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Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-acc-wide-receivers

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

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

Ranking the ACC's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. Clemson – The Tigers had high expectations for Sammy Watkins last year, and the freshman didn’t disappoint. He quickly emerged as Clemson’s No. 1 receiver, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 scores. An off-the-field arrest in May has clouded Watkins’ status for the season opener, but he is not expected to miss more than one or two games. The sophomore isn’t the only returning weapon for Tajh Boyd, as DeAndre Hopkins is back after snagging 72 balls last year. Jaron Brown, Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant and Adam Humphries will fill out the rest of the receiving corps. Senior Brandon Ford is expected to step in for Dwayne Allen at tight end. He caught 14 passes for 166 yards and two scores last year.

2. Florida State – The Seminoles don’t have the All-American that Clemson has in Sammy Watkins, but there’s a lot to like about this group in 2012. Rashad Greene caught 38 passes for 596 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman last year and should be in contention for first-team All-ACC honors in 2012. Rodney Smith is back after ranking second on the team with 561 receiving yards last season, while Willie Haulstead returns after missing all of 2011 due to a concussion. Adding to depth will be junior Kenny Shaw, sophomore Christian Green and a breakout candidate in redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin. Nick O’Leary is an emerging threat at tight end and should easily improve upon his totals from last year (12 catches, 164 yards and one touchdown).

3. Virginia Tech – Despite the departures of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, the Hokies are still in great shape at receiver. D.J. Coles is back after ranking third on the team with 36 receptions and 480 yards last year. Senior Marcus Davis averaged 17 yards per reception in 2011 and should contend for All-ACC honors in 2012. This group will get a boost with the return of Dyrell Roberts. He missed nearly all of last year with an arm injury but has 63 career catches for 965 yards and five scores. A player to watch will be incoming freshman Joel Caleb. He ranked as the No. 95 recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and should push for playing time.

4. Duke – Conner Vernon hasn’t received much national recognition, but he is on the verge of finishing his career as one of the ACC’s most prolific receivers. He ranks seventh in career receptions and needs 35 to pass Aaron Kelly (Clemson) for the No. 1 spot. Vernon ranks 16th in conference history with 2,675 yards and needs 843 in 2012 to pass Peter Warrick (Florida State) for first place. Donovan Varner and tight end Cooper Helfet have expired their eligibility, and the Blue Devils need sophomore Jamison Crowder or freshman Nick Hill to help take the pressure off of Vernon. Replacing Helfet at tight end is expected to be Issac Blakeney or Braxton Deaver.

5. North Carolina – In order to make new coach Larry Fedora’s spread attack work, the Tar Heels will need some players to step up at receiver. Senior Erik Highsmith is the first choice to replace Dwight Jones as the No. 1 target. Highsmith grabbed 51 receptions for 726 yards and five scores last year and should see his numbers increase in 2012. Sophomore T.J. Thorpe is ready for an increased role in the offense, while seniors Todd Harrelson and Jheranie Boyd have one more shot to make an impact. Sophomores Sean Tapley and Reggie Wilkins will battle for snaps, but incoming freshman Quinshad Davis could crack the receiver rotation in the fall. Eric Ebron appears to be the likely starter at tight end.

6. NC State – The concern over losing tight end George Bryan and speedy receiver T.J. Graham is lessened somewhat by the return of quarterback Mike Glennon. The senior was solid in his first year as the starter, throwing for 3,054 yards and 31 scores. Running back James Washington is the team’s leading returning receiver after catching 42 passes last year. Tobais Palmer will likely be the new No. 1 target for Glennon and he grabbed 37 receptions for 496 yards in 2011. Bryan Underwood flashed potential as a freshman last year by nabbing 16 receptions for 226 yards. This group will be counting on juniors Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton to fill the No. 3 and No. 4 roles, while Mario Carter and Asa Watson will battle to replace Bryan as the starting tight end.

7. Maryland – This group wasn’t a strength last year, but the Terrapins also dealt with inconsistency at quarterback and a change in offensive scheme. There’s a new coordinator once again in 2012, but there’s hope for the offense to turn things around. Three of the top four players at the top of Maryland’s catch total from last season are back, and there’s a lot of potential surrounding freshman Stefon Diggs. Kevin Dorsey, Kerry Boykins and Diggs will likely round out the starting receiving corps, while Devin Burns, Marcus Leak and Nigel King are in the mix for snaps. With the struggles of Maryland’s passing attack last year, tight end Matt Furstenburg went largely unnoticed. The senior could be the best in the ACC at his position in 2012.

8. Miami – In addition to the question marks surrounding the quarterback position, the Hurricanes suffered some significant losses at this position. Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin combined for 87 receptions and 1,420 yards last year but both are catching passes in the NFL this summer. Allen Hurns is Miami’s top returning receiver (31 catches) and will have to take on a bigger role in 2012. Phillip Dorsett grabbed 14 receptions as a freshman last year and will be in the mix to start this season. Sophomore Rashawn Scott and senior Kendal Thompkins will have to hold off a charge for playing time from incoming freshmen Angelo Jean-Louis, Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart. Clive Walford had a solid freshman campaign – catching 18 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown – and is expected to increase his numbers in 2012.

9. Virginia – There’s no question the Cavaliers are back on track after winning eight games last season. However, to take the next step and win the ACC title, the passing attack has to get better. Quarterback Michael Rocco settled into the job last year and another offseason to work as the starter will help Virginia’s offense. This unit will miss Kris Burd, but junior Tim Smith is an emerging weapon after averaging 17.1 yards per catch in 2011. Darius Jennings turned in a solid freshman campaign, catching 20 passes for 239 yards and a score. Sophomores Dominique Terrell, E.J. Scott and Miles Gooch will compete for time, while tight end is in good shape with Colter Phillips and Jake McGee returning.

10. Wake Forest – Chris Givens emerged as one of the ACC’s top receivers last year but decided to leave a year early for the NFL Draft. Without Givens, the Demon Deacons are counting on Michael Campanaro to have another big season in 2012. He caught 73 passes for 833 yards and two touchdowns last year and will be the No. 1 target for quarterback Tanner Price. After Campanaro is where Wake Forest needs playmakers to emerge. Senior Terence Davis caught 20 passes for 269 yards and five scores last season but must have a bigger impact in 2012. Junior Quan Rucker, sophomore Brandon Terry and freshmen Airyn Willis and Sherman Ragland will provide depth, while tight end is an area of concern with very little experience returning.

11. Boston College – The Eagles ranked a disappointing 11th in the ACC in passing offense last year, but there’s hope for a turnaround in 2012. New coordinator Doug Martin did a good job of improving New Mexico State’s offense last season, and this group returns quarterback Chase Rettig and the top four statistical receivers from 2011. Rettig is a work in progress, but he needs more help from this group. Bobby Swigert led the team with 44 receptions for 470 yards, while Colin Larmond averaged 15.5 yards per catch. Swigert, Larmond and tight end Chris Pantale are a nice trio to build around, but Boston College needs more big-play ability from the rest of the group.

12. Georgia Tech – Considering the Yellow Jackets averaged 12.8 passing attempts per game last season, possessing an elite receiving corps isn’t essential to make the option offense work. However, this unit was hit hard with the early departure of standout Stephen Hill to the NFL, while Tyler Melton finished his eligibility. With those two players departing, Georgia Tech has no receivers returning with any career receptions. Sophomores Jeff Greene and Darren Waller need a big season as the likely starters, while senior Chris Jackson and junior Jeremy Moore will push for snaps. The Yellow Jackets won’t need an All-ACC standout, but a receiver or two needs to emerge as a downfield threat to keep defenses honest. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related ACC Content

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Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team

ACC 2012 Heisman Contenders

Al Golden Has Miami Back on Track

Can NC State Win the ACC in 2012?

The History of ACC Realignment

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 ACC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-ten-wide-receivers

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

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

Ranking the Big Ten's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. Nebraska —In what could be considered the weakest position in the Big Ten, the Huskers claim the top slot almost by default — and upside. Kenny Bell led the team in catches and yards as only a freshman, becoming only the second player to do so at Nebraska. He is explosive and dynamic enough to be used in a variety of ways and has gotten bigger and stronger this offseason. Fellow sophomore Jamal Turner has loads of ability and dynamic potential, but needs to work on being more physical and consistent. Seniors Quincy Enunwa and Tim Marlowe offer veteran experience and both do all of the little things coach Rich Fisher wants from his wideouts. Expect to see Taariq Allen and Tyler Evans receive plenty of time as well. Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed form one of the best tight end duos in the nation. Reed has rare physical talents that need to be utilized by Nebraska and quarterback Taylor Martinez more.

2. Northwestern – The words “absolutely loaded” aren’t used to often in Athlon Sports preview magazines when talking about the Wildcats, but Pat Fitzgerald has more talent at the position than maybe any Northwestern team in history. And this, despite losing Jeremy Ebert to graduation and Kain Colter to the quarterback position. Demetrius Fields and Christian Jones can be special players, and the duo will dominate the slot in Evanston. Speedy Tony Jones returns after missing all of last year with an injury, and Rashad Lawrence is looking to bounce back after a sluggish sophomore season. Without tight end Drake Dunsmore and boasting a a six- or seven-man rotation, expect to see the Cats in plenty of four- and five-wide receiver sets. Juniors Mike Jensen and Drew Moulton and freshmen Pierre Youngblood-Ary and Cameron Dickerson will be waiting in the wings.

3. Wisconsin — While he may not be the most talented or explosive player, Jared Abbrederis is likely the top wide receiver in the Big Ten. He is extremely dependable, leads by example and rarely makes mistakes, and he also is a big-play threat in the punt return game. He could easily lead the league in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2012. Behind him, however, there is little proven depth. Jeff Duckworth will start opposite Abbrederis, while Manasseh Garner and Kenzel Doe are the only other returning wideouts who caught a pass last year (two each). Isaiah Williams and Marquis Mason could work their way into the starting rotation as well. That said, in a system known for its tight end use and running game, fans can expect to see Abbrederis on the receiving end of most of Danny O’Brien's passes. Speaking of tight ends, Jacob Pedersen is the next great player in a long line of UW TEs. He caught eight touchdowns as a sophomore and will be more of a target this fall. Pedersen is the complete package at tight end.

4. Iowa — Marvin McNutt would overshadow nearly anyone who has played in a Hawkeye uniform having  departed Iowa City as the school’s all-time leading receiver in a variety of categories. However, it appears that Keenan Davis is poised to deliver on his immense talent this fall. He will need to continue to step up his game as he is now the No. 1 option. Sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley played in all 13 games as a freshman and will likely be asked to do more this season. Steven Staggs and Jordan Cotton give the two-deep an experienced feel. The development of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz could be a game-changer for this offense if he can live up to his lofty recruiting status. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis says “in 39 springs, I’ve never had a tight end like C.J. with his size and ability to play at the line of scrimmage and stretch the field.” With the top pure passer in the Big Ten under center, Iowa should feel pretty comfortable with its plethora of emerging talent.

5. Ohio State — The leading receiver for the Buckeyes caught only 14 passes last year, but the potential and growth (and overall lack of elite options in the league) give OSU the No. 5 group in the Big Ten. Jake Stoneburner exploded at the start of last year, but went missing after Braxton Miller took over. Expect Urban Meyer to work the talented tight end into the gameplan on a more regular basis this fall. Fellow tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett will play plenty of snaps as well. On the outside, there is a jumbled mix of undeveloped potential and muddled depth charts. Devin Smith led the team in all three major categories as only a freshman and should be better while juniors Philly Brown and Chris Fields need to turn into leaders. True freshman Mike Thomas, at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, might be the wild card after performing extremely well in spring football. A big-bodied down-the-field threat is what this offense is missing and Thomas could be that for Meyer.

6. Michigan — Roy Roundtree is a bizarre case study. He was an All-Big Ten performer as a sophomore (72 rec., 935 yards), but plummeted back to Earth last fall, (19 rec., 355 yards) while Junior Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon took on bigger roles. Gallon is back opposite Roundtree and offers intriguing play-making skill. Yet, it is Roundtree that could push this unit into the Big Ten’s top tier of pass-catchers. Sophomore Jerald Robinson is a big body that Brady Hoke wants to get involved in the vertical passing game and Jeremy Jackson will get plenty of looks as well. Brandon Moore and Ricardo Miller will take over for the departed Kevin Koger at tight end.

7. Purdue — Junior O.J. Ross and senior Antavian Edison are about as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the Big Ten this fall. The two combined for 77 catches, over 900 yards and three touchdowns with a revolving door at quarterback all season. The trouble for Purdue is depth. Gary Bush, Tommie Thomas, Raheem Mostert and Shane Mikesky need to step into bigger roles this fall. Crosby Wright and Gabe Holmes do offer some dependability and upside at the tight end position.

8. Michigan State — This is going to be a huge rebuilding project for Mark Dantonio after losing B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin to the NFL. Tony Lippett and Bennie Fowler have loads of talent, but need to develop into consistent playmakers on the outside. Keith Mumphrey and Andre Sims Jr. also provide plenty of upside. Although there is some potential with the returning receivers, the addition of former Tennessee Vol DeAnthony Arnett to the unit has to make Spartans fans more comfortable with their receiving corps. No returning receiver caught more than four passes last year while Arnett, from Saginaw, Mich., posted 24 catches, 242 yards and two scores as a true freshman last year for Tennessee. He almost instantly becomes the most experienced and talented option on the roster. Dion Sims is now an upperclassman and is poised for his best season at tight end. Look for this group to develop quickly and rapidly move up these rankings.

9. Penn State — Only one player returns to the wide receiving corps with at least five catches last season. Devon Smith was expected to start, but he left the team in late June. Justin Brown, who has been a complementary piece, will need to step up and be the deep threat that Derek Moye was, while also emerging as a leader with very little experience around him. Shawney Kersey, Alex Kenney, Allen Robinson and Christian Kuntz will all get a chance to start as well. Meanwhile, Bill O’Brien plans to refocus on the tight end position — a la his former employer, the New England Patriots. Junior Garry Gilliam might have the most talent, but he needs to stay on the field after dealing with injury issues, while Kevin Haplea boasts the most experience. Now, if someone could just get them the football.

10. Indiana — Converted quarterback Kofi Hughes may not have the elite game-changing ability Kevin Wilson is looking for, but he will likely be the best IU receiver. He built a tremendous rapport with freshman signal caller Tre Roberson, as his eight-catch, 147-yard performance against Ohio State indicates. He can also be used in unique ways with his ability to run and throw the football from the wideout position. Duwyce Wilson might be the most gifted player on the two-deep, but he has to prove he is healthy after missing spring with a knee issue. Expect Cody Lattimore, Jay McCants and Jamonne Chester to figure prominently into the mix as well. Tight end Ted Bolser can expect the biggest boost from new coordinator Seth Littrell, as the pro-style attack will feature the tight end more prominently.

11. Illinois — Replacing A.J. Jenkins will be a tall order for new head coach Tim Beckman. Spencer Harris is a junior who posted 26 catches a year ago. Darius Millines is also an upperclassman who had 19 receptions last fall, while sophomore tight end Jon Davis posted 22 receptions as a freshman a year ago. These three should be Nathan Scheelhaase’s top targets. The most intriguing development, however, could be the usage of cornerback Terry Hawthorne. The coverman was a star pass-catcher in high school and could be used on both sides of the ball. His raw play-making ability might be too much to keep him out of the offensive gameplan. Ryan Lankford should also see a big role, as a host of talented but unproven underclassmen fill the two-deep.

12. Minnesota — Only one returning receiver has caught a touchdown on this roster - senior Brandon Green. Speed demon Marcus Jones will control the slot but has to stay healthy after dealing with a torn knee ligament a season ago. Former junior college transfer Malcolm Moulton can make plays, but he has to be more consistent while Devin Crawford-Tufts also needs to continue his development in a big way. Freshman Andre McDonald could be a wild card at 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds, while John Rabe and Drew Goodger are expected to get the reps at tight end. Quarterback MarQueis Gray is a senior and should have his best year, but Minnesota needs players to step up around him for the Gophers to improve in 2012.

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

Related Big Ten Content

2012 Big Ten Predictions
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Big Ten's 2012 Heisman Contenders

The History of Big Ten Realignment

Revisiting Northwestern's 1995 Rose Bowl Team

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:23
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/kansas-football-will-charlie-weis-second-chance-equal-success

It didn’t matter that spring practice was just a month away or that the business of rebuilding a team coming off a 2–10 season never closed. Charlie Weis wanted to get home for the game.

The basketball game.

Just days earlier, Kansas’ hoop squad had claimed a highly charged 87–86 win over third-ranked Missouri. Now, two days later, the Jayhawks had traveled to Stillwater for a matchup with Oklahoma State. It’s not like the Pokes were a big threat on paper; in fact, they had a losing record. But after such a draining triumph, a letdown was almost inevitable. Weis wanted to see how KU would respond.

“I love the hoops team,” Weis says. “I got home to see the basketball game, because I wanted to see how (Kansas coach Bill) Self would handle the emotional letdown after a huge win Saturday.”

The Jayhawks were just fine. They earned a 70–58 win over OSU, clinching the Big 12 regular-season championship. From his perch at home, Weis — the new Kansas football coach — had a chance to watch Self at work and see just how far his own program had to go to match its more celebrated hardwood counterpart.

That Weis has taken over in Lawrence is both interesting and surprising. His arrival at Kansas has to stun many who believed that the coach’s inability to make good on his early assurances that he would turn Notre Dame into a national champion contender disqualified him from another BCS job, especially so soon after leaving South Bend (after the 2009 season). It fascinates those who wonder whether this NFL offensive wizard can author a strong second act away from the intense scrutiny he faced while directing the Irish.

Weis certainly didn’t choose a situation that will provide an easy rehabilitation for his reputation. The Jayhawks didn’t simply post a horrible record last year; they were disorganized and undisciplined. Even the players know that.

“For the most part, it was a lot of little things, small discipline things, that can over time grow into larger things,” says senior offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson. “The small things turned into big losses,” adds senior defensive end Toben Opurum.

So, not only must Weis upgrade the team’s talent, find a way to shore up a defense that surrendered 43.8 points per game and improve the team’s passing attack, but he must also tighten up the focus and commitment of his players.

The last task was the first he tackled, and he went about it from two angles. First, he hired Scott Holsopple from Florida to be his strength and conditioning coach. (Weis was the Gators’ offensive coordinator last year.) Secondly, he put more pressure on the players to perform in the classroom by installing himself as the academic liaison for the program.

“I interviewed every kid on the team (one March) Saturday morning, and 90 percent of them said the biggest two differences for them were how much improvement they gained in strength and conditioning and how much more accountability they have academically,” Weis says.

Weis considers himself a “loving father” to his players, and that image seems to be at odds with the personality he displayed at Notre Dame, when he was often caustic and arrogant to those outside the program. To his credit, Weis seems to have toned down the offensive genius shtick somewhat and is focused more on producing a winning team than on polishing his national image.

To that end, he was extremely active in the personnel department during his first few months on the job. He began with the quarterback position, which last year featured Jordan Webb, who completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,824 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 picks. Webb wasn’t awful, but he certainly wasn’t a good fit for Weis’ pro-style offense and has since transferred to Colorado. In his place, Weis will likely insert former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, who left South Bend after an injury-marred career to play for the man who recruited him to ND. If Crist, who suffered two serious knee injuries while with the Irish, can’t go, Weis will turn to Turner Baty, who led City College of San Francisco to the junior college national title. Former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, once the nation’s No. 1 high school quarterback, has transferred to Lawrence and will be eligible in 2013.

“If you look at our recruiting class of Dayne Crist, Jake Heaps and Turner Baty, how can anybody in the country have a better recruiting class than that at quarterback?” Weis says, making a pretty good point.

Under center isn’t the only place on the field you’ll find some experienced newcomers in 2012. Weis brought in a total of nine junior college players, and even signed one — offensive lineman Aslam Sterling — on March 12. Unlike at Notre Dame, which did not allow junior college transfers, Kansas is quite amenable to their arrival, and Weis is delighted to be bringing in a class that has some older hands.

“You can turn around a program like this faster when you can blend a mixture of high school kids and junior college kids and other factors, like fifth-year kids who have already graduated (like Crist),” Weis says. “A lot of these kids are ready to play now.”

Weis makes no secret that he is using rival Kansas State as a template for his program. When Bill Snyder began his second stint in Manhattan in 2009, he faced a similar situation: The team was undisciplined and lacked talent. By the next season, Snyder had the Wildcats in a bowl game, and last season, KSU was 10–2 during the regular season. Snyder’s formula included plenty of transfers.

But junior college imports can backfire on coaches, and Weis has to be careful that his desire for quick success doesn’t create trouble down the road. Kansas football fans may not be as demanding as those who grew tired of Weis in South Bend, but if the Jayhawks don’t show progress, it will be hard to justify keeping him.

“When you come to do a rebuild at a school like Kansas, it’s somewhat helpful that he ­didn’t have all 10- and 11-win seasons,” says KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who describes Weis as having a “great work ethic” and a “great football mind.”

“That sounds like a justification, but he knows how to coach a 6–6 team and a 9–3 team. As you rebound, you’re going to have 6–6 seasons before 9–3 seasons.”

At this point, 6–6 sounds pretty good in Lawrence. Not for the basketball team, but for Weis

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Preview Annual.

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An Introduction to West Virginia for the Big 12

TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

<p> Kansas Football: Will Charlie Weis' Second Chance Equal Success?</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-acc

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

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

2012 Preseason ACC All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

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

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

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

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

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


QB—Tajh Boyd, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Passed for 3,828 yards and 33 TDs, rushed for 218 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


QB—Logan Thomas, Jr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Passed for 3,013 yards and 19 TDs, rushed for 469 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; @ North Carolina, Duke, @ Clemson

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Florida St, @ Boston College, Virginia


RB—Giovani Bernard, So. (North Carolina)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 TDs, 45 receptions for 362 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ Louisville, East Carolina, Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Georgia Tech, @ Virginia, Maryland


RB—Andre Ellington, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 TDs, 22 receptions for 109 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Auburn, Ball St, Furman

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


RB—Josh Harris, Jr. (Wake Forest)

Last season:  Rushed for 432 yards and 3 TDs. 

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; Army, Duke, @ Maryland

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ NC St, @ Notre Dame, Vanderbilt


WR—Sammy Watkins, So. (Clemson)

Last season:  82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 TDs, 231 rushing yards, 1 KRTD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


WR—DeAndre Hopkins, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  72 receptions for 978 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


WR—Rashad Greene, So. (Florida State)

Last season:  38 receptions for 596 yards and 7 TDs.  Missed four games due to injury.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Murray St, Savannah St, Wake Forest

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida


TE—Brandon Ford, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  No. 1 rated JUCO tight end recruit chose the Cowboys over Georgia.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


FLEX—Michael Holmes, Fr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Redshirted.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Austin Peay, @ Pitt, Bowling Green

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Florida St, @ Boston College, Virginia


K—Chandler Catanzaro, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season: 22-for-25 on FG attempts, 79-for-80 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Auburn, Ball St, Furman

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina


DEF/ST—Florida State Seminoles

Last season:  No. 2 rushing defense, No. 4 scoring defense, total defense

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Murray St, Savannah St, Wake Forest

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida


Top 5 Reserves

QB—Bryn Renner, Jr. (North Carolina)

RB—Perry Jones, Sr. (Virginia)

RB—Orwin Smith, Sr. (Georgia Tech)

WR—Erik Highsmith, Sr. (North Carolina)

WR—Michael Campanaro, Jr. (Wake Forest)



By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the ACC</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 02:19
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-daytona

Here's hoping all the NASCAR fantasy players out there had a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday. After a week of firework displays around this great nation, the grand finale will come Saturday night under the lights at Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 — let's just keep Juan Pablo Montoya away from any jet dryers, OK?

In all seriousness, this weekend's annual July stop at the beach is one in which drivers are racing with multiple agendas on one of the sport's biggest stages. Each time the series heads to Daytona, nearly anyone in the field has a shot at upsetting the world — or at least scoring a solid finish at a crucial part of the season.

With only nine races left before the Chase field is set, the battle for the wild card spots and the fight for the top 10 in the standings is intensifying.

Perhaps one of the biggest names currently outside the top 10 in points looking to score his first win of the season this is Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards. Last year's runner-up in the championship battle has yet to win in 2012, and currently sits 11th in points.

Edwards had a deceptively strong run going in Kentucky, but a late pit stop for fuel dropped the No. 99 Ford to a 20th-place finish at the end of the night. The finish was Edwards' fifth-straight outside the top 10. To find Edwards' last top-5 finish, you would have to go back to Fontana in March. Edwards did not lead a single lap of competition until Kansas, when he led one, then backed it up at Richmond by leading 206 of the 400 laps. Since then, Edwards has led a grand total of zero.

However, things have been shaken up of late at RFR. Daytona 500 champion and current points leader Matt Kenseth will be leaving the organization at the end of the season with Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moving up to the Cup ranks as his replacement. With a multitude of sponsorship support behind him and many beginning to ask questions, Edwards is determined to turn his season around at the halfway point.

The driver of the No. 99 has been among the best on the high banks of Daytona in recent visits. He was runner-up to Trevor Bayne in last year's Daytona 500. He entered last year's Coke Zero 400 the points leader, but was turned around while running third early in the race by teammate Greg Biffle, leading to a 37th-place finish. This season, Edwards sat on the pole for the 500 and came home eighth. And if there’s one thing that’s obvious in the Ford camp, it’s that their engineers have figured out how to keep the Blue Ovals running cooler — a major advantage on the plate tracks, circa 2012.

Looking to race his way back into the top 10 in points, earn his first win of the season and turn his year around, Edwards is this week's fantasy favorite.

While Edwards may be the fantasy favorite, the perennial fan favorite is Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has two wins on the 2.5-mile superspeedway, one of which came in the Coke Zero 400 on July 7, 2001. With Saturday night's race coming on July 7 once again, could seven be the lucky number for Earnhardt?

Although he is always counted among the best at Daytona — he finished second to Kenseth in February — Earnhardt's last win on the high banks was in 2004. With one victory already this season, the No. 88 team is eager to add to the win column and start collecting bonus points for the Chase.

Whether or not drivers are willing to admit it, momentum is a hard thing to beat, and right now Brad Keselowski has a lot of it. Coming off a strong performance last week in Kentucky, Keselowski’s three wins lead the circuit. He’s good on all types of tracks (with wins on short, plate and intermediate venues), making him a must-watch.

Based on their recent finishes at Daytona, never count out Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammates Kenseth and Biffle. Kenseth was second in this race last season and won his second Daytona 500 in February, while Biffle was third. The Roush cars are typically strong here, with former driver David Ragan besting Kenseth last July.

Five Favorites: Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle

Like Keselowski, Sonoma race-winner Clint Bowyer proved he can get the job done on any style track — but especially on the high banks of Daytona and Talladega. His average finish of 14.8 at DIS is second-best among active drivers, however Bowyer has yet to score a win at Daytona.

Also like Keselowski, Bowyer has momentum on his side as the series hits the halfway point of the season. A winner two weeks ago on the road course, Bowyer is seventh in the standings and has only two finishes worse than 17th all season (a 30th, Phoenix; 36th, Kansas).

The month of July has historically been good to Bowyer in the past. Of the three tracks the series hits this month — Daytona, New Hampshire and Indianapolis — Bowyer has two wins, a pole, six top 5s and 12 top 10s. Expect him to add to those totals on Saturday.

<p> Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkorses for your Fantasy NASCAR team as the series heads to Dayttona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 15:57
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-july-5

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

First-Half Fantasy All-Stars
The 83rd Annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place in Kansas City next Tuesday, which means after Sunday’s games, everyone will take a four-day break. So as we get ready to take a slight respite from the action on the fantasy diamond, we wanted to present our first-half fantasy all-stars.

As you will see, many of our picks will not be at the midsummer classic next week. The reason for that has nothing to do with San Francisco Giants or any other team’s fans stuffing the ballot boxes either. After all, when it comes to a fantasy all-star, it’s about production and value, or in this case, ADP (Average Draft Position).

For example, Miguel Cabrera is the No. 1 first baseman (and third baseman for that matter) right now in fantasy baseball in terms of statistical production. However, that’s no real surprise, considering he was drafted in the first round and in many cases, was the first player taken overall. So without further ado, here are Athlon Sports’ first-half Fantasy All-Stars:

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

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (ADP 199.5)
With apologies to Yadier Molina, Ruiz gets the nod behind the plate because of his consistent offensive production throughout the first half, not to mention he was 13th catcher drafted in terms of ADP. Ruiz, who was previously best known for being Roy Halladay’s personal catcher, is currently second in the both the National League and majors in hitting with a .357 average. That’s nearly 100 points higher than the career .265 batting average he carried entering 2012. On top of the high average, Ruiz is second among all catcher-eligible players in both runs (40) and RBI (48) and has already hit 13 home runs. His career high before this season was nine.
Honorable Mention: Molina, St. Louis Cardinals; A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox

First Base: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (197.4)
This was a close race between Encarnacion and the Angels’ Mark Trumbo, but the Blue Jay gets it in the end because of slightly better run production and a slightly higher ADP. It also doesn’t hurt Encarnacion’s case that he’s a current Top 10 player overall, thanks to a solid .298-22-56 line, along with 52 runs scored and eight stolen bases. That overall production puts him right up there with Toronto teammate Jose Bautista, whose ADP was more than 190 spots higher at 5.3. This means that Encarnacion, who on average went in the 18th round, is putting up roughly the same numbers are Bautista, who went in the first round. Besides, I have a feeling that you will see Trumbo’s name again.
Honorable Mention: Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels; Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

Second Base: Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (UD)
Several candidates to choose from here, but Plouffe gets the nod over Aaron Hill and Jose Altuve for two main reasons. First, because he’s second only to Robinson Cano in home runs for second-base eligible players and second, because he went undrafted. Plouffe has come out of nowhere to mash 19 home runs in just 212 at-bats. He’s not going to hit for average (.250), but if you were lucky enough to pick Plouffe off of your waiver wire (and you still may be able to as he’s owned in just 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues), you will gladly take the production in the other categories, especially the home runs. It also doesn’t hurt that Plouffe carries eligibility at shortstop, third base and in the outfield too.
Honorable Mention: Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks; Altuve, Houston Astros

Third Base: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels (192.6)
Ta-da! Didn’t I say you would see Trumbo’s name elsewhere? Both Trumbo and Encarnacion are first- and third-base eligible (Trumbo also has OF eligibility), so it’s only fitting that these two share the corner infield spots on our fantasy all-star squad. Trumbo has been moved all over the diamond – 1B, 3B, LF, RF – by Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia, while also logging some time at DH so he can keep his bat in the lineup. And while he’s spent the most time in the outfield, he gets the nod here at third base, where he’s arguably the most valuable to his fantasy owner. Trumbo is currently hitting .310, which is more than 60 points higher than his career batting average (.249) entering this season, but when it comes to Trumbo the average is gravy. The run production is what you are hoping for, and in the first half, he hasn’t disappointed as he’s already hit 20 home runs and driven in 55, and thrown in four stolen bases for good measure.
Honorable Mention: Plouffe, Minnesota Twins, Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros

Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (223.0)
Plouffe could lay claim to this spot as well, but in order to spread the accolades around, we’ll go with Desmond here. Besides, it’s not like Desmond’s a slouch in the power department himself. He’s already hit 14 home runs, which ties him for second with the aforementioned Lowrie for the second place among shortstop-eligible players. But Desmond’s value goes beyond his power, as he’s second only to Kyle Seager in RBI (47) and has scored 43 runs to go along with eight stolen bases. Put it all together and it’s a nice package considering Desmond was the 18th player selected at his position in terms of ADP.
Honorable Mention: Plouffe, Minnesota Twins; Seager, Seattle Mariners

Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (245.3)
Oh to be 20 years old and a top-15 fantasy player. That’s what Trout is, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t even play his first game of the season until the end of April. All he’s doing is leading the American League in both batting average (.343) and stolen bases (23), while scoring 52 runs and adding 10 home runs and 36 RBI. The main reason his ADP was so low is no one was sure when he would be back in the big leagues. The only question now is how high will he go next year?

Outfield: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (105.8)
Entering this season, no one was really sure what to expect from the 35-year-old Beltran, who was joining a Cardinals line up that wouldn’t include Albert Pujols. Well halfway through the season, the answer so far is a top-five outfielder. Beltran leads the NL in RBI with 63 and is second to Ryan Braun in home runs with 20. He’s batting .304 and has added eight stolen bases. Not bad for someone who was taking on average in the 10th round.

Outfield: Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox (222.4)
Rios gets the nod for the last outfield spot over Melky Cabrera and some others because he was pretty much an afterthought following his .227-13-44 2011 campaign. He’s already driven in more runs (45) in just 79 games so far this season, to go along with 11 home runs, 13 stolen bases and a .317 average. He has gone from a guy who was taken on average in the 20th round to a top-15 fantasy outfielder.
Honorable Mention: Cabrera, San Francisco Giants; Alejandro De Aza, Chicago White Sox; Josh Reddick, Oakland A’s; Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks

For both SP and RP we will pick one fantasy all-star from each league.

AL SP: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (202.9)
Sale has established himself as one of the most dominating starters in all of baseball despite the fact that earlier this season the White Sox temporarily moved him back to the bullpen. The left-hander is second in the AL in wins (10), ERA (2.19) and WHIP (0.95), while striking out 98 in 102 2/3 innings. The only concern with Sale in the second half has to do with workload. He’s already pitched more innings this season than the past two combined (94 1/3). Don’t be surprised if the White Sox limit his starts the rest of the way, especially should they drop out of the playoff race.
Honorable Mention: Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox; Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles; Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers; Jarrod Parker, Oakland A’s

NL SP: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets (251.2)
Is there any real debate here? Dickey leads the majors with 12 wins, while leading the NL in WHIP (0.88) and complete games (three). He’s also third in the NL in ERA (2.15) and second in strikeouts (116), which is very impressive considering he’s a knuckleballer. He’s the clear-cut favorite for the NL Cy Young Award at this point, should get the start for the NL in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and on average he was drafted in the 23rd round. Any questions?
Honorable Mention: James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates; Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks; Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers; Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals

AL RP: Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels (UD)
Relief pitchers are a little tricky because not all leagues treat them the same, so with apologies to Jim Johnson and Fernando Rodney, who are currently No. 1 and 2 in saves in the AL, my vote goes to Frieri. A situational guy in San Diego, Frieri has made the most of his change of scenery as he has seized the Angels’ closer job by the throat. He only has 10 saves so far, but don’t let that one category take away from his overall body of work. Besides a win and seven holds, he’s also struck out 60 in just 36 innings and has a 0.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. That sort of production should play in any league, regardless of format.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Cook, Oakland A’s; Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners, Johnson, Baltimore Orioles; Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays

NL RP: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds (218.2)
He’s hit a bit of a rough patch here lately, but that shouldn’t take away from his impressive first-half performance. Chapman has made the transition from set-up man to closer for the Reds, and has been flat-out unhittable for extended stretches in both roles. Overall he’s put together four wins, nine saves and six holds and has struck out a remarkable 66 in just 37 1/3 innings. His ERA stands at 1.93 and his WHIP is a miniscule 0.78.
Honorable Mention: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers; Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals; Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

DL Watch and Other Injury News

*The Rangers announced earlier this week that Yu Darvish would not make his final scheduled start of the first half. The team said there is nothing wrong with the 25-year-old right-hander, they are just skipping his spot in the rotation to give him some extra rest with the All-Star break on the horizon. Rookie left-hander Martin Perez will take his place and face Minnesota on Friday.

*Ryan Dempster could be activated from the DL on Sunday to start the Cubs’ first-half finale in New York against the Mets. Dempster has been on the DL since June 18 with a sore right latissimus dorsi muscle and wasn’t expected back until after the All-Star break. However, his bullpen sessions have gone well and he’s hopeful that the team will let him take the mound on Sunday. Even if he does go on Sunday, expect the right-hander to be on a strict pitch count.

*Andre Ethier was placed on the 15-day DL on Wednesday with a left oblique injury. The move was made retroactive to June 28 and was done after the Dodgers initially thought it would not be necessary. Ethier has not played in a game since June 27 when he sustained the injury on a check swing against the Giants. The Dodgers are hoping to get both Ethier and Matt Kemp (hamstring) back in the lineup shortly after the All-Star break.

*In other Dodgers injury news, shortstop Dee Gordon suffered a dislocated right thumb in the eighth inning of their 4-1 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Gordon did not return to the game and was scheduled to have an MRI today. It’s not known if he will be able to return to the lineup right away not.

*After getting shelled (6 ER on 9 H in 4 1/3 innings) in his last start on Tuesday in Cleveland, Dan Haren disclosed that he has been dealing with back pain most of the season. The Angels’ right-hander was scheduled to undergo testing on Thursday to find out more and as of right now, it’s unknown whether he will make his next scheduled start, on Sunday at home against Baltimore, or not.

*The Rangers also are expected to activate left-hander Derek Holland from the DL on Saturday to face the Twins. Holland went on the DL in early June due to a stomach ailment and shoulder fatigue.

*Dustin Pedroia was held out of the Red Sox lineup on Wednesday because of soreness in his right thumb. The Boston second basemen has been dealing with the thumb for several weeks now and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. He is scheduled to get the thumb looked at on Thursday and don’t be surprised if the team takes it easy with him so he can get some extended rest with the All-Star break starting on Monday.

*The White Sox have said that Chris Sale will not make his final scheduled start on Sunday. The left-hander has already thrown more innings this season than in the previous two combined, so this will allow him to get some extra rest. It also will permit Sale to be available to pitch in his first All-Star Game on Tuesday in Kansas City. By rule, any starting pitcher that goes on the Sunday before the All-Star Game is not permitted to pitch in the midsummer classic.

*Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was held out of the starting lineup for the Marlins’ Thursday afternoon game in Milwaukee because of soreness in his knee. It marks the third straight game the slugger has missed, but he said he hopes to be back in the lineup no later than this weekend. Either way, this is definitely a situation that bears monitoring. Stanton is part of the NL roster for Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Kansas City and right now he’s scheduled to participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday.

— By Mark Ross, published on July 5, 2012

<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: July 5</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 14:49
Path: /nascar/nascar-sprint-cup-contenders-and-pretenders

Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway (please don’t call it the Pepsi 400 — Firecracker 400, however, will be accepted) marks the halfway point in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

The year’s third restrictor plate race was once run on the morning of the fourth to beat the oppressive North Florida heat and humidity. “On the track by 11:00, on the beach by 2:00,” was the mantra before lights and night racing. NASCAR’s signature speedway has endured wildfires and truck fires in recent years, as well as Turn Two disemboweling itself in the middle of an event, but all should be solid as we’re knee-deep in the Summer Stretch. And as the championship chase begins to take shape, the contenders have begun to separate themselves from the pretenders. Unless, of course, it’s 2011 and you’re Tony Stewart, stumbling into the Chase like the town lush, but suddenly start running like Tony Stewart once the title fight begins.

But I digress. Let’s review our current top 10 in points, how they got here, and who on the outside looking in has to get their stuff together if they have any hopes of contending for the Cup come September.

1. Matt Kenseth
Wins: 1 (Daytona 500)
Let’s see, Daytona 500: Check. Points leader: Check. Bailing on team mid-season: WTF? Kenseth’s announcement that he is leaving the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford at season’s end sent shockwaves through the fanbase. His likely destination appears to be Joe Gibbs Racing, although a proposed Andretti Autosport venture into NASCAR with Dodge assistance has been bandied about. It’s bad enough that Jack Roush’s former flagship No. 6 has been mothballed, but now the tried-and-true driver of the No. 17? Tragically coincidental — since it was the original driver of the No. 6, Mark Martin, who sold Roush on Kenseth, convincing him to field the No. 17 Cup ride for him in 2000. The last driver to win the Winston Cup in 2003 has been a model of consistency this year, much as he was that season. Kenseth’s low-key demeanor and approach will likely serve him well during what will prove to be a tumultuous few months in the Ford camp. With a win, eight top 5s and 12 top 10s to his credit this year, if Kenseth and the Wisconsin Mafia can keep the distractions at bay they very well could exit in style, giving Roush his third Cup Series championship. But distractions and fallout associated with being a “lame duck” lurk around every corner.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Wins: 1 (Michigan)
All together now: “JUUUUUNE-YEEERRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!” Finally, after 143 races and four years of futility, Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke into the winner’s circle at Michigan, the site of his last win in 2008. That victory did more for the psyche than the stat sheet, as Earnhardt is what Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket would deem, “Definitely born again hard.” With a win, seven top-5 and an even more impressive 13 top-10 finishes, the No. 88 team has done more in four months than it had in the last … well, forever. Credit Steve Letarte and Rick Hendrick, who essentially put Earnhardt with Jeff Gordon’s former team last season. The Prince of Kannapolis is doing his fans proud, so don’t be surprised to see a lot of old, red No. 8 gear being dusted off and thrust back into service in the coming months. Take heart Junior Nation — you’ve earned it, and your man is back near the top. Junior hasn’t been in a fierce title battle in so long, it’s hard to predict what type of showing he’ll make. But if a late-season slide doesn’t derail his momentum (and with Letarte calling the shots, it shouldn’t), Earnhardt is looking gbetter than he has in … well, forever.

3. Jimmie Johnson
Wins: 2 (Darlington, Dover)
Oh yeah, don’t forget the “other driver” at Hendrick Motorsports. When he’s not cruising around with Mr. H on his windowsill, Jimmie Johnson is just being Jimmie Johnson; going about his business with painful precision and without much fanfare. Like a Glock pistol, he may be short on flash and flair, but he is dead-nuts reliable and never fails when the money is on the line. His nine top 5s and 13 top 10s are the most in both categories, and should serve as a harbinger of things to come in the fall. As in the past, the No. 48 team vets and fetters out the junk and finds what works during the summer months, then sets “phasers to kill” come September. For those who have tired of the “Five-Time” moniker, don’t worry. You may be calling him “Six-Time” by Thanksgiving.

4. Greg Biffle
Wins: 1 (Texas)
Biffle started off the season strong, posting a trio of top-3 finishes in the first three races. He made a mockery of the last half of the April event at Texas Motor Speedway, and led the points from Las Vegas in early March until a 24th-place finish at Pocono, when he surrendered the top spot to his soon-to-be former teammate, Kenseth. A Roush veteran since his 1998 Truck Series debut, Biffle will prove to be the backbone of the team with Kenseth’s impending departure. While the No. 16 team started strong, it has stumbled in recent weeks, posting two sub-20th-place runs in the last four races. It was the No. 16 team that stopped Roush’s win skein in 2010, when the company got off track with misleading data simulation and sucky software on the engineering side. If there is a trend that must be watched with this bunch, it is that Biffle tends to go through crew chiefs quickly. Eight top 5s and 10 top 10s are a testament to his consistency, as well as the effect that current chief Matt Puccia has had for the driver who is in position to be the first in NASCAR history to win a championship in all three touring series.

5. Denny Hamlin
Wins: 2 (Phoenix, Kansas)
What a difference a year makes. This time last season, Denny Hamlin was, to be honest, a mess. With three top 5s and six top 10s, coupled win a number of cryptic comments made during interviews that at best sounded whiney, Hamlin was still suffering the side-effects from his team’s 2010 implosion. Now with a new attitude and re-found mental toughness (and 2011 championship-winning crew chief Darian Grubb making decisive calls), Hamlin has a pair of wins, and eight top-5 finishes. Those runs account for nearly all of his top 10s, and it must be noted that he has two DNFs in his last three races — courtesy of a fiery exit in Michigan and the front bumper of teammate Joey Logano at Sonoma. If Hamlin can keep from getting wrecked or exploding — and a TRD IED does not find its way between the fenders of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota — he will likely find himself in contention to win the title, as he was in 2010. This time, however, he will be better prepared mentally and strategically to contend.

6. Kevin Harvick
Wins: 0
The driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet hasn’t had a lot to brag about this year — but he hasn’t had much to really complain about, either. Usually the first one to ride his crew if they make the smallest of errors, Harvick has achieved his position not so much with poise and audacity, but on reliability and finishing races. A smattering of eight top 10s and three top 5s is decent, but not exactly championship caliber. If Harvick were to have a catastrophic failure in the coming weeks — which would lose him say, 40 points — the impact would be significant, and could potentially drop him out of the top 10 in points. He’s gotten by on a number of eighth- to 14th-place runs, but if he’s to solidify his place in the Chase, the No. 29 operation as a whole needs to step it up on the track, in the pits and in the garage while prepping the car for Sunday.

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese runs through the contenders and the pretenders for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 13:57
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/strangest-non-game-related-sports-injuries

This week several media sources reported that former South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia injured himself while giving a peace sign. Turns out, it was just a joke, and Garcia's career as a fourth-string CFL quarterback is still on track. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that players don’t hurt themselves doing random, seemingly mundane things. Here’s a list of our favorite ways players have been injured. Most are true, but a few seem a bit suspect. We’ll let you decide. 


Wild animal attacks. While Nolan Ryan was playing for the Astros in 1985, a coyote bit him on the hand and forced him to miss a start; no word on whether any Acme products were involved. Former Norwegian soccer star Svein Grondalen was absent from an international match in the late-1970s because an angry moose ran into him while he was jogging. We suspect the moose was a fan of Brazil and vuvuzelas.


Eating. The Homer Simpson Award for injuries sustained while eating donuts goes to former National League MVP Kevin Mitchell, who chipped a tooth on a frozen donut in 1990 (dude, that's what microwaves are for). He had to have a root canal and ended up on the DL. Montreal Expo infielder Bret Barberie got chili pepper juice in his eye and missed a game. Hockey player Dustin Penner of the Los Angeles Kings takes the (pan)cake, though, wrenching his back earlier this year while leaning over to eat a stack of flapjacks. His back spasm caused him to miss one game. 


Sneezing. Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa got back spasms from sneezing in 2004 and was never the same player again (he even turned white after he retired). Pitcher Mat Latos tried to learn from Sosa's example on the dangers of the sneeze, attempting to suppress the one he felt coming in July 2010. Latos strained muscles in his left side and wound up on the DL anyway.


Vomiting. Most of us feel better after we throw up, but not baseball’s Kevin Mitchell (yes, the same Mitchell from the earlier item) and Josh Outman. Both strained rib muscles while puking and had to be placed on the DL. Mitchell’s injury occurred in 1992, while Outman’s happened in April.  


Playing video games. NBA star Lionel Simmons missed several games of the 1991 season from tendonitis suffered while playing his Nintendo GameBoy. Detroit pitcher Joel Zumaya may have been a Guitar Hero, which cost him a chance to be a baseball hero in the 2006 ALCS. He missed three games due to injuries to his elbow and forearm due to aggressive strumming on his PlayStation 2. Apparently he was attempting to play Buckethead on advanced. 


Chopping wood – in the locker room. When the Jacksonville Jaguars started 0-3 in 2003, coach Jack Del Rio put an axe and a stump of wood in the locker room and implored his team to “keep chopping wood.” It turns out that his players were still better at football than lumberjacking. Punter Chris Hanson took aim at the stump, but whacked his non-kicking foot instead and missed the rest of the season. Del Rio finally got the axe himself, a few years too late for Hanson. 


Participating in the coin toss. Call this one the Anton Chigurh Award for career-ending coin toss. Offensive tackle Turk Edwards’ career was good enough to make the Hall of Fame, but it might have been better if he hadn’t been the Washington Redskins’ captain in 1940. Edwards called the coin toss and shook hands with Giants’ captain Mel Hein, but when he turned toward the sideline, his cleat caught in the turf and his knee buckled. He never played again. 


Yelling at teammates. Words hurt, especially when you scream them with such force that you dislocate your jaw, as Manchester United goalie Alex Stepney did in 1975. If you're a python swallowing a deer, a dislocated jaw is an advantage. Otherwise, not so much.


Sleeping. All sorts of potential dangers await the slumbering athlete. Former baseball player Glenallen Hill, an arachnophobe, had a nightmare in 1990 involving spiders and consequently tumbled down the stars and slammed into a glass table. He sustained multiple cuts and required a stay on the disabled list. Thank God he steered clear of the bed pillows, or it might have been worse: former MLB pitcher Terry Mulholland scratched his eye on a loose feather in 2005, and Detroit catcher Brandon Inge went on the DL a few years later (2008) when he pulled an oblique while adjusting a pillow. Former Tigers pitcher Denny McLain once awoke from his slumber with two dislocated toes in 1967. Then, there’s "sleeping." Milan AC midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng earlier this year had a muscular lesion on his left thigh. His model girlfriend attributed it to “too much sex.” 


Ironing shirts.  This possible injury is shrouded in mystery. As legend has it, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz burned himself back in 1990 while ironing his shirt. But that’s not the weird part. The story goes that Smoltz was wearing the shirt when he decided to iron it and not surprisingly burnt himself. Smoltz, of course, denies that it ever happened. And he’s probably telling the truth. Probably. 





by Chris Lee (@chrislee70), publisher of

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Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 13:52
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-13

TV coverage, traffic and the racing at Kentucky were on the minds of members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council this week. With the recent complaints about commercials, especially during the Kentucky race, members were asked if Pay-Per-View should be an option. Members also discussed if they were satisfied with the fixes to the traffic situation to go to Kentucky Speedway and what they thought of the racing there last weekend. This is what members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had to say:

Would you subscribe to a Pay-Per-View channel to watch races without commercial interruption if that was offered?
In light of the complaints about commercials interrupting NASCAR broadcasts, particularly the last couple of weeks, Fan Council members were asked if they would consider subscribing to a Pay-Per-View service to watch races without commercials if that was offered.

64.7 percent said No
35.3 percent said Yes

What Fan Council members said:
• Definitely! Hard to know what would be a fair price ... maybe $300 for the season. The frequency and repetition of ads is out of control. Casual fans, who are not also following scanners, Twitter, etc, are never going to sit through trying to watch an entire race as poor as the broadcasts are now.

• That's a terrible idea and it would just bring the ratings down even further. You will not gain viewers by raising their cable/satellite bill. The race still being shown in the corner of the screen is good. More of that could help.

• I wouldn't just for the fact it would be crazy expensive. If you look at the cost of what it is to actually run a commercial during these races and how the economy is still shaky, it would not be a good thing to do. With Twitter, RaceBuddy (for TNT at least) and streaming car/driver audio on my Sprint phone I actually don't mind the commercials. I can still keep up with the action. Worse case: I will listen to the race on the radio before I would pay for a premium channel.

• I cannot stand commercials. Considering it already costs me money for cable each month as well as two TiVo's, the thought of spending more money to see a race is not high on my list. But most likely I would do it when it came down to it. Now, I TiVo a race and watch it later in the day so I skip the commercials anyway. TiVo has spoiled me ... I find it so hard to sit and watch anything live these days!

• We miss so much of the racing action due to the number of commercials, it would be a great idea to offer Pay-Per-View for Cup races.

• No, because we are already paying for cable, plus that is one of the reasons I have PitCommand.

• TV cable subscriptions are already outrageous. The best solution is watch on DVR and fast forward through the commercials.

• There are many more ways than ever to follow the race live now days, so people should just shut up about commercials and enjoy the racing!

• I pay enough already for my cable subscription. In this economy I can't afford more costs to watch TV. I agree that there are too many commercials, but my complaint is that the broadcast misses important parts of the race during commercials and doesn't catch the audience up when the commercials are over.

• If I had the funds available, I would in a heartbeat.

• I AM NOT gonna pay every week for something I have been watching for free since I was a kid. Besides, the way the racing has been lately, why would I pay to watch that either?

• Yes! I never thought I'd say this, but after this season's broadcasts, I would definitely pay for a season of real racing coverage. I like the DirecTV broadcasts but they tend to have the same four or five drivers on every week — if I could see more of the field, more of my driver, and more racing, I would pony up the bucks.

Would you consider going to a race at Kentucky since traffic was not as big an issue as last year?

51.1 percent said Yes
48.9 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• Not yet. It appears the traffic outbound was still an issue, and some of the improvement inbound was probably due more to less attendance. Needs a few more years of seasoning before I'd consider it. Plus, I’m not exactly sure the track has the most exciting racing.

• I went last year and due to the (traffic) nightmare did not renew for this year. I said “yes,” I would go back. May take me another year or so as it sounds like leaving still has issues.

• Yes, they fixed the problem and it would be a great place to see a race.

• Went last year via backroads; went this year all highway and it was a breeze!

• I would keep Kentucky on the list of tracks I would consider going to since they apparently fixed the traffic issues. The first few years of Texas Motor Speedway were a nightmare for traffic also.

• I really wanted to go this year, but with last year's horrific traffic problem I wanted to wait and see if the changes made a difference. I always go to the Michigan and Road America races. Don't know if, financially, I can go to three races in a row. Guess I better start saving now.

• Went last year, camped and avoided the traffic mess, but it (was) still the most miserable experience I've ever had at a race track. No coolers, no porta-johns in parking lots or campgrounds, boring race, not to mention watching the traffic at a dead stop as the race started, and eventually seeing that same traffic turned around because they couldn't get in. I will never spend another penny at Kentucky.

• I would have gone regardless. Anybody who has been going to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race for the last 18 years can tell you to come early, leave late and have plenty of beer. I read comments from after the race and looks like traffic ran smooth, which is good for Kentucky Speedway. Now, maybe some of those fans that skipped out will come back.

• After last year, it was the last place I wanted to go. Seeing how they improved it so much, I think that I will move it up the list.

• I will consider going back. I had season tickets for several years before this year but had no desire to go back after last year. 

Grade Saturday's Cup race at Kentucky.

59.2 percent said it was Good
27.7 percent said it was Fair
7.5 percent said it was Great
5.6 percent said it was Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• Worst race I've ever seen, plain and simple. TNT will have to really outdo themselves to do a worse job broadcasting.

• Had everything. Racing, fuel mileage, changing track conditions, enough cautions to let people fix their cars and come back from bad adjustments. That was about the best racing I've seen this season.

• Too many commercials and not enough racing. Only the fact that Brad won gives it a fair rating.

• At least this race had some drama: Kyle Busch having issues, Kasey Kahne coming back from a lap down to finish second, Carl Edwards and others trying to stretch fuel.

• Clean air was so important — the car out front could just get away. There apparently was some good racing in the field (you could find a little of it on RaceBuddy) but for those of us watching the TV broadcast, it was all about mashed potatoes vs mac 'n' cheese, and that was just TERRIBLE. I actually gave up watching the telecast, switched to social media and was streaming Dr. Who on Netflix instead.

• I graded it fair, because the last few restarts got lively. I don't know which was more boring, Sonoma or Kentucky. Somewhere Pocono is laughing and saying, “Yes, I'm no longer hated!! Thank you for repaving me!!”

• Glad that Brad won, but the race itself, with all the commercial interruptions, was boring. No passing except for Kahne at the end of the race.

• I was there and was bored. I still found myself scrolling through Twitter to stay in touch.

<p> The&nbsp;Backseat Drivers Fan Council discuss racing at Kentucky Speedway, traffic issues around the track and TNT's coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup races.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 10:26
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-wide-receivers

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

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

Ranking the Big 12's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. West Virginia – With Robert Woods and Marqise Lee returning, USC should own the top receiver duo in college football, but West Virginia can’t be too far behind. The Mountaineers bring back senior Tavon Austin and junior Stedman Bailey, and both players are coming off 1,000-yard seasons. Austin is one of college football’s top all-purpose threats, as he caught 101 passes last year, while rushing for 182 yards and averaging 14.1 yards per punt return and 26.1 on kickoffs. Bailey led the team by averaging 17.8 yards per catch and recorded 1,279 yards on 72 receptions. This group could be even better in 2012 if junior Ivan McCartney improves upon his 49 catches from last year. The final starting spot in the receiving corps could go to senior J.D. Woods, who caught seven passes in nine contests in 2011. Freshmen Deontay McManus, Travares Copeland, Jordan Thompson and Dante Campbell all could figure into the rotation this season.

2. Baylor – Quarterback Robert Griffin and receiver Kendall Wright are gone, but the Bears should push for 275-300 passing yards a game once again. With senior Nick Florence taking over under center, Baylor won’t be rebuilding from scratch on offense. There’s no shortage of capable targets for Florence, starting with Terrance Williams. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch on 59 receptions last year and recorded 11 touchdowns. The senior should contend for first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012. Senior Lanear Sampson and junior Tevin Reese finished spring practice locked into starting spots, with Reese the team’s top big-play threat after averaging 17.2 yards per catch last year. Sophomore Levi Norwood will likely start at the second inside receiver spot, while Jay Lee, Antwan Goodley and Clay Fuller will provide depth. Tight end Jordan Najvar caught 15 passes last season and will return as the starter in 2012.

3. Oklahoma
The depth isn’t Sooner-esque after Ryan Broyles graduated and Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks were removed from the roster. But the starting talent is all Boomer Sooner. Kenny Stills is an All-American candidate and should be in for a huge year as a junior. Consistency is really the only missing piece to his game. Newcomer Trey Metoyer was an elite signee in the 2011 class but needed a year at prep school. All signs point to immediate contribution from Metoyer in 2012. Junior college transfer Courtney Gardner is also cut from the same big, physical mold as Metoyer and will help with depth right away. A stellar true freshman class, featuring top 100 names Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, will be a welcome sight come fall camp. Derrick Woods should also contribute as well. This is a very talented group with loads of upside but has very little experience and proven depth.

4. TCU
This Horned Frogs group is as deep as any collection in the league and is one of the positions of strengths on the roster. Josh Boyce could be a superstar after 61 catches, nine of which were touchdowns, and coming just two yards shy of 1,000. Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter are outstanding No. 2 and 3 options for Casey Pachall after combining for 68 catches, 852 yards and eight scores last fall. The coaching staff is excited about redshirt elite talent, try 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, LaDarius Brown joining the ranks as well. Each of the four names can offer something unique to the offense and they mesh perfectly together. Corey Fuller and Stephen Bryant will get the reps at tight end.

5. Texas Tech – Darrin Moore was one of college football’s leading receivers through the first two weeks of 2011, catching 21 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns. However, a leg injury against Nevada limited his effectiveness and he missed the next three games before returning for the Oct. 22 upset win over Oklahoma. Although Moore returned to the lineup, he was never the same until the last two weeks of the season. With the senior back at full strength, and Eric Ward returning after a standout sophomore campaign, the Red Raiders should have no shortage of targets for quarterback Seth Doege. Senior Alex Torres suffered a torn ACL late in the year, but is expected to return in time for opener. Jakeem Grant, Bradley Marquez, Javares McRoy and Aaron Fisher will provide depth, while tight end Jace Amaro is back after catching seven balls last season. This is a solid group, but with the depth at receiver in the Big 12 this year, it’s hard to rank Texas Tech any higher.

6. Texas
This was an alarming stat: Texas went without a 50-catch receiver for the first time since 2006 last fall. Considering the elite level recruiting Mack Brown has done at the position, this is completely unacceptable. Certainly, quarterback play needs to improve but Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis need to continue to develop into the stars most expected they would be coming out of high school. They combined for four total touchdowns last fall and should at least double that in 2012. Marquise Goodwin, John Harris and DeSean Hales also will vie for heavy reps while another talented collection of freshman, led by uber-recruit Cayleb Jones, try to make a name for themselves. D.J. Grant looks like the starting tight end but M.J. McFarland could be a rising star. Like always, there is loads of depth and talent, but Brown and Bryan Harsin need play-makers to step up.

7. Oklahoma State – Not only are the Cowboys losing quarterback Brandon Weeden, but they also have to replace standout receiver Justin Blackmon and No. 2 option Josh Cooper. The good news for coach Mike Gundy is the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Tracy Moore caught 45 passes for 672 yards and four touchdowns last season and was shifted to outside receiver in the spring, which should allow him to be a bigger factor in the offense. Senior Isaiah Anderson is back after catching 28 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns last year, but the breakout candidate to watch will be Josh Stewart. He grabbed 19 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman last season and will team with junior college recruit Blake Jackson to man the inside receiver spots. Charlie Moore has been quiet in his career (6 receptions) but had a huge performance in the spring game and should factor more into the offense.

8. Kansas State
Chris Harper, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior, is as physically talented wideout as any in the Big 12 conference and should be poised for his best season in (Eugene) or Manhattan. He will be the top target for KSU this fall. Tramaine Thompson offers a different skillset and will utilize elite speed and agility to produce big plays. Freshman All-American Tyler Lockett was lost for the season in November but proved his all-purpose skill will be on display for three more seasons. These three are talented but there are few proven options behind them as names like Curry Sexton and Torell Miller try to carve out a role in the offense. Travis Tannahill is a dependable option at tight end.

9. Iowa State
Despite losing leading wideout Darius Reynolds, Iowa State’s cupboard isn’t bare. Transfer Aaron Horne was the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the year after 38 catches for 431 yards. Josh Lenz, and to a lesser extent Jerome Tiller and Albert Gary, provide veteran presence and leadership. Second-year players Tad Ecby, Jarvis West, Quenton Bundrage and Ja’Qaurius Daniels are all going to fight for playing time as well. 

10. Kansas – Charlie Weis’ offensive acumen will be put to the test this year. Getting Dayne Crist as a transfer from Notre Dame is a positive, but the Jayhawks lack a No. 1 receiver. Weis was hoping Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay would gain immediate eligibility, but the NCAA ruled he has to sit out 2012. Daymond Patterson missed nearly all of last year with an injury and his return will help bolster the receiving corps. Seniors D.J. Beshears and Kale Pick are expected to start, while juniors Chris Omigie and Christian Matthews and sophomore JaCorey Shepherd will contribute in the rotation. The Jayhawks will miss tight end Tim Biere, but Notre Dame transfer Mike Ragone and junior college recruit Charles Brooks will give Crist two experienced options.

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

Related Big 12 Content

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

Big 12 Heisman Contenders for 2012

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

The History of Big 12 Realignment

Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12

TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

<p> Big 12 Unit Rankings: Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-wide-receivers

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

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

Ranking the Pac-12's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. USC – Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are back to form college football’s top one-two receiver combination. Woods caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 scores last season, while Lee recorded 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Matt Barkley returning for another year at USC, it’s not crazy to think Woods and Lee could improve upon their numbers in 2012. The Trojans’ receiving corps isn’t just Woods and Lee, as the depth is solid with sophomore George Farmer, junior De’Von Flournoy and freshmen Victor Blackwell and Nelson Agholor. With all of the accolades surrounding Woods and Lee, it’s easy to overlook tight end Randall Telfer. He ranked third on the team with 26 catches for 273 yards and five touchdowns last year. Telfer will be joined at tight end by promising sophomore Xavier Grimble.

2. Washington
When a team has to replace two receivers who rank in the top 10 all-time in school history, they normally don’t feel this excited about the unit the next year. But there is good reason for Husky Nation to be fired up about Keith Price’s weaponry. Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the best tight end in the nation by season’s end after setting freshman school records a year ago. Fellow sophomore Kasen Williams also has All-American-type upside after a 36-catch, 427-yard, 6-TD freshman season. Veterans James Johnson, Kevin Smith and Cody Bruns provide much needed experience and depth. This is as talented a group as there is in a league that is loaded with powerful receiving corps.

3. Washington State
Marquess Wilson is a superstar. He has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as an underclassmen and now has Mike Leach calling plays for him. Oh yeah, it was Wilson, in a league with names like Allen, Woods and Lee, who led the Pac-12 in receiving a year ago. He will be supported in Leach’s spread-it-around offense from Dominique Williams, Kristoff Williams, Bobby Ratliff and Gino Simone. The 250-pound Andrei Lintz is a wideout in a tight end’s body and could pay big dividends in 2012. Leach has never had an issue finding productive pass-catchers and fans shouldn’t expect any issues with this talented collection in Pullman.

4. Oregon State – With Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson and Marqise Lee returning, it’s easy for other receivers in the Pac-12 to get overlooked. Markus Wheaton caught 73 passes for 986 yards and one touchdown last season and largely went unnoticed. With quarterback Sean Mannion more comfortable in his second season as a starter, look for Wheaton’s numbers to increase. Brandin Cooks turned in a solid freshman year in 2011, catching 31 passes for 391 yards and three scores. Oregon State’s depth at receiver took a hit with the departure of Jordan Bishop in late June, but sophomore Obum Gwacham is a promising player. Senior Colby Prince is expected to start at tight end after catching 12 passes for 66 yards last year.

5. Utah – With quarterback Jordan Wynn sidelined for most of last season with a shoulder injury, the Utes finished last in the Pac-12 in passing offense. With Wynn back under center in 2012, Utah should have a more balanced attack, especially if running back John White rushes for 1,000 yards once again. Senior DeVonte Christopher caught 11 passes for 136 yards and one score in the Week 2 loss to USC but failed to record more than five in a single game the rest of the year. With Wynn returning, look for Christopher to push for 60 catches in 2012. Seniors Luke Matthews and Reggie Dunn combined for 32 receptions last year and return as dependable threats. Sophomore Dres Anderson finished second on the team with 23 catches for 355 yards and three scores last season and should be a bigger part of the offense in 2012. Tight end is a strength with Kendrick Moeai, Dallin Rogers and Jake Murphy back in the mix. 

6. Oregon
Chip Kelly’s offense hasn’t exactly been a safe haven for wide receivers, but the 2012 group looks to provide new punch to the high-flying offense. Josh Huff, who dealt with a stress fracture in his leg this spring, should be the team’s top target. Daryle Hawkins had a big spring and youngsters Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley are looking to break into the starting lineup in a big way. Rahsaan Vaughn could be the veteran presence that a green quarterback might need, however. Look for sophomore tight end Colt Lyerla to become one of the league’s best after a 5-TD freshman season.

7. California – The Golden Bears rank of No. 7 in the Pac-12 receiver units is really due to one player – Keenan Allen. Take away Allen and California owns one of the worst receiving corps in the conference. However, the good news for the Golden Bears is Allen is back for at least one more season. The junior ranked second in the Pac-12 with 98 receptions last year, while recording 1,343 yards and six scores. Allen will once again be the go-to target for quarterback Zach Maynard, but he needs help. Freshmen Maurice Harris, Darius Powe, Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs could inject some much-needed athleticism and ability into this group. Spencer Hagan will start at tight end, but Richard Rodgers will push him for time in the fall. 

8. Stanford
After Chris Owusu’s injuries, the Cardinal’s wide receivers were entirely too unproductive. Now, the only two dependable options, Griff Whalen and Coby Fleener, are gone. Yet, there is loads of talent. Ty Montgomery got much-needed experience a year ago and Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Drew Terrell need to deliver on their lofty recruiting hype. The saving grace is the tight end position, despite Fleener’s departure. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz form the Pac-12’s top 1-2 punch at the position and both could be playing on Sundays after combining for 10 scores a year ago.

9. Arizona State – Not only are the Sun Devils replacing quarterback Brock Osweiler, but they also have a new scheme and lose three key receivers from last year – Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie. Senior Jamal Miles is the group’s best returning player, recording 60 receptions for 361 yards and six scores last year. Miles will be a steady threat, but the Sun Devils need senior Rashad Ross to emerge a downfield threat. He caught 18 passes and averaged 14.1 yards per catch last year. In addition to Ross, Arizona State’s coaching staff is looking for a big year from junior Kevin Ozier and senior A.J. Pickens. 

10. UCLA
Three productive names have moved on from the Bruins, but this group could be a sneaky area of strength in 2012. Tight end Joseph Fauria, who has more of a wide receiver skillset than most tight ends, could be one of the nation’s best players at his position. He will make big plays from the slot all season long en route to potential Mackey Award recognition. Juniors Shaq Evans, Ricky Marvray and Jerry Rice Jr. will have to hold off talented up and comers in redshirt freshman Devin Lucien and incoming freshman Jordan Payton and Javon Williams. Payton and Lucien have loads of upside and will press for playing time almost instantly. Senior Jerry Johnson brings a veteran name to the list.

11. Arizona
The Wildcats have to replace three players who caught at least 60 passes for at least 600 yards including star Juron Criner. Yet, in the new Rich Rodriguez scheme, the passing game clearly figures to be featured less than with Nick Foles at the helm last year. Dan Buckner has NFL talent and should be the go-to target this fall. He will be backed by talented sophomores Austin Hill, Garic Wharton, Austin Morrison (who also gets snaps at QB) and Tyler Slavin as well as senior Terrence Miller. Wharton could be the team’s fastest player. This group has plenty of options, however, the offensive system doensn’t lend itself to big production at the position.

12. Colorado – Any chance the Buffaloes had of contending for a bowl game was likely lost in the spring when receiver Paul Richardson was lost for the season with a torn ACL. In his first two years in Boulder, Richardson caught 73 passes for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns. Making matters worse for Colorado is Toney Clemons and tight end Ryan Deehan both expired their eligibility after the 2011 season. With Richardson out of the picture this year, it’s up to an inexperienced group of receivers to pickup the slack. Sophomore Tyler McCulloch caught 10 passes last season and will have to be the new go-to target for quarterback Connor Wood. Freshmen Nelson Spruce, Gerald Thomas, Peyton Williams and Jeffrey Thomas will be allowed to compete right away for playing time. 

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

Related Pac-12 Content

Pac-12 2012 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

Pac-12 2012 Heisman Contenders

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

Examining the Rising Cost of Assistant/Coordinator Salaries

<p> Pac-12 Wide Receiver Unit Rankings&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 05:34
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-football-its-zach-mettenbergers-time-shine-2012

At the ripe old age of 20, Zach Mettenberger surprised himself. The LSU quarterback figured out the person he had become by going through a season like he’d never experienced in his football life.

The strong-armed Georgia kid overflowing with potential was a spectator as the 2011 Tigers pieced together one of the most dominant regular seasons in college football history. A strange thing happened as Mettenberger stood and watched LSU roar to a 13–0 regular season that was capped by a dominating 42–10 win over Georgia — his former school — in the SEC Championship Game.

He enjoyed the ride.

“As a competitor, you always want to play and it definitely hurt to not play as much as I wanted,” says Mettenberger, who appeared in only five games in 2011. “But it made me realize I was patient, and I’m a better team player than I realized I could be.

“Not being the guy for the first time in my life, it showed me no matter how much you’re playing, you have to be supportive of your teammates and that the team is bigger than you. You play the game to win and be a part of something special.”

This is the same Mettenberger who in his freshman season at Georgia in 2009 showed up as a brash 18-year-old who had literally grown up in the Bulldogs’ program?

Yep. And it was also the same Mettenberger whose life on and off the field took an abrupt and potentially irreversible detour on March 7, 2010, when he was arrested and charged with a series of misdemeanors, including two counts of sexual battery after he fondled a female patron at a bar in Remerton, Ga.

His attorney pled the case out, and Mettenberger received two concurrent 12-month probation sentences. But Georgia coach Mark Richt — close to the family for years, due to the fact that Mettenberger’s mother Tammy had been a longtime administrative aide in the football office — had no choice but to kick Mettenberger out of the program.

Just that quickly, a promising career that had kicked into high gear during Georgia’s spring practice when Mettenberger battled Aaron Murray for the starting job was in serious jeopardy.

 “My plan at Georgia was to be the starter for four years,” Mettenberger says matter-of-factly.

“I’m not going to lie. I was really devastated when it was all going down. At one point, I thought I should just give up and quit playing football and go work for my dad and work construction the rest of my life. It took me a while to realize I didn’t want to drive nails for a living. I wanted to play football. I had to realize the sun was coming up on the horizon and that I just had to get through the hard times.”

So Mettenberger got back on his football feet.

Instead of transferring to another Division I program and sitting out another full season (he redshirted in 2009), the one-time rising star went the junior college route and wound up at Butler Community College, tucked away in El Dorado, Kan. Out of the spotlight, Mettenberger rebuilt his image and revived his career. He passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns, often sitting out second halves as the Grizzles marched to the NJCAA national championship game.

Like Cam Newton the year before, Mettenberger was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail after the 2010 season. He landed at LSU, in part because the Tigers’ coaches were dogged in their pursuit, but more so because of the chance he saw with LSU.

A second chance, but also a chance to be the leader of a program on the cusp of winning a national championship or two while he was on campus.

While Mettenberger was toiling in El Dorado, LSU was plowing through an 11–2 season that culminated with a rout against Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl. Entering the 2011 campaign, the two quarterbacks who had taken almost every snap since the Tigers’ 2007 BCS National Championship season were seniors. And neither Jordan Jefferson nor Jarrett Lee had ever really distinguished himself as an elite SEC signal-caller, giving Mettenberger the hope he could step in and play right away.

“I wanted the opportunity to play with them and more than anything I wanted to be a winner,” Mettenberger says. “LSU was a great opportunity for me to come to a powerhouse, and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself where I could play for a winner.

“Anywhere you go you’re going to have to compete to get on the field, and that didn’t scare me at all. I came with the attitude that I was going to start every game last year. It didn’t work out that way because Coach (Les) Miles had a different plan, and that was fine with me. We were 13–1 and I had a great time with my teammates.”

Many of those teammates are back in 2012, and for the first time since 2006 and ’07, the Tigers will be led by an NFL-caliber quarterback.

LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe says there’s no question Mettenberger can take that quantum leap into elite status.

“The biggest thing with Zach, he’s very accurate on deep balls,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s got a big arm. He’s going to make the throws outside the numbers on the hash. He’s learning to become a better passer. Everybody knows he can throw the football, but there’s not a lot of guys who can pass it. His fundamentals have gotten a lot better, and he’s throwing better passes and more catchable balls.

“The one word that always comes to mind with Zach is ‘competitive.’ He loves playing the game, and he’s very hard on himself. I didn’t see that as much last year because he wasn’t getting the same number of snaps and he wasn’t the guy. It’s there now because he wants to succeed and he wants this team to win.”

What was also camouflaged last fall as Mettenberger developed patience and waited for his turn was how much he was learning every day during practice. As the No. 3 quarterback, he often drew the task of working against the Tigers’ physical, aggressive and nasty first-unit defense.

Not only did that fuel the competitive juices, but it also forced Mettenberger to improve. Understandably, the 6'5", 222-pound gunslinger’s confidence is as high as ever after a spring as the Tigers’ leading man.

“When the lights are on and the cameras are on me, that’s when I think I’ll perform the best,” he says. “I’ve prepared myself to be the best quarterback I can be and I think I definitely have the talent and want-to to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and I hope my hard work pays off this season.

“I like the pressure. It feeds me and keeps me motivated every day.”

Sliding into the driver’s seat of an LSU offense that has had its ups and downs the last four years has also thrust Mettenberger into the role of a leader, something he has embraced.

He talked about scrutiny not affecting him, about understanding the microscope a big-time college quarterback operates under and — perhaps most important — about staying level-headed and making the right decisions on and off the field.

“Whether you want to be or not, when you’re the quarterback at LSU, you’re one of the faces of the program,” Mettenberger says. “I have to play that part well.”

So far, so good.

“He’s become a very good leader for our football team,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s embraced the idea that the quarterback has to be the leader, and he knows that people are going to look at him differently.”

Makes sense, because after a difficult road to get this far, Mettenberger is different, even more than he realized when his redirected road led him to Baton Rouge.

“To finally get my shot, I’m really excited for this and I’ve been working my tail off for it,” he says.

“What I’ve been through made me realize I can’t take it for granted. It made me appreciate what I do every day and who I get to hang out with. It reminds me I can’t screw this up because I may never get this opportunity again.”

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 SEC Preview Annual.

Related SEC Content

Athlon's 2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team

LSU Tigers 2012 Team Preview

SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012

The History of SEC Realignment

Getting to Know Texas A&M

<p> It's Zach Mettenberger's Time to Shine at LSU.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 09:11
Path: /nascar/nascar-horsepower-rankings-5

1. Jimmie Johnson  Lost a shot at the win during the final restart in Kentucky when he picked up trash on his tires. Managed to rebound to sixth after a quick backslide, his 13th top 10 of the season.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Was never a factor for the win at Kentucky, but ran consistently in the top 10 most of the evening before climbing to fourth at race’s end.

3. Matt Kenseth  A classic Kenseth performance, he was invisible all Saturday afternoon, but popped into the top 10 after the sun went down and drove to seventh, retaining the points lead.

4. Tony Stewart  There’s a sizeable gap between the top 3 and the rest of the field. Smoke was the victim of electrical demons in his ignition system and was most likely cursing NASCAR’s EFI system and that damn KFC commerical the rest of the night.

5. Denny Hamlin  Fifth- and third-place runs bookend 34th- and 35th-place showings. When he stays out of the wrecks and the suspension holds up, he’s as good as creamy mac 'n' cheese.

6. Clint Bowyer  String of top 10s ended at Kentucky when Bowyer became the victim of Ryan Newman and Joey Logano’s dust-up on the front stretch.

7. Greg Biffle  Was a 10th- to 12th-place car until he thought his tire went down late. The pit stop resulted in a 21st-place showing and a drop in the point standings, to fourth.

<p> Jimmie Johnson leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Daytona.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 15:27
Path: /nascar/confident-earnhardt-heads-back-daytona

The equipment and team help but Dale Earnhardt Jr. says a key reason for his success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season is crew chief Steve Letarte.

Since being paired together last year, Earnhardt has scored one victory, 11 top-five finishes and 25 top-10 finishes in 53 races.

Thus, since they’ve been together, Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 in nearly half the races. The last time he finished in the top 10 in more than half the races was 2004 when he was fifth in the points.

Earnhardt’s 13 top-10 finishes this season are already one more than he had last season and equal to the number he had in 2009 and ’10 combined.

While Letarte and his crew provide Earnhardt with fast cars, Letarte also has helped his driver’s confidence.

“Steve Letarte has made me calmer and more productive in the car,” Earnhardt says. “He gets more out of me as a driver and brings the best out of me. I’m better at completing races, putting together full races, not getting upset with the car, not getting frustrated and sort of botching the whole deal or sabotaging the race.

“He’s brought a lot of good things out in me and brought a lot more confidence. I’ve got a lot more confidence. Confidence is half the battle when you’re out there competing. If you don’t have any confidence, you just can’t get anything done.”

That is helping make this a special summer for Earnhardt. He’s often struggled in this stretch of races from June to August, but not this year.

He finished fourth at Dover for his first top-10 result there since 2007. He placed eighth at Pocono for his third consecutive top 10. He won at Michigan for his first top-10 run in his last four races there. While he’s never finished in the top 10 at Sonoma, he was 13th until he was collected in a last-lap crash and finished 23rd. He recovered by placing fourth at Kentucky a year after finishing 30th there in the inaugural event.

“We’ve had a pretty good summer so far, so if we can keep that going I’m going to be real excited about the rest of the season,” Earnhardt says.

As the Cup Series heads to Daytona for Saturday night’s race, Earnhardt will be looked upon as one of the favorites. Daytona is fun again for him since tandem racing no longer dominates that event.

“I think things have gotten a lot better with the rules they (NASCAR) made for this particular season,” Earnhardt says about plate racing at Daytona and Talladega. “We’re racing more, we’re not tandem drafting all the time so your race really is in your own hands, and what you do with it and what you make of an afternoon is really up to you and you alone for most of the event. So I kind of like that.

“That’s the way I’ve always thought racing should be. We never had racing where you were so dependent on another car until we had the re-paves at Daytona and Talladega and tandem racing came around. It was OK to watch, and I think some of the drivers probably enjoyed it, but for me it was just the opposite of a driver’s instincts.

“But, the rules have kind of moved away from that a little bit and hopefully that is the way it stays. Hopefully we will keep going in the right direction to get it to where it’s you against 42 other guys.”

NUMBER CRUNCHING   Dale Earnhardt Jr. has completed all 5,027 laps run this season. Matt Kenseth is next, completing 5,026 laps and Greg Biffle has completed 5,025 laps. ... Jimmie Johnson has led the most laps this season at 811. Greg Biffle is next at 527 with Jeff Gordon third at 421. ... Paul Menard has the most consecutive top-10 finishes at Daytona entering this weekend with three. He was ninth in last year’s Daytona 500, eighth in last July’s race and was sixth in February. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano each have two consecutive top-10 finishes at Daytona. ... Since winning at Daytona in July 2009, Tony Stewart has not finished in the top 10 in the last five races there. Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski has never finished in the top 10 in Cup at Daytona in six attempts. His best finish is 15th.

PIT STOPS   Saturday’s Daytona race is the 18th in the 36-race Cup schedule, marking the halfway point of the season. ... Bill Elliott will drive the No. 50 car this weekend at Daytona as Turner Motorsports makes its Cup debut and has Walmart as sponsor. ... Joey Logano makes his 100th career Nationwide start Friday at Daytona where he won last year’s event. He’s had 14 wins, 47 top-five finishes and 77 top-10 finishes in his first 99 starts in that series, making his debut in 2008.

by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter:


<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit as the series reaches its midway point at Daytona International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 15:04
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /news/texas-ams-welcome-sec-video-disaster

There's no question Texas A&M is fired up to be in the SEC. After dealing with the soap opera known as the Big 12, the Aggies finally have some stability in terms of conference alignment.

While it's a good thing Texas A&M is excited to join the SEC, this video is not. It's truly a disaster. The Aggies try to welcome each of their 13 new conference mates by repeating the school's chant and the results is an awkward and rather ridiculous video.

<p> Texas A&amp;M's Welcome to the SEC Video is a Disaster</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 09:38
Path: /nfl/nfl-quarterbacks-rewrite-record-books-2011

NFL training camps are set to open in three weeks, but before we set our sights on the upcoming season, let’s take a look back at 2011. Although the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots to capture Super Bowl XLVI, the 2011 NFL season may as well go down in the history books simply as the Year of the Quarterback.

Consider this, an NFL-record 11,356 points were scored last season, while games averaged an all-time high of 693.7 total net yards per game. Much of this offense was due to the increasing dependence on the pass as there were an average of 459.4 net passing yards per game.

To put it another way, more than 66 percent of the yards accumulated last season came via the pass. What’s more, the league-wide passer rating for quarterbacks was 84.3 last season, while the touchdown-interception ratio was 1.472:1, both of which are all-time highs.

The increase in offensive production is nothing new necessarily as the passing-related records that were set last season were previously broken in 2010. However, a closer look at last season’s quarterback production reveals that the men pulling the trigger put together some truly historic performances.

For starters, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees set the single-season record for passing yards with 5,476, breaking Dan Marino’s previous mark of 5,084 in 1984. He also set new single-season records for completions (468), completion percentage (71.2 percent), 300-yard passing games (13) and consecutive 300-yard passing games (seven).

Brees also became the first quarterback in NFL history to for throw for at least 350 yards in four consecutive games and finished the season with eight such contests. He has the opportunity to make even more history in the fall as he will enter this coming season having thrown at least one touchdown pass in 43 consecutive games. This is the second longest streak in NFL history, trailing only Johnny Unitas’ run of 47 games.

If not for Brees, Marino’s single-season passing mark would belong to New England’s Tom Brady. Brady passed for 5,235 yards last season, the second-highest single-season total in NFL history. Brady got off to a hot start last season, becoming the first quarterback in history to throw more than 900 yards in the first two games and more than 1,300 in the first three.

Brady also threw 39 touchdown passes in 2011, giving him 300 for his career. He became just the sixth quarterback in NFL history with 300 touchdown passes, joining Brett Favre (508), Marino (420), Peyton Manning (399), Fran Tarkenton (342) and John Elway (300).

Brees and Brady weren’t the only ones to break the 5,000-yard mark in 2011, however, as Detroit’s Matthew Stafford passed for 5,038. Entering 2011, only two quarterbacks in NFL history had ever thrown for at least 5,000 yards in a season — Marino (1984) and Brees (5,069 in 2008). In fact, six of the top 20 single-season passing totals in NFL history are from last season, and a total of 11 of them have happened in the past five seasons overall.

Stafford also connected on 41 touchdown passes in 2011, as he, Brees (46) and Aaron Rodgers (45) all threw for 40 or more scores. Until last season, no other season in NFL history had more than one quarterback with 40 or more touchdown passes.

What’s even more impressive about Rodgers’ performance is that the Green Bay quarterback threw those 45 touchdown passes in just 15 games. Rodgers sat out the Packers’ regular-season finale, which not only cost him a shot at 50 touchdown passes, the current single-season record set by Brady in 2007, but also the opportunity to join the 5,000-yard club.

Rodgers entered the final week of the regular season with 4,643 yards or 300.9 yards per game. Even though he still needed 357 yards for 5,000 on the season and five more touchdown passes for 50 remember this – his replacement, Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn torched the Lions for 480 yards and six scores in Week 17.

Although he didn’t get 5,000 yards or 50 touchdown passes, Rodgers did earn a spot in the NFL record books in two other places. He established a new single-season mark for passer rating (122.5), topping the previous record of 121.1 set by Manning in 2004, and he also took home league MVP honors after leading the Packers to a near-perfect 15-1 record in the regular season.

Collectively, there were 121 individual 300-yard passing games in 2011, the most of any season in NFL history. The previous mark was 104 such games in 2009. There also were 18 individual 400-yard passing performances, which broke the previous record of 13, set in both 1986 and 2004.

One of the quarterbacks who helped contribute to both of these record-setting totals was Cam Newton. The Carolina signal caller made history of his own when he passed for 422 yards in his NFL debut in Week 1 against Arizona. He followed that up with a 432-yard game against Green Bay in Week 2. Before 2011, no rookie quarterback had ever passed for more than 350 yards in his first NFL game, let alone more than 400 in his first two.

The NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year finished his inaugural season with a record 4,051 yards passing and 14 rushing touchdowns. The 14 rushing touchdowns were not only the second-most in the NFL in 2011, it was the most ever by a quarterback. And Newton wasn’t the only quarterback who showcased his dual-threat ability in 2011 either.

Former Denver quarterback Tim Tebow finished last season with 660 yards rushing, second only to Newton’s 706 among quarterbacks. However, Tebow did all of his ground work in just 14 games, 11 of those as the Broncos’ starter, compared to Newton’s 16.

Tebow also was second to Newton in rushing touchdowns with six. But Tebow accomplished something with one of those rushing scores that neither Newton nor any other quarterback in NFL history had done before.

In Week 11 against the Jets, Tebow had a 20-yard touchdown run with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter to propel the Broncos to a 17-13 win. It was the first game-winning touchdown run of at least 20 yards by a quarterback in NFL history and it came against the Jets, who Tebow was later traded to in the offseason.

Fittingly enough, Tebow also made his own contribution to the Year of the Quarterback with his arm even though his regular-season passing numbers (1,730 yards, 12 touchdowns) were pedestrian at best. However, in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs against Pittsburgh, Tebow became the first quarterback to average 30 yards per completion (minimum five) in a postseason game.

Against the Steelers, Tebow completed 10 of 21 pass attempts for 316 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His second touchdown pass, an 80-yarder to Demaryius Thomas on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, not only gave the Broncos an improbable 29-23 victory over the Steelers, it also represented both the longest touchdown pass and the quickest (11 seconds) score in overtime history.

So between the exploits of gunslingers like Brees and Brady and the dual-threat playmaking ability of the likes of Newton and Tebow, 2011 was clearly the Year of the Quarterback. This coming season will no doubt feature its fair share of impressive aerial performances, especially with promising rookies Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III scheduled to make their debuts, but the bar has already been set pretty high for the 2012 season to top what happened in 2011.

No doubt NFL fans can’t wait to see what happens when the 2012 NFL season kicks off this fall. September 5 can’t came soon enough.

Note: Research assistance provided by Elias Sports Bureau and Athlon Sports contributing writer Bruce Herman

— By Mark Ross, published on July 3, 2012

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters
Ranking the NFL’s Best Back-Up Quarterbacks

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Marino: An NFL Horror Story

Robert Griffin III Talks Heisman, Baylor and Redskins

<p> NFL Quarterbacks Rewrite Record Books in 2011</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-wide-receivers

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

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

Ranking the SEC's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. Tennessee
The SEC pass-catchers discussion has to begin with the Big Orange. Da’Rick Rogers has had off-the-field issues, but his powerful 6-3, 210-pound frame is dripping with ability. When focused (less often than not), Rogers has All-American talent. Yet, he isn’t the best receiver on his own team. That distinction goes to Justin Hunter, who returns to the field fully healthy after missing all but two games due to a torn ACL in 2011. When at full speed, there may not be a better wideout in the entire nation. Adding to this deep group is dependable tight end Mychal Rivera and senior Zach Rogers, giving Tyler Bray plenty to work with. And depth won’t be an issue as newcomers Cordarrelle Patterson - who appears to be ready to live up to his lofty No. 1 JUCO recruiting status - Drae Bowles, Alton Howard and Jason Croom give the Vols the SEC’s best collection of pass-catchers.

2. Georgia
The Dawgs have to replace two veteran tight ends in Orson Charles and Aaron White, but stud athletes Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome should be more than capable of filling the void at the position. Senior Tavarres King finally delivered on his immense talent with 705 yards and 8 TD last fall and leads the way for a deep corps of receivers. Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley all have shown flashes of ability, but the upside of this group lies in the dynamic arms of Malcolm Mitchell. He was shifted to defense to account for suspensions and injuries this spring, but Mark Richt insists he will play wideout. But for how many plays per game? His electric, explosive play-making skill is unmatched by any other Bulldog and makes this group as dangerous as any in the SEC.

3. Texas A&M
The Aggies enter SEC play with a new quarterback and offensive scheme but return plenty of weapons on the outside. Senior Ryan Swope led the team with 89 receptions for 1,207 yards and 11 scores last year. He will be expected to provide leadership, as well as remain one of the offense’s top playmakers in 2012. Uzoma Nwachukwu has 126 receptions in his career and ranked third on the team with 639 receiving yards last season. Swope and Nwachukwu are entrenched as starters, with the third spot likely going to Kenric McNeal. Senior Brandal Jackson will also be in the mix, while sophomore Malcome Kennedy or freshman Mike Evans are potential breakout candidates.

4. Arkansas
It’s never easy replacing two first-team All-SEC receivers (Joe Adams and Jarius Wright), but Arkansas still has plenty of weapons for quarterback Tyler Wilson. Senior Cobi Hamilton averaged 15.9 yards per catch on 34 receptions last season and should be the new No. 1 option for Wilson. Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon are expected to grab the other two starting spots and have a combined 23 career catches. Both players have potential to be difference makers in 2012. With Adams and Wright departing, tight end Chris Gragg should exceed his 41 catches from last season. Depth is a concern at receiver, as sophomore Marquel Wade and junior Maudrecus Humphrey are facing felony burglary charges and may not return in 2012.

5. Alabama
With Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks departing, Alabama’s top returning wide receiver is Kenny Bell, who caught 17 passes for 255 yards last year. While the losses of Maze and Hanks are a concern, it’s possible the Crimson Tide will have more depth, speed and athleticism at receiver in 2012. Bell and Kevin Norwood took the early lead for playing time, but sophomores Christion Jones and DeAndrew White will be in the mix. Freshmen Marvin Shinn, Chris Black, Amari Cooper and Eddie Williams were all highly-touted recruits and will have a shot to crack the depth chart in the fall. Michael Williams is expected to start at tight end and should see his catches increase after nabbing 16 receptions last year. While this group has some youth, there’s also more potential than last season.

6. LSU
It took a few seasons but Rueben Randle finally developed into the elite talent many expected to see from the former five-star recruit. Replacing him won’t be easy, but LSU has plenty of options in 2012. In only one year, Odell Beckham Jr. proved to be one of the league’s top receivers and is a superstar in the making. He catches everything, can take the top off of any defense and plays a physical brand of football. Speedy counterpart Jarvis Landry played in every game as a freshman and will line-up opposite of Beckham. If Russell Shepard could consistently deliver on his big-play potential, Zach Mettenberger will have no trouble finding open Tigers. Chase Clement and Travis Dickson offer some upside at tight end and newcomer Avery Johnson, the younger brother of Patrick Peterson, is ready to contribute right away.

7. Missouri
Gone is Michael Egnew, Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson, but 14 different Tigers return after catching a pass last fall. T.J. Moe is the team’s top target after catching 146 passes for 1,694 yards over the last two seasons. Marcus Lucas started three games and tied for the team lead with five scores and has loads of upside. L’Damian Washington can contribute big plays as well after averaging 18.0 yards per catch in 2011. Eric Waters, who dealt with a knee issue all spring, will attempt to continue the long line of tight end success at Mizzou. The real kicker will be the addition of impact freshman Dorial Green-Beckham come the fall. Affectionately known as DGB, the newcomer comes to college as the most prolific and talented American prep receiver in history. His 6-6, 220-pound frame might be the most talented in the SEC the second he steps on campus in Columbia.

8. Vanderbilt
Going into last season, the Commodores ranked near the bottom of the SEC in receiver rankings. This group turned out to be a surprise, as two players caught over 31 passes and helped the offense produce more big plays. Jordan Matthews led the way with 41 catches for 778 yards. He also averaged 19 yards per catch in 2011 and could contend for All-SEC honors this year. Chris Boyd was impressive as a redshirt freshman, averaging 15.3 yards per catch and recording eight touchdown receptions on 31 catches. Jonathan Krause and Josh Grady are expected to make significant contributions in 2012, while Austin Monahan and Dillon van der Wal will battle to replace tight end Brandon Barden.

9. Auburn
With a switch to a pro-style attack and a quarterback question mark, the Tigers could rank near the bottom of the SEC in passing offense once again. There’s some talent returning in the receiving corps, but depth is a concern. Emory Blake led the team with 36 catches for 613 yards and will be the go-to option for quarterback Kiehl Frazier. Senior Travante Stallworth and sophomore Trovon Reed will likely be the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, with Reed catching 21 receptions as a freshman last year. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen only caught 24 passes in 2011, but made the most of those opportunities, as he took seven receptions for scores.

10. South Carolina
Alshon Jeffery is gone, but he failed to build on his huge sophomore season and was consistently out of shape last year. While no one is as talented as Jeffery, this group should be more balanced than last year. Ace Sanders is a versatile, speedy slot man who gets involved in a variety of ways. DeAngelo Smith will attempt to fill Jeffery’s shoes, with Damiere Byrd and Lamar Scruggs fighting for reps as well. The tight ends are in great shape as starters Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson, as well as upside freshman Jerell Adams, give the Gamecocks one of the best tight end groups in the SEC.

11. Florida
It just feels weird to write, but the Gators desperately need play-makers to develop and step forward in this department. Andre Debose, Frankie Hammond and Quinton Dunbar must deliver on their immense talent that led to lofty recruiting status for all three. True freshman Latroy Pittman had a great spring but has yet to log an actual snap in game action. Solomon Patton and Ja’Juan Story will also get plenty of chances as new coordinator Brent Pease tries to find the right rotation. There are a lot of former four- and five-star prospects playing wideout for Florida, so someone has to emerge quickly if the offense is expected to improve. Tight end Jordan Reed is a stellar talent who needs to continue his growth and development.

12. Mississippi State
In order for the Bulldogs to finish higher than ninth in the SEC in scoring offense, the passing attack has to get better. New quarterback Tyler Russell is a better passer than the player he is replacing (Chris Relf), but the receivers also need to step up. Chad Bumphis has been solid, but has yet to become the difference maker most expected when he committed to Mississippi State. Seniors Arceto Clark and Chris Smith are expected to start, while redshirt freshman Joe Morrow is coming off a strong spring, and the coaching stuff thinks he can contribute significant snaps in 2012.

13. Kentucky
Finding personnel who can make big plays is a must for the Wildcats in 2012, considering they finished last in the nation in plays of 20 yards or more a year ago. Senior La’Rod King will be the top target and the most dependable one after a 40-598-7 line last fall. But names like sophomore Demarco Robinson and freshman Daryl Collins need to step into bigger roles if Joker Phillips’ offense is going to improve. Phillips also wants and expects to see more from his tight ends as Ronnie Shields and Anthony Kendrick provide some athleticism. Tyler Robinson will play plenty as well, but is closer to an offensive lineman than pass-catcher. 

14. Ole Miss
The Rebels’ offense is littered with question marks, but there’s some upside with this unit. Donte Moncrief led the team in receptions (31), receiving yards (454) and touchdowns (4) as a freshman last year. Moncrief will be the No. 1 option once again, but the depth took a hit with Nickolas Brassell’s decision to transfer after spring practice. Ja-Mes Logan caught 20 passes last year and should fill the No. 2 role. Converted quarterback Randall Mackey will be in the mix for significant playing time in 2012 as the No. 3 receiver. Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen combined for 18 receptions last year, but tight ends were not featured prominently in Hugh Freeze’s offense at Arkansas State last year.

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

Related SEC Content

2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

Introducing Texas A&M to the SEC

Introducing Missouri to the SEC

How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return in 2013?

<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 06:11
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/mlb-all-stars-who-should-be-teams

Every season just before the Fourth of July, I put together my two All-Star teams and marvel at how my rosters differ from the fan vote, and to some degree the players’ and managers’ choices. But it’s usually the fans that are most off base. But I get it. This is a popularity vote. No matter how much MLB tries to convince fans that “This Time it Counts,” or some similar slogan, fans vote for their favorite players.

But I must say, the fans did a much better job this year. As usual, the Yankees showed well at the ballot box, as did the Giants in the National League with Buster Posey leading with more than 7 million votes. More votes were cast than ever as Josh Hamilton shattered the record by topping 11 million votes.

My rosters have 34 players, at least one representative from each team, a starter and backup at each position, and I didn’t ignore setup men like the managers did. Oh, just for fun, the starters appear below in my suggested batting order as well.

So, without further setup, here are my two 2012 MLB All-Star rosters.

National League
CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh

Quickly, and awfully quietly, becoming one of the best all-around players in the NL, McCutchen has been clutch with the bat, his legs and with the glove for the surprising Pirates this season.

RF Carlos Beltran, St. Louis
The newest member of the 300-300 and 2,000-hit clubs leads the NL with 60 RBIs and is second to Ryan Braun with 20 home runs.

1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati
This may be the easiest selection of both leagues. Best pure hitter in the National League and best first baseman in baseball right now.

LF Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
The Dodgers’ center fielder was having too good a season to leave off this team even though a balky hamstring has robbed him of more than a month.

3B David Wright, New York
The fans really blew this one. Wright, hitting .354, is leading all third basemen with 50 runs and 53 RBIs.

DH Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
The 2011 NL MVP had a rough offseason, but on the field picked up right where he left off last season.

2B Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
A handful of second sackers could start for the NL this season, but Phillips gets the nod because of his awesome defense.

SS Rafael Furcal, St. Louis
No one at the position especially stands out in the NL, but Furcal leads shortstops with 52 runs and has driven in 31 from his leadoff spot.

C Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia
Anytime a catcher is leading the league in batting average, you have to allow him to start. Ruiz is batting .356, handles pitchers well and is tough to steal on.

SP R.A. Dickey, New York
Forget about Dickey being the best feel-good story this season; he’s the best starting pitcher in the NL this year. The Mets are 13-3 when he starts, 30-34 when he doesn’t.

NL Reserves
C Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Molina has more home runs and RBIs than Ruiz, but his batting average is 44 points lower. A close call at backstop in the National League. Any of the three (with Ruiz and Posey) could start. All three can hit, handle pitchers and throw. But no catcher throws like Yadi.

C Buster Posey, San Francisco
I like having three catchers, but Posey offers some pop and is a tough out off the bench.

1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
After a slow start, Goldschmidt is batting .327 with 19 doubles and 10 homers since May 1.

2B Jose Altuve, Houston
Don’t think this is a token appearance by an Astro, because Altuve can really play. He leads second basemen with a .308 average, but only half as many homers and RBIs as Phillips.

2B Aaron Hill, Arizona
I guess hitting for the cycle twice in 12 days earns an All-Star spot.

3B Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco
Even though the Panda missed 35 games with a wrist injury, he’s proven to be the second-best third sacker this year, keeping his average above .300 all season.

SS Ian Desmond, Washington
Desmond has the most pop at the position with 39 extra-base hits and 43 ribbies.

SS Starlin Castro, Chicago
Still learning nuances of the game, but he’s proving that his league-leading total of 207 hits last season was no fluke.

OF Melky Cabrera, San Francisco
With a .352 average, Cabrera deserves to start, but unfortunately, so do three other guys.

OF Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
Fans got to know CarGo in 2010 as he chased the triple crown. After an injury-plagued 2011, he’s resumed the chase this season and resides among the top six in each of the three categories.

OF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
It took a while for Stanton to get going, but his .915 OPS is eighth in the league and his 38 total bases rank fifth.

OF Dexter Fowler, Colorado
I know he was awful the first six weeks, but since May 27 he’s hit .348 with a 1.055 OPS to bring his average up to .289 and his season OPS to .926.

NL Pitchers
SP Matt Cain, San Francisco
Tossing the first perfect game in Giants history is enough to get Cain on the team, but he also has two shutouts and a 0.950 WHIP.

SP Gio Gonzalez, Washington
The Nationals have the best rotation in the NL and Gonzalez has been at the top of the rotation all season.

SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Even though the Nats are trying to limit his innings, Strasburg deserves an inning in K.C. on Tuesday.

SP James McDonald Pittsburgh
The Dodgers probably regret trading this rising star for a month of Octavio Dotel back in 2010.

SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia
With Roy Halladay on the shelf and Cliff Lee still winless, the Phillies have relied on Hamels to stay afloat during the first half.

SP Wade Miley, Arizona
The Diamondbacks are 9-4 in his starts. They supported him with two, one, zero and two runs in those losses.

SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
The reigning Cy Young just edges teammate Chris Capuano.

RP Sergio Romo, San Francisco
Called on for a few save opportunities, Romo has a sub-1.00 WHIP and ERA.

RP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati
He may be the most feared pitcher in the game on Tuesday.

CL Tyler Clippard, Washington
Originally a setup man, Clippard is 13-for-13 in saves since taking over as closer in late May.

CL Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
Kimbrel has followed his tremendous rookie season with another dandy so far this season.

CL Huston Street, San Diego
He’s a perfect 12-for-12 in save opps and in 11 of those saves he’s faced no more than four batters. In 21 innings he has 28 Ks and given up only eight hits and six walks.


American League

CF Adam Jones, Baltimore
The Gold Glover in center is batting .302, has scored 52 runs and is now on the very short list for best player in the AL. Hamilton is the lone AL outfielder with more extra-base hits.

2B Robinson Cano, New York
The Yankees’ second baseman is arguably the best player in the league.

LF Josh Hamilton, Texas
Slowed some by injuries (surprise), Hamilton is having another MVP season.

3B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Perhaps the closest call in either lineup, Cabrera just edges Adrian Beltre in runs, homers and RBIs.

1B Paul Konerko, Chicago
Two of the best first basemen in the NL last season — Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder — now play in the AL, but Konerko has been the best this season.

DH David Ortiz, Boston
Certainly Edgar Martinez has an argument, but Big Papi may be the best DH ever.

RF Jose Bautista, Toronto
Hitting only .239, but improving, Joey Bats still leads the league in bombs.

SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland
One of the best defensive players in baseball, Cabrera owns the highest OPS among AL shortstops.

C A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago
Evidently the White Sox veteran is not the most popular among fans or players given that he wasn’t even selected to the squad. He’s our starter.

SP David Price, Tampa Bay
The hard-throwing lefty is tied for the AL lead with 11 wins.

AL Reserves
C Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Working on another batting title, Mauer is still among the elite catchers in the game.

C Matt Wieters, Baltimore
A defensive whiz, the switch-hitting Wieters can provide some punch at the plate. He’s batting .403 vs. lefthanders.

1B Prince Fielder, Detroit
The Tigers have been disappointing this season, but Fielder has not.

1B Albert Pujols, Los Angeles
First of all, how can you keep one of the game’s biggest stars out of this game? And secondly, he’s hitting .324 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 48 games since May 9.

2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland
Leading the Tribe in hits, RBIs and steals, Kipnis is also one of the best defenders at his position.

3B Adrian Beltre, Texas
The reigning Gold Glove winner is a beast with the bat as well.

SS Elvis Andrus, Texas
The best team in the AL is full of All-Stars.

OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles
He’s batting .339 with a .938 OPS and leads AL outfielders with 22 stolen bases even though he spent the first month of the season in the minors.

OF Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles
Manager Mike Scioscia has had trouble finding a position for Trumbo, but with a .981 OPS and 20 jacks, he must be in the lineup everyday.

OF Austin Jackson, Detroit
Buoyed by a .404 OBP, the rising star is fifth among AL outfielder in OPS.

OF Curtis Granderson, New York
He doesn’t consider himself a power hitter, but he’s followed his 41-homer season with 23 by the break.

DH Billy Butler, Kansas City
It’s a shame that there aren’t more stars for the hometown fans.

AL Pitchers
SP Justin Verlander, Detroit
The reigning Cy Young, MVP dude is having an “off” year with a 0.98 WHIP and 2.69 ERA.

SP Matt Harrison, Texas
He wasn’t selected merely as a favor from his manager. Harrison has a 1.42 ERA over his last eight starts — all Texas wins.

SP Jake Peavy, Chicago
One of four pitchers with a sub-1.00 WHIP in the AL.

SP Jered Weaver, Los Angeles
A stint on the DL didn’t keep Weaver, who leads the AL with a 0.92 WHIP, off the team.

SP Chris Sale, Chicago
Drafted in 2010, Sale leagues the league with a 2.27 ERA.

SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle
King Felix is having a fine season, but honestly he is the only All-Star on either roster who made it solely because every team must be represented.

RP Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles
Traded from San Diego in early May, he’s tossed 24.1 scoreless frames for the Halos.

RP Vinnie Pestano, Cleveland
He has 19 holds and only one blown chance.

RP Scott Downs, Los Angeles
If Ron Washington needs a lefty for a key out, Downs is one of the best.

CL Jim Johnson, Baltimore
He has been versatile throughout his career, but this season he’s proven he can close effectively.

CL Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay
After an awful 2011 season, the lights-out closer isn’t the first pitcher to re-establish himself with the Rays.

CL Ryan Cook, Oakland
Leads the A’s with 11 holds and is tied for team lead with seven saves. Didn’t allow a run in his first 21 appearances covering 23 innings.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

<p> Forget the fan voting. Forget Tony La Russa shunning the Reds. Forget Ron Washington selecting the Rangers' entire roster. Here's who should be on the teams.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-examining-skyrocketing-coordinator-salaries

There’s more money than ever in college football, and assistant coaches are reaping the rewards, with compensation levels rising at a rapid pace

If you happen to score an invitation for dinner at Dabo Swinney’s house, expect a feast, complete with a fine entree, premium beverages and a nice dessert. The climate will be comfortably controlled, and the roof won’t leak. His children will be neatly dressed, and his car won’t be up on blocks in the front yard.

Swinney’s decision to give back some of the bonus he earned for leading Clemson to the ACC championship, in order to provide raises for some assistants and fund some truly remarkable salaries for his offensive and defensive coordinators, has led some to wonder whether that move will force Swinney to make some budgetary sacrifices. He and his family will have to scrape by on his $1.9 million salary in 2012, but major cutbacks are not on the horizon.

“I’m not missing any meals,” Swinney says. “For me, it was a business decision. I’m investing in my staff. I’m in really good shape in terms of my contract. It’s very important to take care of these guys.”

Swinney’s 2012 compensation package places him 46th among FBS coaches, despite the Tigers’ winning last year’s league title. But it doesn’t matter to Swinney that he’s about $3.7 million behind college football’s Rockefeller, Alabama’s Nick Saban, who will make $5.62 million this year. Thanks to a clause in his contract, Swinney was able to redirect $265,000 of the bonus he earned for taking the ACC title to the assistants’ pool to help fund a $450,000 increase for the staff, something he considers vital to Clemson’s long-term success. Some of that was spent on new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who will make a reported $800,000 this season, and second-year offensive boss Chad Morris, whose salary vaulted from $450,000 a year to $1.3 million per, making him the highest-paid assistant coach in the country.

“(Head coach) is such a big, big job,” Swinney says. “It’s very public, especially at a school like this. We’re running multi-multi-million dollar corporations, and we’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with.

“We have to delegate and have confidence in the people we delegate to. It’s very competitive to hire and keep coaches, and (the salaries) are just a result of how it has grown.”

Though Morris’ gigantic leap in compensation is rare, coordinators across the country are seeing significant gains in their paychecks. What was a largely anonymous position a couple decades ago is now a high-profile job that carries great responsibility and pays big-time cash.

Morris takes over the top spot on the offensive coordinator pay chart from Gus Malzahn, who also made $1.3 million last year at Auburn. Malzahn has moved on to be the head coach at Arkansas State, where he is making at least $450,000 year less than the Tigers paid him. Talk about a man who loves the Natural State. Though the only other coordinator to earn more than a million dollars in 2012 is USC defensive leader Monte Kiffin (at least $1.2 million), plenty are edging near the magical, seven-figure mark.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart received a $100,000 raise after the Tide’s national title season and will make $950,000. LSU’s John Chavis is expected to be north of $900,000 this season (and will be paid a reported $1.1 million in ’13 and $1.3 in ’14) after earning $708 grand last season. New Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri signed a three-year, $2.4 million deal. Georgia’s Todd Grantham received a significant raise from last year’s $755,900 salary. And so on. As TV money floods into the upper reaches of the college football world, coordinators at top programs are benefiting at unprecedented rates.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt says. “(Coordinator) is a very big responsibility, and you want a guy who can be at the top of the spear with his unit he’s responsible for.

“I think the market goes where it goes for a reason. It’s not just because somebody got a wild hair. There is value in these people. When you do your job with excellence, there’s a lot to be gained. They earn it.”

Coordinators aren’t the only ones making more dough. According to USA Today, all assistants’ salaries rose 11 percent from 2010-11, a rate of increase that surpassed that of head men, whose pay went up 7.3 percent. At a time when fans know more about coaching staffs than ever before, and recruiting is as competitive as it has ever been, it’s vital for bosses to have people around them capable of doing the job well. To get those good people, they have to pay, especially when it comes to the coordinators, who serve as the executive VPs of programs.

“If you look at a corporation of any size, the top executives are paid accordingly,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio says. “These are our top executives. They’re going to be head coaches some day.”

In part, that prospect has driven the coordinator salary surge. When small and mid-major programs look for new leaders, they often turn to coordinators at the top level. Although Malzahn took a big cut to head to Arkansas State, many other top assistants would prefer not to drop down a tax bracket, even if it does mean being in charge. By paying them a lot more than they could make at smaller schools, BCS head coaches can secure their services and the continuity that comes with their presence. Coaches and ADs have decided that in order to keep cashing in on the growing football revenue tide, they need the best people possible.

“The overriding factor here is that college football, particularly in the BCS conferences, is a huge business,” says a prominent agent who represents several BCS coaches and requested anonymity. “Programs are making a lot more money than they thought they would even five years ago. Since they don’t pay the players, who are they going to pay? The coaches.”

One of the reasons the salaries are growing so quickly is that the marketplace is highly competitive. Clemson had to give Morris such a huge raise because new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was reported to have offered him the same position for $1.5 million. Although the Tigers checked in a couple hundred thousand short of Meyer’s reported offer, Morris chose the familiarity of the Clemson program and the chance to continue what he started during his 2011 debut season, when he helped Clemson improve from 88th to 26th nationally in total offense.

“If you pay guys well, this is a place guys may stay a little longer and maybe for a little less money,” Swinney says. “There’s a great quality of life here.”

When David Brandon played linebacker for Michigan back in the mid-1970s, head coach Bo Schembechler would spend the first half of the practice with the defense and the second half with the offense. Under his watchful eye, the Wolverines waged a near-constant assault on the upper reaches of the Big Ten. And though his staffs produced 12 future head coaches — Bill McCartney, Gary Moeller, Don Nehlen, Jim Young and Les Miles among them — the identities of his assistants and even his coordinators were largely unknown to all but the most devoted U-M fans.

“It’s no longer Bo walking back-and-forth at practice,” says Brandon, who is now Michigan’s athletic director. “(Football) CEOs need leaders on both sides of the ball.”

Brandon understands the current climate of the coordinator salary race enough that when Wolverines coach Brady Hoke needed a big number to secure the services of Greg Mattison to run the defense when Hoke was hired in 2011, Brandon signed off on a $750,000 salary, then the highest assistant’s payday in the conference. The move paid off handsomely. In 2010, Michigan ranked 108th nationally in scoring defense; last season, it finished sixth. Without Mattison at the defensive helm, it’s unlikely Michigan would have played in the Sugar Bowl and received the fat BCS payout.

“You need to make this kind of investment to stay competitive at the top level,” Brandon says.

It’s interesting that Brandon and his fellow ADs had to be convinced that beefing up coordinators’ salaries was a good idea. Obviously, administrators keep a close eye on the bottom line, so any increase in expenses is going to cause a small disturbance in the force. But head coaches have become adept at convincing their bosses that the extra outlay is worth it.

“It’s a little different model,” Swinney says. “When I got the job here, I told them I didn’t care what they paid me. It was about trying to get things from a staff standpoint to where they have to be.”

That holistic approach to staff compensation is driving a lot of this. Alabama’s staff was paid a total of $3,866,350 last year, still short of the $5.62 million Saban will make this season but certainly a strong statement. At LSU, three assistants made more than a half-million in 2011, led by Chavis. Tennessee’s and Florida’s staffs both earned more than $3 million combined. UT defensive boss Justin Wilcox (who has since moved to the University of Washington) earned $625,000 last year, while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was paid $525,000.

“It’s fair to say that coordinators don’t just necessarily run the offense and run the defense,” LSU coach Les Miles says. “There’s a lot more to it. It requires a specialization. When you’re competing at the highest level, you require a guy with great experience, ability and continuity.

“You have to find a guy who can represent a school well, recruit at the highest level and fulfill a role that will prepare the players.”

It’s no coincidence the lion’s share of the nouveau riche at coordinator positions can be found in the SEC, and many of the top salaried coaches are on the defensive side. With some exceptions — see Auburn, 2010 — the conference remains a defense-first concern, and that has been rammed home by Alabama’s two national titles in the past three seasons.

Since the last six national title winners have come from the SEC, it makes sense that coaches will pay top coordinators. “If you want to get the right guy and keep him, you have to pay him,” Richt says. It won’t be long before that philosophy will creep northward. Clemson is already on board, and if Meyer was willing to throw $1.5 million at Morris to lure him to Ohio State, and Mattison is collecting three-quarters of a million at Michigan, expect the Big Ten to adopt the model.

“A lot of it is driven by the market,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says. “It all trickles down and begins with the coordinators in the NFL. Things have started to escalate, and it showed up first in the SEC. That’s usually how it goes.”

When Monte Kiffin started coaching, back at Nebraska in the late 1960s and early ’70s, he certainly wasn’t a wealthy man. In fact, when he saw what his son, USC head coach Lane, made in his first coaching job three decades later, Monte wasn’t too happy.

“It wasn’t fair,” he says. “But that’s just life.”

Since the elder Kiffin is making north of a million bucks each season, he can afford to be philosophical about the escalating salaries in the coaching world. “Football hasn’t changed,” he says. “It’s just that the salaries have gone up, but everything has gone up.” 

There is no question, however, that his job is more demanding than it was when he was coordinating the Cornhuskers’ defense during Tom Osborne’s early years in Lincoln. First of all, Osborne was a lot more engaged in the daily operations of the program than many head coaches are today — and not because they are aloof or disengaged. For many years, Osborne called all the plays the Cornhuskers ran. Though some program chiefs have that level of hands-on involvement today (Saban comes to mind), few have the ability to run either side of the ball, not with all the fundraising and administrative responsibilities they have.

So, Kiffin and his coordinator brethren are charged with making the Xs and Os come to life on the field. We know who they are and are aware they make the big money. At their core, however, these guys are still ball coaches, and though they may harbor dreams of running their own programs some day and certainly don’t mind being well compensated, they care more about doing their jobs than anything else.

Last winter, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi removed himself from consideration for the vacant Akron head coaching spot to return to East Lansing. Though his $300,000 salary at MSU is less than the $375,000 former Zips coach Rob Ianello was paid annually to go 1–11 twice, Narduzzi decided it would be better to be a lieutenant in the Big Ten than a big cheese in the MAC. He’s happy and well compensated at MSU. And if the Spartans continue to play great defense, he may just find his paycheck heading toward those SEC totals. Narduzzi isn’t kidding you; he’d like that. But he’s more interested in doing a good job. “I’ve coached the same whether I was at Rhode Island (from 1993-99) or at Michigan State (from ’07-present),” Narduzzi says.

And he isn’t missing any meals, either.

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 College Football Annuals.

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

College Fantasy Football 2012 Rankings

<p> College Football: Examining the Skyrocketing Coordinator Salaries</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 05:01
Path: /college-football/northwestern-football-revisiting-1995-wildcats-rose-bowl-team

It was midnight on the eve of the 82nd Rose Bowl in Pasadena. A lone figure sat in the partially lit stands gazing out at the fabled field in the near darkness.

Gary Barnett was fulfilling a personal wish to visit the stadium the night before the 1996 Rose Bowl game. Alone with his thoughts, the Northwestern coach couldn’t help but smile at seeing the purple-painted end zone that saluted his Cinderella Wildcats. “We’re taking the Purple to Pasadena,” he had boldly predicted four years earlier, when he first stepped onto the Evanston, Ill., campus. Few believed him then. Now, incredibly, Northwestern had burst from the constraints of a dead-and-buried program and shocked the world of college football. Twenty-four eternally long seasons had come and gone since the Wildcats’ last winning season. It had been 47 years since the school’s last bowl appearance, when halfback Frank Aschenbrenner was the hero in the 1949 Rose Bowl win over California; 59 autumns had intervened since Northwestern had last captured a Big Ten championship. But all that changed when the Wildcats went 10–1 through the 1995 regular season, stunning such perennial powers as Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State to claim the Big Ten title and the automatic Rose Bowl invitation that went with it.

“We were the school that wasn’t supposed to be able to do it,” says Barnett, now 66. “We took a lot of pride in that.”

It was easy to remember when there was little pride in the Purple. A deep-seated pigskin pall had fallen over the Northwestern student body in the preceding decades that had hardened into a shell of apathetic disinterest.

“We had given them really no reason to expect winning,” says Chris Martin, an All-Big Ten cornerback on that Rose Bowl team. “On most Saturdays, the library was more crowded than our football stadium.” Barnett, he said, had taken over “a moribund program.”

Far from being embraced, football was viewed as a scourge on campus. “We were a necessary evil, I suppose,” remembers Darnell Autry, a sophomore star that year, whose 1,785 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns brought him All-America recognition and a fourth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.

“And the professors there … you ­didn’t want to go in and tout that you were a football player,” recalls Mike McGrew, a fullback and ’96 co-captain.

Beating the odds

The season started with a shocking 17–15 victory over Notre Dame at South Bend. “We were 29-point underdogs,” remembers quarterback Steve Schnur. “There was a big third-down conversion we threw a pass on. Barnett let me call my own play and that was telling.”

Indeed, that belief in his quarterback and the game’s eventual outcome told a nation that Barnett, improbably, could field a team of winners at an elite academic institution. In the first year of full recruiting following his initial 1992 campaign at Northwestern, Barnett ran smack into the reality of what he was up against: Ninety-five percent of kids playing Division I football were athletes he could not recruit. Strict Northwestern standards demanded that players maintain a 3.0 GPA and score well over 1,000 on their SATs.

“We had Hines Ward and a bunch of guys we were recruiting,” recalls Barnett. “We took 100 applications over to the admissions office and they only let us have 10 of those in school.”

The Wildcats coach nearly made a fateful mistake. “We almost said, ‘Well, there you go. That’s why we can’t win here. We can’t get kids in school.’ But instead we said, ‘Okay, we now know what that profile looks like, so let’s not worry about those other 90. Let’s just make sure that the rest of the guys we recruit look like the profiles of these 10.’”

That meant Barnett and his staff would have to scour the country for their talent. The athletes they signed were not being courted by the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan, but rather second-tier football programs like Tulane, Iowa State, Boston College, Syracuse, and Cincinnati. Still, to come to this center of football inertia, Barnett had to attract them in some way.

“We sold the city. We sold Michael Jordan. And we sold Mike Ditka,” says Barnett, laughing. “We just tried to make a city school into something attractive and looked at it from a different perspective than how it had been conventionally looked at.”

Some players came for a chance to play in the Big Ten; some came for the challenge of playing at a school like Northwestern. “Of course, we probably got a kid or two because of the academics, but for the most part it was just something within our program that we found a way to use to attract.”

That something, for many of the recruits, was the coaches. “We had Gary Barnett,” says Autry simply. “He had a different vision for what he saw in this program. He changed the culture in terms of how we thought about ourselves and how we thought about the program.”

Expect victory

Still, after all the players were assembled, something made that team of good-but-not-great athletes very special. “Great chemistry,” says Schnur, in a response echoed by McGrew and others. “Chemistry and teamwork can take you further than a collection of individual talents. That’s what signified that team. We got as high as third in the country and felt like we could compete with and beat anyone. It was just a bunch of guys who believed in each other. We were willing to outwork anybody.”

That philosophy has carried over into the adult lives of those ’95 Wildcats, who are now between 35 and 37 years of age and have displayed resounding success in their respective career fields (see below). Though 10 players eventually went into the NFL, only one (Barry Gardner) played more than four years. But all, regardless of profession, find parallels today with their Northwestern football experience.

“The ability to inspire and motivate people, to tap into things that resonate with them, to get the most out of your folks to help cultivate an atmosphere that helps get people working together and focused on a common goal, those are all things I went through as part of that team at Northwestern,” says McGrew, now with W.W. Grainger, a Fortune 500 company. “It prepared me in helping our people achieve their goals and objectives.”

For McGrew and the other ’95 Wildcats, a Northwestern diploma has been a degree of difference.

“When I look back on our team, the one thing that strikes me is that most of the guys are successful, whether they’re teachers or CEOs or presidents of companies,” notes Justin Chabot, an offensive lineman in ’95. “Northwestern offers a national degree. And it translates everywhere you go.”

Pat Fitzgerald, heading into his seventh season as head coach of the Wildcats, sees instances everywhere of the positive influences from his playing days at Northwestern. “We’re all incredibly successful professionally now not just because of what we experienced on the field but because of what we experienced together as a group and how we were able to earn our degrees at such a great school,” says the former two-time consensus All-America linebacker, a defensive mainstay on the ’95 team. “There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in recruiting, but I can say wholeheartedly everything that Coach Barnett and his staff sold us on has come true.”

“Expect victory,” Gary Barnett once preached. To a man, his 1995 Northwestern Wildcats still do.

The 1995 Wildcats: Where They Are Now

Darnell Autry, running back - Online radio show host, “Outside the Spotlight,” on VoiceAmerica

Gary Barnett, head coach - Broadcast analyst, Sports USA Radio Network

D’Wayne Bates, wide receiver - Football defensive assistant/special teams coordinator, Evanston (Ill.) Township High School

William Bennett, defensive back - Branch manager, Scottsdale, Ariz., Kelly Services, a global workforce staffing company

Paul Burton, punter - General assignment reporter, WBZ-TV News, the CBS affiliate in Boston

Justin Chabot, offensive lineman - College scout, Southeast area, San Francisco 49ers

Darren Drexler, tight end - Vice president of operations, Courtesy Products, St. Louis, Mo., a provider of operating supplies to hotels and motels in the United States and Canada

Pat Fitzgerald, linebacker - Head football coach, Northwestern University

Rob Johnson, center - Sales manager and overseer of purchasing, operations, and marketing for Illco, Inc., a Countryside, Ill.-based privately held wholesale distributor of refrigeration, air conditioning, plumbing, pvc, and hydronic supplies

Brian Kardos, tackle - Security and assurance manager, BP, Houston

Keith Lozowski, defensive end - Regional director, Bankers Life and Casualty Co., Jacksonville, Fla., an insurance needs provider for the retirement market

Chris Martin, defensive back - Football analyst, Big Ten Network

Mike McGrew, fullback - Director of communications for W.W. Grainger, the largest supplier of industrial supplies and maintenance equipment for businesses and institutions in North America

Tucker Morrison, linebacker - Chief operating officer, Flightstar Aircraft Services, Inc., a heavy aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider in Jacksonville, Fla.

Brian Musso, wide receiver - Co-founder and managing partner, Promus Capital LLC, a family wealth management and alternative investment group in Chicago

Ryan Padgett, guard - Seattle-area emergency room doctor

Steve Schnur, quarterback - Senior vice president, Chicago operations, Duke Realty, a public real estate investment trust

Sam Valenzisi, kicker - Director, Lincoln International LLC, Chicago, specializing in merger and acquisitions advisory services

Jason Wendland, tackle - Senior futures and options broker, JP Morgan Chase, New York City

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Preview Annual.

Related Big Ten Content

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions
Athlon's 2012 Big Ten All-Conference Team

Northwestern Wildcats 2012 Team Preview

<p> Looking back at the 1995 Northwestern Wildcats team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 04:48
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2012-all-conference-team

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first and second All-Conference USA teams for this season.

First-Team Offense

QB David Piland, Houston

RB Zach Line, SMU

RB Charles Sims, Houston

WR Aaron Dobson, Marshall

WR Darius Johnson, SMU

TE Luke Willson, Rice

C Trent Dupy, Tulsa

OL Jacolby Ashworth, Houston

OL Joe Duhon, Southern Miss

OL Theo Goins, UCF

OL Jason Weaver, Southern Miss

First-Team Defense

DL Jamie Collins, Southern Miss

DL Cory Dorris, Tulsa

DL Victor Gray, UCF

DL Margus Hunt, SMU

LB Ja'Gared Davis, SMU

LB Trent Mackey, Tulane

LB Taylor Reed, SMU

CB D.J. Hayden, Houston

CB Deron Wilson, Southern Miss

S Kemal Ishmael, UCF

S Dexter McCoil, Tulsa

First-Team Specialists

K Chris Boswell, Rice

P Ian Campbell, UTEP

KR Rannell Hall, UCF

PR Tracy Lampley, Southern Miss

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Conference USA Team

  First Second Overall
East Carolina 0 4 4
Houston 4 2 6
Marshall 1 2 3
Memphis 0 1 1
Rice 2 1 3
SMU 5 0 5
Southern Miss 5 2 7
Tulane 1 2 3
Tulsa 3 5 8
UAB 0 2 2
UCF 4 3 7
UTEP 1 2 3

Second-Team Offense

QB Blake Bortles, UCF

RB Orleans Darkwa, Tulane

RB Trey Watts, Tulsa

WR Bryan Burnham, Tulsa

WR Justin Hardy, East Carolina

TE Willie Carter, Tulsa

C Jordan Rae, UCF

OL Brander Craighead, UTEP

OL Rowdy Harper, Houston

OL Chris Hubbard, UAB

OL Will Simmons, East Carolina

Second-Team Defense

DL Michael Brooks, East Carolina

DL Troy Davis, UCF

DL Horace Miller, UTEP

DL Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss

LB Jeremy Grove, East Carolina

LB Shawn Jackson, Tulsa

LB Derrick Mathews, Houston

CB Bryce Callahan, Rice

CB Ryan Travis, Tulane

S Jacorius Cotton, Southern Miss

S Marco Nelson, Tulsa

Second-Team Specialists

K Ty Long, UAB 

P Tom Hornsey, Memphis

KR Andre Booker, Marshall

PR Andre Booker, Marshall


Athlon's 2012 Conference USA Team Previews

Related Content: Conference USA 2012 Predictions

East West
East Carolina Houston
Marshall SMU
Memphis Rice
Southern Miss Tulane
UAB Tulsa

<p> Conference USA Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 03:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-mountain-west

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

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

2012 Preseason Mountain West All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

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

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

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

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

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


QB—Brett Smith, So. (Wyoming)

Last season:  Passed for 2,622 yards and 20 TDs, rushed for 710 yards and 10 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Toledo, Cal Poly, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ New Mexico, @ UNLV, San Diego St


QB—Cody Fajardo, So. (Nevada)

Last season:  Passed for 1,707 yards and 6 TDs, rushed for 694 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Northwestern St, @ Hawaii, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye


RB—D.J. Harper, Sr. (Boise State)

Last season:  Rushed for 568 yards and 9 TDs as the primary backup to Doug Martin.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; San Diego St, @ Hawaii, Colorado St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye


RB—Robbie Rouse, Sr. (Fresno State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,607 yards and 13 TDs, 32 receptions for 228 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Wyoming, @ New Mexico, Hawaii

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Nevada, Bye, Air Force


RB—Stefphon Jefferson, Jr. (Nevada)

Last season:  Rushed for 442 yards and 5 TDs as a backup to Lampford Mark and Mike Ball.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Northwestern St, @ Hawaii, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye


WR—Matt Miller, So. (Boise State)

Last season:  62 receptions for 679 yards and 9 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ New Mexico, @ Southern Miss, Fresno St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye


WR—Chris McNeill, Sr. (Wyoming)

Last season:  42 receptions for 504 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Toledo, Cal Poly, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ New Mexico, @ UNLV, San Diego St


WR— Brandon Wimberly, Sr. (Nevada)

Last season:  Missed 2011 season due to injury (gunshot wound).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Wyoming, @ UNLV, San Diego St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye


TE—Gavin Escobar, Jr. (San Diego State)

Last season:  51eceptions for 780 yards and 7 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; San Jose St, @ Fresno St, Hawaii

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Air Force, Bye, @ Wyoming


FLEX—Chris Nwoke, Jr. (Colorado State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,176 yards and 9 TDs, 23 receptions for 143 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; North Dakota St, @ San Jose St, Utah St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  UNLV, @ Boise St, New Mexico


K—Parker Herrington, Sr. (Air Force)

Last season: 15-for-18 on FG attempts, 45-for-48 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; @ UNLV, Colorado St, Navy

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ San Diego St, Hawaii, @ Fresno St


DEF/ST—Boise State Broncos

Last season:  No. 12 scoring defense, No. 16 total defense, only two starters return.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; San Diego St, @ Hawaii, Colorado St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye


Top 5 Reserves

QB—Derek Carr, Jr. (Fresno State)

QB—Joe Southwick, Jr. (Boise State)

RB—Mike DeWitt, Sr. (Air Force)

WR—Rashad Evans, Sr. (Fresno State)

WR—Colin Lockett, Jr. (San Diego State)


Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Mountain West</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 23:32
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, Overtime, News
Path: /college-basketball/purdue-basketball-players-awesome-trick-shot-video

Purdue basketball players have put out a new video showing that they're keeping their skills sharp during the off season. Players Dru Anthrop and D.J. Byrd are joined by former player and now student assistant coach Ryne Smith at Mackey Arena, where they're showing off their best trick shots. The shots range from far-off bombs behind the basket to one hoppers from the stands.

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Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 23:30
Path: /mlb/baseballs-players-week-cabrera-hughes-zimmerman-latos

Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's — June 25-July 1 — standouts.

AL Player of the Week

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

The first baseman-turned-third baseman did his best work in bunches last week. He had three games with three or more hits, including 3-for-4, 4-for-5 and 3-for-3 games. He batted .462 and tied for the AL lead with six RBIs. Cabrera scored five times.


AL Pitcher of the Week

Phil Hughes, New York

With both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte injured, the Yankees were desperate for quality starting pitching. Hughes responded in a big way, tossing eight shutout innings against the Indians, and followed that with eight strong innings vs. the White Sox, allowing just a couple of runs. He totaled 12 strikeouts in his 16 innings of work for the week.


NL Player of the Week

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington

Mired in a season-long funk, Zimmerman emerged with the best week in the National League. He hit .364 with a 1.158 OPS. He enjoyed four multi-hit games and three multi-RBI games. Zimmerman, who plays exceptional defense, had seven extra-base hits and reached base in every game via a hit or walk.


NL Pitcher of the Week

Mat Latos, Cincinnati

Latos entered the week with a 5.20 ERA, tossed a pair of complete games last week, allowing just one run in each contest. He set down the Brewers on four hits, including a solo homer, then won at San Francisco, 2-1, by giving up just two hits. His weekly ledger reads: 2-0, 1.00 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 18 IP, 6 hits, 2 walks and 20 Ks.

<p> Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 17:36
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-july-2

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for July 2, 2012.


 1. Rangers—First team to win 50 games.

 2. Yankees—Can they withstand injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte?

 3. Nationals—Best team in the National League? No one is arguing.

 4. Angels—Terrific June, but gained no ground on Rangers.

 5. Giants—Run of four shutouts propelled Giants into first place.

 6. Reds—Brandon Phillips not an All-Star? He would start on our team.

 7. Dodgers—Should have Matt Kemp back in lineup after All-Star break.

 8. Orioles—Traded for Jim Thome to boost offense.

 9. Rays—Team is batting just .232; desperately need Evan Longoria back.

10. Blue Jays—Best last-place team in baseball.

11. Braves—Mike Minor over Stephen Strasburg in only win of series.

12. White Sox—Pitching staff led by rookies.

13. Mets—Fans really blew the third base voting. #DavidWright

14. Pirates—Bullpen is tied with Reds for NL’s best ERA at 2.73.

15. Cardinals—No bridge between starters and late-inning relievers.

16. Red Sox—Best they could do was a split at Seattle?

17. Diamondbacks—Wade Miley pitching like an ace.

18. Indians—Hosting Angels and Rays in key series to finish first half.

19. Tigers—Should make some hay vs. Twins and Royals before break.

20. A’s—Closer Ryan Cook is well-kept secret.

21. Marlins—No team happier to see calendar turn from June than Marlins.

22. Brewers—Potential Zack Greinke trade in the making?

23. Twins—At .324, Joe Mauer is chasing another batting title.

24. Mariners—Scored nine runs in their last eight games.

25. Phillies—Sweep at Miami was painful.

26. Royals—Testing six-man rotation.

27. Astros—Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie impressive middle infield.

28. Padres—Yasmani Grandal switch-hits bombs for first two hits of career.

29. Rockies—Pitching staff performing at “worst ever” levels.

30. Cubs—Youngster Brett Jackson may be on way to join Anthony Rizzo.

<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 17:15