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Path: /college-football/wisconsin-lsu-finalize-two-game-series

College football’s playoff has forced most BCS programs to upgrade their non-conference schedule. Good news isn’t it?

LSU and Wisconsin have agreed on a two-game series for 2014 and 2016. The Tigers and Badgers will meet in Houston in 2014. But the best part? Both teams are scheduled to play in Lambeau Field in 2016.

It would be great to see this matchup happen in the home stadiums for both teams. However, credit to both programs for scheduling this series, as it should feature matchups between top-25 teams.


Wisconsin-LSU Finalize Two-Game Series
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 13:18
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-where-should-you-draft-montee-ball

In a perfect world, the Broncos would name Montee Ball their starting RB tomorrow, give him all the starter’s reps in training camp and preseason and then feed him 300+ touches this year.

But that’s not how it works in the NFL. Ball is an unproven rookie. The coaching staff is going to make him earn his role. He ran behind Ronnie Hillman all spring and has stayed there through the first week of training camp.

Still, Ball remains the best bet to lead this Broncos backfield in carries this season. He’s a well-built 5-10, 217-pounder. Ball proved capable of a workhorse role at Wisconsin, carrying 307 and 356 times, respectively, in his final 2 seasons. He led the nation with 1,923 rushing yards in 2011 and went for 1,830 this past year. Ball set NCAA records with 77 career rushing TDs and 83 total TDs. He also totaled 59 catches across four seasons.

This is a well-rounded player with all the makings of an NFL feature back. Hillman, meanwhile, looks more like a change of pace. He’s packed on 15 pounds this offseason but still goes just 5-10 and 195 — 22 pounds lighter than Ball. He mustered just 3.9 yards per carry in his 2012 rookie campaign, struggling to run between the tackles.

We can’t completely count Hillman out in the race for Denver’s starting RB job. He’s obviously doing something right to have hung on to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart all offseason. He’s reportedly improved in pass protection, his biggest shortcoming last year.

Fantasy football is a forward-thinking, projection-based business, though. Just because Hillman is running with the 1s doesn’t mean he’ll stay there all season. And it certainly doesn’t mean he should be the first Broncos RB drafted.

Ball will “eventually” be the Broncos lead back, says the Denver Post. Fantasy owners should be — and are — drafting that way.

Of course, the question is how soon Ball takes over as the feature runner. If it happens by Week 1, the rookie will boast top-15 fantasy upside. Peyton Manning-led offenses have regularly produced fantasy stars at RB. In Manning’s 12 seasons in Indy, the Colts had 9 top-11 RBs. Willis McGahee was sitting 14th in fantasy points through 10 weeks last year before a leg injury ended his season.

But what if Ball opens the season in a timeshare? Maybe he splits early-down work with Hillman, with Knowshon Moreno also seeing action in passing situations. That’d leave Ball as just a RB3 or flex option. If he’s unable to capture a feature role all year, he’d have trouble cracking the top 30 among RBs. And he could finish anywhere between RB30 and RB10 if he takes over lead duties at some point during the season.

At this point, Ball’s potential 2013 fantasy output spans a wide range. That makes him a risk/reward pick in drafts, especially early-August drafts.

Ball’s current 12-team ADP of 4.05 seems fair. He’s the 24th RB off the board in average drafts. If he wins the Week 1 starting job, he’ll prove a bargain at that price. If he’s stuck in a timeshare all year, Ball will end up overvalued. Whether you roll the dice on him in the 4th round should depend on the makeup of your roster. If you’ve already locked up a couple of reliable RBs, you can afford to gamble on Ball. If you’re still looking for your first RB in the 4th, it makes more sense to target a safer option.

This article was written by Jared Smola and provided to Athlon Sports courtesy of Online since 1999, Draft Sharks won the 2010 and 2012 FSTA awards for the most accurate fantasy football projections in the industry.

Fantasy Football 2013: Where Should You Draft Monte Ball?
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-8-2013

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


Kaley Cuoco is dating some tennis player we've never heard of. That news is nothing more than an excuse to run a photo of the lovely Ms. Cuoco, who was an accomplished junior tennis player herself.


Fox gets the U.S. Open starting in 2015, meaning no more Chris Berman. Of course, Fox will probably replace him with a giant talking robot or something.


There was some classic garbage-time baseball last night courtesy of a catcher pitching and a pitcher hitting.


Gary Patterson sees a missed opportunity for Les Miles in the Jeremy Hill situation.


A nice refresher going into the final season of Breaking Bad. Spoiler alert, of course.


• Meanwhile, in the make-believe world of highly paid actors, Bruce Willis said no to "Expendables 3" because they wouldn't pay him $4 million for four days of work. So they turned to Harrison Ford, who's doing it for just under $1 million a day.


• Three weeks from tonight, college football will be played. Here's a poem to help you through the home stretch.


• This is something I've never seen: An angry minor league manager emptied his dip on home plate.


Kobe brought a grown man to tears. So he doesn't just make women cry.


Mike Trout homered on his birthday for the second straight year. Kid's got potential.


Andrew McCutchen's mom sang the national anthem. Inspired, McCutchen homered.


• With the PGA teeing off today, enjoy this video of colorful golfer Rickie Fowler taking on the psychedelic golf challenge.




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

Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 10:38
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, NFC North, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-game-game-predictions-2013

The Green Bay Packers have posted 10 or more wins in the regular season four straight years and have won the NFC North the past two. Unfortunately for Packer fans, they also have watched their team exit in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs in each of the past two postseasons.

Last season Aaron Rodgers and company ran into the buzz saw that was San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who torched the Packers defense with both his arms and legs (NFL-record 181 yards rushing) as the 49ers rolled up 579 yards of offense in the 45-31 victory.

The offseason saw the departure of both wide receiver Greg Jennings and defensive back Charles Woodson via free agency, while the draft brought in much-needed reinforcements for the running game and defense. As long as Rodgers is in there, the Packers should be a contender in the NFC North. He can't be expected to carry this team alone, however, as the offensive line needs to do a better job protecting him (sacked an NFL-high 51 times in 2012) and the running game needs to provide more support.

The defense also needs to do its part, especially along the line, if this Packers team wants to do more than just win a third straight NFC North title only to make yet another early postseason exit.

What will the Packers' record be at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:

Green Bay Packers' 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

Evan "Tex"
1at San Francisco
6at Baltimore
8at Minnesota
9Chicago (Mon.)
11at New York Giants
13at Detroit (Thurs.)
15at Dallas
17at Chicago
 Final Projection10-611-511-511-511-511-5
 NFC North5-15-14-25-14-24-2

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
As long as No. 12 is under center, this team will likely be the frontrunner to win the NFC North. However, this team isn't nearly as talented or healthy as the 15-1 team from two years ago. The schedule is nasty with huge NFC tests with almost every other playoff contender as well as the toughest division from the AFC (North). The running game should be better and the front seven should be deeper but with injuries piling up already in the preseason, in particular along the offensive line, this team looks more like a three- or four-seed rather than a first-round bye.

Bill Huber (@PackerReport),
This is a challenging schedule but the Packers should be a better all-around team than they were in 2012, when they finished 11-5. In their first five games, the Packers face four playoff teams — including both Super Bowl participants. In fact, there really isn't a soft spot on the schedule. Of the 16 games, only Cleveland failed to post at least a .500 record in either 2011 or '12, and 11 of the 16 games will be against teams that reached the playoffs in one of those two seasons — a list that doesn’t include two matchups against Chicago, which won 10 games last year. An improved running game should lend to a better passing game, as well, thanks to better protection and the return of play action. A defense that finished fourth in sacks last season used a first-round pick on Datone Jones and will benefit from the return of last year’s first-round pick, Nick Perry, who missed the final 10 games. Over the last four seasons, the Packers have 17 more interceptions than any team in the league, so an improved pass rush should only accentuate that strength.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s been a relatively quiet offseason in Green Bay. The Packers weren’t active in free agency and continue to build through the draft, while keeping their core Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews in Lambeau for the long haul. However, tackle Bryan Bulaga’s knee injury in training camp was a significant setback for a team hoping to improve its offensive line. Only one of Green Bay’s regular-season losses was by more than eight points, so with most of its core returning, Mike McCarthy’s team will be in the driver’s seat for the NFC North title. Road trips to San Francisco, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Dallas will be tough, but the Packers should emerge with another 10- or 11-win season. As long as Green Bay’s offensive line keeps Rodgers upright, the Packers will be a threat to win the Super Bowl.

John Rehor (@jrehor),
The Packers offense expects to be explosive again in 2013. QB Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best player in the league, leads a high-powered passing attack with WRs Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and TE Jermichael Finley all capable of producing at a high level. The much maligned running game should also receive a boost with the additions two RBs added in April’s draft bruising Eddie Lacy, and shifty Johnathan Franklin to go along with incumbents DuJuan Harris, James Starks, and Alex Green. The Packers offense should be even better in 2013 than it has been in the past few years and that is a scary thought.

The biggest question mark remains the defense. After being shredded by the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs last season, Dom Capers’ squad enters 2013 with something to prove.  Clay Matthews and company will receive some help with the addition of first-round pick Datone Jones, and the continued maturation of up and comers such as Casey Hayward and Nick Perry. K Mason Crosby is hoping for redemption following a 2012 campaign he would like to forget. He will be pushed hard by his competition Giorgio Tavecchio during training camp to earn the kicking duties.

An 11-5 record should be enough to get the Packers into the playoffs, perhaps even win the NFC North for a third consecutive season. But if the defense plays the same as it did against San Francisco, which ended their 2012 season, it will be a quick playoff exit for the fourth time in five seasons under head coach Mike McCarthy.

Mark Ross
It's no secret. Green Bay's title hopes are tied directly to the right arm and legs of one Aaron Rodgers. As long as No. 12 is on the field the Packers should make the playoffs. Rodgers could use some help carrying the load, however, especially considering he was sacked an NFL-high 51 times last year. Unfortunately, he has already lost his left tackle (Bryan Bulaga) for the season, which is not how Packer fans wanted this season to start. It's even more critical now for draft picks Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin to help jumpstart the running game and the rest of the offensive line to jell.

The defense could help take some of the pressure off of the offense by increasing its level of play. Similar to Lacy and Franklin, the team is expecting big things from first-round pick Datone Jones along the defensive line. The secondary also must find a way to replace the experience and savvy of the departed Charles Woodson.

Schedule-wise, Green Bay has the unenviable task of opening on the road against the defending NFC champion 49ers. After the Week 4 bye, however, things open up somewhat and barring significant injuries to other key pieces, the Packers should be able to win more than enough games to get into the playoffs and claim a third straight NFC North crown.

Evan "Tex" Western (@acmepackingco), Acme Packing Company
Try as I might, I just can't convince myself to pick the Packers against recent nemeses San Francisco or New York on the road. However, the team's home schedule sets up well and I like the matchup with Atlanta in December. Even with an improved running game and pass rush, though, 11 wins and a third straight NFC North title sounds about right to me.

Related Green Bay Packers Content

Green Bay Packers 2013 Schedule Analysis
Ranking the NFL's Starting Quarterbacks for 2013
Ranking the NFL's Coaching Jobs for 2013
15 NFL Wide Receivers/Tight Ends on the Hot Seat in 2013

The NFL's 25 Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time

Green Bay Packers: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, High School
Path: /high-school/should-college-football-have-early-signing-period

American Football Coaches Association Executive Director Grant Teaff has been tackling the early signing period issue for years.

“Tired is not a good descriptive word,” Teaff says of his on-again, off-again dialogue with coaches and commissioners. “Anxious is better. My goal has always been to try to make everything connected to football better, so it gets frustrating.”

Like many people, Teaff sees a need for an early signing period. As it stands, a player can’t sign with a school until National Signing Day — which is the first Wednesday in February. Until then, a prospective recruit is fair game, whether or not he has made a verbal commitment. Still, 70 percent of the top-rated football recruits do sign with a school they committed to before their senior season, sometimes up to 12 months early.

That means coaching staffs must babysit commitments. That translates into more money spent to keep those players close and greater intrusion into a player’s life even if he wants to end the recruiting process early.

Opponents of an early signing date raise concerns, such as a greater advantage for the big-money programs; college coaches juggling visits with games; recruits who could feel rushed into making a decision with no way out if a college coach leaves; and colleges that would sign players before seeing their first-semester, senior-year grades. If, as Teaff says, there’s a need for an early signing date, when should it be? How will those concerns be addressed?

And most important, can a consensus be found?

“That’s a really good question,” Teaff says. “Practically, there will probably be something done in the next couple of years. Don’t misunderstand me. It may not be an early signing date. There’s also talk of moving college football (Signing Day) further back from the second week of February. There are concerns by some of our coaches they don’t have enough time to really get to know players. It’s just going to be looked at.”

The early signing period talk is intertwined with examination of the football recruiting calendar, which is currently being studied by an NCAA recruiting subcommittee. Deregulation is the hot word these days for the NCAA, which is trying to shrink its rulebook.

“The NCAA has to reconcile maybe what basketball wants does not fit for football,” Teaff says. “Football coaches do not want to be on anybody else’s recruiting calendar.”

Back in 2009, the AFCA proposed an early signing period that was supported by 73 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision coaches. The date would have been the third week of December when junior college players can sign. But the conference commissioners, who control the National Letter of Intent process, rejected the idea.

“I wish they would start listening to coaches more,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez says. “Coaches seem to be in favor of it so it doesn’t pass, but you’ve got these other rules that coaches didn’t have any input and they threw those out there. I really thought we would get (an early signing period) in December.”

Some people have pushed for an early signing date in August. Teaff says the AFCA won’t support August, because the association also represents high school coaches.

The fear is that players who are signed prior to a high school season could tank their senior year. Yet college basketball has survived for years with an early signing period.

“You have to take high school coaches into consideration,” Teaff says. “They feel pretty strongly that’s somewhat detrimental. With the whole process, high schools are the ones that get the collateral damage. I’m a little skeptical about a real early signing date because the last time we ran that thing up the flag pole, the upper echelon didn’t salute it.”

Or as Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads describes the blowback from schools with money: “They want those kids available in January. They don’t want them signed, sealed or delivered.”

Rhoads supports an early signing period to end what a lot of coaches frustratingly describe as “babysitting” their commitments in January. When describing players who commit early, Rhoads doesn’t use the word “commitments,” but rather “reservations,” much like a hotel.

“It’s not a very clean or pretty month at times,” Rhoads says. “You’ve got kids that in large part are committed to a number of schools. Other schools are coming in and trying to raid those kids, and generally it’s the kid that leaves the recruitment open.”

How all over the map has the early signing date discussion been? Look no further than the SEC, winner of the past seven BCS national titles. Back in 2007, SEC coaches voted 9-to-3 against an early signing date. The next year they voted 9-to-3 in support of a November date as long as early signees did not take official visits. That idea was quickly shot down by SEC presidents and athletics directors, who questioned how a recruit could choose a school without an official visit.

More recently, the majority of SEC coaches have supported the December junior college date for early signees. There’s not a consensus, though.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier doesn’t want any early signing period. “A lot of players want to do it, but I like how we do it now,” Spurrier says. “To me, there’s football season and then there’s the recruiting season, and the high school kids get their time on Signing Day. If we start doing it during the season, I think it takes away from your team and the players on your team. Then everybody is talking about a bunch of high school players who are future players.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt would be fine with an early signing period in December if those signees didn’t take official visits during the season.

“If a kid grows up knowing he wants to be a Bulldog, let him sign early and let him have an official visit afterward,” Richt says.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze favors an early signing date in December. But that comes with a caveat: He’s concerned that it would only mean that an already expedited recruiting process would start even earlier.

“We all feel we have to be on the 2015 class and the ’16 class right now,” Freeze says. “Whether that’s real or not, it’s your perception, and our perception is reality a lot. You feel like if you’re not somehow connected with these kids that far along, you’re behind. I don’t know if that’s healthy for us as coaches and certainly the young men and families. I’d like to just recruit one class at a time. To me, that early signing period is for a kid who knows he’s going to Ole Miss.”

One concern with an early signing period is coaching turmoil. What happens if, between an early August or December date and the regular February date, a coach is fired or takes another job? Would the schools allow the early signees to open up their recruiting? “That is a valid point,” Freeze says. “I’d say no. I don’t think there will be a large number of kids that do that. But if they do, they have a great understanding this is the university they want to attend. We did go back and forth on that and I have some mixed emotions on it. Maybe there is some merit having it in January and maybe some coaching changes are made.”

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t buy the argument that an early signing date would be intrusive on coaches because of in-season official visits.
“You already do that now,” he says. “The official visit is more of an afterthought than I think a key decision-making piece (as it was) when I was going through this 20 years ago (as a player). A lot has changed.”

At Northwestern last year, 17 of the Wildcats’ 19 signees were verbally committed before their senior year. That kind of trend has Fitzgerald wanting an early signing date in December to avoid January babysitting.

“That would give kids an opportunity for normalcy to the second semester of their senior year academically and really just some normalcy in their lives,” Fitzgerald says. “This recruiting process is so intrusive on these families. I think it allows us to save some money and then move forward and really look at the kids that are not signed in January.”

Boise State coach Chris Petersen also favors an early signing period.

“It’s usually when coaches get out in December when the mayhem starts and the kids get confused,” Petersen says. “My contention is if a kid is truly committed, then OK, let’s go ahead and sign. If not, don’t commit until you know. Right now, I don’t think it’s a good thing for anyone. Sometimes these kids are committed for eight months and know that’s where they want to go.”

Petersen wouldn’t mind a December signing date to end what he calls a waste of money and time on babysitting recruits.

“Commitment doesn’t mean a lot to some of these other coaches,” he says. “If they think there’s a chance, they’ll keep stopping by a kid, calling a kid, so everybody has to go and make sure everything is OK. We do it too. We used to not do it as much.”

This much Petersen knows: There won’t be a perfect answer.

“The bottom line is, what’s the best compromise?” he says. “I don’t want to see them visiting during the season either. But we do that because kids want to come to see games and it’s what we need to do. So what’s the best thing for the big process?”

Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill says there has never been a recruiting calendar presented that makes sense for an early signing period. Contact periods and evaluation dates would have to be changed, he says.

In recent years, Middle Tennessee lost two committed players “at midnight before Signing Day” to SEC schools — an offensive lineman who is now a starter at Vanderbilt and a defensive end who signed with Kentucky, Stockstill says.

“I think for the schools with unlimited recruiting budgets, (an early signing period) probably plays to their advantage over schools that don’t have unlimited recruiting budgets,” Stockstill says. “The Florida States of the world can fly all over the country to see people. Sometimes I like the early signing period, and then other times I’m not really fired up about it. Until I see how a calendar works, I’m just not sure if we need an early signing period.”

Nonetheless, Stockstill believes an early period is inevitable. “Everybody talked about having a playoff, went back and forth, how can it work, we don’t need it, we need it,” he says. “The discussion went on for seven, eight, 10 years. Now we have one. This early signing period has been talked about for a while. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If you keep talking about it, it’s going to happen.”

Keeping the Door Open
As Bo Scarbrough speaks by phone in May, eight months have passed since he committed to the University of Alabama, and nine months remain until he can actually sign with a school.

He’s in the waiting period stage for a recruit. Scarbrough is an elite running back from Northridge High School in Alabama. In one breath, he says he’s committed to Alabama; less than a minute later, he says he doesn’t know if he can see himself signing with Florida until he visits.

In a perfect world, Scarbrough wishes there was an early signing period. But that’s not reality, so he continues to get visits from Florida assistant coach Brian White. And he gets letters from Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee and others — probably 30 letters a day, Scarbrough estimates.

“I wish there was an early signing period, because it gives you more time with school stuff that you actually have to work on,” he says. “School always comes first, not sports.”

Scarbrough says he committed to Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class in September 2012 because there wouldn’t be a better offer than the Crimson Tide, winners of three of the past four national championships.

“That’s a running team and I want to play running back, and they’ve got the best and I want to compete,” he says. “They have the major that I want to major in, and it’s right here at home. It’s a lot that comes with it that people don’t realize.

At the end of the day, I made my choice, and there wasn’t no sense holding it, so I just did what was best for me. It was a great school, so I thought it didn’t get better than that.”

Scarbrough says he also wanted to get recruiting out of the way before his junior season of high school.

“I didn’t want my team to be like, he’s putting us down for his recruitment,” he says. “I think if a player makes an early commitment, they did it for a reason. I hope not for the publicity of it all over the world. I don’t want people to think of me like that. I did it because it’s best for me. I don’t care about the publicity.”

A commitment doesn’t end recruiting. White visited Scarbrough’s high school and “told me he’s still going to recruit me and he wanted me to do good and wants the best for me,” Scarbrough says.

Scarbrough says he will visit Florida and Georgia over the summer and then Florida State in the fall.

“It probably would have stopped the recruitment if you sign,” he says.
That’s not how the recruiting game works. So Scarbrough is committed to Alabama. But he’s not exactly closing the door on other options, either.
by Jon Solomon

Order your copy of Athlon Sports High School Football Annual today!


The pros and cons of the hotly contested idea of an early signing period in college football.
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 08:15
Path: /high-school/alex-bars-family-tradition

As debate rages over the merits of providing college football players a full “cost of attendance” scholarship to cover all of life’s needs, consider the plight of one Sally Bars.

She’s now the mother of three FBS college football players, as her youngest son Alex has committed to play offensive line for Notre Dame. He’ll join brother Blake, currently an offensive lineman at Michigan, and eldest brother Brad, a defensive end for Penn State.

“We’ve always joked that when each one has gone off to school, we get a raise, but the times they’re all at home, it’s just crazy. I go to the store twice a day. You would think three gallons of milk would get you through a weekend,” she says with a laugh.

“And they’re always hungry. We’ll finish a huge dinner and then two hours later I’ll see one of them in the kitchen saying ‘I’m starving, mom!’”

You know those “House Divided” vanity license plates? The Bars family would need one the size of a windshield. When Alex, the 6'6", 287-pound offensive lineman, committed to the Irish in May, it meant that Sally and Joe Bars would be traveling between multiple college campuses for the near future.

“It’s definitely going to be a competitive house for the next couple years,” Alex admits.

Bars committed to the Irish over a slew of other offers, including Florida, LSU, Tennessee and Ohio State, as well as both of his brothers’ schools. Unlike other famous football siblings, the Bars family has gone in three distinct directions, and while it’s havoc on the parents, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“For us as parents it would’ve been great, certainly. They could’ve all gone to the same school, maybe one hour away, but I don’t know if they would’ve been happy with that.

We’ve always given our kids an opportunity to think for themselves,” says Joe Bars, who played at Notre Dame for Gerry Faust in the 1980s.

Indeed, Alex credits his father for helping him learn about Notre Dame, but says his decision to commit to the Irish had more to do with the fact that he loved the coaching staff and wanted to attend a top academic university.

“He is really happy, though,” Alex admits.

The youngest football Bars will get to skip the nonstop pressure that normally dogs an undecided top high school prospect in his senior season, but he’s adamant that he didn’t rush into his decision to go Irish just to alleviate pressure.

“For me, the decision was easy. I was going to take as much time as I needed, but I felt like it was the right time when I announced it.”

Having already guided his two oldest sons through the college football recruitment process, Joe admits that by the time Alex began to be courted by schools across the country, there was a comfort and familiarity in navigating a process that most parents don’t enjoy.

“We certainly knew how the process worked, and there’s a different way they go after highly ranked kids. We knew coaches at all different levels and where they had moved to over the years, so you could say that it helped,” Joe says.

“The difference with Notre Dame (now and the 1980s) isn’t that great in terms of recruiting. They’ve always recruited nationally. I would say that campus is about double its size since I was there, that’s about the biggest difference I noticed.”

In addition to an overflow of football talent, the Bars family is somewhat notable for sending three players north despite residing in the heart of SEC country. The family moved to Nashville in 2003, and Sally says her boys consider themselves country — “They wear camo, listen to country music, go to the CMA Festival every year, they love it,” she says — but there’s no shortage of local heat for eschewing the mighty Southeastern Conference.

“We’ve always heard it and still do. Vanderbilt’s maybe two miles from us, and Tennessee has a huge following here. Butch Jones has done a great job recruiting, so yes, you can say it’s definitely felt,” Joe admits.

“Yeah, we’ve been getting grief ever since my first brother went to Penn State. It’s SEC country here, no doubt,” Alex says. According to 247Sports, the youngest Bars was offered by 11 SEC teams.

With every son’s loyalties now locked, it’s just a matter of getting to the games.

Keeping three football players fed is hard enough, but this fall, Sally and Joe will manage two Big Ten football schedules, Alex’s senior season at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville and sister Lauren’s volleyball and basketball schedules.

“You’re making me nervous just talking about it,” Sally says. “There are some games I’m starting to panic over, especially getting to Penn State on a Saturday if there’s a Friday night game.”

The strategy will be to divide and conquer, with at least one parent attempting to make Penn State or Michigan games in addition to one or both watching Alex’s and Lauren’s high school games.

One game they’re very likely to make — Oct. 12, when Blake’s Wolverines travel to Happy Valley to face Brad’s Nittany Lions. That means that Blake, a 6'5", 284-pound guard who redshirted last season, could go head-to-head with Brad, a 6'3", 242-pound defensive end famous among Penn State fans for his blocked punt against Illinois in 2012.

“I’ll be very neutral,” Sally promises. “I’ll cheer for Penn State on defense and Michigan on offense, even though they’re on the field at the same time.”

“We’d prefer that they not go against each other, but if it happens they’re both going to compete hard and probably have a chuckle after the play. But they’ll definitely compete hard if it happens,” Joe says.

“They went up against each other in high school and would come home and talk about it, so I think it would be neat,” Sally says. “Honestly, they still go up against each other in the backyard, so it’s definitely not the first time.”

It won’t be the only time there’s a truly divided house. If Alex plays as a true freshman for the Irish, he could go up against brother Blake and the Wolverines when the two schools play for the final time (for now) in 2014.

For Alex, there’s a benefit to being the “baby” player in such a family, and that’s an abundance of built-in coaching.

“They’ve been great for me. They’ll come back from school and Brad will show me moves at defensive end and Blake will teach me offensive line moves he’s learned at the college level.

“It’s not so much technique, but it’s helpful to know what to expect for each game and how to handle yourself at that level, too.”

There’s certainly a personality difference between the defensive and offensive mindsets in his children, but former linebacker Joe isn’t quick to divulge exactly what makes his sons suited for one side of the ball or the other.

“Absolutely, there’s a mindset for each position, but I’m not going to talk about it,” he says laughing. “They’re all my kids, and I don’t want to single any one of them out. Certainly I could talk to Brad about certain things, and then it was an adjustment for Blake and Alex, but we’ve had great coaches here who have helped along the way.”

Alex is slightly more succinct in the difference: “Defense plays into the type of person that’s a little more crazy. You can’t go wild on the offensive line or you’ll miss your blocks.”

Both Joe and Sally emphasize letting their children find their own way. They encouraged the kids to play multiple sports throughout the year while growing up, both for the physical training and to break up mental fatigue.

“My advice for parents … shop online,” deadpans Sally. “But seriously, it’s to encourage your kids to become well-rounded. Whatever they’re interested in, encourage them to pursue their dreams and to find a passion.”

All four Bars kids play musical instruments, so if the thought of a menacing group of brothers playing on the line is too intimidating, Sally would have you know that both Blake and Brad played tenor saxophone in the band (Alex lucked out and got to play guitar, which was “cooler”).

Alex was away at a summer basketball camp while speaking for this story — despite the fact that, according to Joe, he’s up to around 300 pounds.

“No point guard for me,” Alex laughs. “A lot of center and forward.”

As any proud father would, Joe makes sure to tell the story about how Alex’s basketball coach stopped practice because the coaches and players were curious if Notre Dame’s next stud lineman could dunk the ball.

“And he did. One-handed, too,” Joe says.

by Steven Godfrey

Fathers, Sons and Signing Day

Alex Bars isn't the only legacy player heading into his senior year of high school. Here are a several other gridiron stars following in their famous NFL fathers' footsteps.

Randall Cunningham Jr.
Quarterback, Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman)
Schools Interested: Baylor, LSU, UNLV, Mississippi State
Dear Old Dad: Cunningham’s father, Randall Sr., was a Pro Bowl QB with the Eagles and Vikings in the 1990s and helped to define the concept of the “dual-threat” run/pass quarterback at the professional level.
All In The Family: Jr. and Sr. share more than a name — the son has the same escapability and speed behind center as his old man. He could be a perfect fit for Art Briles’ high-octane Baylor offense.

Christian McCaffrey
Running back, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Valor Christian)
Schools Interested: Committed to Stanford
Dear Old Dad: Christian’s father Ed ­McCaffrey is a Denver Broncos legend, serving as one of John Elway’s favorite targets through two Super Bowl wins in a 13-year career. Before that, McCaffery was an All-American at Stanford in 1991.
All In The Family: Already approaching 200 pounds as an all-purpose running back, McCaffrey packs a bit more punch than his lanky wideout dad. The 2012 All-Colorado Offensive Player of the Year looks to follow in the footsteps of Cardinal backs like Toby Gerhart in David Shaw’s power offense.

Orlando Brown Jr.
Offensive lineman,  Duluth, Ga. (Peachtree Ridge)
Schools Interested: Committed to Tennessee
Dear Old Dad: At 6'7", 360 lbs., Orlando Sr. was a monstrous tackle for the Browns and Ravens for 11 seasons. Brown was nicknamed “Zeus” for his imposing physicality. A bizarre incident in which he was struck in the eye with a ref’s flag interrupted his career in 1999. But Zeus returned to the league before retiring in 2005. Tragically, he passed away in 2011.
All In The Family: Brown is more than a chip off the old block at 6'7", 340 lbs., and after a fierce nationwide recruitment, he’s giving the Volunteers an elite offensive lineman who should be able to contribute early in his career.

Marlon Humphrey
Cornerback, Birmingham, Ala. (Hoover)
Schools Interested: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina
Dear Old Dad: Bobby Humphrey rushed for a then-school-record 3,420 yards at Alabama before being a first-round pick of the Broncos in 1989. Humphrey finished behind Barry Sanders in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting in 1989, was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1990 and retired after five seasons in 1993.
All In The Family: Marlon Humphrey is one of the top prospects in the nation, regardless of position. The 5-star stud headlines a nationally ranked Hoover club, as a lockdown cornerback who hits hard and runs like a track star — which he is. As expected, Alabama is the early favorite to land Humphrey, but South Carolina is making a big push.

Troy Vincent Jr.
Cornerback, Rockville, Md. (Gilman)
Schools Interested: Committed to Penn State
Dear Old Dad: Vincent Sr. was a standout at Wisconsin before his 15-year NFL run, earning five Pro Bowl trips playing for four different teams. He was also president of the NFLPA and named Walter Payton Man of the Year.
All In The Family: At the same position, the younger Vincent is three inches shorter than his dad, but just as physical a tackler and ball-hawking cover corner. He also sees a significant amount of time at running back for his high school team thanks to his natural speed.


Order your copy of Athlon Sports High School Football Annual today!



Notre Dame commit Alex Bars is the latest member of his family in line to play major college football.
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 08:05
Path: /college-football/big-ten-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Big Ten to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

Big Ten Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Opposing coaches size up the Fighting Illini: 

“I don’t think Ron Zook left the cupboard bare there. Tim Beckman had some players to work with. They just need some time to understand what it takes to win." …

"It’s obviously a big year for Tim. Look for them to try to establish a toughness all the way around, because they didn’t really have anything to hang their hat on offensively or defensively. They struggled in a lot of areas." …

"These kids are going through another offense. Football is still football, but they have four quarterbacks, and those guys have had to learn several different offenses over the last few years. There’s only so much you can install during the spring when you have a new offense like that." …

"They have some talent. To sit here and say (4-star quarterback recruit Aaron) Bailey can come in and start, there’s no book written on that. There are so many variables." …

"At the running back position, they are focused on being a more downhill, north-south running team — get yourself a 4-yard gain, don’t worry so much about an 8-yard gain.”

Opposing coaches size up the Hoosiers:

“Although they showed flashes, they didn’t have the running game to help the quarterback all the time. The head coach (Kevin Wilson) is an offensive line guy and tough guy. I think they started to show that they were like their coaches. That’s probably a compliment to Kevin." 

"I know they threw the ball fairly well at times and tried to make the run game as simple as they could because of the young offensive linemen." …

"They played well against Ohio State and hung with those guys through four quarters. Then they lost to Navy the next week. That shows they have a long way to go to be consistent. It’s hard to play Division I football with young, inexperienced players." …

"Defensively up front they tried to be more firm, more attacking, get linemen to hold the point of attack. They got a few junior college linebackers with some guys that played last year." …

On special teams, they had a good kicker and good punter. And those guys got down and tackled you. You could at least see the effort on the film.”

Opposing coaches size up the Hawkeyes:

“My take on them, they surprised me in that they were pretty physical defensively. I thought those guys did a nice job against us defensively. They were good tacklers." …

"Offensively, they are similar to Wisconsin and Michigan State — run the football and play-action pass. They don’t have a tremendous amount of scheme throwing the football. But they are big and well-coached up front. They need a big back who can pound it up in there. They aren’t going to do zone reads and option at quarterback. That’s kind of who they are. When those quarterbacks play well, these sort of teams play well." …

"Iowa is always consistent running the ball. When they can throw it, which isn’t every year, it’s hard to defend them. Over the last five years or so, they’ve had some off-field issues that might have hurt them in recruiting." …

"They still played hard. They are not an easy game. You never go in saying, ‘Thank goodness we’ve got Iowa.’ They are a good team. They can beat you.”

Opposing coaches size up the Wolverines: 

“They are a physical group. I don’t know that they are as athletic as Ohio State is, but they are close." …

"They have a great package defensively. Their third down package — (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison gives the illusion of pressure every time. You never know when they are really coming or not coming. It’s the different stuff that he does." …

"Their offensive line is very good, much like Ohio State and Wisconsin. Very physical up front, great defensive scheme. For two years, they were confusing us a little bit." …

"They have good skill players at the wide receiver positions — guys that can get downfield in a hurry." …

"They became a more balanced offense with Devin Gardner, but I don’t know if they have the same threat that they had with Denard (Robinson). Gardner runs well, but he wasn’t as big of a threat. They threw the ball well with him. So maybe he’ll provide more stability." 

"You can tell this is a Brady Hoke team by the way they play up front offensively. They’ll move a pile.”

Michigan State
Opposing coaches size up the Spartans:

“Defensively, they are one of the most physical teams. (Coordinator) Pat Narduzzi does a good job with them. They are physical and big." 

"Those two corners were really good. Those guys can cover. They’ll get Darqueze Dennard back, and he will be one of the best corners in the league, but they lost the other guy (Johnny Adams) and will need a young player to step up there. They’ve had a good run of safeties. They are a good team defensively, just really well coached and they play hard." …

"Offensively, as the nation saw, they struggled at times. They are kind of a Wisconsin offense. They want to run the football. They were probably not as good as Wisconsin up front, so that played into the struggles a bit." …

"They have good tight ends usually." …

"There were some games where (quarterback) Andrew Maxwell would make some mistakes and it really hurt them. They struggled because of it. When he was on, he was pretty good because Le’Veon Bell could run it. But they will really miss Bell. He was so consistent for them.”


Opposing coaches size up the Golden Gophers: 

“They are an athletic team — quick and fast, especially on defense. I thought they had a good secondary and a good pass rush, with at least two guys who were pretty good up front." …

"I think they will be a good football team this year, I really do. Jerry Kill does a good job with them. They are recruiting well, maybe not getting the 5-star guys, but getting the right kind of kids up there that can fit the system. They play hard. Kill is well-respected in the league. He does a really good job." …

"I think talent can be a problem there. But they’ve done a nice job of identifying those guys and getting the right pieces — a good mixture of tough-minded kids with some skill players sprinkled in from Texas and Florida. They’ve had some success with those kinds of players." …

"These guys can rush the passer and cover and do some good things." …

"They’ve got to find a way to move the ball more consistently, but that should come with another year in the system. They aren’t going to top the league, but they have a chance.”

Opposing coaches size up the Cornhuskers:

“Bo Pelini likes a rough-and-tough style of football. He’s always been himself, a very gritty football player and a damn gritty coach." …

"I forgot all about Taylor Martinez being a senior. He’s been around forever." …

"They are run first and run second, and will think about running third. The play-action pass is the big hit for them. You have to stop the run and be aware of the play-action pass. Martinez has made some big plays in the passing game." …

"They had those difficult losses, but they came back and had a nice road win against Northwestern and at Michigan State. They beat Michigan at home. Smoked Michigan, actually. The losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin, both were hard-fought games." …

"Nebraska is Nebraska — with people wearing those stupid hats. It will be fun and exciting. It’s a gritty football team." …

"They got smoked in a few of those games trying to stop the run. Like any good defense, it starts with the guys up front. And they have a lot of young guys there." …

"A lot of jobs will be up for grabs on that defense.”

Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

“They have some good receivers. They know what they want to do on offense. Their line functions well together. The combination of (Kain) Colter and (Trevor) Siemian at quarterback is unique. They are both good. And I like how they use them. It makes you prepare for both guys, which is hard to do. It’s two different gameplans. I know they have used them both in the game at the same time. Colter can be a weapon as a slot receiver who can make some plays."  …

"I don’t know if you can underestimate how good and how fast Venric Marc is. He was great last year." …

"I don’t think there’s any area that sticks out that makes you say, ‘Wow!’ one way or the other, good or bad, but they are becoming better athletically with their recruiting. They were always well-coached but didn’t always have the talent. They know how to get the best out of their talent." …

"They do a great job up front. They are very smart guys that pick things up well. … They don’t have an imposing offensive line, but they play to the scheme well.”

Ohio State
Opposing coaches size up the Buckeyes:

“Just a really athletic team, another well-coached team on both sides of the ball. Keeping Luke Fickell in there as the defensive coordinator was a good move. This helped them in Year 1 under Urban Meyer." …

"They’ve gotten more athletic and faster than from a few years ago. Just a really good team across the board." …

"They grew into a powerful offense. There was a learning curve for those guys, but Braxton Miller has developed into one of the best players in the country. He did everything for them. His decision-making has really improved." …

"I thought the secondary was okay. They pretty much played the chains on third down. They sat on some routes. That’s where you could get some things off them offensively. You probably could go after them a little bit more with the deep ball because of the way they played. I’m not sure if they’ll tweak that this year, but they gave up some yards by playing that way. But overall, they were a very sound defensive football team.”

Penn State
Opposing coaches size up the Nittany Lions:

“Penn State, to me, was the surprise team. Not so much because of the record, but they just played really hard. Defensively, I thought they were as good as anybody we played." …

"They were very physical, and bigger than I thought they would be. Obviously their strength was their front seven. They were a team where when we played them, they did a lot of things defensively. You could see a lot of NFL schemes that were in there. Maybe that’s because of (Bill) O’Brien, an NFL guy." …

"They were running a new offense, but that quarterback did a great job running it. They got a lot out of what guys they had. Their tailback (Zach Zwinak) wasn’t all-conference talent, but they got everything out of him. He was big, and he ran so hard." …

"The loss of scholarships will wear on them down the road. It’s not the (quality) of the guys that they are signing, but it’s the wear and tear, lack of depth — five scholarships here, five there. Next thing you know, you’re missing 15 guys. Injuries, things like that happen.”

Opposing coaches size up the Boilermakers:

“I look at Darrell Hazell and that staff — they’ve hired some damn good coaches. They have two really good coordinators in Greg Hudson on defense and John Shoop on offense. I respect both of those guys." …

"I don’t think this team is that far away. The games that were close, they just didn’t make that many plays. They played lousy against Minnesota. They went to Minnesota like they didn’t care. That might be the reason why Danny Hope got fired. But give the kids credit, after a disappointing loss, they responded with some victories." …

"They aren’t really scary in any area. They had a really good defensive line returning but didn’t play as well as they could have. A few of those players are gone. They probably underachieved there. That kind of explains the season they had." …

"I don’t know who their quarterback will be. That can solve a lot of problems if they can get the right guy there. Running back Akeem Hunt is a player and should help the young guy, whoever it is.”


Opposing coaches size up the Badgers:

“It will be interesting to see what happens with the new staff. I haven’t heard much. I’ve heard maybe a 3-4 defense. I know Gary (Andersen) did some spread zone-read option stuff at Utah State, which is definitely different than what (Wisconsin) has been." …

"Their linebackers are still great. Chris Borland is one of most underrated players in the country. He runs around. He’s fast. He’s smart. He’s instinctual. He’s got everything you want. I think they lose some depth there, but they’ll still be good." …

"I thought defensive end David Gilbert really came on. He’s a guy they’ll miss." …

"They’ve always been good up front." …

"The quarterback (Joel Stave) is very solid, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, not any more than anybody else. I don’t know if they have a great passing attack with play-action. If you can slow down the running game, force them to throw, they can struggle. Regardless of which offense they run, they’ll need the quarterback to make timely throws in key third down situations.”

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Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/12-ex-head-coaches-who-will-make-impact-assistants

The SEC leads college football in many things, but one of the strangest categories may be former head coach reclamation projects.

Not all assistants are cut out to be head coaches, but the five aforementioned programs clearly see strengths that didn’t translate into being program CEOs. Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida and LSU all hired previously fired head coaches to work on some of their biggest deficiencies.

That’s not a surprise, of course, even guys like Ellis Johnson and Joker Phillips were doing something right to be named head coaches in the first place.

The SEC isn’t alone, but it was the most prominent example of a league recycling former head coaching on its staffs. Here are 12 former head coaches hired as assistants for the 2013 season.

Tim Brewster
Former head coach at: Minnesota
Now: Florida State tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator
After all the changes on Florida State’s coaching staff, Brewster gives Jimbo Fisher a coach who has been around the block, most recently the wide receivers coach at Mississippi State. Brewster was a standout recruiter for Mack Brown at North Carolina and Texas and gives the coaching staff the bit of frenetic energy it needed to replace when James Coley left for Miami.

Cam Cameron
Former head coach at: Miami Dolphins, Indiana
Now: LSU offensive coordinator
Cameron returns to his first college head coaching job since he went 18-37 at Indiana from 1997-2001. LSU intended to hand the offense to another former head coach last season in Steve Kragthorpe before the ex-Louisville coach was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Greg Studrawa led the offense last season, but he has been returned to his former position of coaching the line. Cameron’s job now is to help develop Zach Mettenberger. Cameron has a strong reputation of working with quarterbacks, but LSU has struggled in this area since Matt Flynn led the Tigers to the BCS title in 2007.

Mario Cristobal
Former head coach at: FIU
Now: Alabama offensive line coach
FIU made the puzzling decision to fire the best coach in its brief history, a coach who happened to have deep Miami ties. Alabama scooped him up quickly to coach the team’s greatest weakness on the offensive line. Before becoming a head coach, Cristobal coached tight ends and offensive line with great success at Rutgers (2001-03) and Miami (1998-2000). This may only be a quick stop for Cristobal before his next head coaching opportunity, but for now, he’s one of three former head coaches on Saban’s coaching and support staff — Bobby Williams (Michigan State) coaches tight ends and special teams, and Kevin Steele (Baylor) is the director of player personnel.

Bill Cubit
Former head coach at: Western Michigan
Now: Illinois wide receiver coach
Offense was rarely an issue during Cubit’s eight seasons at Western Michigan. With the Broncos, Cubit did a good job of developing young quarterbacks (Tim Hiller, Alex Carder) and playing them through their veteran years. At Illinois, Cubit inherits two veterans in Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O’Toole, who have started during the last two seasons.

Dennis Erickson
Former head coach at: Arizona State, Idaho, San Francisco 49ers, Oregon State, Seattle Seahawks, Miami, Washington State, Wyoming
Now: Utah co-offensive coordinator
A true football lifer, Erickson can’t stay out of the game. After being fired at Arizona State, Erickson landed at Utah where he’ll make up half of one of the most interesting assistant coach pairings. The Utes’ other co-coordinator is Brian Johnson, who was born the same year as Erickson’s first Pac-10 coaching job in 1987 at Washington State. Utah has ranked 11th and 12th in yards per play since joining the Pac-12. Whether that’s personnel or youth on the coaching staff could be determined with Erickson on board.

Steve Fairchild
Former head coach at: Colorado State
Now: Virginia offensive coordinator
Tom O’Brien
Former head coach: NC State, Boston College
Now: Virginia associate head coach for offense/tight ends coach
Part of a coaching staff overhaul in Charlottesville, O’Brien and Fairchild will try to turn around an offense that ranked ninth in the ACC in yards per pass attempt and eighth in yards per carry. With the background of both — Fairchild was an NFL offensive coordinator before a 16-33 stint at Colorado State, O’Brien ran a balanced offense at NC State and Boston College — Virginia is going to run a traditional pro-style offense. Fairchild will have to settle on a quarterback after the competition between Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims dragged on through last season.

Ellis Johnson
Former head coach at: Southern Miss
Now: Auburn defensive coordinator
Johnson’s first FBS coaching gig could not have been much worse as Southern Miss went 0-11 in his lone season in Hattiesburg. Before that debacle, though, Johnson’s defenses at South Carolina and Mississippi State ranked fifth or better in the SEC in four of five seasons. The 2011 Gamecocks defense ranked third in the country in total defense. In contrast: Auburn hasn’t ranked better than seventh in total defense in the SEC since 2007.

Hal Mumme
Former head coach at: New Mexico State, Kentucky
Now: SMU passing game coordinator
Do you think SMU wants to throw the ball around a bit in the American Athletic Conference? The Mustangs coaching staff now has the godfather of the Air Raid offense (Mumme) with one of the most successful run-and-shoot coaches (Jones). They’re not exactly the same, but they’re not all that different. As Mumme told’s Bruce Feldman: “Air Raid is an attitude, not a playbook.” Worth noting: SMU was merely fourth in Conference USA in pass attempts in the last two seasons.

Joker Phillips
Former head coach at: Kentucky
Now: Florida wide receivers coach
Florida’s wide receivers coach position has been a revolving door in recent years, so the hope is that Phillips will bring stability. The Gators need it. Florida hasn’t produced a first-team All-SEC receiver in four seasons. Phillips played receiver at Kentucky and was a highly regarded offensive coordinator before his disastrous tenure as the Wildcats’ head coach. He’s also made an impact on the recruiting trail with is eccentric “#ComePlayWRfortheJoker” Twitter posts.

Larry Porter
Former head coach at: Memphis
Now: Texas running backs coach
After a 3-21 stint at Memphis, Porter quietly returned to a comfort zone as a running backs coach. He worked with Marion Grice, Cameron Marshall and D.J. Foster at Arizona State last season, helping them become a prolific trio as runners and pass-catchers. He’ll do fine at Texas, but the Longhorns have more pressing issues than running back.

Ron Prince
Former head coach at: Kansas State
Now: Rutgers offensive coordinator
Prince has coached two NFL starting quarterbacks in college (Virginia’s Matt Schaub and Kansas State’s Josh Freeman). Rutgers coach Kyle Flood is hoping for that tutelage to work on Gary Nova, who started last season with a steady hand before a late-season turnover binge. After three seasons in the NFL as an offensive assistant, Prince is back in the college ranks for the first time since coaching special teams at Virginia in 2009.

Randy Shannon
Former had coach at: Miami
Now: Arkansas linebackers coach
Shannon spent only five months as the linebackers coach at TCU before leaving to Arkansas. The Razorbacks can use all the help they can get on defense after regressing in each of the last three seasons. For a program with scant amounts of local talent and a head coach with little experience recruiting in the Southeast, the addition of Shannon and his deep Miami roots could be a major asset.

Joker Phillips was fired at Kentucky, but Florida scooped him up quick
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-football-game-game-predictions-2013

Arkansas had a year to forget in 2012. After crashing his motorcycle and lying about the details of the incident, Bobby Petrino was fired as the team’s head coach in April. Athletic director Jeff Long hired former assistant John L. Smith to be the interim coach, but the Razorbacks weren’t the same team.

Fast forward to 2013 and there’s a different feeling surrounding this team.

After a successful seven-year run at Wisconsin, Arkansas pulled Bret Bielema away from Madison. And Bielema should be a good fit in Fayetteville, especially with his run-first mentality on offense.

Arkansas was ranked by most a top 10-15 team before Petrino’s dismissal, so there’s still talent in the program.

Can Bielema get the Hogs back on track in 2013?

What will Arkansas' record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Arkansas' 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/31 UL Lafayette
9/7 Samford
9/14 Southern Miss
9/21 at Rutgers
9/28 Texas A&M
10/5 at Florida
10/12 South Carolina
10/19 at Alabama
11/2 Auburn
11/9 at Ole Miss
11/23 Mississippi State
11/29 at LSU
Final Projection5-75-74-85-74-8

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
New coach Bret Bielema didn’t get many favors from the schedule makers in 2013. Arkansas drew Florida and South Carolina – two top-15 teams – in crossover play with the East Division, and the Razorbacks have to play at Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. Additionally, Arkansas has tough non-conference games against UL Lafayette and Rutgers. Considering the Razorbacks have a new coaching staff and must break in a new quarterback, getting to a bowl game would be a successful year in Fayetteville. Arkansas does have some pieces to work with, including freshman running back Alex Collins, along with one of the SEC’s best offensive lines. I have the Razorbacks beating South Carolina – Arkansas has won the last three in Fayetteville – but it’s more of a feeling this team only wins one game in SEC play. The Razorbacks certainly have some potential. But the transition to a new coaching staff and the first year for Brandon Allen at quarterback will keep the Razorbacks out of a bowl game. 

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
This could be the most difficult SEC team to figure out, new QB, coach and all. In 2011 they went an impressive 11-2 and followed that up last year going 4-8. Getting Bret Bielema was the biggest hiring surprise of the off season. What does Bret get in return? These 5 games starting week 4: at Rutgers, Texas A&M, at Florida, South Carolina, at Alabama. Now with that stretch laid out, I feel they could go 4-0 to start the season in their non-conference game. I like the direction of the program under Bret (Stay away from motorcycles), just not this season. Name to remember:  Alex Collins, RB 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

The cupboard is more stark than fans in Fayetteville realize and it could mean a long, rough season for Arkansas this year. Bobby Petrino is an elite coach who levels the "talent' playing field with his game management on Saturdays, but he destroyed the roster in the process. Huge swing games like a road trip to Rutgers could shape this season very quickly. Otherwise, there are very few chances for upsets for this rebuilt team — Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, at best. One or two upsets and the Hogs have an outside chance at a bowl game, but make no mistake, six wins is the high water mark for this team.

Mark Ross

Arkansas reeled in a pretty big fish when it lured Bret Bielema from Wisconsin, but the former Big Ten coach is going to find out two things fairly quickly - 1) the cupboard is a little more bare right now in Fayetteville compared to Madison and 2) why the SEC is considered the toughest league in the country. Whether Bielema can build a Wisconsin-type program at Arkansas and succeed in the SEC is its own separate question, and one that will have to wait because it's going to take a few recruiting classes for him to even get to that point.

As far as 2013 goes, the season may get off to a promising start thanks to a light non-conference slate, although that road trip to Piscataway to play Rutgers will be tough, but that is probably the lone highlight that Razorback fans can look forward to. Otherwise, it could be a long and painful three months of SEC play, especially with Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama lined up out of the gates. With the lack of experience and production returning on offense and a lot of unproven options on defense, Bielema may be "one and done" this season, in terms of SEC wins.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
We said the same thing about Kentucky and Ole Miss: The SEC schedule does these teams no favors in helping them trying to reach the next step. Arkansas can’t even catch a Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn or Mississippi State during late September and October. Arkansas is going to struggle, but there’s a glimmer of hope there, especially once Bielema gets things moving. He’ll have an OK defensive line and an elite center, which isn’t a bad place to start. Trouble is, he has little else. Arkansas may have some success later in the season if they can get through that October gauntlet in one piece. But facing the Sun Belt favorite in the opener and a quality AAC team on the road in September will be problematic.


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Arkansas Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 06:23
Path: /overtime/rod-being-bad-highlight-reel
The combination of Alex Rodriguez lowlights and the "Karate Kid" music really makes it come alive. Enjoy.

VKMTV - The Alex Rodriguez Anti Highlight Reel by vkmtv

The A-Rod Being Bad Highlight Reel
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 17:41
Path: /college-football/new-mexico-state-upgrades-helmets-pistol-pete

New Mexico State is likely in for a long season in its first (and only) season as a FBS Independent.

But the Aggies scored a victory this week with the release of their new helmets for 2013.

These helmets are a major upgrade over last year’s version, as New Mexico State has its mascot Pistol Pete on the side, as well as a white stripe in the middle of the helmet.


Pistol Pete Returns to New Mexico State Helmets
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-7

Plenty of happenings from fall camps today.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, August 7th

Autograph gate: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has been cleared by the school over some autographs that showed up online. And Ohio State found no NCAA violations with autographs by Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.

Jeff Woollard of takes a look at West Virginia in 2013. Does Dana Holgorsen feel confident about his team?

Florida receiver Andre Debose is out this year due to a torn ACL.

Colorado receiver Tyler McCulloch sports the "Wild Thing" haircut in fall practice.

Here's an interesting story: California is sending its former season ticket holders Rocky Road candy bars.

ESPN The Magazine has an interesting player survey.

Saturday Down South takes a look at the top freshmen to watch in the SEC West.

Cody Kessler, Max Browne and Max Wittek present an interesting debate for USC coach Lane Kiffin.

Florida State has a new athletic director.

Florida State running back Mario Pender was not at practice on Tuesday due to a grade issue. The redshirt freshman was cleared to practice on Wednesday. 

Another Oklahoma defender is out for a few games this year.

The Seminoles also opened up their new indoor practice facility.

Another Georgia linebacker is dealing with an injury.

Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder has agreed to a new five-year contract.

What a difference a few months can make: Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf was ready to quit last year.

Virginia Tech running back/receiver Joel Caleb has been suspended for the season opener.

LSU receiver Avery Peterson suffered an ankle injury in practice this week.

JUCO transfer Randy Gregory has been impressive in fall practice for Nebraska.

Ole Miss' offensive line is starting to take shape.

Rutgers defensive end Jamil Merrell isn't worried about his position change this year.

Bidding for the 2016 and 2017 college football championship is now open.

Who is impressing for Michigan State at running back this fall?


College Football's Link Roundup: August 7
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 13:38
Path: /college-football/boise-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013

Boise State has seven consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins and is 84-8 under coach Chris Petersen.

The Broncos had to replace a handful of key players last season – including quarterback Kellen Moore and running back Doug Martin – yet still finished with an 11-2 record. Boise State’s only losses came by four points to Michigan State and by two points against San Diego State.

Although Boise State returns only nine starters, there’s plenty of talent for Petersen to lead this team to a BCS bowl once again. The offense has plenty of firepower, especially with the return of quarterback Joe Southwick and receiver Matt Miller. Five starters return from a defense that ranked eighth nationally in points allowed, but cornerback is a position of concern for coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski.

Boise State’s schedule is challenging, but Petersen should have his team in the mix for an unbeaten record. 

What will Boise State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Boise State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/31 at Washington
9/7 UT Martin
9/13 Air Force
9/20 at Fresno State
9/28 Southern Miss
10/12 at Utah State
10/19 Nevada
10/25 at BYU
11/2 at Colorado State
11/16 Wyoming
11/23 at San Diego State
11/30 New Mexico
Final Projection11-110-212-011-111-111-1

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though Boise State returns only eight starters, this team still has plenty of talent to make a run at an unbeaten record and a BCS bowl. In a “rebuilding year” last season, the Broncos finished 11-2, with their only losses coming by four points or less. Quarterback Joe Southwick should be more comfortable in his second year as the starter, and the rest of the supporting cast on offense is solid. The biggest concern for coach Chris Petersen is a secondary that will have two new starters at cornerback. Boise State’s schedule isn’t easy, especially with road dates at Washington, Fresno State, Utah State, BYU and San Diego State. The opener in Seattle is a revenge game for the Huskies, but the Sept. 20 date against the Bulldogs could decide who hosts the Mountain West title game. I think Boise State loses once during the regular season. However, the Broncos will play in a BCS bowl this January.

Drew Roberts, (@MyBrainIsSmart),
Do I actually think Boise State will go undefeated this year? Probably not, but it's well within the realm of possibility and even though they could drop roadies at Fresno, Utah State, BYU or UW—I honestly don't know which one is "most lose able" because frankly, they're all winnable. Boise State is used to being the best team in the league and I don't think this year is any different, but all the toughest games this year happen to be on the road. Generally, that's a recipe for an upset or two, but I think Boise State can get on a roll if they handle business in Husky Stadium at the end of the month. Even if my belief in an undefeated season is tepid, you need at least one homer on this thing and Bronco fans are known to never stop believin', just like that Journey song "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin.'"

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Boise State lost two games a year ago while in complete rebuilding mode and fans are ready for more. Nothing could indicate more where expectations have been placed in Idaho than that. The schedule is more intriguing this year than last and the team, especially on offense, should be better as well. The Mountain West has gotten much better around the Broncos and it will create a few more "tougher" challenges than this team is accustomed too. That said, a perfect league record is well within reach. In fact, road non-conference games with Washington and BYU are more likely to determine the overall upside of this team. Look for this team to be on the fringe of the BCS with an outside shot at something special.

Mark Ross
Even with just eight starters returning on both sides of the ball, I fully expect Chris Petersen to do what he has done in his previous seven seasons leading Boise State — win a bunch of games. In my opinion, the Broncos only have to truly worry about three games on their schedule. The season opener at Washington won't be easy, especially if the Huskies are able to move the ball early and often on the Boise defense, and the trip to Provo to face BYU also will be a tough test.

Outside of those two games, the Sept. 20 date in Fresno to play the Bulldogs is probably the only other matchup all season in which the Broncos won't be favored. Fresno State has more than enough offense to make things tough for the Petersen's defense, and it remains to be seen if the Broncos can match the Bulldogs' firepower. Win or lose, this most likely will be just the first of two meetings between Boise State and Fresno State, with the other coming in the inaugural Mountain West championship game in early December. If the Broncos don't want to make a return trip to central California, then they need to make the most of their first one.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Boise State’s conference opponents — chiefly Fresno State, San Diego State and Nevada — have improved at the same time the Broncos have dipped ever so slightly. Still, I think Boise State gets out of 2013 with only one blemish against a Fresno State team that stacked on offense. I like Boise in the opener against Washington simply because its tough to bet against Chris Petersen in an opener, despite an ugly-for-both-teams loss to Michigan State before last season. Road trips to BYU and San Diego State will be tough, but Joe Southwick has had a year as the starter. People forget he threw nine touchdown passes and no interceptions in the final four games last year.

Related College Football Content

College Football Bowl Projections for 2013
College Football's Top 15 Quarterback Battles to Watch in Fall Practice
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Mountain West All-Conference Team for 2013
Which Conference Has the Best Quarterbacks in 2013?

12 Things You Should Know From College Football's Offseason

Boise State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-7-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 7.


• Elsewhere on this website, you can find this gem: the Houston Texans cheerleaders engaging in something called "Freestyle Friday." We heartily endorse the concept.


Raul Ibanez, professional outfielder.


• As a palate cleanser from that last atrocity, enjoy this GIF of Elvis Andrus making a nice play from his butt.


• Finally, an area of SEC football where Alabama's not No. 1: The SEC fanbases, ranked.


• You've seen this by now, but I can't not link to it: The Manning bros (and Archie) pimp for Sunday Ticket.


Is the Manziel affair a tipping point in the whole paying players debate? For his part, Jay Bilas is doing what he can to expose the NCAA's hypocrisy in the deal.


• Deadspin whipping boy Jay Mariotti, who for some is the epitome of all that is wrong with sports media, is getting into the branded website game.


• We bring you stories you can actually use: Cartoons that are fit for adults.


• Did you know RG3 collects superhero dolls? That, and other weird facts about athletes.


• It's Shark Week, which gave Mensa member Tara Reid the opportunity to drop some knowledge about whale sharks.


• Bryce Harper didn't take kindly to getting plunked. Enjoy.




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

Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 10:39
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-5-amazing-stats-watkins-glen

So this is it. It has to be.  Marcos Ambrose

Marcos Ambrose is having a horrible NASCAR Sprint Cup season by his standards. His replacement-level Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) of 0.738 is the third-worst of his career, on track to be his first sub-par results-getting season in four years. The struggle, slump, or off year — whatever you prefer to call it — isn’t totally a career death knell or a sign of decline. Regression is natural in sport, and that is what has happened to the 36-year-old Richard Petty Motorsports driver in 2013.

The timing, however, is brutal.

Ambrose isn’t guaranteed a return to RPM after this season and a poor final impression won’t do wonders for his job prospects. If the season concluded today, it is likely his next NASCAR contract wouldn’t look as appealing as his current one does. His destiny could all change this weekend. Frankly, it has to.

2.0 Ambrose has a career average finish of second in five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen International.

With a Glen-specific PEER (a measure of drivers’ performance in equal equipment) of 10.000, Ambrose is arguably better on the New York road course than any driver on any other track in the series. With this level of dazzling production ability comes dizzying expectations. Ambrose hasn’t finished lower than third at Watkins Glen and was a winner in the last two Cup Series events there. He has three NASCAR Nationwide Series victories to his credit at the track. He’s so good there that anything less than a win on Sunday — and yes, racing is a team sport, but it’s often not viewed that way, even within the industry — is a failure. He should win this race. It’s ironic that, for Ambrose, even winning provides a no-win situation, but in the instance he isn’t victorious, it could have a tremendous effect on his next contract and immediate future in the sport.

26.5 On laps led per race basis, Kyle Busch is the runaway leader at Watkins Glen in the CoT/Gen-6 era.

Busch, a winner at WGI in 2008, has led 159 laps in the last six races. That mark nearly doubles the next-best number by Juan Pablo Montoya (13.5), and even trumps Ambrose (9.2). That Busch leads laps by the barrel full isn’t a surprise, but his name isn’t one that conjures images of elite road course-racing talent. Something about Watkins Glen clicks for him, though, and he wasn’t far away from a win in last year’s race before the epic slip-and-slide conclusion.

4.5 Montoya’s average finish in completed races dating back to 2007 is 4.5.  Juan Pablo Montoya

I offer the completed race average finish because this span of outings is bookended by crashes that affect the normal average. He won the pole last year, but was caught in a crash that ended his day on lap 63. Montoya, especially this season with a top 15 efficiency — the difference of percentage of races finished in the top 15 and the percentage of laps run in the top 15 — of -18.6 percent, is an aggressive sort. While it’s thrilling for fans, high-octane aggression on road courses doesn’t automatically win races. Some semblance of composure and nifty pit strategy would be the likely key to scoring his first Glen win since 2010.

5.417 Keselowski ranks third in PEER at Watkins Glen with a 5.417 rating.

What that number indicates is that Keselowski, albeit in a small three-race sample size, has been stalwart on this particular road course. He doesn’t have a win to his name, at least not yet, which can also be said about his 2013 season. If you were looking for an irregular face on road courses to breakthrough with a win, you would be best served to look no further than the 2012 series champ. He finished second in each of the last two years’ events at Watkins Glen and his 20th-place finish in his maiden Cup visit (2010) was a showing in which he ranked seventh in the race in NASCAR’s “fastest laps” tally.

14.4 Ron Fellows has an average finish of 23.2, a wildly inconsistent number per his 14.4 finish deviation, in five Watkins Glen races dating back to 2007.

The Canadian road racing legend is, according to PEER, the top “road course ringer” at the Glen going into the weekend; however, his entry in the No. 33 Circle Sport car isn’t attractive for those hoping for an upset victory. That’s been the primary issue with the ringers of late; their cars aren’t prime equipment, which often leads to overdriving and aggressive choices that don’t typically sit well with the regular Cup Series drivers. Compared to the likes of Boris Said and Robby Gordon, Fellows’s participation has been innocuous, but a driver can only take so much when limited by an imperfect race car.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

David Smith crunches the numbers to reveal some revealing NASCAR stats for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International.
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 10:01
All taxonomy terms: GIF, videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/elvis-andrus-makes-amazing-tag

The Rangers' Elvis Andrus slipped while covering second, but still managed to tag Erick Aybar while laid out on the dirt. The smile on his face afterwards says it all. 


Elvis Andrus Makes Amazing Tag
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 08:58
All taxonomy terms: Seattle Mariners, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/mariners-raul-ibanez-makes-worst-outfield-throw-baseball-history-gif
I love it when professional athletes do something horrendously bad. Such was the case with Seattle Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez, who chased down the ball during a game against the Blue Jays, picked it up and threw it directly at the ground, allowing Toronto to score.

Mariners' Raul Ibanez Makes Worst Outfield Throw in Baseball History
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 08:43
Path: /college-football/tulsa-has-shiny-gold-helmet-2013

Tulsa is the reigning Conference USA champions and enters 2013 as Athlon’s favorite to win the league title.

The Golden Hurricane unveiled a new helmet for the upcoming season this week, which takes the word “Golden” to a new level.

Tulsa’s helmet is not only gold, but also very shiny. And credit to the school for not changing the overall look of the helmet, as the script Tulsa and stripes are a solid appearance.

Thumbs up to Tulsa on this helmet.

Tulsa Has Shiny Gold Helmet for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/big-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Opposing coaches size up the Bears:

“The biggest secret is the offensive line. It’s just flat-out really good —  tenacious, good run-blockers, pass-blockers. But it goes unnoticed because of the skill guys who get good numbers and have publicity. Tevin Reese at receiver is an unbelievable weapon. Big home run guy. Lache Seastrunk is great, but they had other guys who could run the ball, too." …

"The quarterback, Bryce Petty, is a big kid who runs well, throws well. He’s a strong weight room guy who runs decently and has an above-average arm." … 

"They are really talented on offense, top to bottom." …

"The defense gave up a bunch of yards but played really well at the end of the season. They got better as the year went on." …

"No question they made a big statement beating Kansas State and UCLA. They just punished them. That offensive lineman, seems like he’s been there forever, Cyril Richardson, he’s a great player. The tight end, they don’t use him much, Jordan Najvar, but he’s solid. They have a stable of running backs. Seastrunk might be one of the most talented in the country. I know he proclaimed himself a Heisman guy, and we’ll see about that, but he’s one of the best we have in the league." …

"You have to stop a team like that on third down. Absolutely need three-and-outs, because otherwise they will wear on you because they are home run hitters. Really fast at receiver.”

Iowa State
Opposing coaches size up the Cyclones:

“It will be interesting to see how the quarterback situation plays out. They had three of them, one transferred — the younger kid (Jared Barnett). They lost some production at receiver. They have three starting offensive linemen that return." …

"They are a good, pretty much average offensive line. But they can move the ball, and they have experience running the ball." …

"(Running back) Jeff Woody didn’t play for them much. We thought he was a load. Not sure why he didn’t play more. I’m not sure if he’s in the doghouse or injured. Not really sure there. Good running back, though." …

"Their talent level is middle of the pack, to be honest about it. One of the things last year is they had very athletic quarterbacks, Steele Jantz and Barnett — they were real athletic. But halfway through the season, they went with the other guy, Sam Richardson, for more consistency. I guess he’s the guy. Might be more of a consistent thrower than the others." …

"On defense, they will take a little bit of a hit after losing their best linebackers (A.J. Klein and Jake Knott). They were tough at linebacker." …

"A defensive tackle that was a huge guy, Jake McDonough, they’ll miss him. He was a good player. But the linebackers carried them. They knew how to play and were tough." … 

"The wide receiver position can be a question mark for them. They don’t have a lot of talented experience there. The strength is in the running backs.”

Kansas State
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

“They are losing a lot — almost everyone from the front seven, I believe — but they’ll be insane again, don’t worry. They’ll reload somehow. No team garners more respect within the conference by the way they prepare than K-State." …

"Funny enough, I actually thought their backup quarterback (Daniel Sams) was better than Collin Klein. At least I thought he was a better athlete, which is what they need with that run-heavy offense." …

"Just from what I saw, listening to (our) defensive coaches, that backup (Sams) will surprise next year. I think they have a juco quarterback, Jake Waters, who will compete. But it seems like it’s Sams’ job to lose." …

"Certainly they will miss Klein’s leadership and toughness. Those will be wild cards with the new guy. They’ll create a good atmosphere for quarterback competition in practices." …

"In typical Bill Snyder fashion, Kansas State will be disciplined, they’ll line up correctly, play their asses off, be in the right spots, and be coached really well." …

"Snyder does nothing fancy. Everything about the team is old school. … They’ll still be a team that competes. They are all the same guy, basically. They are robots.”

Opposing coaches size up the Jayhawks:

“This is probably the worst team in the conference. They just don’t have the talent." …

"I thought the running back, James Sims, was pretty good. He’ll be back. He’s pretty versatile, can go inside and out a little bit." …

"Kansas came out with a new mentality every single week. They’d come out with a new formation and just be in that formation the entire game. We showed our kids every single look, formations and stuff, and Kansas just came out and ran the triple-option all game. We called it the flavor of the week. We told our guys to just be sound and play hard and you shouldn’t have much of a problem." …

"That’s just a tough job right now. Charlie (Weis) is in a tough spot. They do have money there, and of course the basketball presence, which helps. I just don’t see them being very successful long term. The talent is different. Maybe that’s smart to go heavy on jucos, which Charlie seemed to do in recruiting this year, because that might be the only way to find the right players. But then you’re competing with Kansas State for recruits, and Kansas State has had a lot of success with that same formula." …

"The quarterback situation should be interesting, though, because I think Weis is pretty high on Jake Heaps. Dayne Crist just wasn’t what they had hoped for at all. They couldn’t get anything going with him. Heaps gives them a chance, but who does he throw to? They don’t have the receiver talent.”

Opposing coaches size up the Sooners:

“I don’t think they are as talented up front on defense as Texas is, but I thought their back end was better. I thought they had good cover guys. The Aaron Colvin kid, he’s a good cover guy." …

"I thought they would give us a lot more problems than they did. Up front, I didn’t think they had the Oklahoma guys of the past — guys like Gerald McCoy and Tommie Harris and all of that. They just don’t have those guys anymore. They used to have some animals up front." …

"Honestly, I know (quarterback) Landry Jones took some heat at times, but I think they’ll miss him. It’s tough to replace a guy who started that many years. It helped that he could adjust to personnel. And he had some big moments." …

"(Quarterback) Blake Bell is an effective goal line guy but not sure how he’ll do as the primary option. He might do great, but the jury’s still out." …

"They’ll rebound somehow. They kicked all those receivers out (of school), but they go out and still get good players. I know as far as receivers, they have decent players, but no one really stood out." …

"What makes Oklahoma go is quick lining up on that offensive line. They’ve had some injuries there but should be able to do what they want." …

"A switch to (multiple defensive fronts) will help. It’s all spread teams you’re facing. You’re going to have to get into situations where you can drop eight guys, rush a lot of guys at the same time. It’s easier to rush three and drop eight. ”

Oklahoma State
Opposing coaches size up the Cowboys: 

“I don’t know anything about the new offensive coordinator, the guy from D-2 (Mike Yurcich). He’s replacing Todd Monken, who’s a sharp guy, (but head coach) Mike Gundy knows what he’s looking for with that offense. They’ve perfected what they are doing over there, so they should be fine." …

"They always have a lot of talent on the offensive side. It’s the same M.O. with them — pretty good offensively, average defensively. The kids will play hard and try to create a lot of turnovers, which helps them." …

"They will still be a 4-3 defense, a cover-4." …

"I think if they can find what they want to do offensively and go ahead and establish the quarterback situation, they’ll be better off."…

"That O-line is solid. If they have five offensive linemen, and you’re blitzing six, you better pick up all six — that’s their coaching mentality. No excuses." …

"I think they’ll be one of the better teams in the Big 12. I just don’t know much about their offense as a whole. They could rely on the passing game more than ever after losing Joseph Randle. He was easily one of the best running backs in the league.”

Opposing coaches size up the Horned Frogs:

“How good is (quarterback) Casey Pachall? Very talented. Good athlete. Good thrower. Helluva competitor. The competitor part, he’s kind of like Collin Klein, who’s not fastest in the world, not a great thrower, but a helluva competitor. Loves to play. Pachall is similar. I think TCU is welcoming him back with open arms. With the stuff he’s been through, you will find out a lot about him. If football is as important to him as he says, they are getting a heckuva player, and he’ll last. If that’s not true, then they’ll know pretty soon. If he’s truly out of the doghouse, he’s as good as anybody in our conference." …

"They played with some young offensive linemen a year ago — some true freshmen, I think — so they will be even better." …

"Josh Boyce was one of the most underrated receivers in the Big 12.  I really thought he was talented and versatile. They will miss him." …

"They are deep on defense. They are good at every position. They have corners who play man coverage. They can get a pass rush on a quarterback with a four-man rush. They’ll miss (end) Stansly Maponga, but overall they should be fine. The linebackers are solid. Very solid football team all the way around." …

"That youth on offense hurt them at times. …  They did a great job recruiting defensive linemen, so they can run them in and out.”

Opposing coaches size up the Longhorns:

“I don’t think they play up to the level of players that they’ve got. It’s as simple as that. They had a couple of really good players we thought would give us a lot of problems, but we moved the ball really well on them. They just aren’t the Texas Longhorns they were in the past." …

"No doubt, Texas and Oklahoma still are the top-two most talented teams in the conference. They just are." …

"Last year, teams could have their best offensive game of the year against Texas or Oklahoma. It shouldn’t be that way." …

"I think (quarterback) David Ash is average. He’s a true under-center type guy. I actually thought Case McCoy threw the ball better. But the coaching staff is around him more, so they must be confident in Ash that he can be the guy long term." …

"(Former offensive coordinator) Bryan Harsin is a smart guy. He’ll be missed now that he’s at Arkansas State." …

"They are very talented up front (on defense). Their two defensive ends are very, very good. The nose guard was really good as well. Their backers are big, pretty looking guys, but I didn’t think they could move in space as much. That was part of the problem. Because of that, the tackling was suspect because nobody was in the right position. In the Big 12, you need to have backers that can move in space because offenses are all spread out. The safety, Kenny Vaccaro, was the best guy we faced, hands down.”

Texas Tech

Opposing coaches size up the Red Raiders:

“Obviously they lose the quarterback, Seth Doege, which is big. He wasn’t an NFL player, but he knew the offense very well, knew where to go with the ball." …

"They have a lot of excitement with the new coaching staff coming in. They have good receivers, a big offensive line, and they are really improved on defense from a few years ago. Not sure which guys are returning, but they improved a year ago as much as anyone. It will be interesting to see if they can build on that." …

"Offensively, they’ll always put up great numbers. With Kliff Kingsbury, it will be up-tempo, wide open and as fast as you can go. They’ll go up and down the field on people. They still have the guys to do that, but the quarterback is the question mark. Not sure who it will be." …

"Maybe that transition will be easy. The (quarterback) they had last year was a very heady player. I think you can win there consistently. They do a good job recruiting in the state. When Mike Leach was there, they won a lot." …

"The big tight end was hurt for them for about half of last season, Jace Amaro. He’s a big guy, and they flexed him out. His numbers don’t look that good, but we thought the world of him." …

"Running backs are middle of the pack, probably. Nothing like (Oklahoma State’s) Joseph Randle, who I thought was one of the best backs in the league. … They were very improved in pass rush and on the defensive line.”

West Virginia

Opposing coaches size up the Mountaineers:

“They’ll be down." …

"Junior college receiver Kevin White, I think he can be a star for them. They also have a few good freshman receivers who are talented and will probably play a lot and help out. But just think about the production they lose with Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Geno Smith, J.D. Woods — they lost about 95 percent of their production. Only real production coming back is (running back) Andrew Buie. Dreamius Smith, a running back from junior college, he’ll probably start for them." …

"They are going to be really good up front. The tackles are experienced. They look the part." …

"Safety Karl Joseph is their best player on defense, where they are still trying to find enough bodies. They’ll try to get more talent and stay in the 3-4. They didn’t have everyone on the same page. I would expect them to get better. They can’t get much worse. They weren’t mentally ready to be in shootouts every week. It was like, ‘Oh God, here we go again.’ They kind of folded at times." …

"The quarterbacks can spin it. They won’t run the ball. Paul Millard has the gunslinger mentality. He’ll probably be the guy because of experience. He’s got the locker room. They won’t announce that until the fall. They are very equal right now between Millard and (Ford) Childress. They’ll go for easy completions to get the young players going. One may step up, but I don’t see the same playmakers they had.”

Related College Football Content

Big 12 Predictions for 2013
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Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Oklahoma Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Oklahoma State Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
West Virginia Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Kliff Kingsbury Returns Home to Texas Tech
Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
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Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/sec-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2013

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the SEC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

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

SEC Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013

Opposing coaches size up the Crimson Tide:

“They’ll be really good again, don’t worry. They lost a lot of guys on the defensive line — Damion Square and Jesse Williams were very productive, strong guys for them. Last year wasn’t their best defensive line, and they might not have been quick enough to handle fast quarterbacks who could turn broken plays into big gains like Johnny Manziel, but it was solid and they need to develop the right depth there." …

"Even losing D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, they’ll still be really good up front. Those offensive linemen spend two years behind the scenes to get physically bulked up to compete." …

"On offense, they can be better than last year. One of their really good receivers, DeAndrew White, will be back from injury. He’s playing really good. Running back, I think they’ll still be solid. T.J. Yeldon is looking strong." …

"Obviously a lot depends on how well the defense develops. Linebackers and secondary, they’ll be fine. C.J. Mosley is probably the best linebacker in the country. They have depth there. It comes down to that defensive line and whether they can improve against quarterbacks that can beat you with their feet. They really didn’t have an answer for Manziel last season. They could stand to get quicker up front."  …

"AJ McCarron keeps improving every year. His footwork has really developed. He can have another great year.”

Opposing coaches size up the Razorbacks: 

“They are going to be terrible. What they are doing now, it’s the product of bad recruiting. They have a long way to go. That’s nothing against the new coach (Bret Bielema). But they are going to be terrible in Year 1." ... 

"They are really going to struggle. What happened was they had eight starters who got injured, and they were fighting an uphill battle all of last year. I think they’ll struggle up front, they’ll struggle in the secondary, the linebackers should be average." …

"They are going to be slim in a lot of spots. It’s going to take them three years to get a good foundation. It’s a product of bad recruiting — which is typical of a Bobby Petrino school. It’s the same thing that happened at Louisville that got Steve Kragthorpe fired. Petrino didn’t leave him any players. It’s the same thing at Arkansas. They have no players on defense. Petrino would load up on offense and leave the cupboard bare. That’s why he can’t ever get over the hump." …

"If you want to be competitive in the SEC, you better have big, strong defensive linemen, physical guys, and lockdown corners. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a chance. And right now they don’t have that." …

"I don’t know really how good they are up front offensively, but I’m kind of skeptical based on what I know."

"I think the young running back, Jonathan Williams, is going to be good for them. We liked him out of high school.”

Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

“Auburn’s biggest problem was trying to be a pro-style offense with spread-type personnel. They didn’t have many guys who you had to worry about. They had the one good receiver, Emory Blake. He was okay. The tight end (Philip Lutzenkirchen) was a unique weapon for them; he made some plays for them, but then he got hurt." …

"Both Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb were good. McCalebb tore it up at the combine, and Mason was a 1,000-yard back." …

"It came down to the quarterback. They never really decided on a quarterback and never figured that out. (Clint) Moseley and (Kiehl) Frazier didn’t end up being what they anticipated. I’m not sure what is going to happen at that position with (Gus) Malzahn taking over." …

"Malzahn has an outstanding reputation. It is a little different when you are the head coach than just the offensive coordinator, but he knows what he is doing. Him and Hugh Freeze have similar backgrounds — they both have taken high school offenses and made them big-time college offenses. They try to out-tempo you and out-formation you." …

"The tackling is suspect. The defense wasn’t overly physical. It’s a really athletic team. They had some ballplayers. They were really young, so there wasn’t much consistency there." …

"They’ve had a mess of distractions this offseason and probably just want to get back to football.”


Opposing coaches size up the Gators:

“Oddly enough, and I don’t think they were the best offense, but Florida was the most difficult (offensive) team to prepare for last year. They have so many different personnel groupings, and they can do so many different things, and their identity changed on a weekly basis." … 

" They are kind of like South Carolina — they want to win games on defense and not turn the ball over. But it did surprise me that they finished 12th in the league in total offense. They had good speed at wide receiver. They had some real unique weapons in Jordan Reed and Trey Burton, guys who could do different things. They had arguably the top back in the league in Mike Gillislee, and they had a very athletic quarterback." ...

"They are trying to find their identity. They probably thought they had their identity at one point, but then some of the bigger, stronger teams in our league kind of challenged that identity. And they had some injuries on the offensive line." …

"I like Will Muschamp. I respect him a lot. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree. His mentor is Nick Saban, and he put his stamp on the team in Year 2 in regard to toughness and winning games in the kicking game and on defense. They lost their defensive coordinator to the NFL, but D.J. Durkin is one of the bright young coaches in the country, and their special teams have been outstanding the past two years. I respect them a lot.”

Opposing coaches size up the Bulldogs

“Aaron Murray is really good. I am a big fan. If you commit people to stop the run and put one-on-one on the perimeter, he has such a nice feel with his wide receivers. If you play two deep or quarters, then they kill you with the run. It’s the combination of (Todd) Gurley and Murray that kills you." …

"They don’t wow you with X’s and O’s because they don’t have to. They remind you of the Miami teams in the early 2000s. They lined up in pro sets and twins and you got a chuckle out of it, then 450 yards and 42 points later they got the last laugh." …

"I watched the quarterbacks at the combine, and Murray doesn’t need to take a back seat to any of those guys. I think he is enjoying college and feels like he has some unfinished business. I’m not so sure that if it was Georgia playing Notre Dame for the national championship and won that he would have gone on to the NFL." …

"Gurley and (Keith) Marshall complement each other so well, and (the staff) is smart in that they have plays designed specifically for Gurley and touches for Marshall. Gurley runs tackle to tackle as well as anyone. He bullies you and he is a big boy, but don’t underestimate how fast he is. And then Marshall runs the perimeter run plays, the outside plays very well. He does a nice job hitting the creases in the defenses. Then don’t underestimate how strong he is. They are both clearly upper-level SEC backs.”

Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats: 

“Kentucky, for the past few years, hasn’t had anybody that’s scared you on offense, on the perimeter or at running back. When your best player is your right guard (Larry Warford), that’s probably a little bit of a problem." …

"They have some good young running backs, and obviously Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow, the two (sophomore) quarterbacks, are pretty talented. I’m sure those guys will improve." …

"Towles is a talented kid. He was pretty highly recruited. He did a great job in his first game against Mississippi State, driving them down the field, but then got hurt. He’s a hometown kid and a fan favorite. I think he can be a pretty good player. My gut is that he is the guy who gets the job, but don’t forget about Max Smith. He was playing well before getting hurt last year." …

"I’m sure (Mark) Stoops will come in and attract some talent. The fact of where Lexington is and his ties to Ohio, you will see an outside-the-box thinking as far as recruiting. They will get some players from Ohio. He already has done a good job in that state." …

"Stoops is well regarded as a defensive coordinator. He did a great job at Florida State. People forget, that defense had been struggling before he got there." …

"(Offensive coordinator) Neal Brown is very confident. He has a little bit of a swagger to him. He did a good job at Troy and Texas Tech.”

Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

“(Defensive coordinator) John Chavis, he’s done the same stuff schematically for what feels like forever. It’s not very difficult. They do a lot of two-man, a lot of Tampa 2. That’s one thing that he’s just not going to change." …

"I don’t think they will be the same up front at all. They lost a lot of players. I just don’t think they are going to be the same." ...

"In my opinion, there’s a slow, steady decline of that program. They are going to get the best of the best in Louisiana, but even back when Nick (Saban) was there, they just don’t have the same type of players as some other places." ...

"Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been really good for awhile. But they are losing a lot on defense. Athletically, they can reload up front. But developing fundamentally sound players, that takes time, time they might not have this year. So I’m not sure they recover that quickly." …

"If you’re not sound, you’ll get knocked down." …

"(Quarterback) Zach Mettenberger, to me, is very average. It’s going to be really interesting because their offensive coordinator was the offensive line coach, so they had single receiver play-action and just loaded up on the ball. With Cam Cameron coming in as the offensive coordinator, it will be a different offense. It’s probably going to open up things a lot more, and Mettenberger will probably be a better fit with doing that. I can’t answer whether he can handle that.”

Ole Miss
Opposing coaches size up the Rebels: 

“They have a lot of tricks up their sleeve. They always get guys open. They put you in tough situations. Within the framework of one play, it can be an inside run, an outside run; it can be a dump pass or a deep ball. They do so many different things. They have a good plan." …

"They have to be a little concerned about (quarterback Bo) Wallace’s shoulder surgery. James Franklin at Missouri had the same thing, and he wasn’t at full strength at the beginning of last season. Their offense requires a lot of coordination with 11 men working together on every play. It will hurt not having Wallace in the spring, and he will miss a significant portion of the summer. I think he is a good kid. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He wasn’t highly recruited, going to Arkansas State and then a junior college. He was playing as well as anyone in the league toward the end of the year. He needs to eliminate his turnovers." …

"Jeff Scott is pretty good. They’ve got some good young players coming in, but Scott will still be productive. He can do a lot of different things. He is versatile and that is what they look for. He is also a good return guy." …

"You shouldn’t have a freshman offensive lineman come in and play early unless he’s a complete freak. The Laremy Tunsil kid, he’s a complete freak. He will find a way to get on the field this season.”

Mississippi State
Opposing coaches size up the Bulldogs:

“They’ve got a new play-caller on defense. They lost Chris Wilson to Georgia, and Geoff Collins is taking over that duty. He’s a good coach. I’m kind of thinking they are going to be pretty good, or at least a lot better." …

"On defense, they just aren’t as athletic as the top teams. Our defensive big guys were bigger than some of their offensive big guys. They can get pounded up front. Linebackers are average athletically. In the secondary, they are always pretty good. That’s how they can get you. They have some athleticism and speed there." …

"Offensively, it’s going to be a little bit of the same. I think schematically they are always going to put up some points. It all depends on whether they can put up a defense that can stop people. They can play against those spread teams that throw it around a lot because they can cover, but in physical matchups, it’s just tough for them. It’s not effort, they just don’t have the guns." …

"The quarterback, Tyler Russell, I think most people like him — he can be a little erratic but has some natural ability. We’ll see if he can take that next step. He didn’t play very well against some of the better teams in the league. But he’s a good player." …

"They had the Johnthan Banks kid who was pretty solid at corner, but otherwise no one really scares you on the field.”

Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:

“I respected their scheme tremendously. You watch the tape of their games against Big 12 competition from the previous year and you watched James Franklin operate, they were very impressive. They beat the hell out of a good North Carolina team in the Independence Bowl to finish that season." …

"They got off to a decent start last year. They beat a pretty good Arizona State team, and they played very well against Georgia up until the end of the game." …

"Between Franklin and some of the other guys getting hurt, especially on the offensive line, they really had trouble moving the ball." …

"I don’t think they have the skill at the wide receiver position or at the running back position that some of the other teams in the league did. And I think the overall SEC took its toll on them as the year went on." …

"(Wide receiver) Dorial Green-Beckham didn’t do much at all, and he was the No. 1 recruit in the nation. To be fair, they never really got the passing game going. He showed signs at times; he had a long reception against Central Florida. But he never got on track. I get the impression that he needs to mature a little bit. He got himself in trouble (suspended for the Vanderbilt game). But he was the No. 1 player in the 2012 recruiting class, so he’s got plenty of talent." …

"The running back coming back from injury, Henry Josey, he’ll be dangerous if he returns healthy. Really talented back.”

South Carolina
Opposing coaches size up the Gamecocks:

“I like quarterback Connor Shaw. He’s underrated. All he does is win. And he is fiercely tough." …

"Dylan Thompson struggled early but played well down the stretch. Had some big games. Won at Clemson. They both played well in the bowl game. Connor probably makes more plays with his feet and has that grittiness to him that made them really good early in the year. Thompson may be the more talented of the two, and clearly South Carolina knows that their defense is legit, and if they don’t turn the ball over and make mistakes, they will win a lot of games. The person who doesn’t make mistakes and puts them in the best positions will be the guy." …

"They should be able to absorb the loss of Marcus Lattimore. Early in the 2011, he was a workhorse for them, but as he got hurt they became more reliant on Connor Shaw and the perimeter runs. Mike Davis is a very good back. They have some good young players that will do a good job for them." …

"Ace Sanders was a great return guy and a good slot receiver. I always thought he was dangerous, but I didn’t look at him and say he was an elite wide receiver in the league. You thought about him more in reverses and things like that, not necessarily as a big-league receiver. The biggest catch of his career came on the last play, against Michigan. He’s a loss, but they have established some really solid depth at receiver.”


Opposing coaches size up the Volunteers:

“They will be an up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense that will play with a lot of enthusiasm." …

"Their problems certainly weren’t on offense last year. They were on defense. Butch Jones has hired some coaches with some experience in the SEC, like John Jancek and Willie Martinez, who know the league and know the type of player it takes to be successful in this league." …

"They have to replace so many key players on offense. That will take some time." …

"The offensive line was very good. Losing (offensive line coach) Sam Pittman may hurt more than losing any of the players. He is a really good coach." …

"I always respected what Cincinnati did under Jones. They seemed to be a well-coached team." …

"They have won two SEC games in two years. That is bizarre. It just shows you how fiercely competitive the SEC is — for a school with those resources to have only two wins in two years." …

"Butch Jones is a hit ‘em in the face kind of guy who will try to win back the state of Tennessee in recruiting. You sense he has the right energy for the job." …

"I’m not sure Derek Dooley was the right guy for the job. That defense last year was record-setting bad. They had a top-five offense nationally, but the defense was so bad it carried the team down. That offense was as good as any team we played.”

Texas A&M
Opposing coaches size up the Aggies:

“They lost one of their key offensive linemen, one of the first guys drafted this year, Luke Joeckel, and that’s obviously going to be a loss for them. I think offensively, they are still going to be really, really good. I actually think they are going to be the team to beat in the West, just because of who they have coming back overall, what they do schematically, how fast their offense goes." …

"Mark Snyder is a good defensive coordinator. You look at it, the only games they lost were Florida and LSU, and one of them was their first game of the year. Still, they almost beat Florida. I don’t really know why LSU was so hard for them. It was maybe LSU being able to neutralize A&M up front with its physical, quick defensive linemen." …

"You’re really limited what you can do against A&M’s offensive line." …

"They only run about eight plays or so. It’s just so fast. If you don’t have a system or terminology that allows you to play that tempo, there’s no chance. A&M has already snapped the ball." …

"Where Johnny Manziel is really good — and how he got us — he gets you is same way Cam Newton did. Once you’ve got everyone covered, if you don’t account for the quarterback, he’s going to run for a first down." …

"On defense, they lost a couple of guys. It will be interesting to see what they can do there. … They are so big and quick up front, but they are also lean. They can really move on that offensive line.”

Opposing coaches size up the Commodores:

“Their wideout, Jordan Matthews, is pretty good. He’s really good, actually. He’s pretty athletic, and he will make guys miss. Keeping him is pretty big. He had a chance to go to the NFL." …

"The tight ends are undersized, basically position blockers that can kind of get in the way but aren’t really point-of-attack guys. Vanderbilt will mix and match plays in the running game and try to create matchups that way." …

"The quarterback that transferred from Wyoming (Austyn Carta-Samuels), they feel he’s as talented as the guy they had, Jordan Rodgers. I’d have to see that. He approached spring ball like he’s going to be the guy, like he can win the job. That’s the right way to do it." …

"(Tailback) Zac Stacy was a solid kid who ran well. Not sure if they will go to a running back-by-committee, but Stacy did a lot of things for them. They gave it to him 200-plus times, and he played really hard." …

"Overall, they have a couple of skill guys who can make some plays down field, and the offensive line works well together." …

"You know, they won nine games and play you really tough, but I think they’ll be in the middle of the road — the middle of the pack in the SEC. That’s not a knock on them. James Franklin has done a great job. They’ll win some games. But the next step is to become an elite SEC team, and I’m just not sure they have the personnel yet.”

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SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013

After back-to-back 11-win seasons, Michigan State slipped to a 7-6 mark in 2012. The Spartans expected to take a tumble with the departure of quarterback Kirk Cousins, but most expected coach Mark Dantonio to keep Michigan State among the top-25 teams in the nation.

Michigan State’s offense was the main culprit of last year’s 7-6 record, finishing 10th in the Big Ten in scoring. The Spartans also ranked ninth in the conference in total yards per game (359.3). But the defense was one of the nation’s best, as coordinator Pat Narduzzi led this unit to a top-10 national finish in the four main defensive categories.

The Big Ten Legends Division should be one of the most competitive conference battles in 2013. Four teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern – have a legitimate case to be ranked as the preseason favorite.

What will Michigan State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Michigan State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/30 Western Michigan
9/7 South Florida
9/14 Youngstown State
9/21 at Notre Dame
10/5 at Iowa
10/12 Indiana
10/19 Purdue
10/26 at Illinois
11/2 Michigan
11/16 at Nebraska
11/23 at Northwestern
11/30 Minnesota
Final Projection8-48-410-29-38-48-47-58-4

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Michigan State’s Legends Division title hopes rest solely on an offense that averaged only 20 points per game last year. Although the Spartans figure to be better on offense by default, that task isn’t easy with running back Le’Veon Bell leaving for the NFL. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell had his struggles last season but is working with an improved receiving corps, and an offensive line that returns three starters. The strength of Mark Dantonio’s team is on defense, and with six starters back, the Spartans should once again rank near the top of the Big Ten in fewest points allowed. Michigan State’s schedule is backloaded, with matchups against fellow Legends Division contenders Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern in November. If the offense improves, the Spartans have a chance to convert some of the close losses into wins. But there’s still plenty of uncertainty about quarterback Andrew Maxwell, along with which running back steps up as a workhorse to replace Bell.

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
Give Michigan State an average offense to pair with its filthy defense, and it might be the favorite to meet Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten title game. The offense isn’t average, though; in fact, it was one of the Big Ten’s worst a season ago, and that was with stud Le’Veon Bell taking handoff after handoff. Bell’s in the NFL now, as is Dion Sims, the team’s best pass-catcher. So, how are the Spartans going to move the ball, keep their defense from wearing down? That’s TBD. The good news: Andrew Maxwell and the receivers can only get better. Even with the likely offensive struggles, Michigan State’s defense is good enough to carry the team, particularly early on. The Spartans have a backloaded schedule, meaning they could gain confidence and—believe it not—bring an 8-0 or 7-1 record into their grueling final stretch (vs. Michigan; at Nebraska; at Northwestern; vs. Minnesota).

Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), and
Michigan State's defense deserved better last year. The Spartans had the top defensive unit in the Big Ten (first overall, first against the run, third against the pass and first in scoring). The defense in 2013 should once again be solid and among the best in the Big Ten, but an ability to bring a pass rush needs to be emphasized early on for the Spartans. On the other side of the football, as poor as the Spartans were on offense in 2012, I have a good feeling that things will almost have to be better with the coaching staff and talent available. I think last year was a bit of a mirage for Michigan State's offense and have faith in Mark Dantonio and his staff to make at least some tweaks and improvements on the offense to step up from putrid to average.

The beginning of the season should see the typical solid start by Michigan State before things start to get tough. A road game at Notre Dame is always going to be tight but I'll give the edge to the Irish right now. And I can't help but think the second game against South Florida will end up being a closer bout than most will suspect. Same with a road game at Iowa. Michigan State should be in contention in a wild Big Ten Legends Division, with late games against Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern all playing a huge factor in to the division outcome. I have two losses in the road contests and Nebraska and Northwestern but a win at home against the Wolverines. You can probably flip the Michigan and Northwestern outcomes but either way I have them going 1-2 in that key three-game stretch.

Mike Fiammetta, (@B5Q),
You know the defense will be there, especially with six starters returning. But what improvements will Michigan State make on offense without Le’Veon Bell? Dion Sims is also in the NFL, leaving quarterback Andrew Maxwell without his top receiving target from a year ago. A backloaded schedule could give the Spartans time for things to gel, though a trip to Notre Dame does loom Sept. 21. The last four weeks are killer, though: vs. Michigan, at Nebraska, at Northwestern and vs. Minnesota. The potential for Michigan State is wild, in varying respects: 7-5 and 10-2 seasons both seem within the realm of possibilities.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Spartans will be extremely recognizable in 2013: salty on defense, physical along the line of scrimmage and mediocre on offense. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell returns to this offense but has to prove he can develop into a dependable playmaker before anyone can make the case for this team to win the Legends Division. Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern boast elite offenses, and Michigan State will have to score points to upset one of the big three contenders in the division. Otherwise, the schedule is actually very manageable as Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin are noticeably absent from the slate.

Mark Ross
Michigan State lost a bunch of close games last season (five by four points or less), but also won its share of close ones (four by four points or less). That is one of the reasons why I am expecting the Spartans to finish this season with a record along the same lines as the 7-6 mark they posted in 2012. One thing MSU does have going for it this fall is that Ohio State and Wisconsin aren't on the schedule, as they have been replaced by Illinois and Purdue. That could be a two-game swing in and of itself.

That said, Notre Dame is still on tap, as is a brutal November that has Mark Dantonio's team facing Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern in a row, with the last two coming on the road. As good as the defense should be, led by an experienced and talented back seven, the offense has plenty of question marks, such as who will replace Le'Veon Bell and his 1,700 rushing yards? Unless quarterback Andrew Maxwell makes some huge strides in his final season, the ceiling for this Spartans team is probably around eight wins, not including its bowl outcome.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)

I don’t think Michigan State is all that great of a team, but they’ve got a nice stretch to start the season. Tough to beat a four-game Big Ten stretch against Iowa, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, plus the first two games against teams with new coaches. Michigan State’s offense isn’t going to be that great, so they’re going to have trouble scoring on a team like Notre Dame and keeping up with teams like Indiana, Nebraska and Northwestern. So why is that Michigan win sitting there? Well, I picked it on a lark back in the game picks for the Wolverines. Besides, what’s a college football season without some inexplicable upsets in rivalry games?

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Michigan State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/10-college-football-teams-wed-see-hard-knocks

The NFL’s seventh season of Hard Knocks began yesterday with a second go-round inside training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The series brings all the drama of the NFL preseason with rookies making their way onto rosters, the tough decisions on who to keep and who to cut and players dealing with off-field issues.

The HBO program brings us closer to an NFL team each year, but we think the series would be a little more interesting if there were a college football version — the coaches have bigger personalities, the players are more raw on the field and less familiar with the business angle and professionalism off of it.

Behind-the-scenes access isn’t unheard of during the college football preseason. ESPN gets access from time to time; most major programs share videos through official web sites. But we want an unfiltered, warts-and-all look. Here are the teams we’d like to see:

1. Texas A&M
The Aggies would have been No. 1 before Johnny Manziel’s eligibility was thrown into question Sunday night. What a week ago looked like would be simply the Johnny Football Show now brings added NCAA drama. For better or worse, Hard Knocks: Texas A&M would present a look at the NCAA investigation process and the school’s response as they try to keep Manziel eligible for the Sept. 14 game against Alabama. Kevin Sumlin says he’s in the fact-finding stage, but it would be intriguing to see how he prepares Manziel’s backups for the opener. And for a dose of reality away from all-Manziel, all the time, let’s not forget that A&M players are grieving for the loss of teammate Polo Manukainiu after a car accident claimed his life last week.

2. USC
What kinds of decisions does a coach make just before a critical season in his career? Lane Kiffin hass already closed regular season practices to the media, though that’s not a decision the average fan will find too intriguing. More than that, Kiffin is overseeing a rare quarterback competition at USC. The last one was four seasons ago when Matt Barkley quickly dispatched Aaron Corp early in the 2009 season. Perhaps more interesting than Kiffin picking between Max Wittek and Cody Kessler would be the reactions of one of the nation’s best receiving duos in Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor to each QB candidate. If the offensive side of the ball isn’t interesting enough, new coordinator Clancy Pendergast is installing a new 5-2 scheme. And finally, two words: Ed Orgeron.

3. LSU
Les Miles is a character, and that would be enough to carry any Hard Knocks season. But this preseason would be intriguing even if Miles were cut in the mold of deadpan coaches like Mark Dantonio or Kirk Ferentz. LSU’s trademark defense is full of new names and faces. The assumption is that the Tigers will pick up where they left off, but it’s going to be a young group. On offense, Miles recently reinstated his top running back (Jeremy Hill) following to legal issues and has a quarterback (Zach Mettenberger) who has a new coordinator and a spotty history on and off the field.

4. Alabama
We’re not sure if “The Process” would be compelling television or a football version of “The Joy of Painting.” The most entertaining part may be watching players interact with a state and fan base basking in Roll Tide euphoria and then returning to a disapproving Nick Saban. And after that, Hard Knocks: Alabama would be a chance to get to know the Alabama coaching staff, which is shut down from media interviews once the season begins. Fans somewhere should have a reason to be excited to hire defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

5. Notre Dame
Hard Knocks: Notre Dame might lose a ratings battle with The Bachelor: Manti Te’o, but we’re still watching the Irish try to navigate their return to national prominence and how Notre Dame deals with the BCS Championship Game embarrassment. Brian Kelly has a quarterback battle on his hands between the veteran Tommy Rees (who the fans aren’t totally excited to see) and Malik Zaire (who the fans didn’t expect to see taking snaps until 2014 or 2015).

6. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is kind of Hardcore SEC Fan Central this season. The Rebels need their top-10 signing class to contribute immediately, both as starters and for depth. We know Robert Nkdemdiche through the recruiting process, but Hard Knocks: Ole Miss will give us the first look at the top freshman in the SEC, playing on the defense as his brother, Denzel, who is a star in his own right. Hugh Freeze has only be a college head coach for two seasons, but his homespun qualities have been a perfect fit in the SEC. He’s a positive guy, but he may have to prepare his team for a rough start to the season thanks to the Rebels’ brutal schedule. Moreover, Ole Miss is one of the rare college teams that still does two-a-day practices in preseason camp, though the Rebels don’t exactly go full speed for those sessions.

7. South Carolina
There’s Steve Spurrier wisecracking and Jadeveon Clowney flipping sleds with teammate Gerald Dixon. And Manziel isn’t the only big-time player dealing with fame and everyone wanting a piece of him: Spurrier closed practices and declared a moratorium on talking about “The Hit.” And beyond the Spurrier/Clowney dynamic, Carolina is trying to win an SEC championship and national championship with a quarterback who missed all of spring practice and portions of last season.

8. Washington State
Mike Leach hasn’t changed in his second season at Washington State — he says he’s working on a book on Geronimo — so that will bring ample entertainment. On the field Washington State went 3-9 last season and may have the same record in 2013. Leach won seven games in each of his first two seasons at Texas Tech and nine in his third, so he’s in uncharted territory in Pullman.

9. Texas
Few teams are under more pressure than Texas. The Big 12 is wide open, but there’s little consensus Texas, one of the most talented teams in the league, can win it. Four seasons removed from their last Big 12 title, the Longhorns have also lost ground to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M, never mind being firmly under the thumb of Oklahoma. How Brown coaches for his job and how Manny Diaz tries to repair one of the nation’s worst run defenses would be intriguing storylines.

10. Vanderbilt
James Franklin is cliff diving, and Herb Hand is Tweeting and angling for a spot on Chopped. But meanwhile the Commodores are in the midst of one of the best runs in school history. Although Vanderbilt swiftly dismissed the four players at the center of a campus sex crimes investigation, the program is growing accustomed to people paying attention to what’s going on in Nashville for a change.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin has the most interesting preseason camp
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-6

Fall camps underway....more Johnny Manziel news. College football never stops.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Tuesday, August 6th

The latest on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel - and it's more bad news for the Aggies.

Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum is likely out until October.

What do scholarship offer letters look like? Check out this story from SB Nation

The Big Ten Network continues its ranking of the top 25 players in the conference for 2013.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong has a zero-tolerance policy for transfer running back Michael Dyer.

In light of the recent Johnny Manziel news, Texas A&M has retained the same law firm that helped keep Cam Newton eligible at Auburn.

Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal is out for a few days after minor surgery.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall has already indicated C.J. Brown will be the starting quarterback.

Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit is uncertain who will start at quarterback this year.

Oklahoma freshman defensive end D.J. Ward is missing practice due to a spleen issue.

Here's a look at 10 key questions to watch as California opens up fall camp.

True freshman Tyler Boyd could be looking at significant playing time for Pittsburgh this year.

Speaking of true freshmen, Virginia Tech has big plans for Kendall Fuller.

Ole Miss is getting No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche ready to play in the season opener.

Connor Cook is making a good impression in the race to win Michigan State's starting quarterback job.

In a bit of a surprise, a quarterback battle appears to be brewing at Bowling Green.

Here are 10 things to watch as Florida State opens fall practice.

BYU running back Michael Alisa has suffered a setback in his recovery from a broken arm.

College Football's Link Roundup: August 6
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 14:06
Path: /18-amazing-mlb-stats-week-july-29-aug-4

Mike Trout continues to wow fans in Anaheim, the Braves are once again the hottest team in baseball, J-Hey sparks Atlanta, lefties can't beat the Indians, Pedro Alvarez kills the Cardinals and A-Rod's financial loss. These and other fantastic facts are part of our amazing baseball stats for the week of July 29-August 4.

.719    Mike Trout OBP last week
Opponents could not kept the Angels’ All-Star outfielder off base last week. Trout batted .500 and drew 13 walks.

2    10-game winning streaks for Atlanta this season
The Atlanta Braves ended the weekend with a 10-game winning streak, their second this season. During the first streak in April, pitching ruled the day. The Braves batted .270 and scored 52 runs during that streak and the Braves’ staff posted a 1.48 ERA. During the most recent streak, the hitters posted a .299 average and scored 66 runs while the pitchers’ ERA rose to 2.30.

11    Consecutive wins for Cleveland when opposing a lefty
The Indians are 23-14 this season in games started by an opposing lefthander. The Tribe have won the last 11 games with the last loss coming on June 23 when Pedro Hernandez of Minnesota beat Cleveland 5-3.

8    Consecutive losses for St. Louis when the Cardinals don’t score 13
It’s been all-or-nothing for the Cardinals’ hitters of late. The Redbirds have lost eight of their last 11 and scored three runs just once in those eight losses. The three wins were courtesy of 13, 13 and 15 runs.

.217    Oakland batting average vs. Texas over the weekend
Just as the two teams battled down the stretch last season, the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers are locked in a tight fight for the AL West title this season. The A’s ended the weekend three games up on the Rangers, but the Texas pitchers quieted the Oakland lineup during the three-game series over the weekend, holding the A’s hitters to a .217 average.

0    Games gained by Kansas City after winning nine of 10
The Royals have been red hot lately, winning nine of 10 games. The problem for manager Ned Yost and his troops is that both teams the Royals are chasing in the AL Central — the Tigers and Indians — have also won nine of 10.

10    Games changed in the NL West since July 7
On July 7, the Diamondbacks held a 4.5-game lead over the surging Dodgers in the NL West. Since then, Arizona hitters have struggled, batting just .237. The D-backs ended Sunday 5.5 games behind the Dodgers and fading fast. Going back to June 22, the difference is 15 games.

12    Runs scored by Jason Heyward last week
The Braves’ outfielder was moved to the top of the batting order prior to last week, and immediately began producing dividends. He parlayed a .469 OBP into 12 runs last week to lead the majors and spark the Braves’ offense during their current double-digit winning streak.

32    RBIs for Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates against St. Louis over the last two seasons
Since the beginning of last season, the Pirates’ third baseman has torched St. Louis pitching like no one else. No other player has more than 13 during that time. Considering his struggles to find consistency, it’s arguable that the St. Louis pitching staff is solely responsible for keeping the 2013 All-Star in the big leagues.

.171    Opponents batting average against the Pirates with the bases loaded
The Pirates’ pitchers have allowed just 13 hits — 10 singles and three doubles — with the bases loaded this season in 76 at-bats. The .171 average with the bases full is the lowest in the majors this season.
.363    Opponents batting average against the Giants with the bases loaded
On the opposite end, the Giants’ pitchers have given up 33 hits in 91 at-bats, including eight doubles, a triple and three grand slams.

2.46    Atlanta’s bullpen ERA this season
Led by closer Craig Kimbrel, the Braves’ bullpen has been the best in the majors this season.

10-15    Cincinnati’s record vs. Pittsburgh and St. Louis
The NL Central will most likely be determined by head-to-head games among the three contenders, which is as it should be. The Reds are trailing in that category with just 10 wins against 15 losses to their rivals. The Cardinals are an even 11-11 while the division-leading Pirates are 14-9.

5    Home runs by Kansas City clean-up hitters this season
With only five long balls from the clean-up spot, the Royals own the lowest total in the majors. The Royals’ No. 4 batters also have the fewest RBIs with 44.

33.5    Million dollars Alex Rodriguez stands to lose during his suspension
If Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension holds up, the Yankees’ infielder will lose his $25 million salary for 2014 and almost $8.5 million for the 49 games he will miss this season. A-Rod is scheduled to begin serving his suspension on Thursday, August 8, but all signs indicate that he will appeal and continue to play during that process.

3.8    Million dollars Ryan Braun stands to lose during his suspension
By accepting a 65-game suspension this season, the Milwaukee outfielder will forfeit close to four million dollars in salary this season. If his suspension had carried into next season, his forfeiture would have been much greater due to his higher salary.

5    Times Josh Hamilton has driven in Albert Pujols this season
Certainly, the Angels envisioned much more production from their two superstars when Hamilton was signed over the winter. The plan was to bat Hamilton fourth behind Pujols. Now with the first baseman/designated hitter injured and likely out for the season, the total may not improve.

30-59    Miami Marlins record when Jose Fernandez doesn’t start
The worst team in the National League is really bad when their ace, Jose Fernandez, doesn’t take the hill. The young righthander is supposedly on an innings limit, so he has a limited number of starts left this season. When he starts, the Marlins are 13-8 (.619), which is the equivalent of a 100-win season. In games started by everyone else, the Marlins are 30-59 (.337), or the equivalent of a 107-loss season.

Mike Trout continues to wow fans in Anaheim, the Braves are once again the hottest team in baseball, J-Hey sparks Atlanta, lefties can't beat the Indians, Pedro Alvarez kills the Cardinals and A-Rod's financial loss. These and other fantastic facts are part of our amazing baseball stats for the week of July 29-August 4.
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 13:29
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /18-amazing-holes-golf-you-should-play-2013

More Bang for Your Buck
When selecting the best holes you can play, price is usually no object, but not this year. We have chosen golf holes that are just as spectacular as some of their famous contemporaries but come at half the price. All the holes on this list are at courses with greens fees less than $100, proving that sometimes you get well more than what you pay for.

No. 1
Palouse Ridge Par 4, 463 yards
Pullman, Washington

This is the home course for Washington State University and is consistently ranked as one of the top college courses. The opening hole uses the university's iconic Bryan Clock Tower as an aiming spot for the first two shots. From the tee it's a slight dogleg, and golfers should favor the left side because of the sloping fairway. The clock tower is just left of the middle of the fairway and is a good guide to determine where approach shots should be played. An extra club might be in order because of an elevated green that is 40 yards deep.
Contact: 509-335-4342,

No. 2
Grand National (Lake Course) Par 4, 428 yards
Opelika, Alabama

Part of the famed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, this hole is not only one of the best at this facility, but also one of the best of the 11 courses that comprise the golf trail. Native plants, shrubs and trees crowd both sides of the tee box, presenting a visually daunting tee shot, especially from the back tees. This is one of the few holes on the course that doesn't have the famed lake guarding the fairway or the green, but the two fairway bunkers and two greenside bunkers make up for the lack of water. The kidney-shaped green has several undulations and several possibilities for difficult pin positions.
Contact: 334-749-9042,

No. 3
Wildhorse Par 5, 537 yards
Gothenburg, Nebraska

It doesn't seem wise to aim at a bunker, but on this long, reachable par 5, it's encouraged and may make birdie more possible. The hazard on the right is far enough away that it can't be reached, and when a ball lands on that line, it filters to the left because of the slope of the fairway and provides the opportunity of reaching the green in two. If that is an option, aim for the right side of the small green, avoiding the bunker that eagerly awaits miscalculations 10 yards in front of the hole. Lay-up shots have two well-placed pot bunkers that will also trap any careless efforts.
Contact: 308-537-7700,

No. 4
Circling Raven Par 4, 406 yards
Worley, Idaho

This golf course is part of a casino, and this hole fits the theme. Golfers can gamble off the tee and try to cut off yardage by sending a drive down the left side, taking the dogleg out of play. Go too far left, and the wetlands will take your ball. The second shot also can have a more difficult angle to the green. Safer players will stay to the right, but not too far right, because three large bunkers await any slice. The oval-shaped green is undulating and quick. Beware of left pin placements, as a large greenside bunker will grab anything short.
Contact: 800-523-2464,

No. 5
Sand Creek Par 4, 345 yards
Newton, Kansas

This is one of the easiest holes on the course, and if played well it is a realistic eagle opportunity. Driving the green depends on the wind, which can knock down shots when it comes from the south. The hole is slightly elevated from tee to green, and a strong tee shot has to negotiate not only the incline but also the strategically placed mounds in the fairway. There's a wide landing area, so gripping and ripping it shouldn't be a problem. There are no hazards fronting the green, but a mound about 20 yards in front of the green will stop balls trying to roll up onto the putting surface.
Contact: 316-284-6161,

No. 6
Ross Creek Landing, Par 3, 204 yards
Clifton, Tennessee

This is a brief reprieve from the tight fairways of the first five holes. This hole is placed in a wide-open space. The trees are set back behind the green, and the fairway gives the illusion that there is more room than there actually is. The pot bunker that fronts the green is clearly visible, but the larger U-shaped trap on the left is hidden and captures many balls that stray in that direction. The oval-shaped green is deep, and pin placements dictate the shot. Stay away from the left pin, hit the middle of the green and gladly take a two-putt par. The bail-out area is short and right.
Contact: 931-676-3174,

No. 7
Old Kinderhook Par 3, 152
Camdenton, Missouri

A picturesque hole and the shortest on the course, though not necessarily the easiest. The elevated tee shows you all the pitfalls, including a large bunker on the front right of the green. There are three grass bunkers to the left, and they may be more difficult to extricate a ball from than their sand counterpart. The green is straightforward, and birdies are a definite possibility. One club less than the yardage suggests may be a smart play considering the elevation and prevailing wind.
Contact: 573-317-3500,

No. 8
Lakota Canyon Ranch Par 4, 398 yards
New Castle, Colorado

It is easy to feel like a long-drive champion on this hole with the combination of the course's altitude and the tee box's elevation. The back tees are 67 steps from the cart path, and even if they aren't played, they should be visited for the amazing views of the surrounding mountains. The dogleg left layout can be taken advantage of, but three penalizing pot bunkers are well-placed in the wide fairway. The second shot shouldn't be anything more than a 7-iron, and firing at the pin is definitely encouraged on this large green with one bunker in front.
Contact: 970-984-9700,

No. 9
Neshanic Valley (Lake) Par 5, 525 yards
Neshanic Station, New Jersey

Another elevated tee with a stunning view, but just like the previous hole, don't get caught gazing at the scenery for too long. The fairway is not too tight, but long hitters will have to contend with bunkers on both the left and right side of the landing area from the tee box. A wetland area dissects the fairway near the green, and long hitters should be able to clear it easily. Shorter hitters will have to carefully select a proper club for the lay-up shot. The slightly undulating green is 35 yards deep and has a sand trap on both the left front and right middle.
Contact: 908 369-8200,

No. 10
Twin Warriors Par 4, 483 yards
Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico

This hole is not only long but also intimidating and should be played with much respect. The fairway is wide at first but narrows the longer you try and go off the tee. Go too long and you will have a downhill lie for your approach shot. The second shot is even more harrowing than the first. There is a deep ravine that separates the fairway and also comes into play on the left side of the green, which is elevated, adding even more length to the second shot. The bailout area on the right is a safe play, but even there a bunker awaits any miscalculations. Par is a great score here.
Contact: 505-771-6155,

No. 11
Old Works Par 5, 597 yards
Anaconda, Montana

At nearly 600 yards, this is only the third-longest par 5 on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course, but it is the best. Warm Springs Creek runs up the entire left side of the fairway and cuts across the middle near the green. Tee shots should be placed on the right side and will trickle toward the middle due to the tilt of the fairway. Getting to the green in two is difficult even for long hitters, and the green is protected by the creek in front as well as a bunker. A hill at the back will claim any long shots. The green is wide and shallow and much better attacked with a wedge.
Contact: 406-563-5989,

No. 12
Sugarloaf Par 5, 542 yards
Carrabassett Valley, Maine

An unusual setup awaits on this medium-sized par 5, where two sets of tees are available. The left tee box is accessible by bridge, and tee shots must cross over the Carrabassett River that runs along the left side of the fairway. The right takes the water out of play, but golfers must employ a fade to have a chance of getting to the green in two. The fairway tightens considerably from about 250 yards to the green, and trees frame both sides of the hole. Getting to the green in two shots is possible, especially with the prevailing wind at your back.
Contact: 800-843-5623,

No. 13
Gray Plantation Par 3, 213 yards
Lake Charles, Louisiana

This challenging par 3 will definitely test any golfer's nerves. The tee shot is about 170 yards of carry over one of the 60 acres of man-made lakes on this course. Getting the ball over the pond is no guarantee of success. There is a large, deep bunker in front of the green that captures any ball that doesn't make the green. Hit too much club, and balls will find the back bunker. Flare a shot, and there is another large bunker waiting on the right. Even the left side of the green doesn't provide a measure of safety, with balls rolling to a small collection area. The green is long and narrow.
Contact: 337-562-1663,

No. 14
Bully Pulpit Par 4, 404 yards
Medora, North Dakota

The course has rebounded nicely after the Little Missouri River flooded and damaged several of the holes. Fortunately, this wasn't one of them, and it begins what course architect Michael Hurdzan coined the "Oh my goodness corner" to describe 14, 15 and 16. This hole is in the state's famous Badlands and is surrounded by hills. The drive should be to the left middle of the fairway, which slopes to the right. An additional club is the play for the second shot since it is to an elevated green and into a prevailing wind. The oval green has slight undulations.
Contact: 800-633-6721,

No. 15
Mountain Ranch Par 4, 395 yards
Fairfield Bay, Arkansas

This is not only the hardest hole on the course, but it is also considered by many to be the hardest hole in the state. What makes it so difficult is the narrow fairway and steep incline off the tee box. There are bunkers on the left and the right guarding against any stray tee shots, and when the rough is high, making bogey from there is almost a certainty. Par is not a given even if you are in the fairway. The green is protected by bunkers in the front, back and the left. The bailout area is the right side, but even reaching that can be a chore. Par is a great score here and not often attained.
Contact: 501-884-3400,

No. 16
Old Silo Par 4, 432 yards
Mt. Sterling, Kentucky

This hole has one of the few tight fairways on the course, and traps guarding both sides add to the difficulty. The course's namesake is on the left side but invisible from the tee box. The old silo comes into view on the left as you approach your drive's landing spot, and if your ball goes too far left, the landmark can affect your second shot. A creek runs across the fairway short of the green and turns to protect the left side of the putting surface. Other obstacles are bunkers on the left and right of the green. Putting the ball near the pin is important since the heavy undulation can make two-putts tricky.
Contact: 859-498-4697,

No. 17
White Clay Creek Par 3, 183 yards
Wilmington, Delaware

It's the shortest hole on the course, but it will take a golfer's power of concentration not to get distracted. The safest shot is center of the green regardless of where the pin is to set up a two-putt for par. The obvious disturbance is the pond that fronts the left side of the green. The farther back you tee off, the more the water is in play. Aim right and you will bring grass mounds into play if you don't reach the green. The other distractions are the horse racing announcer's call of the races that travel throughout the course and the long, winding whistles from distant trains. Both sounds can be oddly melodic and comforting.
Contact: 302-994-6700,

No. 18
The Fort Par 4, 474 yards
Indianapolis, Indiana

This finishing hole will exhaust most golfers with its length and treacherous layout. Architect Pete Dye constructed the tee like Augusta National's 18th with a long chute framed by mature trees that will visually intimidate golfers no matter their skill level. Try to drive the right side, because balls will funnel toward the middle of the fairway. The second shot could be on an uneven lie because of the slope and will require a long iron or utility wood to reach the green. The putting surface is receptive to long shots but does have some subtle breaks that may derail par.
Contact: 317-543-9597,

Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 13:26