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All taxonomy terms: AFC, Miami Dolphins, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-qbs-marino-nfl-horror-story
Body:

On January 2, 2000 Dan Marino played his final game in a Miami Dolphins uniform. In the 12 seasons since, the Dolphins’ tale of quarterback woes is a cautionary horror narrative that keeps many an NFL GM awake at night.

Miami has started 16 different players at quarterback since Marino stepped away from football. It has finished in the top ten in scoring one time since (2001) and no higher than 12th in total offense. Only two seasons since, 2001 and 2008, have the Dolphins started the same player for all 16 games. The organization has played in one playoff game since 2001.

Here are the 16 quarterbacks who have started a game for the Miami Dolphins since the retirement of Dan Marino following the 2000 season:

Jay Fiedler (2000-04)
The Darmouth grad gave the Phins an extremely false sense of security with a relatively solid stint in Miami immediately following Marino’s depature. Fiedler started 59 games in his five-year Miami career, including all 16 games in 2001 — the best offensive season since Marino for the Fish. He was 36-23 as the starter and averaged 178.1 yards per game with 66 TD and 63 INT.

Damon Huard (1998-2000)
Huard filled in for Fiedler in Week 12 of the 2000 season after he had previously stared five games during Marino’s 1999 farewell tour. He won his only post-Marino start after throwing for 183 yards and his only TD of the year. The Washington alum went on to start 21 more games over a five-year span for the Patriots and Cheifs before retiring in 2008.

Ray Lucas (2001-02)
The Rutgers Scarlet Knight started only six games for the Dolphins, all in 2002 spot duty for Fiedler. He went 2-4 as the starter, completed only 57.5 percent of his passes for 149.3 yards per game and threw only four touchdowns (against six INTs). Lucas never played football again following that season.

Brian Griese (2003)
As the Jay Fiedler experiment continued to fall off the tracks for various reasons, Griese became the third quarterback to get a start in place of the Ivy League grad. All five career games Griese played for Miami came in place of Fiedler in ’03. He went 3-2 as the starter with five touchdowns, six interceptions and 162.6 yards per game.

AJ Feeley (2004)
The Oregon quarterback, like Griese the year before, played only one year in Miami and got eight starts in place of Fiedler. He lost his first two starts in Week 2 and 3 before returning to the line-up from Weeks 10-15. Feeley was 3-5 as the leader of the Fish, completing only 53.7 percent of his passes with 15 interceptions for his Dolphins’ career.

Sage Rosenfels (2002-05)
In his third season as a Dolphin, the Iowa State Cyclone finally got to start a game when he entered the line-up for the final game of 2004. He completed 42.1 percent of his passes (16 of 38) with three interceptions and one touchdown in the loss. He then started one more game in 2005 (Week 10) when he threw for 14 yards and two picks in the shutout loss to Cleveland. He never started another game and ended his Fish career 0-2 as the starter.

Gus Frerotte (2005)
The real starter in ’05 was Frerotte. And he was mildly effective. He was 9-6 as the starter and nearly topped 3,000 yards (2,996) with more touchdowns (18) than interceptions (13). Numbers that aren’t amazing, but look Hall of Fame-esque when placed next to the other starters from South Beach.

Joey Harrington (2006)
Another year and another starting quarterback experiment. Harrington started 11 games in 2006, winning five while throwing for over 200 yards per game. He also threw 15 interceptions and 12 touchdowns and was an Atlanta Falcon the next year.

Daunte Culpepper (2006)
The Former Viking played his first game with a new team when he started four games for the Dolphins in 2006. He was 1-3 as a starter and tossed just two touchdowns as a Dolphin. The former first-rounder played for four teams in four years from 2005-08. Don't forget, the brass in Miami decided it was a good decision to go with Culpepper instead of Drew Brees.

Cleo Lemon (2006-07)
The Arkansas State grad played four years in the NFL on three different teams. He started eight career games, all for the Dolphins, and won only one time in his entire career. He threw for 168.1 yards per game, completed 56.0 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Trent Green (2007)
Green also only played one season for the Dolphins and failed to win any of his five career starts in Miami. He threw only five touchdowns and seven picks over that span while averaging nearly 200 yards per game.

John Beck (2007)
The second-round pick played one year for the team that drafted him. Beck was 0-4 as the starter in Miami and threw only one career touchdown pass as a Dolphin. He averaged 111.8 yards per game and has never won a game as a starter in the NFL.

Chad Pennington (2008-10)
The soft-tossing Marshall grad likely had the most successful season of any quarterback in a Fish uni since Marino retired. He started every game of the 2008 season, winning 11 and earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. He led the NFL in completion percentage (67.4 percent) and posted a nice 3,653-19-7 stat line en route to a co-AFC East title and playoff berth. However, he started only four more games over the next two years (1-3) before retiring in 2010.

Chad Henne (2008-11)
The strong-armed Michigan grad came to Miami in the second-round of the 2008 draft. He got into the starting line-up in year two and actually posted a winning record at 7-6. Yet, despite statistical improvement in year three, Henne lost more than he won (6-8). He was 0-4 as the starter in year four and has bolted for Jacksonville.

Tyler Thigpen (2010)
The Coastal Carolina product started and lost one game in his Dolphins one-year career. He threw for 187 yards, one interception and lost in a shutout at the hands of the Bears.

Matt Moore (2011)
The Oregon State Beaver was relatively effective last year on a team with a lame duck coach and terrible roster. He actually won six of his 12 starts, threw more touchdowns (16) than interceptions (9) and appears poised to start the 2012 campaign atop the depth charts. At least, for now, until Ryan Tannehill becomes the 17th quarterback to start a game for Miami since Marino.

The Fish aren’t the only NFL franchise that suffered after the retirement of a truly great signal caller. The Bills haven’t been the same since Jim Kelly. The 49ers are the poster children for how to adapt to loss — Joe Montana to Steve Young — and how not to adapt to loss — Young to everyone since then. Those two franchises have combined for six winning seasons in 28 combined years of competition since Kelly (1996) and Young (1999) stepped away.

But hope springs eternal on South Beach as the Dolphins enter their 13th season without No. 13 — and are doing so with their first first-round quarterback since taking Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft. Yes, Ryan Tannehill has the unenviable task of being the first quarterback taken in the first round by Miami since Mr. Isotoners himself joined the club.

While I have my doubts about Tannehill’s ability to succeed at the NFL level, the beauty of the NFL lies in its balance. Teams can go from worst to first and vice versa in a matter of months and new head coach Joe Philbin brings one of the most powerful offensive systems in the NFL to the franchise.

Only time will tell if Tannehill is the next Dan Marino.

Or the next Cleo Lemon.

- By Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related: Miami Dolphins 2012 Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Miami Dolphins QBs Since Marino: An NFL Horror Story</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-east-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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

Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team

First-Team Offense

QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh

RB Lyle McCombs, Connecticut 

WR Sterling Griffin, South Florida

WR Alec Lemon, Syracuse

TE Ryan Griffin, Connecticut

C Mario Benavides, Louisville

OL Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers

OL Adam Masters, Connecticut

OL Mark Popek, South Florida

OL Justin Pugh, Syracuse


First-Team Defense

DL Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

DL Ryne Giddins, South Florida

DL Scott Vallone, Rutgers

DL Trevardo Williams, Connecticut

LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

LB DeDe Lattimore, South Florida

LB Sio Moore, Connecticut

CB Adrian Bushell, Louisville

CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers

S Jarred Holley, Pittsburgh

S Hakeem Smith, Louisville


First-Team Specialists

K Maikon Bonani, South Florida

P Pat O'Donnell, Cincinnati

KR Ralph David Abernathy IV, Cincinnati

PR Nick Williams, Connecticut


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team
 

  First Second Third Overall
Cincinnati 2 4 2 8
Connecticut 6 2 4 12
Louisville 4 4 2 10
Pittsburgh 3 3 4 10
Rutgers 4 5 1 10
South Florida 5 2 7 14
Syracuse 2 3 4 9
Temple 0 3 2 5


Second-Team Offense

QB B.J. Daniels, South Florida

RB Matt Brown, Temple

RB Jawan Jamison, Rutgers

WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville

TE Hubie Graham, Pittsburgh

C Ryan Turnley, Pittsburgh

OL Austen Bujnoch, Cincinnati

OL Zack Chibane, Syracuse

OL Chris Jacobson, Pittsburgh

OL John Miller, Louisville


Second-Team Defense

DL Dan Giordano, Cincinnati

DL Jesse Joseph, Connecticut

DL Marcus Smith, Louisville

DL Walter Stewart, Cincinnati

LB Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers

LB Preston Brown, Louisville

LB Marquis Spruill, Syracuse

CB Kayvon Webster, South Florida

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut

S Drew Frey, Cincinnati

S Duron Harmon, Rutgers


Second-Team Specialists

K Ross Krautman, Syracuse

P Brandon McManus, Temple

KR Jeremy Deering, Rutgers

PR Matt Brown, Temple


Third-Team Offense

QB Ryan Nassib, Syracuse

RB Dominique Brown, Louisville

RB Demetris Murray, South Florida

WR Anthony McClung, Cincinnati

WR Devin Street, Pittsburgh

TE Evan Landi, South Florida

C Macky MacPherson, Syracuse

OL Danous Estenor, South Florida

OL R.J. Dill, Rutgers

OL Quinterrius Eatmon, South Florida

OL Martin Wallace, Temple


Third-Team Defense

DL Levi Brown, Temple

DL Deon Goggins, Syracuse

DL Roy Philon, Louisville

DL Elkino Watson, South Florida

LB Sam Barrington, South Florida

LB Maalik Bomar, Cincinnati

LB Jory Johnson, Connecticut

CB Dwayne Gratz, Connecticut

CB K'Waun Williams, Pittsburgh

S Jon Lejiste, South Florida

S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse


Third-Team Specialists

K Kevin Harper, Pittsburgh

P Cole Wagner, Connecticut

KR Nick Williams, Connecticut

PR Ronald Jones, Pittsburgh
 

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big East Predictions

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

Teaser:
<p> Big East Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:33
All taxonomy terms: College Football, TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/tcu-football-horned-frogs-come-home-big-12
Body:

It really wasn’t that long ago when TCU football was barely a topic of discussion around Fort Worth.

For 38 years — from 1960 to 1997 — the Horned Frogs had seven winning seasons and three bowl appearances. Oh, sure, there were a few moments of glory. The ’65 team went 6–5 and earned a Sun Bowl berth. The ’67 team won at Texas. In 1984, after 12 consecutive losing seasons, TCU finished 8–4 and earned a trip to the Bluebonnet Bowl under coach Jim Wacker. But for every high point, there were 20 lows. For a 10-year stretch — from 1974 to 1983 — a third of the Frogs’ wins (five of 15) came against Rice, the Southwest Conference doormat. Otherwise, TCU was the doormat. The Frogs went 1–20–3 in road games from 1979 to 1983.

When Dennis Franchione left New Mexico to take over TCU in 1998, he inherited a 1–10 team. The lone win was Pat Sullivan’s last at TCU, a regular-season finale against SMU in front of 19,000 indifferent fans in a “rivalry” game.

From Albuquerque, Franchione brought with him a little-known defensive coordinator. Three years later, when Franchione bolted for the job at Alabama in December 2000, that coordinator, Gary Patterson, was named TCU’s coach before the Frogs played Southern Miss in the Mobile Alabama Bowl.

Patterson wasn’t a unanimous choice, either. Although his defense led the nation in 2000, he was unpolished, and some at TCU weren’t sure if he was ready for a head coaching job after a less-than-stellar interview. Finally, one major donor spoke up and declared that TCU didn’t need somebody who interviewed well, but someone who knew how to coach. Patterson, then a 40-year-old who had coached at 10 other places before arriving at TCU, was their man.

Now, with 109 wins and 10 bowl appearances since he was hired on a full-time basis, Patterson has become something of a mythical figure in the eyes of Frog fans, who have watched their team go from upstart, to conference juggernaut, to legitimate BCS contender in 12 years. Young fans weren’t even alive when TCU was left for dead when the Southwest Conference broke up in 1995 to form the Big 12.

“The omission, sort of being left out of the club, was a kick in the pants,” says former player and longtime TCU radio analyst John Denton. “It got people’s attention. The alums and the school realized we weren’t as well positioned, nor did we know what was going on. Our reputation and how people looked at us from the outside in was poor, and it wasn’t just football. The entire program needed to be looked at.”

So the school set out on a 12-year conference affiliation odyssey, beginning with the Western Athletic Conference in 1996. TCU joined Conference USA in 2001 and then the Mountain West in 2005. After undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and 2010, TCU accepted an invitation to the Big East, an awkward geographic fit, but no more so than trips to San Diego State and UNLV in the MWC.

When conference realignment started up again in the summer of 2011, an invitation to the Big 12 came to fruition and TCU, finally, was asked back into the club with Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor.

“I’d like to welcome you home,” Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas told a packed ballroom full of TCU administrators, donors and alumni on Oct. 10.

The return “home” wasn’t just a result of winning, although that undoubtedly had a positive effect. It was also a culmination of a rededication to the football program, including facilities and coaching salaries, that began with the hiring of Franchione.  

Until then, TCU football was given little consideration.

“The entire athletic department was a backburner operation,” Denton says of the ’70s and ’80s. “It was part of the university, but it wasn’t invested in.”

About the time Texas’ Darrell Royal and Arkansas’ Frank Broyles began to ratchet up the importance of their programs in the early 1960s, TCU began to slowly fade to the background, only occasionally fielding a competitive team. In one brutal stretch from 1974-76, the Frogs won two games.

“The leaders of the university just decided they weren’t going to get caught up in the arms race,” Denton says. “Texas and Arkansas kind of took the Southwest Conference to a new level and kind of left TCU, SMU and Baylor behind. They ruled the roost for the better part of 20-25 years starting in the early ’60s.”

A turning point came in Franchione’s first year in 1998. After a 1–10 season the year before, TCU won its last two regular-season games, both on the road, to earn a trip to the Sun Bowl against USC. The Frogs upset the Trojans 28–19 for their first bowl win since the 1957 Cotton Bowl.

In the next two years, TCU continued to improve, winning a share of the WAC title and earning a bowl bid each season. Since taking over, Patterson has led his team to a bowl in 10 of 11 seasons, including two BCS bowls — the Fiesta Bowl after the 2009 season, and the Rose Bowl after the 2010 season. TCU defeated Wisconsin in the Rose to cap a 13–0 season, its first undefeated campaign since 1938.

People are talking TCU football now. The school will unveil its $164 million renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium during the season opener Sept. 8 against Grambling State. A brand new locker room, training room, and equipment room are set to open in July. A state of the art weight room opened last fall.

The Frogs are the talk of the town again. They sold a record 22,000 season tickets in 2011 and hope to reach 30,000 in 2012. Pretty impressive for a school with an enrollment of about 9,500.

Only two programs — Alabama and Oregon — rank ahead of TCU in average final Associated Press ranking since 2008. Patterson’s next win will make him the all-time leader in TCU history, surpassing Frog legend Dutch Meyer, who went 109–79–13 from 1934-52. Patterson has lost only 30 times and has shepherded a defense that has led the nation five times since 2000.

The move from the Mountain West to the Big 12 will test TCU’s depth and athletic ability at nearly every position. But compared to the travels the team has been on since 1995, the move back “home” feels right.

Patterson often spoke during spring practice of the challenge the Big 12 would pose for his team. After the team’s last practice in April, his encapsulation of his team’s progress stood also as a metaphor for his program.

“We grew the team up,” Patterson said. “We still have a long way to go to be what we want to be, but we’re not where we were.”

Related Big 12 Content

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

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 101-124

Teaser:
<p> TCU football has made quite a climb in recent years.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:26
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-football-2012-predictions
Body:

The Mountain West will have yet another new look in 2012. The ever-changing conference lost TCU — which went 48–7 during its seven-year stay — to the Big 12 and added Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii from the WAC. Next year, it will be time for another makeover when Boise State and San Diego State make their move to the Big East.

For now, the MW is a 10-team league that features one top-25 team (Boise State), a solid second tier (Nevada and Fresno State), and four other teams (Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force and San Diego State) that are good enough to play in a bowl game.

Boise State is in rebuilding mode after losing seven first-team All-Mountain West picks, most notably record-setting quarterback Kellen Moore and first-round NFL draft pick tailback Doug Martin. Still, the Broncos remain the team to beat. Junior Joe Southwick is next in line at quarterback, and he will spread the ball around to a talented group of skill players led by tailback D.J. Harper and wide receivers Matt Miller and Mitch Burroughs. The defense, which returns only one starter, is the biggest concern for coach Chris Petersen’s club.

Nevada, which went 19–4 in its final three seasons in the WAC, will lean on sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo, who earned 2011 WAC Freshman of the Year honors after throwing for 1,707 yards and running for 694 out of Chris Ault’s Pistol attack. The Wolf Pack have a favorable league schedule, with both Fresno State and Boise State visiting Reno in November.

For the first time since 1996, Pat Hill will not be roaming the sidelines at Fresno State. The Bulldogs are now under the control of Tim DeRuyter, who spent three years (2007-09) in the MWC as the defensive coordinator at Air Force before taking over the same position at Texas A&M in ’10. Fresno State will feature two of the league’s top offensive players — quarterback Derek Carr (26 TDs in 2011) and tailback Robbie Rouse (1,549 yards).

Wyoming was the biggest surprise in the MWC in 2011. Led by true freshman quarterback Brett Smith (2,622 yards passing, 710 rushing), the Cowboys went 5–2 in the league, with the only losses to TCU and Boise State.  After struggling through its third straight 3–9 season, Colorado State fired Steve Fairchild (a former CSU quarterback) and hired Jim McElwain, who picked up two national title rings as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. The Rams’ offense will feature tailback Chris Nwoke, a second-team All-MWC pick last year after rushing for 1,130 yards.

Air Force, as usual, has major holes to fill. The Falcons must replace quarterback Tim Jefferson (a four-year starter) and halfback Asher Clark, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher. A big key for Air Force will be on defense, where it ranked 109th in the nation in stopping the run in 2011. San Diego State is coming off back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time as a Division I program. To make it three straight, the Aztecs will need a productive season from quarterback Ryan Katz, a post-graduate transfer from Oregon State who will step in for Ryan Lindley.

Hawaii is now under the leadership of Norm Chow, a longtime offensive coordinator who is getting his first opportunity to run his own program. The Warriors figure to struggle due in large part to the loss of eight players who received either first- or second-team All-WAC honors in 2011. With a 4–21 record in two seasons, Bobby Hauck will need to show some significant improvement at UNLV this fall. The Rebels’ 10 losses in 2011 came by an average of 30.1 points. Not good.

The train wreck known as the Mike Locksley era at New Mexico mercifully ended late last September. It’s up to former Notre Dame boss Bob Davie to pick up the pieces. Davie, who went 35–25 in five seasons with the Fighting Irish, has been out of coaching since 2001.

Athlon's 2012 Mountain West Team Previews

Air Force Nevada
Boise State New Mexico
Colorado State San Diego State
Fresno State UNLV
Hawaii Wyoming

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 101-124

Teaser:
<p> Mountain West 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:20
Path: /college-football/college-football-superconference-realignment-draft-part-1
Body:

Welcome to the 2012 NCAA (National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities) conference realignment draft.

Our esteemed conference commissioners -- Mitch Light, Braden Gall, Steven Lassan and David Fox -- will put an end to the conference realignment madness, which stretched into yet another summer this year, with the first (and hopefully, only) conference alignment draft.

Today, we wipe the slate clean and see where the chips fall if our commissioners could start from scratch. Rather than settle alignments through third parties, backroom deals and non-denial denials, we’ll start with a 16-round draft for our four conferences.

Here are the ground rules: Each commissioner drafts the entire package -- the program’s history, current performance and personnel and long-term potential. Each commissioner will take on an entire athletic program, from football to men’s basketball to lacrosse and gymnastics, the program’s academic reputation, and any NCAA baggage.

It’s up to our commissioners to decide the values and format of the conference.  Our commissioners will decide if regions and rivalries are important, if the league should be well-rounded among all sports and academics or if the league will be a football powerhouse moneymaker.

We’ve allotted 16 spots to draft, but if a commissioner wants to draft eight basketball powerhouses and call it a day, that’s fine. That commissioner, however, might have a league full of angry chancellors and athletic directors who aren’t rolling in the money of the other three football-centric leagues. Draft order was determined by a blind draw.

At the end of the draft, the commissioners will determine their league format, divisions, playoffs or conference championship games.

Starting now, we're on the clock:

ROUND 1

1. Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Texas
I considered Florida, but Texas was just too powerful to pass up with the No. 1 overall pick. The UT athletic department has the largest budget in the nation — and the highest revenues. The football team has struggled the past two seasons, but the Horns won at least 10 games from 2001-09. This is a program that will compete for national titles.

2. Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Alabama
Florida and Ohio State were both in the mix for me here with the No. 2 overall pick. I choose Alabama, however, due to the current state of its football program. The Crimson Tide is the best football program in the nation and Nick Saban is the best coach in the nation. Since it is also the most dedicated fanbase in the nation, Bama football won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Even if the top coach in the nation decides to, gasp, retire. A quality basketball coach, solid baseball program and softball national champions didn’t hurt Alabama’s case either.

3. Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Florida
It was really a no-brainer to start my conference with Florida. This is a key state for recruiting, and the Gators have won two football national titles since 2006. Florida also brings a solid basketball program and is a member of the AAU (Association of American Universities).

4. David Fox (@DavidFox615): Ohio State
With back-to-back picks on the turn, I’m able to secure two power programs to start my league. USC and Notre Dame are available, but I opted for Ohio State. I’m not too worried about the Buckeyes’ recent NCAA issues. Bringing in Urban Meyer ensures the football program won’t suffer for long. Ohio State brings my league an athletic department that’s normally in the top-10 of the Director’s Cup standings and is financially solvent enough to pay for itself and more.

ROUND 2

5. Fox: Michigan
I started this draft with the plan to maintain traditional rivalries and to build a league that makes sense geographically. If I were picking simply the best available, I might follow Ohio State with USC or Notre Dame, but I like the Ohio State-Michigan tandem to the be the foundation of my conference. I could have gone with USC-Notre Dame or Michigan-Notre Dame and keep rivals together as well, but the Wolverines needed only one season to pull out of the Rich Rodriguez funk while the Irish are still struggling to find their way. With my first two picks, I have two well-rounded athletic programs with massive alumni bases.
 
6. Lassan: USC
I considered taking USC at No. 2 overall, so I was surprised to see them fall to the No. 6 spot. The Trojans are a huge brand on the West Coast and bring a national power in football. The basketball program has experienced some success, but this is all about the gridiron.

7. Gall: Notre Dame
I wanted to spread my conference into the Midwest, where there are more TV sets than anywhere in the country, so Notre Dame was the obvious pick. The Irish brand is arguably the most powerful national brand in college sports today, and, now that Notre Dame is finally in a conference, it will quickly return to national prominence. The overall athletic department is stellar and is guaranteed to attract huge TV dollars. Plus, the idea of an Alabama-Notre Dame showdown every year was too sexy to pass up.

8. Light: Oklahoma
Maintaining one of the nation’s top rivalry games — OU vs. Texas — was a factor, but OU was simply the best football program on the board with the No. 8 overall pick. The basketball program is showing signs of life under Lon Kruger and the baseball team has been to the College World Series twice in the past three years.

ROUND 3

9. Light: Georgia
It was tough to pass up LSU, but Georgia gets my league into Atlanta and gives me an anchor in the deep South. The football program has been solid over the years, but the Dawgs have won only two outright SEC titles since the 1982. With the right coach in place — and Mark Richt could still be the right coach — Georgia should be in the national title picture on a semi-regular basis.

10. Gall: LSU
Getting the LSU Tigers in the third round felt like a steal. After a 30-year hiatus, LSU has returned to football’s upper echelon on the back of quality coaching, elite fan support, arguably the best facilities in the SEC and a tremendous natural recruiting base. Additionally, the baseball program has led the nation in attendance 16 straight seasons and the hoops program was in the Final Four just a few years ago.

11. Lassan: Florida State
I’m a big fan of rivalries, so it only makes sense to pair Florida with Florida State. The Seminoles may have underachieved recently, but this program can compete for national titles. Florida State basketball is coming off an ACC Tournament Championship, and the baseball team is solid.

12. Fox: Oregon
I want my conference to have at least two geographic divisions. Before Lassan took Florida State, I was going to take the Seminoles and Miami to anchor my Southern division. With FSU off the board, I’m looking West with Oregon. I’d rather have USC, but the Ducks are clearly the No. 2 program on the West Coast. I also like the idea of the Ducks’ flash to counterbalance the more traditional elements Ohio State and Michigan bring to the league.

ROUND 4

13. Fox: Washington
I admit it: This is a major reach. There’s no way a program more than a decade removed from its last Rose Bowl should be the 13th team drafted. But like I said, rivalries and regions will be one of the main features of my conference. Oregon and Washington give me two rivals to anchor the Western portion of my league. I drafted Washington too high, but this isn’t a bad Plan B for a Western Division if I can’t have USC.

14. Lassan: UCLA
This was a tough pick. I debated taking Nebraska, but I thought getting the Bruins to pair with USC made too much sense. UCLA should be better in football, and the basketball program has a rich history. And there’s nothing wrong with having two teams in the Los Angeles market.

15. Gall: Nebraska
I was ecstatic to land one of the most powerful football brands in the history of college football with my fourth pick. The Huskers are one of the most technologically advanced programs in the nation and the fan support is virtually unparallel. Few programs can match the staying power and tradition of the Cornhuskers, and, being located in the Midwest, extends my league’s reach into the most lucrative TV market in the sport.

16. Light: Penn State
The program is going through some turmoil, but Penn State football is a national brand with a tremendous following in the nation’s sixth-most populous state. The school ranked sixth in athletic revenue from 2006-11 according to a USA Today study. The one negative: None of the other major sports will bring much to the table. This is a football-only play.

Coming tomorrow: The next four rounds of our conference draft, which includes picks Nos. 17 through 32. Our four commissioners are starting to eye some national names that have gone dormant in addition to some elite basketball powers.

Skip ahead to: Rounds 5-8 | Rounds 9-12

National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities Conference Alignment

Rd Mitch Light Braden Gall Steven Lassan David Fox
1 >> Texas Alabama Florida Ohio State
2 << Oklahoma Notre Dame USC Michigan
3 >> Georgia LSU Florida State Oregon
4 << Penn State Nebraska UCLA Washington


Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 Conference Predictions
Athlon's Top 25 for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College football conference realignment draft</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:10
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/ask-athlon-sports-baseball-history
Body:

Q: In the early days of baseball, it’s my understanding that a “courtesy runner” could at times take the base in the place of an injured player, although the injured player would remain in the game. It was the option of the opposing team to allow the courtesy runner, and to designate a slow player to take the base. I don’t believe the courtesy runner was entered in the box score. Who was the last courtesy runner in the major leagues?

— Edward Rhoades, Ramsey, N.J.

A: Edward, you really know your baseball history. There was such a thing as a courtesy runner, and it was distinct from the pinch-runner, which is obviously still in use today. Here’s the scoop from one of our favorite websites, Baseball-Reference.com: “In the early days of baseball, when rosters were much more limited, there were courtesy runners in addition to pinch-runners. A courtesy runner was put in when the normal runner was temporarily incapacitated by an injury. A courtesy runner had to be agreed by the opposite manager, and his presence in the game was not considered as an official substitution. He could therefore be used again once his running duty was completed, or could be a player already in the lineup, and the player for whom he ran would usually return to the game in the next half-inning. In contrast with pinch-runners, courtesy runners tended to be slow baserunners. The last courtesy runner in a Major League Game was used in 1949.”

Charlie Miller, Editorial Director

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Baseball History</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 15:18
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/ask-athlon-sports-horse-racing
Body:

Q: Please explain to me how horse racing odds are figured. I’ve always wondered.

— Danny Coulthard, North Tazewell, Va

A: Danny, it’s not as mysterious as it seems. Basically, the odds are set by the bettors themselves. The track is in business to make money, and it covers its bases by ensuring that equal amounts are bet on all horses, so the more money bet on a horse, the lower its odds, and hence, the lower the payout. The odds for an individual horse are determined by taking the total amount of money bet on all horses in that race and figuring what percentage has been bet on the horse in question, minus a portion for the track’s take. Here’s a scenario that may explain it more clearly: $1,100 has been bet on all horses in a given race, and of that total, $375 has been bet on Horse A to win. Let’s say that the track takes 15 percent as its cut, so $1,100 multiplied by .85 equals $935. Subtract the $375 bet on Horse A, leaving $560. Then, divide the total remaining pool by the amount bet on Horse A, $560 divided by $375, giving you $1.49. That’s rounded up to $1.50, so Horse A’s odds to win are set at 1.5:1. Of course, at the beginning the day, no money has been wagered, so the initial odds are set by a handicapper who provides a baseline for the day’s odds.

Nathan Rush, Editor

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Horse Racing odds</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 15:14
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/ask-athlon-sports-baseball
Body:

Q: I would like to know where the baseball term “Texas Leaguer” originated. I know it refers to a base hit that lands too far out for the infielder and too far in for the outfielder, but how and where did it get its name?

— Tom Ferraris, Whitestone, N.Y.

A: Much of baseball’s colorful terminology has slightly murky origins, and the term “Texas Leaguer,” which refers to a bloop hit that lands between the infield and the outfield, is no exception. As best we can tell, the term originated with a player named Ollie Pickering, a major league outfielder from 1896 to 1908 who had the distinction of being the first batter in an American League game as a member of the Cleveland Blues in 1901. News accounts of the time indicated that Pickering, who had been a popular player in the Texas League (a renowned minor league that dates back to 1884), once ran off a string of eight straight bloop hits, prompting onlookers to remark, “There goes Pickering with another one of those Texas Leaguers.”

Rob Doster, Senior Editor

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Ask Athlon Sports: Baseball</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 15:04
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first, second and third All-Pac-12 teams for this season.

First-Team Offense

QB Matt Barkley, USC

RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon

RB John White, Utah

WR Keenan Allen, California

WR Robert Woods, USC

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

C Khaled Holmes, USC

OL David Bakhtiari, Colorado

OL John Fullington, Washington State

OL Kevin Graf, USC

OL David Yankey, Stanford


First-Team Defense

DL Wes Horton, USC

DL Dion Jordan, Oregon

DL Travis Long, Washington State

DL Star Lotulelei, Utah

LB Dion Bailey, USC

LB Michael Clay, Oregon

LB Chase Thomas, Stanford

CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State

CB Nickell Robey, USC

S John Boyett, Oregon

S T.J. McDonald, USC


First-Team Specialists

K Andre Heidari, USC

P Jeff Locke, UCLA

KR De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

PR Jamal Miles, Arizona State

AP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

 

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

  First Second Third Overall
Arizona 0 0 2 2
Arizona State 1 2 3 6
California 1 2 2 5
Colorado 1 1 1 3
Oregon 6 3 3 12
Oregon State 1 1 3 5
Stanford 2 6 1 9
UCLA 1 1 3 5
USC 9 2 2 13
Utah 2 1 1 4
Washington 1 5 3 9
Washington State 2 2 2 6

 

Second-Team Offense

QB Keith Price, Washington

RB Isi Sofele, California

RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford

WR Marqise Lee, USC

WR Marquess Wilson, Washington State

TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA

C Drew Schaefer, Washington

OL Nick Cody, Oregon 

OL Evan Finkenberg, Arizona State

OL Cameron Fleming, Stanford

OL Matt Summers-Gavin, California


Second-Team Defense

DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State

DL Ben Gardner, Stanford

DL Taylor Hart, Oregon

DL Hau'oli Jamora, Washington

LB Jon Major, Colorado

LB Hayes Pullard, USC

LB Shayne Skov, Stanford

CB Damante Horton, Washington State

CB Desmond Trufant, Washington

S Brian Blechen, Utah

S Sean Parker, Washington


Second-Team Specialists

K Jordan Williamson, Stanford

P Jackson Rice, Oregon

KR Jamal Miles, Arizona State

PR Drew Terrell, Stanford


Third-Team Offense

QB Jeff Tuel, Washington State

RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

RB Cameron Marshall, Arizona State

WR Markus Wheaton, Oregon State

WR Kasen Williams, Washington

TE Levine Toilolo, Stanford

C Kyle Quinn, Arizona

OL Josh Andrews, Oregon State

OL Marcus Martin, USC

OL Xavier Su'a Filo, UCLA

OL Carson York, Oregon


Third-Team Defense

DL Deandre Coleman, California

DL Devon Kennard, USC

DL Will Pericak, Colorado

DL Josh Shirley, Washington

LB Kiko Alonso, Oregon

LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA

LB Chris McCain, California

CB Osahon Irabor, Arizona State

CB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon

S Tra'Mayne Bondurant, Arizona

S Deone Bucannon, Washington State


Third-Team Specialists

K Coleman Petersen, Utah

P Josh Hubner, Arizona State

KR Kevin Smith, Washington

PR Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
 

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Predictions

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football 2012 All-Conference Team.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2012-all-conference-team-recruit
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at all-conference teams from across the nation. But where did all these tremendous all-league performers come from and how did they get where they are today? Some showed up on campus as five-star uber-recruits and others defied all odds as walk-ons. Athlon analyzes how the 2012 preseason All-Pac-12 team ranked as recruits.

Related: Athlon Sports 2012 preseason All-Pac-12 Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-Pac-12 Preseason First-Team Offense:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (2009) AC100
The Golden Boy from Newport Beach (Calif.) Mater Dei has absolutely lived-up to his top billing as the nation's No. 1 prospect by Athlon Sports. He sat atop the AC100 for the entire 2009 cycle and has dominated college football ever since enrolling at USC.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon (2008)
The Riverside (Calif.) Notre Dame prospect was ranked as the No. 38 running back in the nation and the No. 86-rated player in the state of California by Rivals. He was a three-star recruit.

John White, RB, Utah (2011) JUCO
Was listed as a three-star junior college prospect in last year's class. He was completely unranked in the JUCO rankings by Rivals.com.

Keenan Allen, WR, Cal (2010) AC100
The Greensboro (N.C.) Northern Guilford prospect trailed only Tony Jefferson as the nation's top 'athlete' recuit. He was No. 26 in the top 100 and was the No. 2 player it the Tar Heel State (Robert Crisp) by Athlon Sports.

Robert Woods, WR, USC (2010) AC100
The Carson (Calif.) Junipero Serra was named the Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year when he was a senior. He finished as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation and trailed only Ronald Powell and Seantrel Henderson nationally as he finished No. 3 overall by Athlon Sports.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (2011) AC100
The record-setting freshman from Fox Island (Wash.) Gig Harbor proved his status as the No. 3 tight end prospect in the nation to be accurate. He was the No. 33 overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Khaled Holmes, C, USC (2008)
The big blocker from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei was the No. 3 offensive guard, was rated No. 104 overall and the No. 14 player in The Golden State by Rivals.

David Bakhtiari, OL, Colorado (2009)
The San Mateo (Calif.) Junipero Serra was teammates with Robert Woods (and other stellar wideouts) but got very little recruiting hype. He was a two-star unrated prospect by Rivals.

John Fullington, OL, Washington State (2010)
The Belfair (Wash.) North Mason product was the No. 70 offensive tackle prospect in the nation and the No. 16-rated player in The Evergreen State by Rivals.

Kevin Graf, OL, USC (2009) AC100
A top 100 talent from Agoura, Calif., Graf was the No. 9-rated offensive lineman and the No. 51-rated overall prospect in the class of 2009 by Athlon Sports.

David Yankey, OL, Stanford (2010)
The massive Cardinal hails from Roswell (Ga.) Centennial and was only the No. 53-rated player in The Peach State back in 2010. He was the No. 47-rated offensive tackle by Rivals.

De'Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100
Football's version of the Black Mamba signed with Oregon from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High. Thomas was the nation's No. 1 'athlete' prospect and the No. 5-rated player in the entire nation. 

All-Pac-12 Preseason First-Team Defense:

Wes Horton, DL, USC (2008)
The top 100 prospect from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame was the No. 3-rated strongside defensive end in the nation by Rivals. He was also listed as the No. 40-rated prospect nationally and the No. 6 player in the state of California.

Dion Jordan, DL, Oregon (2008)
Coming to Eugene from Chandler, Ariz., Jordan was a four-star recruit who ranked as the No. 15 overall tight end prospect in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state by Rivals.

Travis Long, DL, Washington State (2009)
A lower-rated prospect, Long came to Pullman as the No. 13-rated player in the state of Washington (Gonzaga Prep) by Rivals. He was a three-star recruit.

Star Lotulelei, DL, Utah (2007)
Originally, the Bingham, Utah prospect signed with BYU but didn't qualify. He was a three-star recruit who ranked as the No. 3 player in the state of Utah. He went to Snow College before heading to Utah.

Dion Bailey, LB, USC (2010) AC100
Bailey was a top 100 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety prospect from Lakewood, Calif. He was the No. 12-rated defensive back and the No. 96 overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Michael Clay, LB, Oregon (2009)
A bit undersized — he was listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds as a recruit — Clay came to Oregon from San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine Prep as a three-star. Rivals rated him the No. 43 outside linebacker and the No. 61 player in the state.

Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (2008)
From Marietta (Ga.) Walton, Thomas was a three-star outside linebacker prospect by Rivals who ranked as the No. 26-best player in the state and the No. 27-best player at his position.

Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (2009)
From Astoria, Ore., Poyer was underrecruited by nearly everyone. He was an unranked two-star prospect by Rivals.com who got one D-1 offer: Oregon State.

Nickell Robey, CB, USC (2010)
The cornerback from Frostproof, Fla., was the No. 34-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 226-rated player overall by Athlon Sports.

T.J. McDonald, S, USC (2009) AC100
The NFL legacy from Fresno (Calif.) Edison was the No. 9-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 76-rated overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

John Boyett, S, Oregon (2008)
Coming from Napa (Calif.) High, Boyett was a middle of the pack prospect with a three-star ranking. He was the No. 91-rated player in California and the No. 64-rated safety in the nation by Rivals.com.

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football: 2012 All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-athlons-top-250
Body:

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is here. Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are nearly complete. Bye week cheat sheets and player rankings are everywhere. 

For example, ESPN's has 300 players ranked, while Yahoo! lists 200. We settled on a number in between, offering up our 2012 Fantasy Football Top 250.

Our rankings are a little different in that they include Individual Defensive Players or IDPs. So not only do we have our positional rankings of the top DLs, LBs and DBs for 2012, we also have incorporated these IDPs into our overall 250. 

Also, don't forget about the ever-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board, the most accurate consensus top 150 list of fantasy footballers on the web.

Athlon Sports' Top 250 w/ IDPs

Rank Player Team Pos Bye
1 Arian Foster HOU RB 8
2 Ray Rice BAL RB 8
3 LeSean McCoy PHI RB 7
4 Aaron Rodgers GB QB 10
5 Calvin Johnson DET WR 5
6 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC RB 6
7 Tom Brady NE QB 9
8 Drew Brees NO QB 6
9 Chris Johnson TEN RB 11
10 Larry Fitzgerald ARI WR 10
11 Matthew Stafford DET QB 5
12 Matt Forte CHI RB 6
13 Ryan Mathews SD RB 7
14 Darren McFadden OAK RB 5
15 Marshawn Lynch SEA RB 11
16 Roddy White ATL WR 7
17 Jamaal Charles KC RB 7
18 Andre Johnson HOU WR 8
19 Cam Newton CAR QB 6
20 Frank Gore SF RB 9
21 Michael Turner ATL RB 7
22 Adrian Peterson MIN RB 11
23 Wes Welker NE WR 9
24 Greg Jennings GB WR 10
25 Rob Gronkowski NE TE 9
26 A.J. Green CIN WR 8
27 Hakeem Nicks NYG WR 11
28 Mike Wallace PIT WR 4
29 Jimmy Graham NO TE 6
30 Julio Jones ATL WR 7
31 Jordy Nelson GB WR 10
32 Victor Cruz NYG WR 11
33 Trent Richardson CLE RB 10
34 DeMarco Murray DAL RB 5
35 Brandon Marshall CHI WR 6
36 Steven Jackson STL RB 9
37 Dez Bryant DAL WR 5
38 Fred Jackson BUF RB 8
39 Marques Colston NO WR 6
40 Steve Smith CAR WR 6
41 Tony Romo DAL QB 5
42 Eli Manning NYG QB 11
43 Philip Rivers SD QB 7
44 Darren Sproles NO RB 6
45 Reggie Bush MIA RB 7
46 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG RB 11
47 Michael Vick PHI QB 7
48 Roy Helu WAS RB 10
49 Willis McGahee DEN RB 7
50 Jeremy Maclin PHI WR 7
51 Mark Ingram NO RB 6
52 Miles Austin DAL WR 5
53 Vincent Jackson TB WR 5
54 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN RB 8
55 Shonn Greene NYJ RB 9
56 Percy Harvin MIN WR 11
57 Dwayne Bowe KC WR 7
58 Beanie Wells ARI RB 10
59 Stevie Johnson BUF WR 8
60 Demaryius Thomas DEN WR 7
61 DeSean Jackson PHI WR 7
62 Brandon Lloyd NE WR 9
63 Antonio Gates SD TE 7
64 Isaac Redman PIT RB 4
65 Jonathan Stewart CAR RB 6
66 DeAngelo Williams CAR RB 6
67 Antonio Brown PIT WR 4
68 Doug Martin TB RB 5
69 Jahvid Best DET RB 5
70 Aaron Hernandez NE TE 9
71 Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB 4
72 Torrey Smith BAL WR 8
73 Peyton Manning DEN QB 7
74 Kenny Britt TEN WR 11
75 Donald Brown IND RB 4
76 Stevan Ridley NE RB 9
77 Ben Tate HOU RB 8
78 C.J. Spiller BUF RB 8
79 Vernon Davis SF TE 9
80 Jason Witten DAL TE 5
81 Matt Ryan ATL QB 7
82 Pierre Garcon WAS WR 10
83 Jermichael Finley GB TE 10
84 Denarius Moore OAK WR 5
85 Robert Meachem SD WR 7
86 Anquan Boldin BAL WR 8
87 Lance Moore NO WR 6
88 James Starks GB RB 10
89 Toby Gerhart MIN RB 11
90 Peyton Hillis KC RB 7
91 David Wilson NYG RB 11
92 Brandon Pettigrew DET TE 5
93 Michael Bush CHI RB 6
94 Matt Schaub HOU QB 8
95 49ers SF DST 9
96 Justin Blackmon JAC WR 6
97 Sidney Rice SEA WR 11
98 Reggie Wayne IND WR 4
99 Eric Decker DEN WR 7
100 LeGarrette Blount TB RB 5
101 Jay Cutler CHI QB 6
102 Josh Freeman TB QB 5
103 Texans HOU DST 8
104 Carson Palmer OAK QB 5
105 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK WR 5
106 Fred Davis WAS TE 10
107 Steelers PIT DST 4
108 Santonio Holmes NYJ WR 9
109 Michael Crabtree SF WR 9
110 Robert Griffin III WAS QB 10
111 Jason Pierre-Paul NYG DL 11
112 Santana Moss WAS WR 10
113 Tony Gonzalez ATL TE 7
114 Eagles PHI DST 7
115 Felix Jones DAL RB 5
116 Bernard Scott CIN RB 8
117 Mikel Leshoure DET RB 5
118 Jared Allen MIN DL 11
119 Ryan Williams ARI RB 10
120 Greg Little CLE WR 10
121 Nate Washington TEN WR 11
122 Vincent Brown SD WR 7
123 Titus Young DET WR 5
124 Doug Baldwin SEA WR 11
125 Mike Williams TB WR 5
126 Jared Cook TEN TE 11
127 Patrick Willis SF LB 9
128 Owen Daniels HOU TE 8
129 Brent Celek PHI TE 7
130 Joe Flacco BAL QB 8
131 Andy Dalton CIN QB 8
132 Justin Tuck NYG DL 11
133 Trent Cole PHI DL 7
134 Daniel Thomas MIA RB 7
135 Pierre Thomas NO RB 6
136 Mike Tolbert CAR RB 6
137 Desmond Bishop GB LB 10
138 Julius Peppers CHI DL 6
139 James Laurinaitis STL LB 9
140 Bears CHI DST 6
141 Eric Berry KC DB 7
142 Shane Vereen NE RB 9
143 Dustin Keller NYJ TE 9
144 Mario Williams BUF DL 8
145 Derrick Johnson KC LB 7
146 Rashard Mendenhall PIT RB 4
147 Tim Hightower WAS RB 10
148 Jabaal Sheard CLE DL 10
149 Rashad Jennings JAC RB 6
150 Jermaine Gresham CIN TE 8
151 NaVorro Bowman SF LB 9
152 Cedric Benson FA RB  
153 Isaiah Pead STL RB 9
154 Tyvon Branch OAK DB 5
155 Ravens BAL DST 8
156 Greg Olsen CAR TE 6
157 Mike Goodson OAK RB 5
158 Calais Campbell ARI DL 10
159 Javon Ringer TEN RB 11
160 Danny Amendola STL WR 9
161 Malcom Floyd SD WR 7
162 D’Qwell Jackson CLE LB 10
163 Daryl Washington ARI LB 10
164 James Jones GB WR 10
165 Deion Branch NE WR 9
166 Patrick Chung NE DB 9
167 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL RB 7
168 Martellus Bennett NYG TE 11
169 Sean Weatherspoon ATL LB 7
170 LaMichael James SF RB 9
171 Emmanuel Sanders PIT WR 4
172 Leonard Hankerson WAS WR 10
173 Charles Johnson CAR DL 6
174 Elvis Dumervil DEN DL 7
175 Jason Babin PHI DL 7
176 Brandon Jacobs SF RB 9
177 Devery Henderson NO WR 6
178 Montario Hardesty CLE RB 10
179 Le'Ron McClain SD RB 7
180 Dexter McCluster KC RB 7
181 Michael Floyd ARI WR 10
182 Bernard Pierce BAL RB 8
183 Curtis Lofton NO LB 6
184 Coby Fleener IND TE 4
185 Kendall Wright TEN WR 11
186 Kendall Hunter SF RB 9
187 George Wilson BUF DB 8
188 Laurent Robinson JAC WR 6
189 Cliff Avril DET DL 5
190 Mario Manningham SF WR 9
191 Sam Bradford STL QB 9
192 Jets NYJ DST 9
193 Stephen Tulloch DET LB 5
194 Jerod Mayo NE LB 9
195 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF QB 8
196 Chris Long STL DL 9
197 Rueben Randle NYG WR 11
198 Eric Weddle SD DB 7
199 Randy Moss SF WR 9
200 Colin McCarthy TEN LB 11
201 Paul Posluszny JAC LB 6
202 Pat Angerer IND LB 4
203 Plaxico Burress FA WR  
204 Kam Chancellor SEA DB 11
205 Brandon Stokley DEN WR 7
206 Earl Bennett CHI WR 6
207 Ray Lewis BAL LB 8
208 Brian Urlacher CHI LB 6
209 Alex Smith SF QB 9
210 Jacob Tamme DEN TE 7
211 Kyle Rudolph MIN TE 11
212 Seahawks SEA DST 11
213 Bengals CIN DST 8
214 J.J. Watt HOU DL 8
215 Heath Miller PIT TE 4
216 Mark Sanchez NYJ QB 9
217 Jason Snelling ATL RB 7
218 Jon Baldwin KC WR 7
219 Josh Morgan WAS WR 10
220 Kevin Walter HOU WR 8
221 Randall Cobb GB WR 10
222 Austin Collie IND WR 4
223 LaRon Landry NYJ DB 9
224 Sean Lee DAL LB 5
225 Charles Tillman CHI DB 6
226 Steve Breaston KC WR 7
227 Andre Roberts ARI WR 10
228 Jacoby Jones BAL WR 8
229 Tony Moeaki KC TE 7
230 Giants NYG DST 11
231 Haloti Ngata BAL DL 8
232 Aldon Smith SF LB/DL 9
233 Osi Umenyiora NYG DL 11
234 Jacoby Ford OAK WR 5
235 Packers GB DST 10
236 Stephen Gostkowski NE K 9
237 Mason Crosby GB K 10
238 Luke Kuechly CAR LB 6
239 David Akers SF K 9
240 Dan Bailey DAL K 5
241 Sebastian Janikowski OAK K 5
242 Andrew Luck IND QB 4
243 Broncos DEN DST 7
244 Jason Avant PHI WR 7
245 Stephen Hill NYJ WR 9
246 Davone Bess MIA WR 7
247 Brian Hartline MIA WR 7
248 Andre Caldwell DEN WR 7
249 Eddie Royal SD WR 7
250 Steve Smith STL WR 9

— Published on June 22, 2012

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I

2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DLs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: LBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: IDP Top 75

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Fantasy Football Athlon Sports' Top 250</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Pat Summitt, College Basketball, Monthly
Path: /college-basketball/well-done-coach
Body:

On the occasion of Pat Summitt's retirement as Tennessee women's basketball coach, Summitt's long-time friend and co-author Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post celebrates the remarkable legacy of a national treasure.

Pat Summitt has always torn down with one hand and built up with another. She has torn down conventional scripted ideas of acceptable conduct for women, what they can and can’t do, and built up a different version with her other hand. She tore down young women and built them back up into stronger ones. “You can’t say ‘can’t’ to me,” she liked to tell them.

Summitt has accepted the word “can’t” in only one instance in her life: On April 18 she was forced by her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s to step aside as the women’s basketball coach at Tennessee after 38 years and eight national championships. She can’t add any more official tallies to her stunning record, which will rest at 1,098 victories — the all-time record in NCAA history male or female — and only 208 losses. But typically, Summitt is more focused on what she can do: she will remain as “Head Coach Emeritus,” and continue to teach what she has always taught best: not simply how to win, but how to use basketball as an exercise in self will. “How to commit,” she says.

She committed. She committed for the sake of commitment back when there was nothing to gain but a little part-time pay and pride in a job well done. She was just a 22-year-old graduate student when she was hired to run Tennessee’s women’s program — the same age as some of the seniors on the team, which tells us a little bit about the university’s commitment to the game at the time. Pat had never run a practice. “I was absolutely terrified,” she remembers.

She was self-taught, a farm girl who learned the game in a hay barn with a plywood backboard. As a grad student she had to take four classes toward her master’s degree, teach four more classes, and she was also in training for the 1976 Olympics; she would captain the USA team to a silver medal. In between those obligations, she drove the team van, washed the uniforms, and helped the janitor set up the folding chairs in Tennessee’s old Alumni Gym, a ramshackle little place that was so dark she said she needed “a miner’s lamp” to see the lines on the floor. At the beginning, there were crowds of only 50 or a hundred spectators watching an overworked young woman trying to build a better life for herself and other young women like her. The goal wasn’t to build a future dynasty, “It was to survive a year,” she says.

She had so little funding that, on one occasion, the team slept on mats in the other team’s gym the night before a game. “We played anybody, just about anywhere, any time,” she says. She never complained, or railed. Instead, she solved her own problems. She stood on chairs in the student center and huckstered, and she rustled up bake sales for cash to buy uniforms.

By her second season she was drawing 1,500 to a game, and by her third the Lady Vols were national contenders who played before 5,000. The crowds kept growing with the victories. Then the national championships started coming, and something remarkable happened.

It was nothing less than the overthrow of male ownership of the sport. Summitt seized the ideal of physical excellence as a method of self-fashioning — the great male dream of athletics as a route to confidence, success and authority — and handed it over to her young women. The crowds grew and roared their approval, and the banners fluttered from the rafters — 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008 — spanning decades and technological eras from TV to the Internet age, until there was no more glass ceiling for Summitt and the Lady Vols. The winner’s podium was utterly genderless. Pat Summitt had passed her own personal Equal Rights Amendment. And among the many things she had won was a contract with the university that said she would never, ever be paid less than her male counterpart.

By the time she was done the President of the United States had hung a Medal of Freedom around her neck and pronounced her a figure of historical import, a national treasure who had changed merely … well, everything.

Fifteen years ago, I began work with Summitt on her principles-of-success book, Reach for the Summit. We had a conversation that never made it into print, but one that remains the most revealing thing this modest yet most important champion has ever said about herself.

I asked, “Are you a feminist?”
She said, “No, I’m not a feminist.”
“Well, why aren’t you?”
She said, “I’m not a sign-carrier. I don’t go around protesting. I don’t stand out on a sidewalk holding a sign.”
“Fair enough. But what are you?”
“I don’t know what to call myself.”
I said, “I think I know what to call you.”
She said, “What?”
I said, “You’re a subversive.”
She said, “That’s exactly right.”
And then she threw back her head and roared with laughter.

On the day that Pat retired, commentators across the country struggled to articulate the scale of her accomplishments. But the most eloquent and articulate tribute of all came from a simple fan. His name was Dan Donovan, and he was a creative director at an ad agency. He wrote an Internet posting that made its way to various outlets and wound up on my screen. I repeat it here, because it says everything about Pat Summitt that needs to be said.

I’m nobody significant. I have almost no Twitter followers. I don’t blog. I’m just a guy raised by good parents who believed in and appreciated the good that people do. … At some point in my life I learned about Pat Summitt. I followed her on ESPN. I read the articles about her and her teams, and I’ve developed a long appreciation for what she has accomplished. I never hung her poster on my wall as a kid, but I was a fan. I am a fan. I have been blown away by the way she has built remarkable teams and helped produce even more remarkable women.

I’m going to be a father in three months. We’re having a girl. And like many parents, I’ve allowed myself to dream about my little girl one day becoming a great scholar, or athlete or contributor to society. But as I watch Coach Summitt leave (and I completely understand why), I can’t help but think that all I really want is for my daughter to one day learn from a woman like her. A woman who won against odds, lost gracefully and made being great and being modest at the same time seem not only possible but reasonable.

I know Coach Summitt will go on. This is not a eulogy. This is a thank you note. And a promise that even the young girls who grow up miles away from her legacy will always know her name, and more importantly, her story.

Good luck, Coach.

Pat Summitt: By the Numbers
Win-Loss Record: 1,098–208
SEC Championships: 16
National Championships: 8
Coach of the Year Awards: 7
Olympic Medals: Gold (’84), Silver (’76)

 

Teaser:
<p> Pat Summitt’s Tennessee tenure was remarkable on and off the court.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 04:59
Path: /college-football/wac-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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-WAC teams for this season.

First-Team Offense

QB Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech

RB Hunter Lee, Louisiana Tech

RB Kerwynn Williams, Utah State

WR Noel Grigsby, San Jose State

WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech

TE Ryan Otten, San Jose State

C Tyler Larsen, Utah State

OL David Quessenberry, San Jose State

OL Kevin Saia, Louisiana Tech

OL Eric Schultz, Utah State

OL Davonte Wallace, New Mexico State


First-Team Defense

DL Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech

DL IK Enemkpali, Louisiana Tech

DL Travis Johnson, San Jose State

DL Donte Savage, New Mexico State

LB Bojay Filimoeatu, Utah State

LB Robert Siavii, Idaho

LB Keith Smith, San Jose State

CB Aaron Grymes, Idaho

CB Jumanne Robertson, Utah State

S Chad Boyd, Louisiana Tech

S McKade Brady, Utah State
 

First-Team Specialists

K Matt Nelson, Louisiana Tech

P Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech

KR Lyle Fitte, Louisiana Tech

PR Justin Veltung, Idaho
 

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-WAC Team

  First Second Total
Idaho 3 5 8
Louisiana Tech 10 2 12
New Mexico State 2 1 3
San Jose State 5 5 10
Texas State 0 5 5
UTSA 0 2 2
Utah State 6 6 12

 

Second-Team Offense

QB Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

RB De'Leon Eskridge, San Jose State

RB Terrence Franks, Texas State

WR Matt Austin, Utah State

WR Kam Jones, UTSA

TE Chase Harper, Texas State

C Stephen Warner, Louisiana Tech

OL Nicholas Kaspar, San Jose State

OL Jordan Mills, Louisiana Tech

OL Oscar Molina-Sanchez, Utah State

OL Thaddeus Watkins, Texas State


Second-Team Defense

DL Al Lapuaho, Utah State

DL Anthony Larceval, San Jose State

DL Benson Mayowa, Idaho

DL Travis Raciti, San Jose State

LB Joplo Bartu, Texas State

LB Alexander LaVoy, New Mexico State

LB Conrad Scheidt, Idaho

CB Nevin Lawson, Utah State

CB Darryl Morris, Texas State

S James Orth, San Jose State

S Gary Walker, Idaho


Second-Team Specialists

K Trey Farquhar, Idaho

P Bobby Cowan, Idaho

KR Kenny Harrison, UTSA

PR Kerwynn Williams, Utah State
 

Athlon's 2012 WAC Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 WAC Predictions

Idaho Texas State
Louisiana Tech UTSA
New Mexico State Utah State
San Jose State  

Teaser:
<p> WAC Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 03:25
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/pacmans-note-cards-rookie-symposiumas-edited-nfl
Body:

Adam “Pacman” Jones is set to give a speech at the NFL Rookie Symposium (which kicks off Sunday), where he'll impart some wisdom on the error of his ways to the next generation of players. Although we won’t be there to hear it, we’ve got the next best thing—his note cards for the event which seemed to have been slightly edited by the red-pen of the NFL. At least, we’re pretty maybe almost positive these are his. 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 22:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-june-21
Body:

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

Mets’ Knuckleballer Has Been R.A. Diculous
Johan Santana may be the one credited with the first no-hitter in Mets’ franchise history, but it’s his teammate, R.A. Dickey, who’s doing a number on the history books right now.

On Monday night, Dickey became the first pitcher in 24 years to throw consecutive one-hitters. What’s more, he’s the first pitcher in modern baseball history (since 1900) with back-to-back one-hitters while striking out 10 or more, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Dickey leads the majors in wins (11) and ERA (2.00, tied with Brandon Beachy) entering Thursday, but that only scratches the surface of his statistical dominance so far this season. Dickey has struck out 103 batters in 99 innings pitched and has a WHIP of 0.89. He is currently first in the NL in every category mentioned, except for innings and strikeouts (second) and he also leads the league with three complete games.

He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 42 2/3 consecutive innings, the second-longest streak in Mets’ history. The franchise record is 49, set by Dwight Gooden in 1985.

On April 18, in his third start of the season, Dickey gave up eight earned runs on eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings in Atlanta. Since then, Dickey has given up a total of 11 earned runs and 45 hits in 81 2/3 innings pitched (11 starts).

In his last nine starts, which includes all of May and to this point in June, Dickey is 8-0 with a miniscule 0.92 ERA and 75 strikeouts over 68 2/3 innings. During this span, he has allowed 39 hits, including just one home run, while walking only 11.

Dickey is not only the No. 1 fantasy pitcher in all of baseball; he’s in the midst of one of the most dominating stretches of mound performances the sport has seen in some time, especially by a knuckleballer. Whether he keeps this up, especially at this rate, remains to be seen, but for now let’s all sit back and enjoy the ride. I know all the Dickey owners are.

And while no one pitcher’s been anywhere near as good as Dickey has been the past two months, there are several that have been on decent runs over the past several weeks.

Matt Cain, who tossed the 22nd perfect game in MLB history on June 13, certainly deserves some recognition. The Giants’ right-hander has as many wins (six) as Dickey over the last 30 days with a 1.90 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings.

However, Cain is owned in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues, making him more of a household name. Here are some other starting pitchers who have been getting the job done over the last 30 days that are owned in less than 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues:

Clay Buchholz, BOS – 4 wins, 2.43 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 31 Ks in 37 IP

A.J. Burnett, PIT – 5 wins, 2.01 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 25 Ks in 31 1/3 IP

Matt Harrison, TEX – 5 wins, 1.43 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 25 Ks in 44 IP

Wade Miley, ARI – 3 wins, 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 27 Ks in 36 IP

Ivan Nova, NYY – 5 wins, 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 21 Ks in 36 1/3 IP

Votto’s Red Hot
While Dickey has been dominating on the mound, no one’s been harder to get out at the plate recently than Joey Votto. On May 24, the Cincinnati first baseman and 2010 NL MVP was hitting a respectable .295. Since then, he’s been getting along at a .489 clip (43-for-88) with 21 runs scored, 13 doubles, six home runs and 17 RBI. He’s also walked 14 times compared to 17 strikeouts during this span.

On the season, Votto has walked (55) more times than he’s struck out (54). His current on-base percentage is .486, which would be the seventh-highest single-season mark in the expansion era (since 1961). The six other higher OBPs belong to Barry Bonds (five) and Frank Thomas.

Votto already has 30 doubles through the Reds’ first 68 games, putting him on pace for 71. The record for most doubles in a single season is 67, set by Earl Webb way back in 1931.

Votto’s not the only one who’s done his share of damage at the plate over the last 30 days as Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez is closest to Votto in batting average (.388), while hitting nine home runs, with 19 RBI, 21 runs scored and four stolen bases. The Angels’ Mark Trumbo leads the way with 30 RBI over the past 30 days, and is tied with Toronto’s Jose Bautista with 11 home runs during that span.

But all of these guys are owned in at least 91 percent of Yahoo! leagues so here are a few names who may still be available on the waiver wire (less than percent ownership) if you are in the market for a hot bat.

Aaron Hill, 2B/ARI – .385, 14 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB, 1.133 OPS

Jason Kubel, OF/ARI – .311, 17 R, 5 HR, 24 RBI, .941 OPS

Trevor Plouffe, 2B/3B/SS/OF, MIN – .350, 18 R, 10 HR, 18 RBI, 1.196 OPS

Colby Rasmus, OF, TOR – .315, 19 R, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, 1.010 OPS

Alfonso Soriano, OF, CHC – .267, 18 R, 10 HR, 21 RBI, .947 OPS

DL Watch and Other Injury News

*Detroit catcher Alex Avila, who has been on DL since June 6 because of a hamstring issue, has been rehabbing in the minors and appears to be on track to return to the Tigers today.

*Atlanta placed right-hander Brandon Beachy on the DL on Sunday with a sore right elbow. The news has only gotten worse since as Beachy has been diagnosed with a partially torn UCL and is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery today. Beachy’s 2012 season is over and at this point, there’s no telling when the 25-year-old will be back on the mound as the typical recovery time is anywhere between 12-18 months. The Braves are expected to recall Jair Jurrgens to start in Beachy’s place on Friday in Boston, but Kris Medlen, the reliever who was sent to the minors to be stretched out to start, is an option as well. Medlen probably offers more fantasy potential than Jurrgens, who was sent to AAA after going 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in four starts earlier this season.

*Matt Capps, Minnesota’s closer, hasn’t pitched in a game since last Friday, as he was sidelined with an inflamed shoulder. The good news for Capps is that he’s expected to return to his closing duties in the near future. He has yet to undergo an MRI as the team doesn’t think his shoulder issue is serious. Capps has blown only one save in 15 opportunities so far this season, although his ERA is a bit high for a closer at 3.55.

*Cubs’ ace Ryan Dempster was put on the DL on Monday with tightness in his right lat muscle. It’s something the right-hander has been dealing with during his last several starts, although his results (3-0, 0 ER in 22 IP in June) don’t reflect it. The move was more precautionary as Dempster is expected to be one of the most sought-after starters available via trade with the Cubs languishing in last place in the NL Central.

*Jeremy Hellickson went on the DL on Tuesday with shoulder fatigue. The Tampa Bay right-hander struggled mightily in his last start, giving up eight runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Mets, and is 4-3 with a 3.45 ERA on the season. The good news for Hellickson is that x-rays came back negative, so right now he’s only expected to miss a couple of starts. The Rays called up Chris Archer, one of their top pitching prospects, from AAA who made his major-league debut on Wednesday night against the Nationals in Washington. After giving up three runs (only one earned) on three hits in the first inning, Archer settled down and held the Nats scoreless and hitless through the next five, finishing his night with just one walk and seven strikeouts in a 3-2 loss.

*Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria was pulled from his rehab assignment on Monday after feeling soreness in his hamstring. The team shut him down immediately, and at this point it’s still not known when he will resume his rehab or when to expect him back with the Rays and in the lineup.

*Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.39 ERA) was scratched from his scheduled start on Tuesday due to elbow stiffness and inflammation. The Milwaukee pitcher said there doesn’t appear to be any structural damage, but it’s not known when the right-hander will return to the mound. Marcum had Tommy John surgery back in 2009.

*Mitch Moreland injured his hamstring running to first base in his first at-bat in San Diego on Tuesday and is expected to go on the DL this weekend. The Rangers’ first baseman got off to a slow start, hitting just .231 with three home runs and six RBI in April, but had been swinging the bat better since then, posting a .292-7-19 line in May and June.

*Dustin Pedroia's thumb injury kept him out of the lineup on Wednesday, but he hopes to be back in there tonight against Miami. Pedroia is known for his toughness and gutting it out, but discretion may be the better part of valor in this case. The Red Sox second baseman initially injured the thumb on May 28 and missed the next six games. Since returning to the lineup on June 5, Pedroia is batting a meager .170 (9-for-53) with no home runs, five RBI, five runs scored and no stolen bases. An extended break or perhaps even a DL stint may be necessary to get “The Laser Show” back on track.

*Mark Teixeira was out of the starting lineup on Wednesday after getting hit in the right foot on a ground ball on Tuesday. He did double as a pinch-hitter in the eighth yesterday against the Braves. The Yankees are off today and Teixeira hopes to be back in the starting lineup on Friday in the series opener against the Mets at Citi Field.

*It has been rough being a Toronto starting pitcher recently. The first to go down was Brandon Morrow (7-4, 3.01 ERA), who went on the 15-day DL on June 13 with a strained left oblique. Next was Drew Hutchinson (5-3, 4.60 ERA), who left his start last Friday against the Phillies after just nine pitches. The right-hander is out indefinitely with an elbow strain, but for now it does not look like he will need surgery. That is not the case for fellow righty Kyle Drabek, who left his start early on June 13 and had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. For Drabek it was the second Tommy John operation in five years, which means he could be out even longer than the typical 12-18 months.

*Troy Tulowitzki is scheduled to undergo surgery on his left groin area today. Tulowitzki, who went on the DL on May 31 was rehabbing last week in AAA when he pulled himself out of the game. The Rockies have said they will have a better idea regarding Tulowitzki's timetable after the surgery is performed.

— By Mark Ross, published on June 21, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: June 21</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 11:23
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-sonoma
Body:

After two weeks of high speeds and flat out racing, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the twists and turns of Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. The 12-turn, 1.99-mile road course is the first test for the teams this season as they turn left and right.

Over the past few years, road course races have turned very aggressive, with more torn up racecars than some short track afternoons. These events also have a tendency to turn into fuel-mileage contests, with strategy playing a major role in how the race unfolds.

One driver that understands the importance of fuel conservation at Sonoma is Richard Petty Motorsports' Marcos Ambrose. The former Australian V-8 Supercar champion has long been known as a road course specialists, and nearly scored his first Sprint Cup Series victory at Sonoma in 2010.

After leading 35 of the 110 laps, Ambrose was attempting to save fuel under caution in the event’s waning laps by shutting his engine off and coasting around the circuit. When the pace car led the field up the hill past the start/finish line, Ambrose's car would not re-fire and dropped him back in the running order. The mistake was costly for Ambrose, who would have to wait until the 2011 race at Watkins Glen International to score that elusive first win.

This weekend, Ambrose heads back to Sonoma with much better equipment, the seventh-best average finish at the track, and is this week's NASCAR fantasy favorite.

Throughout the 2012 season, Ambrose has shown he is no longer simply a road course specialist. Sitting 17th in the series standings, he is coming off three finishes of 13th or better in the last three weeks. Despite a 32nd-place finish in Charlotte for an issue with the left front hub, the No. 9 Ford was among the fastest that weekend, as well.

Heading to one of his best tracks, Ambrose is confident in his team's ability to get the job done week-in and week-out.

“People know we’re around and it’s a good situation to be in,” he said. “I feel good about our team. I feel good about being part of the growth of Richard Petty Motorsports and I think that curve is continuing to go upwards. I think you’ve yet to see the best of us and you’ve yet to see the best of me.”

While Ambrose may enter the favorite, you can never count out five-time Sonoma winner Jeff Gordon. The veteran driver has been nipping on the heels of solid finishes each week, but his season has had about as many twists and turns as this weekend's race.

Gordon has the best average finish among active drivers at Sonoma (8.7), and was second in this race last year. Celebrating his 20th season at the Sprint Cup level, Gordon is now the only Hendrick driver without a win this year, something that could change on Sunday.

Much like Ambrose, former open-wheel driver Juan Pablo Montoya is also considered a threat any time the Sprint Cup Series heads to the road course in Sonoma. Montoya went to Victory Lane in his first attempt at Sonoma in ’07, but has yet to record a top-5 finish since. While he has the second-best average finish (9.0), the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver was 22nd in last year's event.

While the 2012 season has been a struggle for Montoya, he is coming off an eighth-place finish last weekend at Michigan, only his second top 10 of the year. If Monotya can keep the car in one piece and crew chief Chris Heroy can play the right strategy, the No. 42 team could score some solid fantasy points.

Five Favorites: Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Sonoma.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 10:37
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-2012-heisman-contenders
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

Notre Dame's Top 5 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Manti Te’o, LB
The star middle linebacker turned down the NFL and could actually build upon his already solid resume. He is searching for his third straight 100-tackle season and has 28.5 career tackles for a loss. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and the Lott Trophy a year ago and is looking for even more in 2012. Expect an outstanding defensive front to make life easier for the talented tackler.

2. Cierre Wood, RB
The Irish running back rolled-up 1,102 yards rushing a year ago — the most by a South Bend tailback in over half-a-decade (1,267, Darius Walker). Without great quarterback play, Wood will easily the be the focal point of the offense, which could work both for and against the talented tailback. Jonas Gray has moved on, giving Wood the bulk of the touches, but defenses will be able to key on him should Brian Kelly not get improved quarterback play.

3. Tyler Eifert, TE
Fans could make the case that Eifert is the best tight end in the nation. Like Te’o, Eifert also turned down the NFL to return to Notre Dame. With Michael Floyd moving on to Sundays, Eifert is easily the top target in the Kelly passing attack and could improve on his 63-803-5 stat line from 2011. Tight ends also tend to be targeted more by young, inexperienced and “less-effective” quarterbacks as safety valves. And this one is the first-team preseason All-American for 2012.

4. Stephon Tuitt, DE
The 2011 defensive line class for Kelly was simply ridiculous and Tuitt is a huge part of it. He has a massive frame, huge upside and as much physical talent as any Irish defensive lineman in years. By the end of 2011, as only a freshman, Tuitt was transforming into the dominate player fans were expecting to see. The sky is the limit for this monster of prospect.

5. Theo Riddick, WR
Injuries and position uncertainty have caused Riddick’s career to take some unexpected turns. But his raw play-making ability and versatility should finally allow Riddick to achieve his breakout campaign in 2012. He isn’t the same player as Floyd but can be used in more ways by Kelly. Fans should expect to see No. 7 touching the ball in a variety of unique and entertaining ways this fall.

Other Names to Watch:

Zach Martin, OL
Louis Nix III, DL
TJ Jones, WR
Braxton Cave, C
Everett Gholson, QB

2012 Notre Dame Preview Content:

•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Preview
•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish Greatest Players Since 1967
•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Predictions
•  The Greatest Moments in Notre Dame Football History
•  Notre Dame Cheerleader Gallery
•  Will Brian Kelly Lead Notre Dame to a BCS Bowl?
•  Jokes About Notre Dame Rivals

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame 2012 Heisman Contenders</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 10:03
Path: /college-football/exclusive-qa-robert-griffin-iii
Body:

Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor and No. 2 pick overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable faces in sports. Recently RG3 sat down with Baylor Bear Insider editor Jerry Hill for Athlon Sports Monthly and provided some insight about his well-decorated past and a future with endless potential.

Athlon Sports: Winning the Heisman would obviously be special at any school. But was it even more gratifying to do it at a school like Baylor that did not enjoy much success in football in the 15 years before you arrived?
RG3: Winning the Heisman at Baylor University, for Baylor University, Baylor Nation and Baylor alums everywhere, made it special. Being able to lift a community, Waco, Copperas Cove, and surrounding areas, is what made the accomplishment gratifying.

When you were sitting there next to Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York, how confident were you that you were going to win? And what was that moment like when you heard your name called?
I was confident, but I was more nervous and anxious, because you never know what the voters look at when they place their ballots. At Baylor University, we knew we were the most exciting team in college football. We had big-time players making big-time plays, and we had our collection of “Heisman Moments.” At that time, you are rendered powerless until they utter . . . “The winner of the 2011 Heisman Memorial Trophy is . . . Robert Griffin III, RG3.” Now, you just have to remember the speech.

Other than winning the Heisman, was there one particular “best memory” from your days at Baylor?
Best memories, you mean? On the field, I remember two blocks I threw to help my teammates score touchdowns. The first one was my freshman year against Iowa State, where I pancaked a guy, helping Kendal Wright score. The other was in the 2011 Alamo Bowl, when I helped Jarred Salubi score after I threw a block that helped him escape. I also remember taking three knees to win games — one ended a 16-year bowl drought; one marked our first victory against Oklahoma and a (former) Heisman winner; and one marked us as Alamo Bowl champions with 10 wins. They said we couldn’t do it . . . and we still did it.

What’s one thing that few people would know about Robert Griffin III?
I don’t have dreads. My hair is braided off the scalp. And I doubt that many people know that I dunked in the eighth grade when I was 5-6, just as tall as you, Jerry (laughing).

You obviously attracted a lot of widespread attention for the different socks you wear. How did that start, and do you plan on rolling out some new ones in the NFL?
I started wearing the socks my sophomore year in high school, just as a sign that I was comfortable in my own skin and who I was. Contrary to popular belief, I never wore the socks on the field. But I do plan to continue wearing them off the field and might even have my own designs.

When you suffered a torn ACL during your sophomore season in 2009, were there days when you were going through rehab for the knee injury that you just wanted to give up? How did you fight through that?
I never faced a time when I wanted to quit. I did have a decision to make early on in my rehab, though. I could go through the motions and come back a shade of myself or just the same guy. Or I could push myself to the limit, just as I had been trained to do my whole life, and come back a better player than anyone had ever seen. I pushed and pushed and pushed, because my family, my future family, my friends and my teammates needed me to. I wasn’t going to let them down.

With several of the major schools recruiting you to play something other than quarterback, did that motivate you even more to prove them wrong?
You mean Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma? It’s not really as many as people think, but it wasn’t extra motivation. Do I remember who the three teams were? Yes. But you can’t do things to prove others wrong. All you can do is perform, so that they regret their decisions.

Because of the option offense you ran at Copperas Cove (Texas), most people viewed you as more of a runner than a passer coming out of high school. Was there anything specific you did to improve your throwing ability?
First, I was given the option to throw. We were a pro-style running team in high school, and we were great at it. Because of my speed, I have always faced the criticism that I can’t throw. But I just pushed forward and performed. The stats on the books at Baylor say enough.

What was the point when you first realized that you had the talent to be a top-5 pick in the NFL Draft?
The day coach Art Briles named me the starter at Baylor. I went through a lot in the process. But if you can’t see what you can become, you won’t put in the work to go and capture it.

You obviously agonized over the decision to leave school early for the NFL Draft. How difficult was it for you to forego your senior year at Baylor?
It was the hardest decision thus far in my life. I played on one good knee for a whole half (against Northwestern State in 2009) — after tearing my ACL on the first drive — for my teammates, coaches and Baylor Nation. It wasn’t about money or fame. I truly love my Baylor University, and that is what made it difficult. I cried when I told my teammates, because they truly are my brothers for life. It means something to me to wear the BU on my helmet and across my chest. It means even more to wear it with the guys that I did.

Seeing what Cam Newton was able to do last year, does that give you confidence that you can make a similar impact this year as a rookie starter with the Washington Redskins?
I plan to come in and do all the little things — study, work hard, earn respect and get better. If you come in to make an impact, you won’t make one. You have to focus on the small things so that all the big things can fall into place.

Washington gave up a lot of picks to move up and take you with the No. 2 pick overall in the Draft. Does that put extra pressure on you?
I don’t look at it as pressure. If anything, it makes me want to go out and get to work sooner. They believe in me. That’s why they gave up so many picks for me. There have been a lot of great quarterbacks that have had terrible rookie years. I don’t want to be that guy. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m not that guy. Peyton Manning didn’t have a great year as a rookie, and now he’s considered one of the best of all-time. You’ve just got to work through the bumps and try to succeed in whatever ways you can.
 

Teaser:
<p> An Exclusive Q&amp;A with Robert Griffin III</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 06:26
Path: /college-football/big-east-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The Big East's Top 10 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (SO)
The true freshman built his confidence week upon week and now enters his second year as the top Heisman contender in the league. He trailed only Geno Smith in completion percentage last year (64.5%) and posted the Big East’s No. 2 passer efficiency (132.44) mark. Most importantly, he has added bulk and strength to his frame after playing his best ball down the stretch. He posted a career high 274 yards in the bowl loss and chucked five touchdowns in the final two games.

2. Ray Graham, RB, Pitt (SR)
This talented tailback was on a tear when four plays into the primetime showdown with UConn, his season ended with a torn ACL. He had posted 939 yards rushing and nine scores in the first seven games of the year prior to the injury. If fully healthy, Graham could easily be the Big East’s top Heisman candidate now that offensive genius Paul Chryst is calling plays in the ‘Burgh.

3. B.J. Daniels, QB, USF (SR)
Daniels’ raw explosiveness and athleticism have always been obvious, but he has yet to put his whole game together for a full season. However, he came close in 2011 with his best year to date: 2,604 yards, 13 TD, 7 INT, 601 yards rushing, 6 TD. The Bulls must improve on their 1-6 league record (which they should) for Daniels to have a chance at the stiff-armed trophy of Ed Smith.

4. Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn (SO)
Under Randy Edsall the Huskies churned out highly productive runners so McCombs would have done the current Maryland head coach proud in Year 1. The redshirt freshman posted six 100-yard efforts in his first season and finished second in the league in rushing. Three starters and a stud tight end are back to pave the way for the studly sophomore.

5. Matt Brown, RB, Temple (SR)
As a back-up to Bernard Pierce, Brown still finished eighth in the MAC in rushing with 916 yards. He has shown to be a tremendous second option in three seasons with the Owls, but now gets the spotlight to himself in Steve Addazio's system. Defenses will be tougher in the Big East, but Brown should be plenty capable.

6. Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers (SR)
Greene should be the front-runner to claim Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors…again. He led the league in tackles with 141 stops and is the heart and soul of what should be the league’s best unit…again. Fans should expect big things from Ray Graham’s brother. A broken leg sustained in the bowl game a year ago seems like a distant afterthought.

7. Justin Pugh, OL, Syracuse (SR)
An All-Big East first-team selection a year ago, Pugh enters this season as a preseason Athlon Sports All-American and the top blocker in the conference. He paved the way for one of only three 1,000-yard Big East runners a year ago and will now be responsible for protecting senior quarterback Ryan Nassib.

8. Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville (JR)
One of the nation’s top safety prospects, the junior is poised for a huge season after leading the Cards in tackles last year (6.5/game). If the Cardinals are going to win 10 games and earn a Big East championship, it will be on the shoulders of the talented Smith.

9. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse (SR)
In his third year in the system, Nassib could be poised for his best year. He increased his touchdown passes, yardage totals and completion percentage from 2010 to 2011. With Pugh watching his back, one of the few pro-style passers in the league should continue to develop.

10. Munchie Legaux, QB, Cincinnati (JR)
Has loads of upside with a tremendous throwing arm and athletic ability. He also is the leader in the clubhouse in terms of game experience for the Bearcats. The leash will be short with Legaux, but should things fall into place, he has the upside to win games and post big numbers.

Other Names to Watch:

Devin Street, WR, Pitt (JR)
Keystone product could explode after a very productive 53-754-2 stat line a year ago.

Demetris Murray, RB, USF (SR)
Will take over for Darrell Scott but will also lose time to Lindsey Lamar.

Tino Sunseri, QB, Pitt (SR)
Struggled mightily last year with Todd Graham. Should be that much better with Chryst.

DeDe Lattimore, LB, USF (JR)
Finished 6th in tackles and played behind enemy lines all year: 7.0 sacks, 13.0 TFL.

Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse (SR)
Leading returning receiver should build on 68-834-6 stat line.

Rushel Shell, RB, Pitt (FR)
Elite level talent who will complement Graham perfectly for Chryst.

Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers (SO)
Will split time with talented sophomore Huggins but will build on 897-yard 2011 season.

Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers (SO)
Way too talented to be kept off the field. Is slated to split carries with Jamison.

Dominique Brown, RB, Louisville (JR)
Needs to break off bigger chunks but has chance to be feature back for top team.

Jarred Holley, S, Pitt (SR)
Does a bit of everything (67 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and is the leader of Panthers’ D.
 

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Big East Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Big East 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The Big 12's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (SR)
The list of accolades for the Mountaineers' starting quarterback is already long and distinguished, yet he might be ready to add the most important award in college sports. He led the Big East in passer efficiency and total offense a year ago — finishing eighth nationally at 334.8 yards per game. His 4,385 passing yards were a school record and he might possess the strongest throwing arm in the nation. With a deep and talented skill corps, and play calling from offensive wizard Dana Holgorsen, Smith has a great shot at landing in New York come December.

2. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (SR)
There are plenty of question marks surrounding Jones the quarterback — like major statistical regression and a horrible road record. But the Sooner quarterback has as good a shot as any in the league to be Big Apple bound at year’s end. He is surrounded by the most talent of any team in the league and should be the leader of the Big 12 champions. Should Jones correct his road woes and produce another big statistical year, he very easily could land on Heisman ballots, and perhaps, in the national title game.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (SR)
Klein won’t be able to sneak up on any defenses this time around after rolling up a sick 1,141 yards rushing and an NCAA-record 27 rushing touchdowns (by a QB). He added another 13 scoring strikes with 1,918 yards through the air while leading the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl. What he lacks in pure passing ability he makes up for with grit and toughness. However, he may need to use his arm more in 2012 as coordinators are now prepared for his talented dual-threat skills.

4. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State (JR)
He may not be built like a true three-down workhorse, but he certainly plays like it. Randle brings speed, power and pass-catching skills to one of the most explosive offenses in the country. With a new quarterback and rebuilt offensive line, it will difficult to top his 1,216 yards, 26 touchdowns or 43 receptions from last year. But if he can come close, Randle could earn his way to Manhattan.

5. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (SR)
Austin is one of the most dynamic and explosive play-makers in all of the nation. He set a school record with 101 receptions last year and led the nation in all-purpose yards (198.0 per game). In addition to his 101 catches (and 1,186 yards), the inside slot man rushed for 182 yards and a score to go with 938 kick return yards and 268 punt return yards. He finished with 11 total touchdowns and could be poised for a C.J. Spiller-type of season in Morgantown.

6. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (SR)
This local product could be the top defensive end drafted come next April should things fall right for the Horns' defense in 2012. Okafor finished last season with 50 total tackles, 7.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss as a junior. On what should easily be the top defensive unit in the Big 12, Okafor will be a huge part of any sort of Burnt Orange championship push.

7. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU (JR)
In his first season as the starter and only a sophomore, Pachall would have finished second in the league to only Robert Griffin III in passer efficiency (had he been in the Big 12). He had an outstanding 25:7 TD:INT rate and led his team to a conference championship in a “rebuilding” year. Sledding will be much tougher in the Big 12, but Pachall quickly proved he can be a big time quarterback.

8. Trey Millard, AP, Oklahoma (JR)
The physical fullback is one of the most valuable players on the Sooners' roster. He’s known more for lead blocking than getting touches (169 yards rushing, 127 receiving yards and three total touchdowns), so his 61-yard TD run versus Kansas State was a true highlight. Millard also led OU with 14 special-teams tackles and was voted first-team All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches for his all-around play. He may never be appreciated nationally the way he deserves and could be the best all-around football player on the Sooners roster.

9. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia (JR)
Alongside teammate Austin, Bailey was also a first-team selection in 2011 and he is coming off of a school-record 1,279-yard campaign as a sophomore. He has played alongside his quarterback since his prep days in Miramar, Fla., and should be on the verge of national prominence this fall — if Austin and Ivan McCartney don’t take too many targets from him.

10. Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma (JR)
As the nation’s No. 1 "athlete" recruit two years ago, Jefferson has quietly turned into one of the most promising young defensive backs in the nation. He has played somewhat out of position (down more in the box) but it has allowed him to develop into a big hitter and sound tackler. He has the speed and athleticism to stabilize the backend of the maligned Sooner secondary from a year ago. With Mike Stoops and Tim Kish now coaching him up, Jefferson could be in for stardom this fall.

11. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas (JR)
Okafor may be one year ahead on the development curve, but the upside for this NFL legacy is sky-high. Jeffcoat is the No. 2 returning sack artist in the league with 8.0 sacks and will look to build on his team lead in the category.

12. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma (JR)
This talented junior to be has all the tools needed to be an NFL receiver and is playing in one of the most quarterback-friendly schemes in the nation. He should only build on his 61-catch, 849-yard, 8-TD 2011 season now as the No. 1 target.

13. Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech (SR)
Has any player ever thrown for a quieter 400 completions, 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns like Doege (and it’s Day-Gee) did last fall? Technically, it was 32 touchdowns and 398 completions, but either way, Tech has a good one under center. Now, it just needs to win games (and any semblance of a defense would help).

14. Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas (SO)
The top running back prospect in the nation did as much to prove his mettle in year one as possible. He carried 172 times for 742 yards and five scores and should only get better — but will have to hold off a talented depth chart that is breathing down his neck.

15. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (SR)
It took him a few years and multiple zip codes but Brown has realized his All-American potential. The talented tackler should once again be the heart and soul of the KSU defense. A unit that must show improvement across the board if it wants to compete for a league title.

16. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor (SR)
Williams is a future NFL star but without Griffin III throwing the ball and Kendall Wright distracting safeties, things will be more difficult for Baylor. But make no mistake, Williams has the talent to be an elite No. 1 target for the new Bears signal caller.

17. Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas (SR)
Versatile NFL prospect can cover in man and zone schemes with ease. Posted 67 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and 6.5 tackles for loss. He is the complete package.

18. Dominique Whaley, RB, Oklahoma (SR)
Health is really the only major concern for Whaley, who was off to an incredible start last year before being lost for the season in Week 6. He had nine scores and was averaging 130 yards from scrimmage per game. He could have a huge final year.

19. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (SO)
This Longhorn legacy proved that in one short year that he will be a special player. All he did as a freshman was lead his team in interceptions (4) and kick return yards. He posted 48 total tackles and 13 pass break-ups.

20. Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech (SR)
Much like Whaley, Stephens was off to a red-hot start before a serious knee injury sidelined him in the fifth game of the year. If healthy, Stephens should return to his torrid 2011 pace which featured 565 yards and eight touchdowns in five games.

21. Cyril Richardson, OL, Baylor (JR)
There is a logjam of talented blockers fighting for first-round NFL status and the massive Richardson, at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, is one of them. If Baylor can return to the postseason with a reworked offense, this guy could be the main reason.

22. A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State (SR)
The Big 12’s No. 2 tackler (116) from a year ago claimed Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors and should be just as stout in 2012. No doubt Klein is eyeing his third straight 100-tackle season for the Cyclones.

23. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State (SR)
One of the most physical players in the league, Knott should also be working towards his third straight 100-tackle season in Ames. Improved defensive line play would go a long way for both Klein and Knott.

24. Stansly Maponga, DL, TCU (JR)
Defensive end Stansly Maponga is a breakout star waiting to happen. The two-year starter led the Frogs with 13.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and forced five fumbles last season.

25. Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas (FR)
Freshman Johnathan Gray helped Aledo (Texas) win three Class 4A state titles while rushing for 10,908 yards and setting the national high school record for rushing touchdowns with 205.

Other Names to Watch

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma
Waymon James and Matthew Tucker, RB, TCU
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Big 12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-rankings-idp-top-75
Body:

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is here. Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are nearly complete. Bye week cheat sheets are everywhere. Positional rankings are popping up everywhere, which at Athlon Sports also includes Individual Defensive Players or IDPs

While the ever-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board, the most accurate consensus top 100 list of fantasy footballers on the web, includes the most common and used positions in fantasy football, IDPs are also a part of many leagues out there. So true to our word of providing you everything you need to get you ready for the upcoming fantasy football season, here are our overall IDP rankings.

Rankings are based on Athlon Sports standard scoring for IDPs:

Solo tackle = 1 pt
Tackle assist = 0.5 pts
Sack = 3.5 pts
Interception = 3.5 pts
Forced fumble/recovery = 2 pts
Defensive TD = 8 pts
Safety = 2 pts
Pass Defended = 0.5 pts
Blocked Kick = 4 pts

Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Individual Defensive Players (IDP)

2011 FP = Fantasy points scored in 2011, per Athlon Sports standard scoring

Rank Player Team POS Bye 2011 FP
1. Jason Pierre-Paul NYG DL 11 146.8
2. Jared Allen MIN DL 11 157.0
3. Patrick Willis SF LB 9 114.0
4. Justin Tuck NYG DL 11 53.0
5. Trent Cole PHI DL 7 84.0
6. Desmond Bishop GB LB 10 124.5
7. Julius Peppers CHI DL 6 93.5
8. James Laurinaitis STL LB 9 146.5
9. Eric Berry KC DB 7 0.0
10. Mario Williams BUF DL 8 30.5
11. Derrick Johnson KC LB 7 140.0
12. Jabaal Sheard CLE DL 10 90.3
13. Navarro Bowman SF LB 9 144.0
14. Tyvon Branch OAK DB 5 110.3
15. Calais Campbell ARI DL 10 117.0
16. D’Qwell Jackson CLE LB 10 162.3
17. Daryl Washington ARI LB 10 128.0
18. Patrick Chung NE DB 9 58.5
19. Sean Weatherspoon ATL LB 7 118.5
20. Charles Johnson CAR DL 6 72.5
21. Elvis Dumervil DEN DL 7 72.3
22. Jason Babin PHI DL 7 107.5
23. Curtis Lofton NO LB 6 143.0
24. George Wilson BUF DB 8 115.6
25. Cliff Avril DET DL 5 110.5
26. Stephen Tulloch DET LB 5 131.5
27. Jerod Mayo NE LB 9 91.0
28. Chris Long STL DL 9 82.5
29. Eric Weddle SD DB 7 110.5
30. Colin McCarthy TEN LB 11 74.0
31. Paul Posluszny JAC LB 6 114.5
32. Pat Angerer IND LB 4 127.5
33. Kam Chancellor SEA DB 11 115.5
34. Ray Lewis BAL LB 8 101.5
35. Brian Urlacher CHI LB 6 119.0
36. J.J. Watt HOU DL 8 81.8
37. LaRon Landry NYJ DB 9 51.3
38. Sean Lee DAL LB 5 109.0
39. Charles Tillman CHI DB 6 138.5
40. Haloti Ngata BAL DL 8 89.0
41. Aldon Smith SF LB/DL 9 93.0
42. Osi Umenyiora NYG DL 11 56.5
43. Luke Kuechly CAR LB 6 DNP
44. Antoine Bethea IND DB 4 119.0
45. Jeremy Mincey JAC DL 6 90.5
46. Justin Smith SF DL 9 86.8
47. DeMarcus Ware DAL LB 5 128.3
48. Morgan Burnett GB DB 10 119.5
49. Mark Barron TB DB 5 DNP
50. Carlos Dunlap CIN DL 8 44.3
51. Chad Greenway MIN LB 11 131.5
52. Earl Thomas SEA DB 11 99.5
53. Mathias Kiwanuka NYG LB/DL 11 93.8
54. Roman Harper NO DB 6 119.8
55. Karlos Dansby MIA LB 7 109.5
56. Rolando McClain OAK LB 5 114.0
57. Charles Woodson GB DB 10 121.2
58. London Fletcher WAS LB 10 153.3
59. Ndamukong Suh DET DL 5 49.5
60. Cameron Wake MIA LB/DL 7 70.6
61. Lawrence Timmons PIT LB 4 95.5
62. Patrick Peterson ARI DB 10 127.4
63. Chris Clemons SEA DL 11 89.5
64. Brian Cushing HOU LB 8 122.5
65. Von Miller DEN LB 7 103.3
66. Jarius Bryd BUF DB 8 120.5
67. Kameron Wimbley TEN DL 11 87.0
68. Adrian Clayborn TB DL 5 67.8
69. Jon Beason CAR LB 6 4.0
70. Kelvin Sheppard BUF LB 8 62.5
71. Troy Polamalu PIT DB 4 105.0
72. Quintin Mikell STL DB 9 108.0
73. Ahtyba Rubin CLE DL 10 87.0
74. DeMeco Ryans PHI LB 7 58.0
75. Bernard Pollard BAL DB 8 90.0

— Published on June 21, 2012

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I

2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DLs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: LBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DBs

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Fantasy Football Rankings: IDP Top 75</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, NC State Wolfpack, News
Path: /college-football/nc-state-football-can-wolfpack-win-acc-2012
Body:

NC State finished 2011 by winning four out of their final five games. The Wolfpack return quarterback Mike Glennon, and a secondary that could be one of the best in the ACC. 

Is NC State an ACC Title Contender in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
As strange as it may seem, we may figure out how seriously to take NC State after the first two weeks of the season when the Wolfpack face Tennessee and Connecticut both away from Raleigh. Granted, these two teams each finished 5-7. If the Wolfpack is going to contend for the ACC, it should handle the rebuilding Volunteers. The Vols’ biggest strength on offense -- Tyler Bray and his receivers -- faces NC State’s greatest strength with David Amerson leading four returning starters. Connecticut should be easy work, but that’s a road game. Like Tennessee, Connecticut has some key players returning from injury, but Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon should feast against that secondary. If NC State wins both games comfortably, watch out.

We’re going to hear a ton about Amerson’s 13 interceptions for good reason, but turnover margin is fluky. NC State ranked sixth nationally in that category at plus-14. As much as Tom O’Brien would love for his veteran secondary to repeat its 27 interceptions, he can’t depend on it. That means every other position group is going to need to step up, starting with the run game (11th in the ACC) and offensive line (10th in the ACC in sacks allowed). And of course, there’s Glennon, whose name is unfairly linked to Russell Wilson. He’s one of the ACC’s best quarterbacks and finished last season on a tear with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions in the last three games against Clemson, Maryland and Louisville. He’ll be the key. Florida State and Clemson have proven they’re not immune to letting good things slip away. NC State could be a team ready to pounce.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I am very high on NC State and think they can absolutely compete for an ACC crown in 2012. This is due entirely to how it is constructed. An excellent offensive line, a tremendously talented veteran quarterback, a solid defense and hard-nosed head coach. These are the most important aspects to any football team when trying to pinpoint sleepers in any league. The Wolfpack has tremendous leadership with Mike Glennon under center in his second full season as the starter and steely-eyed ACC stalwart Tom O'Brien steering the entire ship. And Wolfie will be stout up front at the point of attack – both offensively and defensively - as Athlon has ranked the O-line No. 2 in the league and the D-line No. 3 in the ACC.

Clemson and Florida State are the top picks in the Atlantic Divison, but NC State gets a few scheduling breaks in 2012. First, the Seminoles must visit Raleigh in what could be a decisive ACC bout. Second, there is no Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech on the schedule at all. And with the recent domination of instate rival North Carolina - O'Brien hasn't lost to the Tar Heels as the Wolfpack headman – NC State should feel optimistic about its ACC crossover play. It also finishes with three of the final four conference games at home.

Yes, the one road game in Novmeber is a trip down to Death Valley on November 17, but if that game turns into an Atlantic Division title game, well, just ask Tigers fans what happened when these two met last year. NC State 37, Clemson 13.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State are the best teams in the ACC, but NC State isn’t too far behind. The Wolfpack got off to a 2-3 start last season, but rallied to win four out of their final five games. However, while NC State had an impressive finish, it also lost to Boston College and needed a furious second-half rally to beat Maryland.

There are a lot of positives for this team going into 2012, especially with Mike Glennon returning under center. The Wolfpack has one of the conference’s best offensive lines, but playmakers need to be found in the receiving corps. Running back James Washington was steady last season, and has plenty of help on the ground from sophomore Anthony Creecy and Mustafa Greene.

The defense allowed 24.7 points a game last season, but forced 39 turnovers and ranked eighth nationally with 3.1 sacks a game. With seven starters returning, this unit should be solid once again. Cornerback David Amerson is among the best in college football at his position, while solid depth has been established on the defensive line. Although the Wolfpack may give up some yards, if they can continue to force turnovers and sacks, they should keep this team in the hunt for the ACC title.

Will NC State win the ACC in 2012? I’d be surprised if it did. However, I could see this team finishing with nine wins and pulling off an upset against Florida State in Raleigh on Oct. 6. The Wolfpack catch a break in the crossover opponents, as they miss Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Considering NC State was 5-5 heading into the final three games of last year, it’s a testament to how much this team improved in the last half of 2011 and should better in 2012.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I believe NC State will be among the top three or four teams in the league, but I don’t know if I’d call the Pack a true ACC contender because they play in the more difficult Atlantic Division, home to both Florida State and Clemson.

There is, however, a ton of positive momentum in Raleigh after State won four of its last five games in 2011, highlighted by the dominating 37–13 victory over Clemson. Mike Glennon is poised to have a big senior season after throwing 31 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. The defense, solid last year, should be strong once again. There are some concerns at linebacker, but the secondary, led by David Amerson, should be among the best in the league.

Barring a surprising rash of injuries — which has happened to this team in the past — Tom O’Brien’s club figures to win eight or nine games overall and finish over .500 in the ACC. 

Mark Ross
No. Don't get me wrong, I expect NC State to win about eight games once again this and go to its third straight bowl game under head coach Tom O'Brien. But as far as the ACC race goes, I see the Wolfpack finishing third, possibly second, in the Atlantic division.

This is a well-balanced football team with an offense led by quarterback Mike Glennon and a defense led by All-American cornerback David Amerson and the rest of the secondary, but the sum of these parts doesn't beat the strengths of the top two teams in the Atlantic - Clemson and Florida State. Clemson has the best offense in the ACC while Florida State has the best defense, and each of these units rank up there when it comes to the best in the nation.

To be an ACC title contender, NC State will have to go through both Clemson and Florida State. The last time the Wolfpack beat the Tigers and Seminoles in the same season was 2002, and I don't see that changing in 2012. This year's NC State team is a good team, but not an ACC title contender.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Tom O’Brien’s club has a great shot at eight or nine overall wins, but I do not see the Wolfpack as a major contender for the league title. Clemson and Florida State project as the top two teams in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, and NC State looks like a clear third. To be better than that, the Wolfpack will need to be more consistent across the board. The Mike Glennon-led offense was awesome in the last three games (37, 56 and 31 points) of last season, but scored only 10, 13, and 0 in the three prior contests. The defense was great against Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia but faltered badly versus Wake Forest, Cincinnati and Florida State.

Glennon and a veteran offensive line will give the NC State attack a chance to put up big numbers, especially if Tobias Palmer and Bryan Underwood can become big-time targets at the receiver position. The defense, a group that produced 39 takeaways in 2011, may be the key to contending in the ACC. The secondary is excellent and brings back all four starters who helped lead the nation with 27 interceptions last year. The line should be solid, but there are some holes to fill with the linebacker unit.

The Wolfpack will need to at least split with tough division foes FSU and Clemson to contend in the conference. They avoid Virginia Tech in the Coastal, but road games at Miami and North Carolina as well as hosting a scrappy UVA bunch will not be easy. If NC State gets production from its front seven on defense and develops some outside threats on offense, then O’Brien’s club will be a tough out in ACC play.

Related ACC Content

Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions
2012 NC State Team Preview

College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 28 NC State

ACC Expansion: No Buyer's Remorse

Teaser:
<p> Can NC State contend for the ACC title?</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 05:49
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2012-predictions
Body:

Editor's Note: Athlon's 2012 predictions were completed before UCF's postseason ban was announced.

After eight seasons of stability, Conference USA will be ripped apart in 2013 when Memphis, UCF, Houston and SMU bolt for the Big East. There will still be some solid programs in the league — Southern Miss, Tulsa and East Carolina stand out — but the conference will never be the same.

So who takes the title in the final season of the current 12-team, two-division format? UCF and East Carolina are the teams to beat in the East Division, while Houston and Tulsa appear to be the class of the West.

UCF slumped to 3–5 in the league last season after winning the East with a 7–1 mark in 2010. The ’11 record, however, was a bit deceiving; the Knights lost four league games by seven points or less and actually outgained C-USA foes by an average of 39.7 yards per game. UCF boasts a solid quarterback in sophomore Blake Bortles, but George O’Leary’s team will lean on the running game with a deep corps of tailbacks (Latavius Murray, Storm Johnson and Brynn Harvey) and a veteran offensive line. Although the Knights should be improved in 2012, the NCAA has placed a one-year postseason ban on the program.

East Carolina made a dramatic improvement on defense last season, jumping 64 spots in the national rankings from 120th in 2010 to 56th in ’11. The Pirates will have to be solid on D once again, because they must replace standout quarterback Dominique Davis, who threw for over 7,000 yards in two seasons at ECU.

Defending C-USA champ Southern Miss is under new leadership, as former South Carolina assistant Ellis Johnson steps in for Larry Fedora, now the head coach at North Carolina. Johnson inherits a team that is losing a three-year starter at quarterback (Austin Davis) and several key pieces on defense.

Marshall continues to take small steps forward under third-year coach Doc Holliday. The Thundering Herd have the personnel to finish in the top half of the East, but a tough schedule — they play both Houston and Tulsa from the West — will be difficult to overcome. UAB and Memphis both made coaching moves. Garrick McGee, the former offensive coordinator at Arkansas, is the new boss in Birmingham, while Justin Fuente, the co-offensive coordinator at TCU the past three seasons, takes over at Memphis.

Houston will attempt to defend its C-USA West crown with a new quarterback (David Piland takes over for Case Keenum) and a new coach (Tony Levine replaces his former boss, Kevin Sumlin). The Cougars, who were 12–0 in 2011 before a loss to Southern Miss in the C-USA title game, still have a ton of talent at the skill positions and will be tough to beat.

Bill Blakenship guided Tulsa to an impressive 7–1 record in the league in his first season as a collegiate head coach. Quarterback G.J. Kinne is no longer around, but the Golden Hurricane have a quality replacement, former Nebraska Cornhusker Cody Green.

SMU went 5–3 last year, but the Mustangs lost three league games by at least 24 points and didn’t beat a C-USA team that had a winning conference record. With major concerns on both the offensive and defensive line, it might be tough for June Jones’ club to contend in 2012.

UTEP, Rice and Tulane will battle for the final three spots in the West. The Miners welcome back quarterback Nick Lamaison and four starters on the offensive line, but they have a very tough C-USA slate (at ECU, at Southern Miss, vs. UCF). Rice has struggled on the offensive end since its breakthrough 2008 season that ended with a win in the Texas Bowl. David Bailiff is under to pressure to win. Tulane is under new leadership, with former Saints assistant coach Curtis Johnson taking over for Bob Toledo. Johnson will lean on senior quarterback Ryan Griffin and junior tailback Orleans Darkwa.

Athlon's 2012 Conference USA Team Previews

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

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Conference USA Football predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 05:47
Path: /nascar/dale-earnhardt-jrs-long-road
Body:

Sunday, June 17, will be remembered by Junior Nation as they day when their boy finally came home. Much like John J. did at the end of Rambo, Dale Earnhardt Jr. came full-circle, literally, this past Sunday in the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Michigan.

After 143 races and four years of futility, Earnhardt won the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway and moved to within four points of the championship lead currently held by 2000 rookie classmate, friend and former Busch Series rival Matt Kenseth. It wasn’t a fuel mileage fluke as his previous win at MIS in June 2008; it was, as his old man once said, “an ass-kickin’!”

Since that last win a number of changes, both within his team and with the driver himself, have taken place. Truth be known, the last seven years have been less than productive for the driver whose surname is synonymous with success — as well as the entire sport in which he competes. While he has endured many unfortunate and unfair tags (there is actually a website dedicated to his drought), this dry spell of Old Testament proportions harkens back to the 2005 season.

Many are quick to jump on the bandwagon and bash a driver when he’s down. Those new to the sport that recognize the name but wonder what all the hype is about may not know the story of Earnhardt’s eight-year dilemma. It’s a long road from where he came from to get back to racing relevance in 2012. And this is how he got here:

2004: The ’04 season saw Earnhardt winning the race that took his father 20 attempts at conquering, the Daytona 500. What was a lifetime struggle for The Intimidator, Junior knocked out in only his fifth attempt. He would go on to win six races that season, and not just on the plate tracks that were the domain of what was Dale Earnhardt, Inc. during the early- to mid-2000s.

If not for a fiery accident during practice for an ALMS race in Sonoma — the site of this weekend’s Sprint Cup race — and a slight misjudgment of a pass on Carl Edwards late in the going at Atlanta with only four races to go in the championship chase, Earnhardt may have won the Cup title. There was also the matter of a 25-point fine for an innocuous slip of the tongue during his Victory Lane interview at Talladega, a reminder of how things had evolved in the sport since his late father won his seventh championship some 10 years earlier. Surely, this would serve as the springboard to propel him into the rare air of Daytona 500 and Sprint Cup champion in 2005 …

2005: The season started with a shake-up within the Dale Jr. brain trust. The idea was to end the bickering between Tony Eury Jr. and Tony Eury Sr. – his cousin and uncle who served as principles on his No. 8 team – by bringing in new chief Pete Rondeau. It was a total team swap between the flagship No. 8 and then-driver Michael Waltrip’s No. 15 machines that saw Waltrip’s results improve slightly, but sunk Earnhardt’s into also-ran status. Competition Director Steve Hmiel was installed as interim crew chief after just 11 races, with the No. 8 team winning one race, a fuel mileage gamble at Chicagoland. The rest of the season was a disaster, with finishes in the mid-30s par for course, ending the year 19th in points, well out of the Chase.

2006: Earnhardt was reunited with cousin Eury Jr. once again, and the performance returned — although it was spotty at best. A win at Richmond in the spring was his lone triumph of the year, but he did qualify for the Chase. A second win at Talladega was snatched away on the final lap, when Brian Vickers hooked teammate Jimmie Johnson on the backstretch on the final lap, who then hooked Earnhardt, sending both spinning through the infield dirt. This also began a period of instability at DEI, with more outsiders coming in to what had been a family-oriented and operated race team with its namesake driver going into the final year of his contract.

2007: Things got off to a rocky start before the 2007 season even began. At a preseason test and media event at Daytona in January, RCR driver Kevin Harvick deemed Teresa Earnhardt a “deadbeat owner” whose absence from the track was having a negative impact on the DEI teams of which she was listed as CEO. During this time, Earnhardt admitted that his relationship with his owner/stepmother “ain’t a bed of roses,” but was quick to defend her following Harvick’s comments.

It was, however, a glimpse into the dysfunction that had become DEI, as well as Teresa Earnhardt’s refusal to cut her stepson into the company that bore his name. The 2007 season also marked NASCAR’s first in-race dabbling with the first-generation CoT, and with it came a new set of challenges to compound matters.

Eury’s out-of-the-box CoT tinkering brought about a whopping 100 point/$100,000 fine, as well as a six-race suspension following discovery of illegal wing mounts to the car at Darlington. It was a harbinger of things to come, and it would end up being the first season since his full-time arrival in the series that Earnhardt failed to win a race.

The bombshell that dropped in May found Earnhardt, his sister Kelley and Eury Jr. leaving the operation at season’s end. Earnhardt and Eury headed to Hendrick Motorsports, while Kelley moved to Earnhardt’s Nationwide team, JR Motorsports.
 

Teaser:
<p> After breaking a four-year winless drought at Michigan last Sunday, it's best to see the path that took Dale Earnhardt Jr. full-circle, back into contention and relevance in the Sprint Cup Series.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 14:05
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-12
Body:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory celebration is long over and now it’s time to look ahead. Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council were asked to look ahead on what Earnhardt’s victory means related to the title race and at this weekend’s race — the first race on a road course this season. Of course, members did have time to look back at Michigan and give that race a grade.

Here’s what members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had to say:

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF DALE EARNHARDT JR.’S VICTORY AT MICHIGAN?

56.2 percent said it’s a sign that he truly is a title contender this year
35.8 percent said it was nice but it’s only one win, let’s not get carried away
8.0 percent said it does not matter to me

What Fan Council members said:
• I am less impressed with the victory then I am his other numbers for the season so far. Twelve top 10s, six top 5s, 218 laps led, average finish of seventh, and he has completed every lap of competition this season, all in just 15 races. The extraordinary numbers that team has posted are Jimmie Johnson-esque and are remarkable for any driver. I may not be a Junior fan, but I believe that team is the best in the garage this year and may possibly do what I previously thought was impossible and win Junior a championship.

• Junior obviously has momentum right now, but let's all take a deep breath and realize how long the season is. We're “Pro-Junior” in our household, but I'm not gonna run out and get an 88 tattoo any time soon …

• Steve Letarte has put together a team that believes in themselves and they are staying consistent. They need to win more to compete for the title, but I believe they are on the right track.

• Consistent season so far + contending for wins + second in points + a win = title contender.

• Of course he is a title contender!! Have you looked at his stats this year???

• I feel like Smoke in this regard. Glad to see it happen, but give it a rest like it’s the second coming. With Hendrick equipment, he should win more than two points races in five years. If he runs well at Sonoma and Kentucky and even takes the points lead, then I would be more impressed.

• One win in the past four years in the best equipment (in) NASCAR . It’s quite sad that there was this much celebration over it.

• He's a virtual lock for the Chase now. I expect the team to take more chances and be a huge threat in the Chase. He's got the consistency down, and now has proven the team can win in dominating fashion.

• That was a strong showing for the 88. I think this season will finally shut the mouths of some of the naysayers.

• I like Junior, but one win doesn't mean he's going to win the championship this year. Let's wait and see what the future brings.

• Don't understand all the hype! Hasn't proved anything in his career. If he didn't have the name Earnhardt, he probably would be in the 51 car!

• I thought he was a title contender even before the win Sunday (and this is coming from a non-Junior fan). He and Letarte seem to have great chemistry with each other, (and) with guys like Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards having somewhat off years Junior could definitely pull out a championship and probably spark off victory riots across the country.


GRADING SUNDAY’S RACE AT MICHIGAN

57.1 percent called it Good
29.8 percent called it Great
10.2 percent called it Fair
2.8 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• Are you kidding me? Junior led almost half the race and won going away. And Kyle Busch kicked rocks while his brother kept spinning himself out. It doesn't get any better.

• When the post-race excitement matches the pre-race excitement with equally exciting racing in between, then it's a pretty great race.

• It was a lot better than I thought it would be. With all the speed/tire problems leading up to the green flag, I was afraid we were in for another gas mileage race.

• I will enjoy Michigan more when the groove widens back out to the wall

• Being there was great, even with the rain delay. The place was electric. Especially at the end of the race, I have never seen so many excited people. It was like the section I was in was holding its breath and then went crazy.

• I thought it was a very good race and think NASCAR made the right decision in the tire change.

• I attend this race every year and this one felt “racier” than normal. Perhaps the suspense from all the pre-race unknowns — tires, engines, speeds — carried over into the race.

• I thought it was a good race. Suspense because no one knew what the tires were going to do, adding to that the rain washed all the rubber off the track. The race itself was just solid.

• Today's race was the first I unhesitatingly checked “Great.” There was passing all over the place, racing three- and four-wide, hard racing side-by-side with give and go. No phantom cautions, (the) cautions (were) called when necessary, no speeding debacles or major issues with tires or fuel. I also have to give props to NASCAR for making sure this didn't turn into “Indy Tire Fiasco Part II.” They saw the probability of the race either being run 10 to 15 laps at a time or 30 cars hitting the wall at 200 mph due to tire blowouts. I'm more than willing to watch cars running at slightly slower speeds if it saves injury and/or equipment.

• Pretty interesting race with lots of storylines: Dale’s win, JGR’s tumultuous day, Kurt Busch’s bad luck continuing, tires blistering, fast speeds and other things, as well. I enjoyed it even though my driver wasn't a contender for most of the race.
 

Teaser:
<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council wieghs in on Dale Earnahrdt Jr.'s championship hopes, his win at Michigan and road course racing at Infineon and Watkins Glen.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 10:46

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