 games last year. Eight of Dean’s tackles went for a loss, and he also recorded a forced fumble. The senior should be the anchor for Virginia’s front seven in 2015.


Related: College Football's 2015 All-Sophomore Team


DeVon Edwards, S, Duke

Duke’s secondary returns all five starters from a unit that held ACC opponents to 12 passing scores in 2014. Safety Jeremy Cash is the headliner for coach David Cutcliffe, but Edwards and cornerbacks Breon Borders and Bryon Fields are also under-the-radar performers. Edwards recorded 133 tackles (7.5 for a loss), 4.5 sacks and nine pass breakups last season. The junior is also a weapon for Duke on special teams, and his active all-around ability on defense is a huge asset.


Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson

Most of the offseason attention for Clemson’s offense has revolved around the health of quarterback Deshaun Watson and the new co-coordinator setup (Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott) to replace Chad Morris. While Watson and the Tigers’ receiving corps should have no trouble moving the ball in 2015, the rushing attack has been overlooked. Gallman finished 2014 with 769 yards and four touchdowns on 161 attempts, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also closed out the season playing at a high level, gashing South Carolina for 191 yards and Wake Forest for 106 yards.


Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


Keith Kelsey, LB, Louisville

The clear strength of Louisville’s defense will be its front seven in 2015. End Sheldon Rankins – a second-team All-ACC selection by Athlon Sports for 2015 – anchors the 3-4 line for coordinator Todd Grantham. And the Cardinals should have the best linebacker unit in the ACC this season, as Kelsey and James Burgess could both finish 2015 with first-team all-conference honors. Kelsey started all 13 games for the Cardinals last year and recorded with 87 tackles. 


Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State

Lawrence-Stample was also mentioned in this list of key ACC players returning from injury. The Florida native was expected to be a key cog on the interior of Florida State’s defense last season, but a pectoral injury in September sidelined him until the Rose Bowl. The four-star recruit recorded six starts and played in 13 games in 2013, finishing the year with 15 tackles (1.5 for a loss). The Seminoles will miss Eddie Goldman’s presence on the interior, but Lawrence-Stample’s return should be a boost for coordinator Charles Kelly.


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest

Either Lee or fellow linebacker Brandon Chubb deserves a mention in this space. The Demon Deacons quietly have one of the ACC’s top linebacker groups, as Lee, Chubb and Hunter Williams are in the mix for all-conference honors in 2015. In 12 games last season, Lee recorded 101 stops (12 for a loss), four sacks and one forced fumble. The Maryland native was a third-team All-ACC selection for 2015 by Athlon Sports.


Jack Tocho, CB, NC State

Tocho has been a key defender in coach Dave Doeren’s rebuilding effort in Raleigh. The North Carolina native played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2013 and recorded 25 tackles and two interceptions. Tocho played even better as a sophomore, starting all 13 games for the Wolfpack and recording with 41 tackles and 11 pass breakups. The ACC has three potential All-Americans returning at cornerback with Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander, Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller. However, Tocho should not be overlooked when filling out preseason all-conference ballots.


Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


Chad Voytik, QB, Pittsburgh

The ACC has a solid group of quarterbacks returning, headlined by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Florida State’s Everett Golson, Miami’s Brad Kaaya and two passers from the state of North Carolina in Marquise Williams (UNC) and Jacoby Brissett (NC State). Could Voytik join that tier as one of the top quarterbacks in 2015? In 13 games last year, Voytik threw for 2,233 yards and 16 scores and added 466 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Tennessee native closed 2014 by playing his best ball of the season, throwing only one interception over the last six games. New coordinator Jim Chaney is tasked with elevating Voytik’s performance, and the veteran play-caller should make a difference for Pittsburgh’s offense in 2015.

The ACC's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/reviewing-most-important-college-football-news-summer-2015

The long offseason days are finally starting to get shorter. Conference media days start Monday, meaning preseason practice is not far behind.


The summer has been, thankfully, slower than most in recent years. Conference realignment or rumors thereof were minimal. No head coaches abruptly left their posts.


As with any summer, there was the usual allotment of injuries, suspensions and the like. If you’ve tuned out since spring practice or just wondered if you’ve missed anything major, this is Athlon’s service to you.


Here’s what you may have missed.


The Summer of Harbaugh


Jim Harbaugh’s first offseason as the head coach of Michigan has been eventful enough that he gets his own page in the summer news roundup. From needling the SEC to awkward interviews, Harbaugh was arguably the sport’s biggest figure during the offseason.


Greg Sankey becomes SEC head man


Ever since SEC commissioner Mike Slive announced his retirement in October, right hand man Greg Sankey has been the assumed successor. The move was made official on June 1. He’s already presided over an national championships in softball (Florida) and men’s golf (LSU) and a College World Series championship series appearance (Vanderbilt). He’s floated the idea of college football players being able to enter the draft and return to school, provided they don’t hire an agent, similar to college basketball. He supported the removal of the Confederate battle flag from athletic arenas.


Sankey is new in his role, but as the commissioner of the SEC, he’s already one of the most important figures in college athletics. His first address and meetings with the media at SEC Media Days on Monday will be worth monitoring as the new commish sets his agenda.


North Carolina receives notice of allegations


The academic fraud scandal at North Carolina seems to thought of as a basketball issue. That’s only natural given the stature of the Heels’ basketball program, but don’t forget that the paper classes were widespread among many athletes, football included. The NCAA enforcement staff charged UNC with five severe violations, including lack of institutional control. The cloud of uncertainty will hang over football — at least until Midnight Madness in October.


Everett Golson to Florida State


If Everett Golson’s move from Notre Dame to Florida State isn’t the most important transfer of the season, it’s certainly the most high profile. His departure all but ensures Malik Zaire will start for the Irish and makes Golson the probable starter at FSU, replacing a Heisman winner who lost one game as a starter. There’s still a major question if Golson, 17-5 as a starter with the Irish, can pick up Jimbo Fisher’s complex offense in less than one offseason. If not, Sean Maguire might be the starter on Sept. 5.


De’Andre Johnson dismissed from FSU


De’Andre Johnson likely wouldn’t have figured into Florida State’s quarterback plans this season, but his dismissal from the Seminoles is notable merely for the optics — another FSU quarterback involved in legal issues involving a woman. Johnson, a three-star recruit in the 2015 class, was charged with misdemeanor battery and was swiftly dismissed when the state attorney’s office released video of the incident.


OT Isaiah Battle leaves Clemson


In an offseason with its share of questions for Clemson, the Tigers added another one to the list. Already replacing offensive coordinator Chad Morris and rebuilding an elite defense from 2014, Clemson has renewed question marks on the offensive line after losing projected starting tackle Isaiah Battle. Selected in the first round of the NFL Supplemental Draft, Battle leaves Clemson with just one returning starter on the offensive line.


Ole Miss looks into Laremy Tunsil incident


It’s bad enough when a star left tackle is arrested after an altercation with his stepfather — an altercation in which Tunsil may have acted in defense of his mother. It’s worse when NCAA issues arise as a result. Tunsil’s stepfather, Lindsey Miller, told police that he warned Tunsil about contact with agents at the time of the incident. Miller later told NCAA enforcement that agents helped Tunsil with cash, clothes and help with car insurance, according to the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. Ole Miss confirmed it is looking into the allegations surrounding its potential All-American tackle.


David Boren ignites realignment talk


Only five years ago, the Big 12 seemed to be the brink of destruction in conference realignment. Since then, the landscape has settled, including the Big 12’s 10-team membership. Things can’t stay quiet for too long in college football, and Oklahoma president David Boren made sure of it this offseason when he said the Big 12 should try to return to a 12-team lineup. Is the sport back to the moment of uncertainty it was in 2010? Not quite, but it’s at least a sign that not everyone is fully satisfied with the current alignments.


Steve Patterson making friends at Texas


There had been smoke that the hire of Steve Patterson as Texas AD might end up a controversial move, especially on the heels of long-timer DeLoss Dodds. By June we learned the full extent of Patterson’s methods, including raising ticket prices, setting up “Loyalty Points” for donors and nickel and diming expenses and budgets for individual sports.


Diddy v. UCLA strength coach


The most bizarre news item of the summer involved P. Diddy, a UCLA strength coach and a kettlebell. Assault charges were not filed against Sean “P. Diddy” Combs stemming from an incident in which the rap mogul was alleged to threaten UCLA strength coach Justin Combs with a kettlebell.


Tennessee and Michigan get swooshes


This summer was slow enough where Tennessee unveiling a new apparel contract with Nike for 2015 seemed to fill the news day. The Volunteers teased it for weeks leading up to the announcement and it ended up being … really nice uniforms. Michigan didn’t unveil uniforms — the Wolverines are still in adidas threads for 2015 — but UM did brag that its 10-year deal with Nike would be the largest contract in the nation.


Harold Brantley’s football future in doubt


Defensive tackle Harold Brantley, a starter on Missouri’s standout line, could see his season in jeopardy after a single-car accident in late June. Brantley, who was listed in serious condition, suffered ligament damage in his knee and a broken leg and ribs.


Georgia’s QB revolving door


Georgia made a bid to land Everett Golson before the Notre Dame QB landed at Florida State. Instead, the Bulldogs added Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert to the mix. Lambert, who lost the quarterback competition to Matt Johns, will compete for a starting spot at Georgia among Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta. Just as Lambert landed at Georgia, redshirt freshman Jacob Park elected to transfer from Athens.


Connor Brewer transfers to Virginia


Quarterbacks transfer all the time, but few have changed zip codes quite like Connor Brewer. The former four-star recruit signed with Texas out of high school, transferred to Arizona and transferred again to Northern Arizona. He still hasn’t won a college starting job. Maybe No. 4 will be the charm.


Knee troubles end Kelby Brown’s career


Duke won’t get its best defensive player back in the lineup. Linebacker Kelby Brown, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, retired from football after re-tearing  ligaments in his left knee. The latest knee injury was his fourth torn ACL — twice in each knee — in his career.


Nebraska’s linebacker corps loses another


Nebraska’s linebacker position continued to lose numbers as David Santos, the most experienced returner, left the team under unknown circumstances on June 11. Santos had started 19 games in three seasons.


Washington QB Cyler Miles retires


Washington’s returning starting quarterback was going to have trouble hanging onto his job anyway this season, but Miles’ status was made official when he retired from football due to a chronic hip injury. Jeff Lindquist, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning will compete for the job in fall.


Utah starting cornerback arrested brandishing a knife


Utah starting cornerback Dominique Hatfield may see his season in jeopardy after he was arrested July 1 on charges of aggravated robbery. Hatfield used an online ad for an Xbox to lure a man to a car wash when Hatfield threated him with a knife demanding money, according to police.


Miami thins an already-thin offensive line


Offensive line was already going to be Miami’s biggest trouble spot. Even so, the Hurricanes cut down the group by one by abruptly dismissing projected right tackle Taylor Gadbois from the team. Gadbois told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post he was told he wasn’t “positive enough.”


Another ACC team, another offensive tackle to miss the season


If this is starting to sound familiar, it’s because Pittsburgh is the third ACC team to lose a potential starting offensive tackle this offseason. Projected starter Jaryd Jones-Smith will miss the season with a knee injury. And like Clemson and Miami, Pittsburgh is facing a season with a thin O-line now made thinner.


Navy joins the the American


The final major college football conference realignment move on the books became official when Navy joined the American Athletic Conference on June 1. The longtime independent will be the AAC’s 12th member, allowing the league to host a championship game in 2015.


UAB football is back


The demise of UAB football lasted all of six months. UAB announced on June 1 the football program would, indeed, return after the school found $17.2 million to resuscitate the program as early as 2016. The reasons why the program was shuttered in the first place remains dubious, and now UAB has even more barriers to fielding a competitive team. Transfers from the Blazers now litter the college football landscape, leaving UAB coach Bill Clark to essentially start from scratch after sitting out for 2015.


UCF names George O’Leary interim AD


There once was a time when veteran football coaches would spend the twilight years of their careers as an athletic director. That time still exists at UCF, which named football coach George O’Leary its interim AD. The move is curious for a number of reasons — one, he’s still the football coach, and, two, O’Leary testified as part of a wrongful death suit of a player in 2011.

Reviewing the Most Important College Football News of Summer 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/james-franklin-setting-foundation-future-success-penn-state

James Franklin took over a Penn State football program in the midst of difficult times. His predecessor, Bill O’Brien, managed to keep the ship floating in spite of massive scholarship reductions and a four-year postseason ban for the program with a bitter taste attached to it in the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked State College and the nation in the fall of 2011.


It has been decades since Penn State last played a factor in the national championship hunt, but the seeds of a potential College Football Playoff contender in Happy Valley have been planted and are now ready to start blossoming under Franklin’s leadership.


Penn State will not be a Playoff contender in 2015, or possibly even in ‘16, but the Nittany Lions will be a tough hurdle for potential Playoff hopefuls Ohio State and Michigan State in Big Ten East division play. From that, the measuring sticks will be used to show just how far Penn State has to go.


Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions


In the meantime, Franklin and his staff continue to grind on the recruiting trial in hopes of establishing depth across the roster as the program still crawls out from the sanction phase of the last few years. Not every position can be addressed in the blink of an eye, so multiple recruiting classes will be put together with the intent of getting Penn State up to speed with being a Big Ten championship program once again. Given how well the program has recruited since Franklin made it a mission to “dominate the state,” it looks as though there is a bright future ahead for a program that could very well be a sleeping giant ready to be awakened.


The upcoming 2015 season will be crucial for the development of those championship aspirations in Happy Valley, and protecting quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be essential. This was an area Penn State did not thrive in last year, but one that should see some noticeable improvement in the fall.


The additions of Stanford offensive lineman Kevin Reihner and junior college transfer offensive lineman Paris Palmer will, if nothing else, add some depth in the trenches. They join a group of linemen that are able to flex at multiple positions on the line, something that has been a necessity at times given the shallowness of the depth chart in recent years.


Related: Penn State Needs Rebound Season from QB Christian Hackenberg


A reduction in scholarships meant fewer scholarships to hand out to top linemen in order to bring in players at skill positions like Hackenberg, running back Akeel Lynch, tight end Adam Breneman, and receivers like DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall. All could play key roles in the offense this season, if Herb Hand can coach up the offensive line to take some steps forward. Given Hand’s track record, that seems likely to happen.


Last season saw Penn State give eventual national champion Ohio State all it could handle in a primetime game in Beaver Stadium. If not for a couple of officiating errors, who knows how the result may have been different form the overtime loss at the hands of the Buckeyes.


This season Penn State travels to Ohio Stadium in Columbus, a venue that has traditionally been unkind to the Nittany Lions since joining the Big Ten except for a few occasions. Penn State could also very well make its arrival in Columbus without a defeat if things go well early on. So could Ohio State, which will provide Penn State another opportunity to see just how close they are to being able to make a push for the College Football Playoff.


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/how-jim-harbaugh-won-summer-2015

When Stanford hired Jim Harbaugh for the 2007 season, the move was hardly considered a stroke of genius. It was hardly even the biggest coaching move of the year.


That year, Nick Saban was hired at Alabama, Butch Davis returned to the college game at North Carolina, Dennis Erickson returned to a big-time program at Arizona State.


Move forward eight seasons, and hardly a day seems to go by when now-Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t in the news for one reason or another. He hasn’t coached a game at his alma mater, but he’s already shaken up the Big Ten and national scene.


Will a championship follow? Perhaps. Harbaugh has already won the title for Summer 2015. Here’s how:


April 24: Harbaugh vs. the SEC



In the absence of (actual) conference realignment drama or a controversial Heisman-winning quarterback, the biggest ongoing news story of the summer months surrounded satellite camps.


Big Ten coaches, starting with Penn State’s James Franklin, had poked this bear before, conducting camps for high school athletes in SEC territory. Harbaugh, though, became the focal point this summer, inviting two coaches from “every football playing college in AMERICA” to Exposure U in Ann Arbor.


Harbaugh invited coaches restricted from working a camp outside of a 50-mile radius — i.e. SEC and ACC coaches — to serve as a keynote speaker.


May 15: Harbaugh demonstrates proper inflation




We’re sure this is all in good fun and not a shot at a fellow Michigan quarterback who happens to be a four-time Super Bowl champ and the center of Deflategate.


Either way, Harbaugh tweaked the Patriots and Tom Brady with this tweet from his annual mission trip to Peru.


June 5: Harbaugh goes shirtless





Once Harbaugh actually got around to hosting his satellite camp in the backyard of Alabama and Auburn at Prattville High outside of Montgomery, he ensured the moment went viral.


On the hot June afternoon, Harbaugh ditched his long sleeve Michigan T-shirt and joined the high schoolers in a made-up game of Peru Ball.


June 8: Paul Finebaum? Never Heard of Him




There’s not a ton of reason for the Michigan coach and ex-Wolverines QB who spent his entire head coaching career in the state of California should know much of anything about Paul Finebaum.


Nonetheless, the exchange between an Alabama high school coach and a perplexed Harbaugh regarding the nationally syndicated voice of Southern sports is another reminder Harbaugh lives in a different world than the rest of us.


June 17: Jim Harbaugh’s America



Not surprisingly, no SEC coaches took up Harbaugh’s offer to serve as keynote speaker at Exposure U. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, though, did.

At the event, USA Today’s George Schroeder got this gem of a quote:


“In my America, you’re allowed to cross state borders. That’s the America I know.”


June 20: Lil Wayne is a fan




Michigan managed to get a signed jersey in the hands of Lil Wayne, which can never be a bad thing in recruiting.


July 1: An interview gone wrong






Anyone who has ever interview Jim Harbaugh knows the process can be a mixed bag. He can be golden — see the “in my America” quote — or he can be completely disinterested, as he was on national radio with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd.

How Jim Harbaugh Won the Summer of 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/joe-theismann-compares-redskins-name-change-caitlyn-jenner-bruce-washington

Recently a federal judge ruled against the Redskins in the case of the team's name. The judge went on to say it was "disparaging" Native Americans and even quoted Allen Iverson.


During a segment on Fox News, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann disagreed with the decision, and also brought up Caitlyn Jenner. In regards to a name and who or what it represents, Theismann went on to say it's important to recognize the Redskins name and its history.


Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 21:27
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-qb-braxton-miller-ends-rumors-and-speculation-plans-competing-qb-job

The rumors and speculation about Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller’s future are officially over. Somewhat.


On Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch released an interview with the senior quarterback, and Miller states his intention is to return to Columbus in 2015 and not transfer to another school.


“I’m from Ohio, this is my home state,” Miller told the newspaper. “This is where I started and this is where I’m going to finish it.”


While Miller has officially declared he will be back at Ohio State, there’s still the other question to settle. Who will start for the Buckeyes in 2015 at quarterback?


Here’s Miller’s take from the article:


“As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football. If any competition wants to come my way, I’ve just got to be smart about things and just stay looking forward.”


Although Miller plans on competing at quarterback, his future in the NFL is likely as a receiver or running back. Considering his recent shoulder surgeries, a move to running back or receiver could accelerate his learning curve and allow J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones the opportunity to start a full season of snaps.


Regardless of which quarterback starts for Ohio State, all three are expected to be key cogs in the offense for coach Urban Meyer.


With Miller officially announcing his intention to remain in Columbus, the focus can shift to the three quarterbacks and the upcoming battle for the starting job in fall practice.

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller Ends Rumors and Speculation, Plans on Competing for QB Job
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 15:51
Path: /college-football/sec-announces-players-attend-2015-football-media-days

The 2015 SEC Football Media Days will be held July 13-16 in Hoover, Ala. The always anticipated event kicks off on Monday with Auburn, Florida, and Vanderbilt taking center stage. On Tuesday, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Tennessee will answer questions about the upcoming season followed by Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas on Wednesday. LSU, Georgia, and Ole Miss close out the event on Thursday.


This year's SEC Football Media Days will be held at the Hyatt Regency/Wynfrey Hotel. On Monday new SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey will open his first SEC Media Days having replaced Michael Slive as announced in March. Sankey was promoted up through the ranks after overseeing daily SEC operations in 2012. The SEC also has announced which players will be in attendance at Media Days alongside their respective head coach.


Related: SEC Football 2015 Predictions


2015 SEC Football Media Days Attendees



Head Coach Nick Saban

Reggie Ragland, Sr., LB

Kenyan Drake, Sr., RB

Ryan Kelly, Sr., OL



Head Coach Bret Bielema

Jonathan Williams, Sr., RB

Brandon Allen, Sr., QB

Keon Hatcher, Sr., WR



Head Coach Gus Malzahn

Jeremy Johnson, Jr., QB

Jonathan Jones, Sr., DB

Kris Frost, Sr., LB



Head Coach Jim McElwain

Jonathan Bullard, Sr., DE

Brandon Powell, So., WR

Vernon Hargreaves III, Jr., DB



Head Coach Mark Richt

Malcolm Mitchell, Sr., WR

John Theus, Sr., OT

Jordan Jenkins, Sr., OLB



Head Coach Mark Stoops

Melvin Lewis, Sr., NG

Jordan Swindle, Sr., OT

A.J. Stamps, Sr., S



Head Coach Les Miles

Leonard Fournette, So., RB

Vadal Alexander, Sr., OT

Kendell Beckwith, Jr., LB


Mississippi State

Head Coach Dan Mullen

Dak Prescott, Sr., QB

Taveze Calhoun, Sr., DB

Ryan Brown, Sr., DE



Head Coach Gary Pinkel

Kenya Dennis, Sr., DB

Maty Mauk, Jr., QB

Evan Boehm, Sr., C


Ole Miss

Head Coach Hugh Freeze

Evan Engram, Jr., TE

Mike Hilton, Sr., DB

C.J. Johnson, Sr., LB


South Carolina

Head Coach Steve Spurrier

Elliott Fry, Jr., PK

Pharoh Cooper, Jr., WR

Skai Moore, Jr., LB



Head Coach Butch Jones

Joshua Dobbs, Jr., QB

Curt Maggitt, Sr., LB/DL

Cameron Sutton, Jr., DB


Texas A&M

Head Coach Kevin Sumlin

Mike Matthews, Sr., C

Germain Ifedi, Jr., OT

Julien Obioha, Sr., DL



Head Coach Derek Mason

Ralph Webb, So., RB

Nigel Bowden, So., LB

Spencer Pulley, Sr., C


— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

SEC Announces Players Who Will Attend 2015 Football Media Days
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/throwback-thursday-rare-footage-michael-jordan-dunking-high-school-chicago-bulls

Michael Jordan has been taking flight since high school.


In honor of Throwback Thursday, we get a peek at rare footage of His Airness soaring for a dunk during his Laney High School days. It wouldn't be long after when we would see him soar in that same manner wearing Tar Heel blue and eventually Chicago Bulls red.

Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 13:07
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/serena-williams-rolls-through-maria-sharapova-again

After defeating her sister just a few days ago, Serena Williams took to the court and dominated her “rival” Maria Sharapova. In the Wimbledon semifinals, Serena cruised to a 6-2, 6-4 victory with a chance for a sixth Wimbledon title. Williams, the No. 1 ranked tennis player, increased her record against No. 4 Sharapova to 18-2 all time.


The last time Sharapova defeated Williams was in 2004, and since then, Serena has won 17 straight head-to-head matches. While the record may show to be so one-sided, the rivalry exists because of the intensity of their competition and how high the stakes usually are. On Saturday, Williams will take on Gabrine Muguruza in an attempt to collect her 20th singles Grand Slam title.

Watch below as Williams wins the match:

Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 12:53
Path: /college-football/breaking-down-lsu-defensive-front-2015-season

To 3-4 or 4-3, that is the question new LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is asking himself going into the 2015 season.


The continued exodus of talent leaving Baton Rouge to the NFL started to take a toll in 2014, as a four-year streak of double-digit wins came to an end following an 8-5 showing. One of the many problems for Les Miles' team was inexperience up front on defense. That inexperience showed in both stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, especially in SEC play.


The bad news is stud linebacker Kwon Alexander and his team-leading 90 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks are gone. The other bad news is defensive end Danielle Hunter (73 tackles, 13.0 TFL and 1.5 sacks) also has departed as has safety Ronald Martin (73 tackles, 2 interceptions, 11 pass deflections).


The good news is both starting defensive tackles are returning. Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux were solid in the trenches as first-year starters. Godchaux had 42 tackles, 1.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks. LaCouture had 40 tackles, 4.0 TFL and 2.5 sacks.


If tackle Travonte Valentine can stay out of Steele and head coach Les Miles' doghouse he is a difference-maker. At 6-foot-3, 325 pounds he is a force in the middle. Academic issues may keep him from playing time in 2015.


Another loss on defense is Trey Lealaimatafao. Lealaimatafao is off the team after being arrested for robbing an unconscious man and hitting a woman outside a bar in Tigerland in June. The redshirt freshman was a big 4-star recruit expected to fill in the two-deep this year. That leaves Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron and Quentin Thomas to fill in the spots.


The big question for LSU, will the Tigers get pressure off the ends in 2015?


Juniors Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal are penciled in as the starters. Both played in 13 games last season, but of the two Bower was the only one getting real playing time. Bower had 16 tackles with 2.5 sacks. Neal had three tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.


The status of Maquedius Bain is also in doubt. Bain was one of the guys arrested when starting quarterback Anthony Jennings went looking for his stolen property in someone else’s home. The indefinite suspension could linger until the legal matter is fully processed.


LSU only signed two defensive linemen in the 2015 recruiting class, Arden Key and Isaiah Washington. Key is already expected to contribute as a true freshman but has a lot of work to do over the summer to prepare. At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he's a good-sized human being compared to us regular Joes but slight for a SEC end. Washington has some time to spend in the dining hall and weight room as well. He comes to Baton Rouge around the 6-4, 225-pound range.


Cause for Concern in Baton Rouge

In 2014 the youth movement slowed down the front seven in Baton Rouge. The defense picked up 19 total sacks but even that number is skewed. Of the 19, seven came against Sam Houston State in a 56-0 romp.


Longtime defensive coordinator John Chavis is gone to Texas A&M and former Alabama linebackers coach Steele is the new guy in town. Chavis typically had so much talent up front and in the secondary he could run a base 4-3 shutting down anyone and everyone’s rushing or passing attack but a trend in the wrong direction developed between the 2013 and '14 squads.


LSU has long been known for its play on defense but the team was no longer fearsome in 2014. The 2013 squad was respectable, allowing 143.2 rushing yards per game, ranking No. 35 nationally and No. 3 in the SEC. In 2014 those numbers finished at 152.7 yards allowed per game , putting the Tigers No. 46 nationally and No. 7 in the SEC.


Steele may be deeper at linebacker, opting to run a 3-4 instead of a 4-3 defense to get production on the outside. A change in scheme could slow the reaction time of the players, forcing them to think instead of going full speed. Time will tell which direction proves more fruitful for the Tigers.


One positive up front is new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron has a reputation for being a great defensive coach despite his failures at Ole Miss. He turned around the fortunes at USC as the interim coach after Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the 2013 season. Can he do the same for LSU in 2015?


— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Breaking Down LSU’s Defensive Front for the 2015 Season
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 12:30