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Path: /college-football/penn-state-coach-james-franklin-big-ten-media-day
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CHICAGO — This is not the Penn State program Mike Hull thought he was joining.

Now, that’s not a bad thing, but the James Franklin style is not one Hull thought he’d be embracing when he was a recruit from Canonsburg, Pa., in 2009.

“My perception of Penn State was straight-edge, take-care-of-business kind of team,” Hull said from Big Ten Media Day on Monday. “But (Franklin) is putting himself out there. That’s what you need to do as a program these days.”

Putting himself out there is Franklin talking up Penn State, continuing to hang out in the SEC territory and boasting of the work he’ll put in to recruit the backyards of new Big Ten foes Maryland and Rutgers.

“From time to time that gets me in trouble, but I don’t want to lose that aspect of who I am,” Franklin said. “I come to things like this and don’t want to be this boring standard coach who gives these dry answers. I want to have fun.”

This is a strange sight, a Penn State coach who doesn't mind ruffling feathers.

Predecessor Bill O’Brien may have been the perfect figure to lead Penn State as it recovered from the death of  Paterno and Jerry Sandusky scandal. O'Brien was around Penn State.

Paterno every now and then would take a dig at Jackie Sherrill and Barry Switzer, but before the scandal that tainted his legacy, Paterno aimed to keep college athletics as a place of humility and virtue.

Franklin may try to re-establish that message. At the same time, though, he’s shown no sign of backing down from poking other programs. In a speech to boosters in Baltimore, Franklin said he considers the states of Maryland and New Jersey to be in-state as far as recruiting is concerned, a shot across the bow for the Terrapins and Rutgers. “They might as well shut them down because they don’t have a chance,” Franklin told the crowd, .

 

“I get up and talk to our fans and try to get them excited,” Franklin said. “I probably said a few things I shouldn’t have said because I’m trying to get our fans excited.”

Franklin said he’s not surprised by the attention. Poking a potential rival drives clicks to web sites, he says.


Franklin also kept his Southeastern ties alive as he and his staff served as guest coaches at Georgia State and Stetson football camps in June. The camps in Atlanta and Central Florida mean Franklin can do something SEC coaches cannot — work camps in the Southeast. SEC rules prohibit league coaches from working camps more than 50 miles away from campus; Big Ten rules have no such limitations.

SEC coaches and administrators .

Franklin has at least a few good reasons for his bravado.

He led Vanderbilt to three consecutive bowl games without a quarterback garnering serious consideration for All-SEC. At Penn State, he’ll have Christian Hackenberg, who is already one of the nation’s top passers as a sophomore.

As a true freshman, Hackenberg was third in the Big Ten at 246.3 passing yards per game. He was arguably the top passer in the league in the final month of the season. In November, he threw eight touchdowns to two interceptions and averaged 8.2 yards per attempt. Penn State also returns its entire stable of running backs, led by Zach Zwinak.

But the Nittany Lions also lose Hackenberg’s top target in Allen Robinson and have a line that may be among the worst in the league. Left tackle Donovan Smith is the lone returning starter on a thin unit filled out by freshmen.

The schedule, at least, includes no non-conference opponent tougher than a UCF team without Blake Bortles and no crossover games with Athlon’s top three teams in the West (Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa).

 

As a rival coach might say, “talk is cheap.” Franklin will find out soon if the edge he’s brought to Penn State will yield dividends.

“Sometimes we think it’s too much,” Hull joked. “But it makes you want to play for someone who is that passionate.”

Teaser:
Penn State coach James Franklin from Big Ten Media Day
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 16:33
Path: /college-football/nebraska-coach-bo-pelini-big-ten-media-day
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CHICAGO —  The Bo Pelini image makeover isn’t a makeover at all, at least as far as his players are concerned.

 

Pelini’s sideline blowups have been well-documented. During the season, he can be short and gruff with answers to the media.

 

But his players are perplexed the outside world is starting to see the new, looser side of their embattled coach.

 

“It’s funny, man, everyone keeps saying he’s changed. He hasn’t changed a bit to me,” Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah said from Big Ten Media Day on Monday. “He’s the same guy as when he sat on my couch recruiting me.”

 

The coach Abdullah knows is the one who brings a cat to the spring game and hoists the feline into the air to present the him in to the crowd. The coach Abdullah knows is the one who teamed with former defensive tackle Thad Randle for a prank in which Pelini .

 

That’s the coach Nebraska safety Corey Cooper knows, too.

 

“The cameras are on him when he’s at his most stressful point — when he’s coaching,” Cooper said. “We see him every day, and he’s a player-friendly guy. I wouldn’t want to play for any other coach.”

 

That’s the side those around Pelini — those he trusts and sometimes the staff, he says — want him to show more often.

 

“Some people around me have encouraged me to show that side,” Pelini said. “I guess I’ve always chosen not to. I guess I’m I private person. When I’m away from the office I’m to myself. I spend 99 percent of my time away from football with my kids. I haven’t really let a lot of people in.”

 

That’s starting to change, especially compared to where he was near the end of last season.


Pelini wrapped up his sixth regular season in defiant fashion, telling reporters that Nebraska could “go ahead” and fire him if the administration wanted. The frustration of another four-loss season had boiled over.



Nebraska didn’t fire Pelini and instead extended his contract. At the least, it’s a vote of confidence that Pelini is the coach who will keep Nebraska nationally prominent. At this stage, though, the program has been stagnant. Pelini has lost exactly four games every season at Nebraska. He’s also won nine or 10 games each season and reached a conference championship game three times.

But Pelini’s record isn’t an outlier in recent Nebraska history. The Cornhuskers haven’t lost fewer than four games since 2003 and haven’t finished in the top 10 since a national title game appearance in 2001.

If Nebraska is going to struggle again, Pelini seems determined to make sure he isn’t the one contributing to the “negativity” he says played a role in the Huskers’ inconsistency in 2013.

 

Pelini’s public persona may have done little favors for Nebraska’s season, but it’s been a part of him since he played safety at Ohio State.

 

“They see this part of you, and they think that’s you all the time,” Pelini said. “But that was the case when I was playing. They see that side of me and then they get to know me and it’s night and day. That’s the case with a lot of people."

 

Which brings us to the cat.

Younger Nebraska fans, good luck explaining to your parents or grandparents why Bo Pelini hoisting a cat into the air at a spring game is a meaningful gesture.

First, explain the parody Twitter account @FauxPelini, a caricature of Pelini’s explosive temper. And in that parody, an image of Pelini holds a cat in a cheesy Olan Mills pose.

Then, on the night of the national championship game, Pelini (the real one) does this:


Nebraska with his Twitter parody, posting an image of a cat in Pelini’s office and an image of an assistant leaving for a recruiting trip with a cat carrier.

Then came this:



So, this is a long way to explain show that Pelini and Nebraska is going to great lengths to shed the coach’s stern exterior. Pelini seems conscious his image could use a makeover, if for no other reason than to do his part to keep "negativity" from harming his team.

After Nebraska lost 41-21 to UCLA on Sept. 14, a tipster leaked to Deadspin an audio recording from 2011 of Pelini’s profane comments regarding fans and local media. () “We'll see what they can do when I'm (expletive) gone,” Pelini says in the recording.

Was it unfair for a tipster to release audio from two years earlier? Perhaps. But Pelini didn’t really help his case at the end of the year after wrapping up another four-loss season with a 38-17 loss at home to Iowa.

“They want to fire me, go ahead,” Pelini . “I believe in what I’ve done. I don’t apologize for what I’ve done. I don’t apologize to you. I don’t apologize to anybody."

The question now is if 9-4 or 10-4 should be considered a success with this season’s group. Gone is Nebraska career passing leader Taylor Martinez, who played only four games last season.

On the plus side, Nebraska returns Tommy Armstrong, who went 7-1 as a starter after Martinez was lost to injury. Abdullah returns after rushing for 1,690 yards, the fourth-highest total in school history. The Huskers also have an Athlon second-team All-America pass-rusher in Randy Gregory. But the offensive line returns only one starter, and only five starters return to the defense.

The schedule may be more manageable with a home game against Miami replacing the series with UCLA. The Big Ten West figures to be easier to navigate than the East, but Nebraska must visit division contenders Wisconsin and Iowa while facing Michigan State on the road.


So the next question is if Pelini will have as much fun with the on-field performance as he is with his players.

 

“He’s a very passionate guy. He loves football,” Abdullah said. “You don’t want to play for anyone who isn’t passionate about football.”

Teaser:
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini from Big Ten Media Day
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 15:23
Path: /nascar/transcendent-jeff-gordons-indy-victory-epitomizes-his-nascar-career
Body:

For some athletes, career achievements are done on a grander scale. Every accomplishment has a little more flare, it has more of a trailblazing bent and therefore seamlessly falls into place, making a good story not only great, but transcendent. Think Jeter, Jordan and Montana.

 

Think Jeff Gordon.

 

His victory at Indianapolis on Sunday — a record fifth Brickyard 400 triumph — was the 90th of Gordon’s star-studded NASCAR career. He is a four-time Cup champion and has won nearly everything there is to win in the sport, but we’ll get to the gaudy numbers soon enough. See, Gordon was destined for notoriety from the start.

 

A rising open wheel talent, his intended path to Indianapolis Motor Speedway was derailed before it ever truly began. Unable to bring the personal or sponsorship money it took to break into the open-wheel big-time, Gordon instead gave stock cars a whirl and realized his true calling.

 

This is where the intangibly special, now-mythic story of his NASCAR career took shape. Following a couple seasons honing his skills in the Busch (now Nationwide) Series, Gordon was swiped away from Ford team owner Bill Davis by Chevy’s Rick Hendrick. Fittingly, he made his first Cup Series start in a race many point to as the most significant of NASCAR’s modern era: the 1992 Hooter’s 500.

 

Still considered the greatest championship finale the sport witnessed until its made-for-TV playoff “Chase,” that race in Atlanta is now recognized as a true game-changer for the NASCAR. As Richard Petty — the figurehead of all-things-NASCAR — participated in his final race, Jeff Gordon  — the soon-to-be choice of a new generation — was to start his first. Nearly 22 years later the event drips symbolism.

 

The season that followed was marked by bent sheet metal and hard lessons learned for the 21-year-old. However, by his sophomore campaign in 1994, Jeff Gordon was ready to burst out. And burst out he did.

 

Twenty years ago, Gordon won his first Cup race, the Coca-Cola 600, in Charlotte. Just over two months later, he received a hometown welcome for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in Indiana. Although stock cars “invading” Indy’s hallowed ground was viewed as blasphemous by some open-wheel traditionalists at the time, there was no denying the race would go down as a defining moment in motorsports history. So what better place for Gordon to have his coming out party? 

 

Having moved with his family from California to Pittsboro, Ind., as a teen to advance his racing career, the storybook victory that weekend in front of a quarter of a million spectators — mind, at that point he had two Cup wins, both crown jewel events — kick started a run that was unequalled until protégé Jimmie Johnson hit the circuit in 2002. 

 

The next season Gordon won his first Winston Cup championship. Three more followed by 2001. In that seven-year run of brilliance, Gordon won 56 races, tacked on two additional wins at both the Brickyard and in the Coke 600 as well as two Daytona 500 championships and a dazzling four Southern 500 triumphs. He did so while viewed by many fans as an outsider. Worse, he upstaged and at most every turn got best of the great Dale Earnhardt — a point that drew the ire of many an old-schooler.

 

In fact, NASCAR’s skyrocketing popularity at the time could be boiled down to the Earnhardt-Gordon rivalry; gruff, old-school Southerner vs. young, hot-shot Hollywood type. They couldn’t have been more different in their approach or in their persona; it was the perfect duel. 

 

INDIANAPOLIS | 

 

All the while, NASCAR team owners studied intently the mold in which to sculpt their own next find — and the impersonators came in droves. Few stuck, though. Gordon combined the best of both worlds in a way none of the other hopefuls could: his acumen as a corporate pitchman was exceeded only by his talent behind the wheel. Gordon was the white-hot catalyst that brought about change to a regional sport already on the brink of national prominence. 

 

He became the face of NASCAR.

 

Still, 20 years ago no one could have predicted his tenured relevance, despite the obvious greatness and his penchant for rewriting record books. (Gordon himself quipped at various points throughout his career that he didn’t see racing into his 40s.) Yet, here he is. NASCAR’s elder statesman. Hot-shoe turned vet. Playboy turned family man. Playing through nagging back pain. Still driven, though now by different priorities.

 

“My wife and kids, they’ve never experienced (a championship),” Gordon says of his quest for a fifth title. “We're just putting everything we possibly can into it.”

 

INDIANAPOLIS | 

 

Is a title at 43 years of age feasible? Bobby Allison won the 1983 Cup at the age of 45, becoming the oldest champion in the sport’s history. Of course, Allison did so competing in a format that rewarded sustained success throughout a season. For the last decade, Gordon has battled a system focused on garnering television ratings more than placing a premium on crowing the most deserving driver a champion.

 

“I’m not thinking about anything else, in all honesty, other than going race-to-race in this season to try to battle for a championship,” Gordon says. “That’s the only thing I’m thinking about at this point.”

 

Maybe under NASCAR’s newest iteration of the Chase, crown jewel wins are more meaningful than championships. The biggest and best teams roll out their primo stuff for the most prestigious races — and beating everyone at their best is the true mark of a champion. Much more so than surviving a concocted Roulette wheel of a playoff scheme.

 

Regardless, a title is still viewed as the ultimate endgame. If Gordon, who has led the point standings for 14 consecutive race weeks, can capture championship No. 5 this season, he’ll do so in a manner epitomizing his 1994 and 2014 Brickyard wins: by making good stories great and great stories transcendent.

 

 

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Teaser:
Jeff Gordon delivered a win in the Brickyard 400 that NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway needed.
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 12:53
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-28-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for July 28:

• This should help with your case of the Mondays: .

.

• Catnip for grammar nerds like me: .

• Now that Tony La Russa is safely ensconced in Cooperstown, .

. Zombie Steinbrenner then tried to fire him.

• Stephen A. Smith had a bad week last week. At this point, for Stephen A. .

. It didn't go well.

, although she apparently thinks congratulations is spelled with a "d".

.

She's cute, but if this is what passes for outrageous hotness in Kazakhstan...

• If you've got a few minutes, watch Frank Thomas' emotional Hall of Fame speech.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/taysom-hill-everett-golson-lead-independent-heisman-candidates-2014
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Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the top Independent Heisman Trophy candidates in 2014:

 

1. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU

The BYU signal-caller has an elite combination of size, power and athleticism that most quarterbacks only dream about. His ability to embarrass defenses with his feet is obvious — try 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground — but it’s his continued development as a passer that makes him a Heisman contender. After three games last year, Hill was completing less than 40 percent of his passes but as the season progressed, so too did his accuracy and efficiency. He finished eighth in the nation with 4,282 yards of total offense — ahead of names like Winston, Boyd, Bridgewater and Bortles. With a schedule filled with solid but not overly taxing games, Hill could post monster numbers for a team with double-digit wins. And that should get him into Heisman conversations.

 

2. Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame

Irish fans are happy to welcome back their starting quarterback after a one-year hiatus. From all accounts, Golson spent his year away from campus honing his skills as a passer and it should allow him to slide back into college football with relative ease. Golson took major strides during his one year as the starter, not only leading Notre Dame to the national championship game, but also proving to be a dynamic playmaker along the way. He is a perfect fit in Brian Kelly's system, a scheme that allows for big statistics from the QB position. Big numbers and lots of marquee wins at Notre Dame generally means national acclaim.

 

3. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy

The Navy quarterback won’t ever make headlines for passing the football but Reynolds certainly made a statement as a runner last fall. Reynolds set the single-season TD record for a quarterback with 31 rushing scores. He finished with 1,346 yards on 300 carries to go with 1,057 yards passing, eight more touchdowns and only two interceptions. This team has increased its win total three straight years and a jump again in 2014 would likely mean All-American consideration for Reynolds. Few people are better suited to run the triple option than the current Navy quarterback.

 

4. Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU

As just a sophomore, Williams broke onto the scene with a very productive 1,233-yard, 7-TD season. He averaged nearly six yards per carry (5.7) and posted his biggest games late in the year in important moments. He rushed for 219 yards on the road against Nevada and rolled up 107 yards against Boise State — both wins for the Cougars. He struggled against elite competition (Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Washington) but so did most tailbacks against those three defenses. Look for a jump in production and another big year from the Cougars' rushing attack.

 

5. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

He was the No. 1 recruit in the nation at his position for a reason. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound athlete stepped into a starring role for Notre Dame and produced as just a freshman last fall. He posted 67 tackles (third on the team), 6.5 for a loss and made one freakish interception against USC. With a move to the inside, Smith should find himself around the ball on every play and the Irish have proven that their middle linebacker can land in New York.

Teaser:
Taysom Hill, Everett Golson Lead Independent Heisman Candidates in 2014
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/setting-first-year-expectations-vanderbilts-derek-mason
Body:

is coming off one of the best three-year stretches in program history. The Commodores won 24 games under James Franklin, including back-to-back bowl victories and top-25 finishes in the Associated Press poll for the 2012-13 seasons. Franklin left for Penn State after Vanderbilt’s win over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl and was replaced by Derek Mason.

 

Mason arrives at after three years as Stanford’s defensive coordinator. Under Mason’s watch, the Cardinal defense was a driving force in the program’s back-to-back Pac-12 Championships. Stanford ranked first or second in fewest yards per play allowed (conference-only games) and points allowed in Mason’s three-year tenure.

 

Franklin set the bar high for Mason. has just three seasons of nine victories, with two coming under Franklin’s direction.

 

After a successful three-year stint under Franklin, Mason is tasked with taking the program to new heights and pushing the Commodores into SEC title contention.

 

Expectations are usually high for any first-year coach. There’s a new excitement and buzz throughout the program. However, immediate success isn’t always guaranteed.

 

Let’s take a look at Mason’s history and set the realistic expectations for 2014:

 

Mason’s Job History:

 

2011-13: Stanford – Defensive Coordinator

2010: Stanford – Defensive Backs Coach

2007-09: Minnesota Vikings – Asst. Defensive Backs Coach

2005-06: Ohio – Wide Receivers Coach

2004: New Mexico State – Wide Receivers Coach

2003: Saint Mary’s – Co-Defensive Coordinator

2002: Utah – Wide Receivers/Special Teams Asst. Coach

1999-01: Bucknell – Defensive Backs Coach

1997-98: Idaho State – Running Backs Coach

1995-96: Weber State – Wide Receivers Coach

1994: Mesa Community College – Wide Receivers Coach

 

Obstacles to Overcome:

 

The Passing Game: The Commodores finished ninth in the SEC in passing offense last season, averaging just 227.5 yards per game. Total yards per game can be deceiving when judging offenses, but Vanderbilt has not ranked higher than eighth among SEC teams in passing offense in the last seven years. The passing game is a huge concern for Mason and coordinator Karl Dorrell in 2014. The Commodores could turn to LSU transfer Stephen Rivers at quarterback, while top receiver Jordan Matthews (112 of Vanderbilt’s 243 receptions in 2013) departs. The offensive line and rushing attack should carry the offense, but the Commodores have to develop a passing game to top last year’s win total.

 

The Secondary: The defensive backfield was a strength for Vanderbilt last season, finishing sixth among SEC teams (conference-only games) in pass efficiency defense. This unit heads into fall practice under construction, as four new starters must emerge. The secondary isn’t without talent, as junior Andrew Williamson and sophomore Paris Head are two building blocks for 2014.

 

Team Strengths for 2014:

 

Rushing Attack/Offensive Line: The backfield is headlined by Jerron Seymour (716 yards in 2013), Brian Kimbrow (341 yards) and freshmen Ralph Webb and Dallas Rivers. Until a quarterback emerges, expect Vanderbilt to rely on its ground attack and an offensive line that returns four starters.

 

Front Seven on Defense: Mason plans to change Vanderbilt’s scheme on defense to a 3-4. Although it’s a significant shift in philosophy, the Commodores have the personnel to make it work. Vince Taylor is poised for a breakout year as the team’s nose guard, and the outside linebacker positions are manned by Kyle Woestmann and Caleb Azubike (10 sacks in 2013). Establishing a pass rush is critical with four new starters in the secondary.

 

Roster Talent/Recruiting Trends

 

 SEC RankNational RankThree-Star ProspectsFour-Star Prospects
20141445162
20131226224
20121347191
20111356151
20101454200

: 14

 

Despite a late start on recruiting in 2014, Mason managed to ink the No. 45 overall class (247Sports Composite). Vanderbilt’s class ranked last in the SEC, but Mason and his staff signed two four-star and 16 three-star prospects. Those totals were almost equal to Franklin’s class in 2012 but did not match the No. 26 rank in 2013. The No. 26 class in 2013 is the outlier in Vanderbilt’s five-year recruiting trend. Over the last five seasons, the Commodores averaged a 46.5 rank in recruiting and have only one finish (26) above 45.

 

The Schedule

 

Vanderbilt should be favored in its four non-conference games (Old Dominion, Temple, UMass and Charleston Southern), which leaves the Commodores just two wins short of bowl eligibility. Getting two wins in SEC play will be a challenge, as Vanderbilt plays an improving Ole Miss team in LP Field on Sept. 6 and travels to Mississippi State on Nov. 22 in crossover games with the West. The Sept. 27 date at Kentucky and the Nov. 29 game against Tennessee are two key swing games.

 

Final Analysis

 

Mason is walking into an interesting situation. The Commodores could show improvement on the field, yet finish with a worse record. Last year, Vanderbilt was outgained by 75.5 yards per game in SEC play and finished with a -28 scoring differential. A +6 turnover margin helped the Commodores narrow the gap in yardage and scoring.

 

Winning eight games in 2014 would be a surprise, especially with Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky all expected to improve.

 

Vanderbilt isn’t hiring a head coach to rebuild or help the program get to a bowl game. Instead, Mason was picked to take this program to the next level and in contention for SEC titles. This is Mason's first season as a head coach, and life in the SEC is never easy. Expect plenty of growing pains over the next few years, as Mason needs time to mold the roster to his liking and settle into his new role. Defense will be the backbone of Mason's teams, especially in 2014 while the offense develops under Dorrell. 

 

The Commodores closed the gap under Franklin and should chip away at it even more under Mason. But expecting Mason to elevate Vanderbilt into SEC title contention in 2014 is too much to ask. With a glaring question mark at quarterback, along with a scheme change on defense, a bowl game (and seven wins) is a reasonable first-year expectation for Mason.

 

Final Prediction

 

Vegas Expectations: 6.5 over/under (5Dimes)

Athlon 2014 Magazine Projection: 6-6

Teaser:
Setting First-Year Expectations for Vanderbilt's Derek Mason
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-ams-fall-practice-do-list-2014
Body:

Texas A&M opens its third set of fall practices under Kevin Sumlin searching for answers on both sides of the ball. The Aggies went 4-4 in SEC play last season and must replace three first-round draft picks in quarterback Johnny Manziel, offensive tackle Jake Matthews and receiver Mike Evans.

 

Replacing Manziel is the top offseason storyline for Sumlin, but Texas A&M’s defense is a bigger concern. The Aggies allowed 6.7 yards per play in SEC contests last year and gave up 36.5 points per game.

 

Texas A&M has plenty of positive momentum heading into the 2014 season, as a newly renovated Kyle Field is one of the top stadiums in college football, and Sumlin continues to reel in elite talent on the recruiting trail.

What should Sumlin and the Texas A&M coaching staff concentrate on this fall? Here’s a few things to watch when fall practice begins in College Station.

 

Texas A&M 2014 Fall Practice Priorities

 

1. The Quarterback Battle

As mentioned above, this is the position generating the most interest in fall practice among fans from rival SEC schools. The two candidates vying to replace Johnny Manziel are true freshman Kyle Allen and sophomore Kenny Hill. Allen ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete in the spring. Hill played in four games last year, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and one score. Both quarterbacks are capable of running Texas A&M’s high-powered offense, but neither have much in the way of experience. While game snaps and playing time as a backup can be overrated, Allen and Hill won’t have much time to acclimate to life as a starter with a road trip to South Carolina in game one.

 

Will Sumlin and coordinator Jake Spavital get separation between Allen and Hill this fall? Or will this battle continue into the opener and beyond?

 

2. Fixing the Defense

Where should we start? The good news for Texas A&M: It’s hard to get any worse. The bad news? The Aggies may not show dramatic improvement on defense in 2014. 

 

Texas A&M ranked 14th in the SEC in points allowed, last in the conference against the run and generated only 14 sacks in eight league matchups. The Aggies also allowed 42 scores on 48 redzone trips by their opponents. 

 

Each level of the defense has concerns, which were magnified by the loss of tackle Isaiah Golden, end Gavin Stansbury and linebacker Darian Claiborne this offseason. With only five returning starters, coordinator Mark Snyder has his work cut out for him this fall.

 

Talent certainly isn’t an issue, but there’s a good chance the Aggies will field a defense with only eight seniors in the defensive two-deep. How quickly will the young talent reach its potential? 

 

The line will be counting on true freshman Myles Garrett to play right away, while sophomores Hardreck Walker and Daeshon Hall need to take on a bigger role. Redshirt freshman Justin Manning and true freshman Zaycoven Henderson will be asked to play significant snaps on the interior. As mentioned above, the line has talent, but it's also very young. Snyder needs this group to be stronger at the point of attack and eliminate some of the big plays allowed on the ground in 2013 (84 rushes of 10 or more yards).

 

At linebacker, Tommy Sanders or A.J. Hilliard will get first crack at replacing Claiborne on the weakside. This unit as a whole has to perform better and will be needed to help plug a run defense that was gashed frequently in 2013.

 

Establishing a consistent pass rush will help the secondary, which allowed 23 touchdowns in eight SEC contests last year. The defensive backfield could be the strength of Snyder’s defense, especially if cornerback Deshazor Everett plays at an All-SEC level. Junior De’Vante Harris has 18 starts under his belt and will start on the opposite side of Everett. The Aggies have to get better play from their safeties, which include senior starters Floyd Raven and Howard Matthews.

 

It's hard to envision this defense performing any worse than last year, but it may take a chunk of the season for the defense to find its footing with the young players stepping into the lineup.

 

3. Solidify the Offensive Line

Out of the three fall practice goals, this is the least of Kevin Sumlin’s worries. The Aggies have a future first-round pick in Cedric Ogbuehi anchoring the line at left tackle, while Mike Matthews is one of the best centers in the SEC. Senior Jarvis Harrison starts at left guard, and sophomore Germain Ifedi returns after starting 13 games as a redshirt freshman. Ifedi will move from guard to tackle in 2014.

 

The only open spot on Texas A&M’s line is at right guard, where junior Joseph Cheek holds an edge over junior college recruit Jermaine Eluemunor. With Cheek stepping in at right guard, combined with Ogbuehi and Ifedi changing positions, the line needs snaps to jell in the fall. 

Teaser:
Texas A&M's Fall Practice To-Do List for 2014
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/2014-15-college-basketball-big-easts-top-transfers-freshmen-and-more
Body:

The Big East perhaps would like to say that help is on the way. The league produced four NCAA teams in its new alignment. And while the league had the national player of the year in Doug McDermott, no team made it to the Sweet 16.

Reinforcements, though, aren’t immediately clear.

Granted, Villanova returns the bulk of last year’s team and won’t need to rely on freshmen or transfers. But the impact newcomers in the league largely are going to teams that didn’t reach the field.

Marquette, Seton Hall and Butler are among the teams counting on transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury in 2014-15. Those moves might keep those teams competitive, but won’t make any of them top-flight programs next season.

Beyond those three, Georgetown and Xavier welcome new players that will be key to their hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament. Our look at the top newcomers for 2014-15 continues with the Big East, profiling the freshmen, the transfers and players returning from injury who will impact the league race.

1. Matt Carlino, Marquette
Transfer from BYU

Steve Wojciechowski will be off to a rough start roster-wise at Marquette. Lucky for the first-year coach, a point guard in the transfer market had an uncle who played at Marquette and a mother who is from Milwaukee. Carlino should step in immediately and play point guard for the Golden Eagles after averaging 12.5 points and 4.6 assists per game in three seasons at BYU.

2. Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
Freshman

Whitehead could be the key player of Kevin Willard’s tenure at Seton Hall after the Pirates slipped to 17-17 overall and 6-12 in the new Big East. Seton Hall’s first McDonald’s All-American since 2000, Whitehead joins a backcourt that already includes Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs and Jared Sina. Whitehead, at 6-4 and 195 pounds, should add scoring punch to a team that ranked 123rd nationally in offensive efficiency on KenPom.

3. Isaac Copeland, Georgetown
Freshman

Copeland, at , will help improve a lackluster Hoyas frontcourt from last season. He’s a slender 6-10 at 187 pounds, but he can be a matchup problem at the 3 and the 4. He and fellow freshman Paul White should give Georgetown the presence at small forward they lacked as the Hoyas slipped from Big East champions to 8-10 in the league.

4. Roosevelt Jones, Butler
Returning from injury

Butler was due for a down year after the departure of Brad Stevens and a move into a more competitive Big East. A season-ending wrist injury to its top wing Jones before last season was just another blow to the team. Jones averaged 10.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 2012-13 and should be one of the key veterans in second-year coach Brandon Miller’s program.

5. Duane Wilson, Marquette
Redshirt freshman

Wilson was one of the top players in Marquette’s freshman class a year ago with expectations to contribute right away. Instead, a broken leg in October forced him to redshirt, depleting the Golden Eagles at the point guard position. He’ll be ready this season in a remade backcourt.

6. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
Freshman

Bluiett is the top prospect in a that includes three 247Sports Composite top-100 players. As Xavier loses its top two scorers — Semaj Christon to the draft and graduate Justin Martin to a transfer — Bluiett needs to step in and contribute immediately. The 6-6 wing from Indianapolis was the runner up for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball to Kentucky freshman Trey Lyles.

7. Ricky Kreklow, Creighton
Transfer from Cal

Kreklow’s experience will be key for a team that loses mainstays like Doug McDermott, Grant Gibbs, Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat. No combination of players will be able to match their production, but Kreklow could be a playmaker. The 6-6, 210-pound forward averaged 5.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his final season at Cal.

8. Angel Delgado, Seton Hall
Freshman

Delgado may be overshadowed by the McDonald’s All-American Whitehead, but the four-star recruit is nearly as important. A prospect from the Dominican Republic, he should challenge for a starting job at power forward.

9. Luke Fischer, Marquette
Transfer from Indiana

With the departures of Davante Gardner, Chris Otule and Jamil Wilson, Marquette needs a major upgrade in the frontcourt. It will have to wait until the 6-11 center is eligible in December, though. Fischer was a top-100 prospect in the Hoosiers’ 2013 signing class.

10. Myke Henry, DePaul
Transfer from Illinois

Oliver Purnell has said the 6-foot-6 Henry was one of DePaul’s best players while he sat out due to NCAA transfer rules. He’ll need to be an impact player now that he’s eligible of DePaul is going to escape the Big East cellar.

Teaser:
2014-15 College Basketball: The Big East's Top Transfers, Freshmen and More
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Hot Seat, tight ends, wide receivers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/15-nfl-wide-receivers-and-tight-ends-hot-seat-2014
Body:

Twenty-four players went over 1,000 yards receiving in the NFL last season, even though just five caught 100 or more passes. And this group doesn’t include the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White, Percy Harvin or Rob Gronkowski, who each missed a significant amount of time because of injuries.

 

With offenses relying and more and more on the passing game, the number of 1,000-yard and 100-catch wide receivers and tight ends will only continue to grow. Subsequently, the pressure for these players to produce in each category will likewise increase.

 

With that in mind, here are 15 pass-catchers who need to make the most of their targets in 2014:

 

1. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks

Seattle paid handsomely (three draft picks and a six-year, $67 million contract) for Harvin last March and got a total of three games out of him because of a torn labrum that required hip surgery. That said, the reason the Seahawks willingly give up so much in the first place was evident in the Super Bowl when Harvin returned the second half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and led all rushers in the game with 45 yards on just two carries. The hope is that he can offer similar production over the course of an entire season, especially with last year’s No. 1 receiver, Golden Tate, now in Detroit.

 

2. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone knows Kansas City’s offense begins and pretty much ends with Jamaal Charles, but if the Chiefs want to have any semblance of a passing game they need more from Bowe. After catching 81 passes for 1,159 yards in 2011, Bowe’s numbers have declined to just 57 and 673 last season. The 2007 first-round pick is making too much money ($8.8 million base this year, $30 million more through 2017) for that type of production, especially on a team that’s limited on pass-catching options to begin with.

 

3. Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins

Similar to Percy Harvin, Wallace also signed a lucrative contract as a free agent last offseason. Unlike Harvin, Wallace doesn’t have an injury to blame for his lack of production (12.7 ypc, just 5 TDs) in 2013. There’s still a bunch of money remaining on Wallace’s five-year, $60 million ($30 million guaranteed) pact, so he’s not going anywhere. Unfortunately, the Dolphins as a team may not either unless Wallace performs more like the No. 1 receiver he’s being paid to be.

 

4. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Outside of Julian Edelman, the Patriots’ passing game was very much hit-or-miss last season, and the majority of it was “miss.” This is where Gronkowski comes in, who is every bit the matchup nightmare that Jimmy Graham is, when he’s on the field. With just 18 games played over the last two seasons, it may be too much to expect Gronkowski to survive a full season, but there’s no denying his impact when he’s out there. In the last two years, Tom Brady has thrown 33 touchdowns compared to just eight interceptions when Gronk has been on the field. Brady’s 25 touchdown passes in 2013 (Gronk played just seven games), were his fewest in a full season (2008 doesn’t count) since ’06 (24).

 

5. DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins

Jackson led the Eagles with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns last season. So why did Chip Kelly release his most productive target and eat more than $6 million in dead money in the process? Opinions vary on that, but it had to be a pretty good reason, considering the move allowed Jackson to join NFC East rival Washington. Fit and team chemistry are some of the words that have been tossed around in this regard, so it’s on Jackson to show that’s not the case, especially on a team that’s looking to bounce back with a new coaching staff in place.

 

6. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts

This time last year, Nicks was looking to put together a strong season with free agency on the horizon. While he managed to stay relatively healthy, the production just wasn’t there, as Nicks didn’t score a single touchdown despite playing 15 games and catching 56 passes. Nicks signed with Indianapolis in March, but it’s a one-year deal so the 2009 first-round pick better treat this season as an audition or he may find himself in the same situation next year.

 

7. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots

As important as Rob Gronkowski is to the Patriots’ passing game, Amendola needs to live up to the contract he signed last offseason too. Once again injuries played a major role, limiting Amendola to just 12 games and only six starts. And outside of two 10-catch games, Amendola hauled in a total of 34 passes in his 10 other appearances and scored just two touchdowns. Amendola was signed with the intent of replacing Wes Welker. At this point, there are getting half of the production for basically the same cost (both earning $3 million in base salary this season).

 

8. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams

St. Louis traded up to snag Austin with the eighth pick of the 2013 draft and the expectations were the all-purpose dynamo would be unleashed. This didn’t exactly transpire, however, as Austin failed to make an immediate impact and the Rams struggled with how to use him in their game plans. Progress was made as the season went on, including a two-touchdown (one receiving, one return) breakout against Indianapolis. The hope for this season is that both the player and the team will be on the same page. The Rams have a championship-caliber defense in place; it just needs the offense to do its part.

 

9. Eric Decker, New York Jets

Decker cashed in on two strong seasons in Denver to the tune of a five-year, $36 million contract with the Jets. Now, it’s just a matter of proving he’s worthy of being paid so well in his first season with his new team. A team that just so happens to be in the media capital of the world. Oh, there’s also no Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker or Julius Thomas to draw attention away from Decker. And do I really need to bring up his ?

 

10. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

Watkins is in many ways this year’s Tavon Austin. A dynamic, explosive, all-purpose threat that starred in college that a team traded up for in the first round to get. The Bills paid a pretty hefty price (first- and third-round picks in 2015) to move up four spots to land Watkins, so there’s little doubt they have high hopes for the former Clemson All-American. However, as was the case with Austin last season, there’s no guarantee that rookies pay immediate dividends. And having a young wide receiver (and vice versa) only adds to the degree of difficulty.

 

11. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

Benjamin’s not getting near the attention of Sammy Watkins, but that doesn’t change his situation in Carolina. The Panthers’ first-round pick (No. 28 overall), Benjamin has as much experience with the team as pretty much anyone else in the receiving corps – zero games. The top four wide receivers from last season are no longer on the roster, which means the defending NFC South champions are really hoping that Benjamin literally catches on sooner rather than later.

 

12. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles

Maclin missed all of last season with a torn ACL, so there are plenty who are eager to see how well he fits in Chip Kelly’s offense. Besides coming back from a serious injury, however, Maclin also will be replacing the departed DeSean Jackson as a starter opposite Riley Cooper. So he needs to not only get rid of the rust pretty quickly, he also needs to grasp Kelly’s complex system. On top of that, Maclin’s signed for just one year, so in essence he’s playing for his next paycheck. No pressure, right?

 

13. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Houston’s first-round pick (27th overall) last year, Hopkins got off to a strong start as a rookie before struggling to find consistency. After catching 18 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown in his first three games, Hopkins posted just 34 receptions for 559 yards and another score the rest of the way. Included in those final 13 games were three one-catch efforts. Granted quarterback play was a big issue in 2013, but new head coach Bill O’Brien needs Hopkins to make his presence known this season if the Texans’ offense is to rebound. This is especially the case if All-Pro Andre Johnson maintains his stance about not wanting to be a part of the rebuilding effort under O’Brien.

 

14. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams

After signing a big contract (five years, $35 million) with St. Louis last offseason, the expectation was that Cook would finally capitalize on the talent and potential he had teased everyone with his previous two seasons in Tennessee. While he did post a career-best 51 catches, the yardage (671) and touchdown (five) totals still leave something to be desired. While Tavon Austin certainly needs to take his game to a new level this fall, it’s not fair for him to shoulder all of the blame. Cook also needs to be accountable, especially since his .

 

15. Levine Toilolo, Atlanta Falcons

Toilolo’s inclusion on this list is not due to any fault of his own. Rather it’s because the second-year pro has the unenviable (and pretty much impossible) task of following a legend, future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. No one really knows what the Falcons have in Toilolo, the 2013 fourth-round pick from Stanford, but they do know what Matt Ryan had in Gonzalez. And that was a consistent, reliable target that averaged 82 receptions and seven touchdowns over his five seasons in Atlanta.

 

Other Names to Watch

(alphabetical order)

 

Miles Austin, Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon’s fate should be known fairly soon, but it’s safe to say he will miss a fair number of games, at minimum. Whether it’s “veteran” Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel at quarterback, they will need Austin or Nate Burleson or Andrew Hawkins to give defenses someone else to worry about besides tight end Jordan Cameron.

 

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

There’s no denying the difference-maker Jones is for the Falcons’ offense. Matt Ryan really needs a healthy, explosive Jones if this team wants to get back to its winning ways, especially with Tony Gonzalez now retired.

 

Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens

Carolina’s all-time leading receiver heads to the Ravens to provide a productive option at receiver behind Torrey Smith. Hopefully the bulk of the attention Steve Smith generates with his new team will be what takes place on, not off of, the field.

 

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Seattle’s No. 1 receiver the past two seasons doesn’t have to worry about filling that role in Detroit. Still, Calvin Johnson has yet to be paired with a suitable sidekick and the Lions need Tate to be just that, especially given how much he’s being paid (five years, $31 million, $13.25 of it guaranteed).

 
Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown is the No. 1 wide receiver and tight end Heath Miller is a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger, but the Steelers need someone to replace Emmanuel Sanders. The hope is that Wheaton, the team’s third-round pick in 2013, can emerge after a hand injury basically wiped out his rookie season.

 

(DeSean Jackson photo courtesy of Washington Redskins' Web site, )

Teaser:
15 NFL Wide Receivers and Tight Ends on the Hot Seat in 2014
Post date: Saturday, July 26, 2014 - 12:00
Path: /nascar/twenty-years-after-first-brickyard-win-jeff-gordon-shoots-fifth
Body:

Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, Geoffrey is at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where a batch of storylines lead the series up to the race once simply known as The Brickyard 400. Among them: the importance of practice and qualifying this weekend, NASCAR’s weariness to change the schedule in 2015 and the importance of Sunday’s race for three particular drivers.

 

 

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Qualifying at the Brickyard is always among the most important of the season for Sprint Cup teams in terms of how it will affect their Sunday race strategy. The 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway is notoriously difficult in the passing department and the tight confines of pit road give a sizable advantage to those in prime spots — the same teams qualified up front.

 

So Saturday at Indianapolis will be a pressure-filled time for those who want to kiss the bricks Sunday, even before weather concerns  and NASCAR’s new qualifying format was tossed in the mix.

 

The green flag will wave on Session 1 of the three-round qualifying at 2:10 p.m. ET should rain stay away. The National Weather Service Friday gave the track a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms during that time period. Any delay would be tough on an otherwise packed track schedule with the Nationwide Series race set to start at 4:30 p.m. ET, meaning a wet track would likely mean total cancellation of the session in favor of Friday’s practice speeds.

 

But should the rain stay away, the three-round session will see a bunch of drivers all trying to time a lap in the best weather conditions possible — i.e., more clouds and less sun.

 

 

NASCAR growing weary of schedule suggestions

The two years of success for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Eldora Speedway as a mid-week, primetime feature has certainly been a boon to both the series and the sport at large. With the 2015 national series schedules still unannounced and previous overtures of significant change from the sport’s leaders — assertions largely since retracted by CEO Brian France — the topic of more NASCAR races on weeknights has become a popular one.

 

Ryan Newman, last year’s winner of the Brickyard 400, was completely in favor of the idea Friday at Indianapolis.

 

“I’d turn some races into Wednesday night races, some into Saturday night or Sunday races when it made sense,” Newman said before noting the schedule could be condensed without dropping races. “I think just realigning it and being able to be on TV on our own special event on Wednesday night — especially in football season — would be good for our sport.”

 

Of course, such a shift would be dramatic for the sport often slow to change. It would also require crossing several hurdles in terms of logistics and politics — a point that NASCAR’s chief communications officer Brett Jewkes wanted to make crystal clear Friday on Twitter.

 

“Armchair schedule-makers at full froth this week,” Jewkes wrote. “Amazing how, quick and easy it sounds. #ItsNot

 

So much for that, right? In a clarifying tweet, Jewkes wrote “Love all the ideas, don’t love the notion that there’s a magic wand and it’s easy. It’s not.”

 

For fans desperate for a shake-up in the season schedule, it sure seems like the wait will continue despite some fascinating ideas and what-ifs.

 

 

Gordon extra confident on 20th anniversary of inaugural Brickyard win

Buzz of Jeff Gordon’s inaugural Brickyard 400 win 20 years ago — and after Sunday’s green flag, 21 races ago — has been steady this week at IMS. The track is selling t-shirts commemorating the first of Gordon’s four Brickyard wins and the mayor of Indianapolis even declared Sunday as “Jeff Gordon Day” in the city that once served as his transplanted home.

 

But Gordon, the current Sprint Cup points leader with a 12-point advantage on Dale Earnhardt Jr., made it clear among the pomp-and-circumstance of the anniversary that he’s serious about winning a fifth. He thinks his Chevrolet is decidedly strong for Sunday’s race — and that’s saying something for a driver with a career average finish of 8.8 at the track.

 

“From an overall strength of the team and speed of the car, this is by far the best chance we’ve had at winning in a long time,” Gordon said Friday at IMS.

 

It’s been 10 years since Gordon was a winner at Indy, but he’s nabbed four top-5 finishes and seven top-10 runs in that period. 

 

“We’ve come in here and didn’t really have what it took to win and made more out of it than I anticipated once the green flag dropped,” Gordon said. “This weekend there’s no doubt I feel like this is the best chance that we’ve had at winning this race legitimately with the speed of the car as we’ve had in a very, very long time.”

 

 

Montoya searching for right feel in pursuit of elusive Brickyard

Twice, Juan Pablo Montoya watched tremendous chances to become the first driver to win the Brickyard 400 and the Indianapolis 500 disappear in painful fashion. In the former, he led 116 laps in 2009 and blew the race with a pit road speeding penalty and ended the 2010 edition in a crash after fighting to recover from bad pit strategy.

 

He’s back at IMS this weekend in his new part-time role as a third driver in Penske Racing’s No. 12 and finished Friday’s first practice a little disappointed with the feel of his car.

 

“I wasn’t that happy with the car to be honest,” Montoya said during his off-week from his full-time Penske IndyCar ride. “It’s hard because they’re so different and what Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano)  drive every week and what they look for in the car is a little bit different than what I want out of the car.”

 

Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, was 28th fastest in the one practice session Friday after running 20 laps.

 

“I think I’ve been pretty good here and I know what I want out the car,” Montoya said. “So that makes it a lot easier so we know what we need to work on to be a little better.”

 

 

Kurt Busch makes second trip to Indianapolis in 2014

Kurt Busch added his name to the list of drivers who have competed in the famed Memorial Day weekend double — he raced both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in May — but he enters this weekend’s Brickyard 400 as the first among that group to be at the same place numerically (25th) in both series’ point standings entering the 400.

 

It’s both a dubious and unimportant distinction, but still a fascinating one considering Busch is currently locked in the Chase for the Sprint Cup thanks to his Martinsville win. He’s 25th in IndyCar points with the 80 points he earned in May’s double points-paying 500 and 25th in Sprint Cup points after one win, four top-5 finishes and just nine lead-lap finishes in 19 races.

 

Busch was optimistic Friday that his team had made progress toward more consistency.

 

“Our (Sprint Cup) team has turned a good corner since Indianapolis when I ran here in May,” Busch said. “When we unloaded at Pocono in June, that seemed like we were grabbing another gear and our team has found a good rhythm since then.”

 

Busch finished third in that Pocono race at a track that many teams like to use as a barometer for IMS success. 

 

“We’re hoping to cash in on some of those setup notes and procedures that we’ve been following since the first Pocono,” Busch said.

 

Busch, sixth in the Indianapolis 500, can take over the crown of best average finish in the same year’s 500 and 400 with a top-10 finish on Sunday.

 

 

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Teaser:
Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, Geoffrey is at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where a batch of storylines lead the series up to the race once simply known as The Brickyard 400. Among them: the importance of practice and qualifying this weekend, NASCAR’s weariness to change the schedule in 2015 and the importance of Sunday’s race for three particular drivers.
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 17:14
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-25-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for July 25:

• Instagram has gone from novelty to national treasure .

.

• So apparently, .

• Walter Payton would have turned 60 today. .

• This is bizarre: .

• Another question:

.

• Today in irrelevant roided-up '90s has-beens: .

.

• Like a scene from "Fletch":

• Ryan Raburn made the worst throw in the history of throws. Carly Rae Jepsen called to say you're doing it wrong.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 10:47
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-most-pathetic-nfl-teams-expansion
Body:

The Seattle Seahawks own the 16-game NFL record for fewest points scored with 140 in 1992. Seattle also owns the all-time mark for fewest yards in a game when it totaled minus-7 yards against the L.A. Rams in 1979.

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers set the modern NFL mark for worst point differential by being outscored by 287 points in 1976. The Baltimore Colts allowed an NFL-record 533 points back in 1981. The Houston Oilers claim the NFL mark for most interceptions thrown in a single season with 48 picks tossed in 1962. And the Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL’s single-season sacks allowed mark with 104 back in 1986.
 

Needless to say, there are many ways to measure NFL ineptitude. So while offensive and defensive statistical production (or lack thereof) is a huge factor in measuring pathetic-ness, wins and losses are still the most important way to evaluate any team.
 

Who are the worst NFL teams since expansion in 2002?
 

1. 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)

Point Differential: -249 (268 PF, 517 PA)

Offense: 30th (268.3 ypg), 27th (16.8 ppg)

Defense: 32nd (404.4 ypg), 32nd (32.3 ppg)


No other team has ever gone winless in the modern NFL era (16-game regular season), which means the Detroit Lions must be considered the worst team due in large part to the massive "0" in the win column. Winning is all that really matters in sports and the Lions failed in truly epic fashion. Top it off with the worst defense of the expansion era, as this team fell just 16 points shy of setting an NFL record for points allowed (533). This team posted an NFL-worst four interceptions on defense, was next to last in sacks allowed (52.0) and finished 14th in the NFC in turnover differential. Dan Orlovsky led a five-man QB platoon that featured 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and a combined 71.3 QB rating.


2. 2009 St. Louis Rams (1-15)

Pt Differential: -261 (175 PF, 436 PA)

Offense: 29th (279.4 ypg), 32nd (10.9 ppg)

Defense: 29th (372.8 ypg), 31st (27.3 ppg)


This team redefined the term offensive struggles as its 175 points were only 35 away from the NFL mark set by Seattle (140) in 1992. It is the all-time low for a Rams team that played 16 games while the 261-point differential is the worst in franchise history as well. Marc Bulger was the leading passer with 1,469 yards, 5 TDs and 6 INTs. The team itself finished with 12 total TD passes and 21 INTs and a collective passer rating of 64.0. The Rams were shutout twice and scored 10 or fewer points in nine games. St. Louis also finished 31st in the NFL in turnover margin (-13). The Rams were one of only three teams since 2002 to win one or fewer games.


3. 2009 Detroit Lions (2-14)

Pt Differential: -232 (262 PF, 494 PA)

Offense: 26th (299.0 ypg), 27th (16.4 ppg)

Defense: 32nd (392.1 ypg), 32nd (30.9 ppg)


While the '09 Rams set offensive football back two decades, the '09 Lions continued to show its lack of defensive prowess. The Rams did defeat the Lions (17-10) that year, but for the season, Detroit scored nearly 100 more points and won twice as many games. This Lions team also finished dead last in turnover margin (-18) and No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford missed the final six games of the season. The Lions went 0-6 after Stafford was lost.


4. 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15)

Pt Differential: -170 (267 PF, 437 PA)

Offense: 28th (287.5 ypg), 26th (16.7 ppg)

Defense: 23rd (342.2 ypg), 30th (27.3 ppg)


This version of the Fish lost the first 13 games of the season before winning their only game of the year over Baltimore. Cleo Lemon was 1-6 as the starter, John Beck went 0-4 and Trent Green was 0-5. The trio combined to throw 12 touchdown passes — 16 fewer than the opposition. Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing after playing only seven games (602 yards) while Jesse Chatman actually got the most carries (128). The only shot Cam Cameron has had to be a head coach in the NFL was his one-win season at the helm of the Dolphins.


5. 2008 St. Louis Rams (2-14)

Pt Differential: -233 (232 PF, 465 PA)

Offense: 27th (287.3 ypg), 31st (14.5 ppg)

Defense: 28th (371.9 ypg), 31st (29.1 ppg)


The 233-point scoring differential was a franchise record at the time and would still be the Rams' worst-ever scoring season had it not been for the 2009 team that came along the next year. This team lost the final 10 games of the year and scored only 19 offensive touchdowns all season. In fact, this offense was the most scored upon OFFENSE in the NFL. That is right, the Rams offense had seven turnovers returned for touchdowns, a number that tied for the league lead.


6. 2011 St. Louis Rams (2-14)

Pt Differential: -214 (193, 407)

Offense: 31st, (283.6 ypg), 32nd (12.1 ppg)

Defense: 22nd (358.4 ypg), 26th (25.4 ppg)


If not for the 2008 and '09 teams, this team would have been the most outscored Rams team in history. The 193 total points scored are the second-worst in team history for one that played 16 games. Losing Sam Bradford to an injury after 10 games certainly didn't help the offense as the team finished with nine touchdown passes and a paltry 53.2 percent completion rate. St. Louis also led the league in sacks allowed with 55.0 while the rushing attack contributed only seven scores of its own.


7. 2010 Carolina Panthers (2-14)

Pt Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)

Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)

Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)


The offense did little to contribute to this football team whatsoever. Not only were the 196 total points scored the worst in the 18-year history of the franchise, but this season also was the only time the Panthers failed to reach 250 points. Jimmy Clausen (1-9), Matt Moore (1-4) and Brian St. Pierre (0-1) combined for a nasty 9:21 TD:INT ratio while finishing 30th in 3rd downs (30.4 percent) and 25th in turnover margin. To top it off, the 408 points allowed were third worst in franchise history on the defensive side of the ball.


8. 2011 Indianapolis Colts (2-14)

Pt Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)

Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)

Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)


Obviously, without Peyton Manning, the Colts experienced its worst season since 1998, No. 18's rookie year. If not for a "torrid" 2-1 finish to the year, the Colts were in danger of challenging the winless Lions of 2008. In the first 13 losses, Indy allowed less than 23 points only one time. The total points scored, which included only 14 total touchdown passes (or 12 less than Manning's career low), and point differential were the worst numbers for the Colts since the 1993 season. The top ball carrier, Donald Brown, led the team in rushing despite making just two starts all year (645 yards).


9. 2004 San Francisco 49ers (2-14)

Pt Differential: -193 (259, 452)

Offense: 26th (286.6 ypg), 30th (16.2 ppg)

Defense: 24th (342.6 ypg), 32nd (28.3 ppg)


San Francisco was two games worse than every other team in the NFL that year, and, technically, the 49ers were winless in regulation as both wins came in overtime. The Niners were 30th in the NFL in points scored and dead last in points allowed while finishing 31st in turnover margin (-19). Tim Rattay (1-8) and Ken Dorsey (1-6) were equally ineffective, throwing 16 TDs against 21 INTs and completing only 57.9 percent of their passes. The ground game finished 30th in the NFL in rushing at just over 90 yards per game. The 452 points allowed were one point shy of the franchise record set in 1999 and the 193-point differential was an organizational record.


10. 2005 Houston Texans (2-14)

Pt Differential: -171 (260, 431)

Offense: 30th (253.3 ypg), 26th (16.3 ppg)

Defense: 31st (364.0 ypg), 32nd (26.9 ppg)
 

There were some bad Texans team and David Carr paid a big price. After getting sacked a league-worst 76 times as a rookie, Houston once again led the league in sacks allowed in 2005 with 68. This franchise will be playing in just its 13th season this fall, but the '05 team set the benchmark for fewest wins (tied with last year's team), points allowed and point differential, all of which led to the firing of Dom Capers. Carr started every game and averaged a pathetic 155.5 yards passing per game, threw only 14 touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions and fumbled 17 times.
 

The...Worst of the Rest?
 

2012 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

This team was outscored by nearly 200 points (minus-189), yet beat the Tennessee Titans as well as a shocking early season upset of the Colts. This team ranked 29th in total offense and 30th in total defense in 2012.


2004 Cleveland Browns (4-12)

Began 3-3 before losing nine straight in which they scored more than 15 points only one time. Trailed only the Niners for worst record. The offense was led by Jeff Garcia for 10 games, Luke McCown for four and Kelly Holcombe for two.
 

2002 Houston Texans (4-12)

The lowest scoring team in franchise history (213 pts) finished last in total offense as well as sacks allowed with 76. The first year of the Texans was salvaged by two strange wins over playoff teams (NYG, PIT) and is the only thing keeping this team out of the top ten.


2011 Tampa Bay Bucs (4-12)

The Bucs led the league in turnovers (40) and posted the worst turnover margin (-16) in 2011. After starting 4-2, Tampa Bay crumbled down the stretch with 10 straight losses and set a franchise mark with 494 points allowed (keep in mind, that is a BUCCANEERS franchise record).
 

2008 Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)

This team couldn't get off the field in 2008 as it was the worst 3rd down team in the league (47.4 percent) and dead last in sacks (10). It finished 31st in total defense and the 440 points allowed and -149-point differential are Chiefs single-season records.


2006 Oakland Raiders (2-14)

The Silver and Black defense was good enough to keep them out of the top ten, but the offense was nearly historic in its struggles. The 168 points scored were 28 away from the all-time NFL mark, these Raiders finished dead last in sacks allowed (72), turnover margin (-20) and both scoring and total offense. Oakland was also 31st in the league with 23 interceptions thrown.

Teaser:
10 Most Pathetic NFL Teams Since Expansion
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-football-game-game-predictions-2014-0
Body:

Gary Andersen’s first season in Madison was a successful one, as the Badgers went 9-4 with all four losses coming by 10 points or less.

 

Despite having just eight returning starters, the Badgers are Athlon’s early favorites to win the Big Ten West Division in 2014.

 

Wisconsin won’t play Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State in crossover play and host Nebraska in mid-November.

The Badgers have some uncertainty at quarterback, as Joel Stave is locked into a tight battle with Tanner McEvoy for the No. 1 spot. The defense has several new faces stepping into the starting lineup, but there’s plenty of potential in the revamped front seven.

 

Expert Panel:

 

Steven Lassan (),

Brent Yarina (),

Mark Ross (),

Kevin McGuire (),

David Fox (),

Mike Fiammetta (),

Brandon Cavanaugh (),

 

Early Wisconsin Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
 Steven
Lassan
Brent
Yarina
David
Fox
Brandon 
Cavanaugh
Kevin
McGuire
Mike
Fiammetta
Mark 
Ross
LSU
(Arlington)
Western Illinois
Bowling Green
USF
at Northwestern
Illinois
Maryland
at Rutgers
at Purdue
Nebraska
at Iowa
Minnesota
Final Projection10-29-39-310-210-211-110-2
Steven Lassan ()

Even though Wisconsin has question marks, I still like the Badgers to win the West Division. The schedule is very favorable, as Wisconsin won’t play one of the top four teams from the East and Nebraska visits Madison in late November. With games against the Huskers and Iowa coming later in the year, it should allow coach Gary Andersen plenty of time to find reinforcements on the front seven on defense and in the receiving corps. Wisconsin won’t have an explosive passing offense, but the rushing attack will be among the best in the nation. As long as Melvin Gordon and the offensive line stays healthy, the Badgers will reach double-digit wins in Andersen’s second year.

 

Brent Yarina (),

Gary Andersen and company couldn’t have asked for a better 2014 schedule. This is one of the Big Ten’s most favorable slates – yes, even with mighty LSU in the opener. Speaking of LSU, one could make the argument it’s the only real test until mid-November, when the Badgers host Big Ten West rival Nebraska on Nov. 15. Here’s a crazy stat: Wisconsin’s Big Ten opponents went a combined 22-42 (.344 winning percentage) in 2013 conference play - this includes Maryland and Rutgers, which went 3-5 in the ACC and AAC, respectively. The Badgers lost a lot of talent, particularly on defense, and their leading returning receiver (Jeff Duckworth) caught just 12 passes, but they have a forgiving schedule that can help ease in the new faces.

 

Brandon Cavanaugh (),

Time to take off the training wheels for Badgers' second-year head coach Gary Andersen. Last year, he had the talent to introduce himself properly to the Big Ten. More importantly, he had an immense amount of leadership on the field.

 

As always, Wisconsin has its punishing running game to rely on. One of the best one-two punches in the nation returns in Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Who'll be handing off to them is a mystery as questions loom about Joel Stave's future under center. He's been serviceable, but Tanner McEvoy could oust him come fall camp. Who's going to replace Jared Abbrederis is a huge question mark as is what the receiver corps is going to look like in the first place.

 

Wisconsin offers up a treasure trove of offensive linemen yet again such as left tackle Tyler Marz. The entire line should not only be able to protect whomever's under center, but clear a path for the Gordon-Clement tag team.

 

Defense looks to be touch-and-go for Anderson's crew. The front seven suffered major losses in three starting defensive linemen and All-Everything linebacker Chris Borland. The Badgers have a stud in the secondary in Sojourn Shelton who started every game as a freshman in 2013 while leading the team in picks. There's enough talent in the defensive backfield to produce a quality secondary and the Badgers' Egyptian cotton-soft schedule gives them plenty of time to do so.

 

While Wisconsin's schedule should allow them to make a mistake or two on their way to Indianapolis, the bad news is the Big Ten East's representative likely tops them easily

 

David Fox ()

That schedule, woof. Wisconsin might have a nice record, but there are not a lot of ranked teams on that schedule, especially if teams like Nebraska and LSU regress. Wisconsin’s run game give the Badgers a chance in every game, especially against the dregs of the Big Ten. I’ve tabbed LSU and a road game against Iowa as losses, and I threw in Maryland. Wisconsin, with an unproven defense and unsettled quarterback situation, isn’t good enough not to have a lapse or two. With Maryland’s impressive receivers, the Terps may be able to catch the Badgers napping.

 

Kevin McGuire (),

With Wisconsin, you know what you are going to get year-in and year-out. The Badgers are going to run the football, and this fall they will do so with one of the best running backs in the country in Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin may very well open the season with a loss against LSU in Houston, but little should be standing in the way of a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game at the end of the year. Wisconsin gets Nebraska at home for what could be the deciding game in the west, but Wisconsin must stay alert with a road trip to Iowa the following week. That has letdown written all over it for me right now, but ultimately it should not be enough to keep the Badgers from booking a trip to Chicago. The big question for me is who steps up as a go-to receiver and will this defense be as good as it has in recent seasons in Madison? Wisconsin will be good, but they will not be great in 2014. 
 

Mark Ross ()

The season opener with LSU in Arlington will be a tough test, but after that, Wisconsin's schedule opens up about as big as some of the holes All-America candidate Melvin Gordon will be running through. Bowling Green is a good team, but it won't be able to take down the Badgers at Camp Randall. Other than a road game at Northwestern and a visit from Nebraska in the middle of November, I don't see any big potential land mines on the Big Ten slate either. The Badgers are the big winners of the Big Ten's conference realignment as far as 2014 goes and I fully expect them to represent the new West Division in Indianapolis at the conference championship game on Dec. 6.
 

Mike Fiammetta (),

Picking an 11-1 schedule for Wisconsin surely seems radical. Coming from a Wisconsin writer, it probably comes off as obscenely biased. But considering the Badgers' weak-on-paper schedule in the Big Ten West Division, the ceiling is very high for UW in Gary Andersen's second season. Questions persist on offense -- a starting quarterback may not be named until well into fall camp and there is not one proven receiver on the roster, but as the old saying goes, "Death, taxes and Wisconsin rushing yards." Or something like that. Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement are back, primed to prove to the nation that they form the best rushing duo in the country. The offensive line should also be solid once again, and while quarterback issues are never encouraging, some combination of Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy is expected to be solid enough to keep the Badgers atop the division.

 

Defensively, the 3-4 base defense moves into year two without Chris Borland and Dezmen Southward, two mainstays of the past several years. Losing Borland especially hurts, and while there are questions as to where quarterback pressure and other big plays will come from, there are several breakout candidates including defensive ends Chikwe Obasih and Alec James, as well as inside linebacker Leon Jacobs. The secondary is still kind of young, but sophomore cornerback Sojourn Shelton could be on his way toward becoming one of the conference's best. On special teams, the Badgers might be going with a true freshman kicker in Rafael Gaglianone, and while that might be troubling to some, the Brazilian can really boot it.

 

Back to the schedule -- everything hinges on that LSU game in Houston. A win there, no matter the margin, gives Wisconsin the genuine possibility of running the table. That's not exactly bold reasoning, but most people picking wins/losses at this juncture likely having Wisconsin dropping a game or two, like, at Northwestern or Iowa. Even in that scenario, a 9-3 season would be welcomed by most Badgers fans, I'd say. That should be enough to land a spot in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game and possibly another Rose Bowl.

Teaser:
Wisconsin Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/florida-football-game-game-predictions-2014
Body:

Florida is one of college football’s most intriguing teams to watch in 2014, as the Gators have the talent to win the SEC East but are coming off a 4-8 season with an offense full of question marks.

 

Coach Will Muschamp sits squarely on the hot seat this season and likely needs at least seven wins to return for 2015. Muschamp shuffled his offensive staff in the offseason, hiring Kurt Roper from Duke to fix a unit that averaged only 19.9 points per game in SEC contests.

Getting quarterback Jeff Driskel back to 100 percent will help, but Florida also needs improvement from its offensive line and receiving corps.

The Gators should have one of the SEC’s top defenses, which includes standout cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

With a schedule that features home games against LSU, South Carolina and Missouri, Florida will have a chance for a quick rebound in 2014.

 

Expert Panel:
 

Steven Lassan (),

Chad Neipling (),

Josh Ward (),

David Fox (),

Brandon Larrabee (),

Mark Ross (),

 

Early Florida Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
 Steven
Lassan
Josh
Ward
David
Fox
Mark
Ross
Brandon
Larrabee
Chad
Neipling
Idaho

Eastern
Michigan

Kentucky
at Alabama
at Tennessee
LSU
Missouri
Georgia
(Jacksonville)
at Vanderbilt
South Carolina
Eastern Kentucky
at Florida State
Final Projection8-48-47-58-48-49-3
Steven Lassan ()

Florida is a tough team to project in 2014. On one side, the talent is there to win 10 games. The . However, Florida’s offense struggled mightily last year and averaged only 4.7 yards per play (conference-only games) in 2013. New coordinator Kurt Roper was a solid hire, and his first assignment is to help quarterback Jeff Driskel reach his potential. Driskel may not win All-SEC honors in 2014, but that’s not the biggest problem facing the offense. The line and receiving corps are huge question marks, and both units have to improve for Florida to contend in the East. With seven starters back, expect the Gators’ defense to rank among the best in the SEC once again this year. With South Carolina, Missouri and LSU visiting Gainesville, Florida has the schedule for a quick turnaround. However, this team doesn’t have much room for error, which is why I think they lose a game they probably shouldn’t.

 

Josh Ward (),

This isn’t the best time for Will Muschamp to have to add a road trip to Alabama onto the Gators’ schedule. But that’s what Florida will face, along with LSU from the SEC West and a game at Florida State to finish up the regular season.

 

I didn’t consider picking Florida against Alabama or Florida State. Those teams are just too powerful right now. That road trip to Tennessee will be critical. If Florida wins that game, which I picked it to do, the Gators could go on a bit of a run. In the end, I think Georgia and South Carolina bring back too much for Florida to handle. I have the Gators finishing with an 8-4 record, which should be good enough to save Muschamp’s job. Anything less than that and he’s in trouble.

 

David Fox ()

Florida’s schedule will help the rebuilding process in Gainesville. Having potential swing games against LSU and Missouri, plus a key divisional game against South Carolina, at home should serve Florida well. I don’t know if the Gators can win all of those games, but winning two out of three is possible. Florida’s offense will be better, if no other reason than the fact that it can’t get much worse. The defense will keep Florida competitive, but this team still has a long way to go to compete with Georgia and South Carolina. The offense, too, may have trouble keeping up with a dynamic offense like the one at Missouri.

 

Brandon Larrabee (),

Florida might be the hardest team in the SEC to figure out heading into this season. Don't let last year fool you: there's still plenty of talent in Gainesville. The offense will improve and the defense will be solid. But how much better will the Gators be? Have they completely caught back up with Georgia and South Carolina? And there's a clear trap game looming in Knoxville. The Gators are better than the Volunteers this year, but either an upset win at Alabama or looking ahead to the game against LSU could cause Florida to slip up. If they can get through that game, though, a three-week stretch that includes games against Georgia and South Carolina should decide who wins the East.


Mark Ross ()

Florida may not make it all the way back in one season, but I do think better days are ahead for embattled coach Will Muschamp's team. The offense is the key, which starts with quarterback Jeff Driskel staying healthy and new coordinator Kurt Roper jumpstarting one of the nation's worst units last season. Even if the offense shows only modest improvement, it should be good enough for a few more Ws because of the strength of the defense. The SEC is tough, no doubt about that, but there's just one conference road game (at Alabama) that Gator fans should worry about. As long as Florida takes care of business at home, something that didn't happen frequently in 2013, this team could build momentum and find enough confidence to potentially make things interesting in Tallahassee Thanksgiving weekend. How's that for a turnaround?

 

Chad Neipling (),

This year will be the turn around year for Florida following an abysmal 4-8 season, the worst since 1979. Roper's offense is going to bring speed of play and a faster release for Driskel, which hopefully turns in to a better red zone performance. The Alabama game is a definite loss since the Crimson Tide will be playing with an even bigger chip on their shoulder this season than the Gators. LSU will feature a lot of youth but they've done so for the last two seasons with success. This one could be a toss up since they play each other so closely. But luckily for Florida, LSU travels to Auburn the week before. Georgia is another toss-up game for the Gators and could very well depict Muschamp's future in Gainesville. As of late, the Dawgs have had the Gators’ number with three straight wins, so I wouldn't be surprised with a loss here for Florida. SC in the swamp is a win. UF was leading in the 4Q last season 14-13 and if not for SC's two FG's Florida would have won the game. I'm probably one of the few that think the FSU game is a win. The away team is 3-0 in this series and Florida is on the road this year. 

Teaser:
Florida Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-tens-top-10-heisman-candidates-2014
Body:

Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the Big Ten’s front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014 (with current Bovada odds):

 

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (7/1)

For a league many are down on currently, the Big Ten boasts some serious star power at both quarterback and running back. And Miller is the brightest star of the bunch. The dual-threat is a perfect fit for his offensive system and he is leading a team picked by many to win the league and land in the College Football Playoff. Add to it dynamic, highlight-reel plays and huge numbers, and fans in Columbus have themselves a Heisman Trophy candidate under center. Staying healthy and winning the Big Ten are key for Miller this fall if he wants to get to New York (which he should).

 

2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (20/1)

From a talent standpoint, few in the nation can match Gordon’s speed, power and explosiveness. And few players are in a better situation to make a run at the Heisman than the Wisconsin tailback. James White is gone, the offensive line is stacked and he plays in a system predicated on handing the ball off. Look for Gordon to build on his 1,600-yard, 12-TD season from last fall.

 

3. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (33/1)

Gordon got all of the headlines and Jeremy Langford got a lot of press down the stretch last year but it was Abdullah who actually led the Big Ten in rushing (1,690). The Nebraska ball-carrier is a special talent who can catch passes, constantly gets critical yards and has proven capable of a heavy workload. The key for Abdullah is team success as the Huskers need to make a run at the Big Ten title for the Big Red runner to get into the Heisman mix.

 

4. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

There aren’t too many players with as many physical skills as Hackenberg. He is a sure-fire, first-round pick in two springs as he set 11 school records as a true freshman last year. The offensive line and overall depth is a major concern and keeps him from being mentioned alongside Miller, but Hackenberg is just as talented. Look for the PSU QB to continue to grow with no limits on his upside.

 

5. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State (33/1)

Michigan State entered last fall with questions under center. By the time the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl were over, they had a star at quarterback. Cook posted back-to-back 300-yard games (setting career highs) in wins over Ohio State and Stanford. Look for more development from the underrated athlete in his second season as the starter.

 

6. Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State

Abdullah led the league in rushing and Gordon get most of the accolades, but Langford was arguably the most important tailback in the Big Ten last year. He rushed for 1,422 yards and 18 scores on the year but 1,070 yards, 13 touchdowns and all eight of his 100-yard games came in conference play. Langford belongs being mentioned alongside the star runners of the B1G.

 

7. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

If he could just stay healthy, Diggs could make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver. He does special things with the ball in his hands but has missed seven games in his first two seasons. With a talented quarterback returning, Diggs has a chance to post a breakout season in College Park. The Big Ten will find out quickly how dangerous Diggs can be.

 

8. Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern

The talented and versatile Wildcats tailback played just three games last fall but fans in the Big Ten better not forget about him. He can make big plays as a receiver and return man as well as a runner. He posted 2,166 all-purpose yards two seasons ago and anything approaching that mark (no pun intended) again this fall likely puts him into the national conversation.

 

9. Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana

The junior quarterback is the leader of the best passing offense in the Big Ten and now the keys to the unit are his alone. With Tre Roberson leaving campus, Sudfeld is poised for a huge season in Bloomington. Look for him to build on his 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns from a year ago.

 

10. Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan

He was wildly inconsistent and turned the ball over entirely too much but Gardner still was No. 2 in the Big Ten in total offense (3,443 yards) and No. 2 in passing yards (2,960) in 2013. This is his final season and if there is going to be a redemption story in the Big Ten, the Michigan quarterback is the best bet. This team still has talent but running the ball better would go a long way to making Gardner’s job easier.

 

Others to consider: C.J. Brown, QB, Maryland; Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana; David Cobb, RB, Minnesota; Trevor Siemian, QB, Northwestern; Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan; Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska

 

Five defensive players who should but won’t be in the mix:

 

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

The massive (6-5, 260) defensive end was a star last year as just a sophomore (37 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 3 defensive touchdowns). With much less help at linebacker, the Spartans' defensive line now takes center stage. Calhoun is the star of that bunch due to elite NFL upside.

 

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

The Big Ten’s top returning sack master (9.5), Gregory is hoping to restore the Nebraska defense to Blackshirt status. He should be able to build on his monster 2013 campaign that featured 65 tackles, 16 for a loss and 15 quarterback hurries. Like Calhoun, Gregory should perform like the projected first-round NFL draft pick that he is.

 

Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Northwestern

The senior Wildcat tackler is the top returning tackler in the Big Ten and a preseason first-team All-Big Ten pick. He posted 106 tackles, six for a loss, four interceptions and two sacks. With Northwestern projected to bounce back in a big way, Ariguzo should find himself on national award lists.

 

Kurtis Drummond, S, Michigan State

One of the top defensive backs in the nation, Drummond returns as a team leader to a defense that is rebuilding to some degree. He registered 91 tackles and four interceptions for the nation’s best defense a year ago. Look for more from Drummond and Sparty in 2014.

 

Mike Hull, LB, Penn State

There is a long and distinguished list of Penn State linebackers. Dan Connor, Sean Lee, NaVorro Bowman, Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti, Glenn Carson and now Hull. Hull posted 78 tackles last season and steps into a more prominent role with Carson moving on. Look for yet another elite season from a PSU tackler.

Teaser:
The Big Ten's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2014
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Duke Blue Devils, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/2014-15-college-basketball-accs-top-transfers-freshmen-and-more
Body:

The ACC may again be the home of the nation’s top freshman, only this time, there may be little room for debate.

Duke’s Jabari Parker and Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis took turns as the nation’s most decorated freshman. At the same time Kansas’ duo of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid weren’t that far behind.

The freshman of the year award eventually went to Parker, though. The award may stay at Duke once again thanks to the arrival of center Jahlil Okafor and the departure of challenger Emmanuel Mudiay from SMU to China. Okafor, then, may be unquestioned.

Okafor won’t be the only impact newcomer in the ACC and not the only one from Duke. Our series looking at the top new faces around college basketball, continues with the ACC with a look at the top freshmen, transfers and players returning from injury and academic issues since last season.

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Freshman

Duke has not had a ton of great big men in recent years, Mason Plumlee’s senior season notwithstanding. Now, Duke will have not only one of the top freshmen in the country at center, but also an elite player with a skill set that has become increasingly rare. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound freshman from Chicago already has a well-developed post game that will make him one of the top true centers in quite some time. His combination of size and skill makes him an All-America contender and a likely one-and-done.

2. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
Academic casualty

Grant was playing the best basketball of his career when he was sidelined after 12 games. Though he was averaging 19 points and 6.2 assists and shooting 51.8 percent from the floor, Grant didn’t have his academics in order and was removed from the team for the remainder of the season. Notre Dame went 8-4 with Grant and 7-13 without him, missing the postseason for the first time under Mike Brey. There’s no guarantee of an NCAA bid when Grant returns, but it may be impossible without him.

3. Angel Rodriguez, Miami
Transfer from Kansas State

Miami cobbled together 17 wins with depleted roster largely because two of its better players — Rodriguez and fellow Big 12 transfer Sheldon McClellan — were sitting out. Now ready to play, the 5-foot-11 Rodriguez will man the point for Miami. In his last stop at Kansas State, Rodriguez averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 assists per game for a team that wow 27 games.

4. Trevor Lacey, NC State
Transfer from Alabama

Trevor Lacey is the latest addition for an NC State program that’s seen its share of roster turnover under Mark Gottfried. Lacey won’t be asked to fill the scoring void left by T.J. Warren, but he will need to be a complement to emerging sophomore point guard Cat Barber in the backcourt. Lacey is a strong guard who can score around the basket.

5. Kaleb Joseph, Syracuse
Freshman

Joseph will be Syracuse’s fourth point guard in four seasons and its second freshman in a row. Expectations are high after the run of Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis. Joseph, though, won’t have the supporting cast his predecessors enjoyed.

6. Tyus Jones, Duke
Freshman

The other half of a package deal with Jahlil Okafor, Jones gives Duke a point guard to compete with Quinn Cook. The senior didn’t start the final 10 games of the season, so Jones could play alongside Cook or supplant him at times during the season. Jones is known for his court vision, and he already has chemistry with Duke’s star center.

7. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
Freshman

Rathan-Mayes, a high school teammate of Andrew Wiggins, was slated to be an impact freshman last season before he was declared academically ineligible. The guard is ready in 2014-15 to deliver a much-needed scoring punch to a Florida State team that ranked ninth in the ACC in points per possession.

8. Justin Jackson, North Carolina

Freshman
North Carolina’s signing class contains three top-30 prospects, all at positions where they will have to fight for playing time at point guard (Joel Berry) and small forward (Jackson, Theo Pinson). Jackson is the highest ranked (No. 9) in the 247Sports Composite and he may be the best shooter of the group, giving him a leg up on a team that shot 33.6 percent from 3-point range last season.

9. Sheldon McClellan, Miami
Transfer from Texas

McClellan will join Rodriguez for an all-transfer backcourt that should have Miami back in postseason contention. McClellan averaged 13.5 points per game for a bad Texas team, but he had a similar KenPom offensive rating (104.1) to Rodriguez (107.1).

10. Durand Johnson, Pittsburgh
Returning from injury

Johnson was averaging 8.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game off the bench through the first 16 games before a torn ACL ended his season. His recovery will be closely watched, but when healthy, the 6-6 forward could be a key weapon from long range for the Panthers.

Teaser:
2014-15 College Basketball: The ACC's Top Transfers, Freshmen and More
Post date: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 17:21
Path: /college-football/washington-qb-cyler-miles-suspended-season-opener-against-hawaii
Body:

Washington quarterback Cyler Miles has been suspended for the 2014 season opener against Hawaii. Miles’ suspension was announced on Thursday at Pac-12 Media Days by first-year coach Chris Petersen.

Miles was involved in an off-the-field incident in February and missed all of spring practice.

The sophomore was reinstated to the team in May and is slated to compete for the starting job in fall practice with Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams.

Miles is considered a rising star in the Pac-12 and should reclaim the starting job in time for the second game against Eastern Washington.
 

Williams and Lindquist will compete in the fall to start against Hawaii, and the Huskies are big favorites against the Rainbow Warriors.

While the opener shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for Washington, getting Miles acclimated into the offense will be something to watch early in the year.

After missing spring practice, the sophomore is already playing catch-up this fall. With Eastern Washington, Illinois and Georgia State on the schedule before playing Stanford, Miles will have time to transition into the starting role before the Huskies step into the heart of their Pac-12 slate.

 

Teaser:
Washington QB Cyler Miles Suspended for Season Opener Against Hawaii
Post date: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 14:57
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-24-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for July 24:

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• Hey Bieber: .

• Literal mud-slinging: .

• More NFL news: . I guess his girlfriend's apology for getting knocked out was a mitigating factor.

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• A by-product of the NFL no-huddle trend: .

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. Judging from his expression, it was a transcendent experience.

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• This is going seriously viral this morning: Frank Caliendo reads LeBron James' essay in the voice of Morgan Freeman.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/houston-tweaks-uniforms-2014
Body:

Houston is expected to be one of the top contenders for the American Athletic Conference title in 2014, and the Cougars will have a new uniform design as they push for the conference crown.

 

Houston released an updated look at its uniforms for the upcoming year on Wednesday, which is just a slight alteration on its 2013 design.

Here’s a look at the 2014 uniforms:

 

Teaser:
Houston Slightly Tweaks Uniforms for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/accs-top-10-heisman-candidates-2014
Body:

Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the ACC’s front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014:
 

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida St (4/1)

The only reason Winston wouldn’t be the front-runner in the ACC is because he won the award last year. He is the most talented player on the best team and will likely have the best numbers on a championship team. Picking anyone else is just being cute here.

 

2. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (33/1)

From a talent standpoint, Johnson is the only other option in the ACC who can compete with Winston. He has elite-level, breakaway speed and explosiveness. The biggest speed bump in The Duke’s Heisman campaign will be staying healthy. The smallish back has dealt with injuries but if he can stay on the field and post 250 touches, his numbers could be ridiculously good.

 

3. Cole Stoudt, QB, Clemson

The keys to one of the shiniest offenses in the nation have fallen in Stoudt’s lap and he deserves his opportunity. Stoudt has waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and all signs point to him being more than capable of running the Chad Morris attack. He is all about tempo and is a solid fit for an offense that consistently posted huge statistics. An early upset over Georgia or Florida State are almost a must, however, to get into the Heisman mix.

 

4. Karlos Williams, RB, Florida St (33/1)

By default, the starting tailback at Florida State should be a high-profile, highly productive position. And Karlos Williams has all the raw physical tools to become a star on the national level. He averaged over eight yards per carry and scored 11 times while splitting time with two other guys — both of whom have moved on. With a full workload, Williams could post Doak Walker-type numbers.

 

5. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina

Williams flashed a lot of ability last fall and should only continue to develop. The Tar Heels went 6-1 over their final seven games and the offense averaged over 40 points per game due in large part to his play. With a full season of making plays, Williams has a chance to get into the national conversation.

 

6. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt

No wide receiver belongs this high on Heisman lists — normally — but Boyd is a special talent with rare ability. He has elite NFL upside and plays for a head coach who normally produces big numbers in the passing game. Look for Boyd, just a sophomore, to make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. Should that happen, landing in the Heisman conversation isn’t out of the question.

 

7. Will Gardner, QB, Louisville

This is a bit of a leap but there are many things worse than betting on a Bobby Petrino quarterback. Gardner is a tall, pocket passer who fits his system perfectly. And with a gifted offensive line and deep supporting cast, it’s not unthinkable that Gardner becomes the second-best passer in the ACC.

 

8. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State

The star wideout for the Noles could have gone pro but decided to return for his fourth year in Tallahassee. He has scored 22 receiving touchdowns and is coming off his best season. With Winston still throwing passes and the best OL in the nation, there is no reason Greene won’t be an All-America candidate.

 

9. Dominique Brown/Michael Dyer, RB, Louisville

While the QB gets all of the attention, Petrino's running backs have been nationally acclaimed as well. Michael Bush scored 24 times in 2005 and Knile Davis was a star in the SEC in '10. With a solid veteran offensive line returning, both Cardinal tailbacks could find themselves in All-ACC territory this fall.

 

10. Chad Voytik, QB, Pitt

Looking for a longshot breakout star in the ACC? Look no further than Pitt’s Chad Voytik. The first-year starter has a superstar wideout to throw to, a mad scientist designing the passing offense in Paul Chryst and plays in a league devoid of star power under center. Look for Voytik and Pitt to make some waves this fall in the ACC.

 

Others to consider: Nick O’Leary, TE, Florida State; Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke; Devante Parker, WR, Louisville; Shadrach Thornton, RB, NC State; Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia

 

Five defensive players who should but won't be in the mix:

 

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

The nation’s top returning sack master is the Tigers star — who posted 13 a year ago. For a defense that could be the best Clemson has had in years, Beasley’s explosive playmaking ability should make for national headlines.

 

Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State

Not many true freshmen start every game for a national champion but that is what the former five-star recruit did for the Noles a year ago. The lanky playmaker should develop into one of the best players in the nation and should be an All-American this fall.

 

Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Much like Ramsey, Fuller is a big-time, five-star recruit who delivered in a big way as just a true freshman in 2013. Fuller picked off six passes and posted 58 tackles and is in store for a breakout season for the Hokies this fall.

 

Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson

Finally delivering on his elite recruiting potential, Anthony posted his best season last fall. He registered career highs in tackles (86), tackles for a loss (15.0) and sacks (4.5). He simply makes plays and with another big season, could find himself attending postseason award ceremonies.

 

Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami

The veteran All-ACC performer has racked up 240 tackles in the last three years, including 108 in 2013. Miami’s defense must improve and it falls to leaders like Perryman to transform the unit. If it does improve, the Canes could easily win the Coastal Division. 

Teaser:
The ACC's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-breakout-players-2014
Body:

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Whether it’s a true freshman playing for the first time, a junior college recruit stepping into the lineup or a player on the roster that’s finally ready to assume a starting job, predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

 

The Big Ten is home to a handful of intriguing names for 2014, as Ohio State receiver/running back Dontre Wilson could emerge as one of the conference’s top playmakers, while Illinois’ quarterback Wes Lunt could be in for a huge season under coordinator Bill Cubit.

On the defensive side, Nebraska's defensive tackle duo of Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins are two names to remember. Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel has the difficult task of replacing standout Chris Borland.

 

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2014 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar.

 

Big Ten Breakout Players for 2014

 

Antonio Allen, S, Indiana

Allen was one of Indiana’s top recruits in the 2013 signing class, ranking as the No. 292 recruit in the 247Sports Composite. The Indiana native played in seven games and made one start but suffered a season-ending knee injury against Michigan in early November. Allen finished 2013 with 35 tackles and one fumble recovery. The sophomore is a key piece in Indiana’s rebuilding effort on defense, especially after the Hoosiers allowed 24 passing scores last year. Allen has the speed and talent to be a difference-maker on the back end of Indiana’s defense.

 

Vonn Bell/Tyvis Powell, S, Ohio State

Ohio State’s defense finished fifth in the Big Ten in points allowed (22.6 per game) and ranked No. 7 in total yards allowed. Those numbers have to improve in 2014 if the Buckeyes want to make the playoff, and the defense will have two new assistant coaches (Larry Johnson Sr. and Chris Ash) leading the way. Top cornerback Bradley Roby left early for the NFL, leaving three new starters in the secondary. However, there’s no shortage of talent ready to emerge, as Bell and Powell are two of the Big Ten’s rising stars at safety. Bell recorded 19 stops and one interception in 14 appearances last year, while Powell recorded 48 tackles and two pass breakups.

 

Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin

Biegel and fellow linebackers Derek Landisch, Marcus Trotter and Joe Schobert have big shoes to fill in 2014, as the Badgers face a difficult assignment in replacing standout Chris Borland. While Borland will be missed, Wisconsin isn’t in bad shape at linebacker. Trotter and Landisch are seniors, while Biegel is primed for a breakout year. The Wisconsin native redshirted due to injury in 2012 and played in 13 contests with two starts last season. He recorded 25 tackles in 2013 and finished with two sacks. Expect Biegel to become one of the top defenders on Dave Aranda’s defense in 2014.

 

Wes Brown, RB, Maryland

Maryland’s rushing attack finished No. 10 in the ACC and averaged just 3.3 yards per rush in conference games. The Terrapins return talented backs in Brandon Ross and Albert Reid, but keep an eye on Brown’s performance this fall. He sat out 2013 due to a suspension, but ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2012 247Sports Composite. Brown rushed for 382 yards and two scores as a true freshman and adds speed to the Terrapins’ backfield. A committee approach at running back in College Park seems likely, but Brown will be a key piece of coordinator Mike Locksley’s offense. Another name to remember for the Terrapins: True freshman lineman Damian Prince.

 

Freddy Canteen, WR, Michigan

New coordinator Doug Nussmeier was hired to fix a Michigan offense that ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in total and rushing offense. Quarterback Devin Gardner had his share of ups and downs, but the senior also didn’t have a ton of help from the offensive line and rushing attack. Those two areas are a concern again, but Michigan’s passing attack should take a step forward. Tight end Devin Funchess will shift to the outside, and the coaching staff has to be encouraged with the development of Canteen in the spring. The Maryland native was a standout performer in the spring and could claim a starting role this year. With Jeremy Gallon departing, Michigan needs a new go-to receiver, and the combination of Funchess and Canteen should be an effective duo for Gardner.

 

Leontee Carroo, WR, Rutgers

The addition of Ralph Friedgen as Rutgers’ new play-caller should help an offense that averaged just 5.0 yards per play (conference-only games) and lost 30 turnovers in 2013. Friedgen’s first task is to develop Gary Nova into a consistent quarterback. If Nova plays with more consistency and eliminates the turnovers, the Scarlet Knights' offense will show improvement on the stat sheet. Carroo only caught 28 passes last season but averaged 17.1 yards per catch and scored nine touchdowns. The junior should be the top option at receiver for Rutgers in 2014.

 

Theiren Cockran, DE, Minnesota

Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman will be tough to replace, but defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys returns three starters up front. Cockran quietly had a solid 2013 campaign, recording 30 tackles (10 for a loss), 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Although Cockran is known among the Minnesota fan base, another big season should give him plenty of recognition among the rest of the conference. Not having Hageman on the interior will create more attention on Cockran, but the junior is poised to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top defensive ends.

 

Maliek Collins/Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska

Nebraska’s defensive line is young, but there’s no question the coaching staff has to be excited about the talent in place. End Randy Gregory is one of the top defensive players in the nation, and the combination of Collins, Valentine and Aaron Curry is a promising trio for coordinator John Papuchis. Valentine got better as the season progressed in 2013, capped by recording a sack and two tackles for a loss against Iowa. He finished 2013 with 21 tackles (five for a loss) and one sack. Collins wasn’t as active on the stat sheet last year, recording 12 tackles and one sack. However, Collins and Valentine both will see a larger role in the defense in 2014. And with both players checking in over 300 pounds, opposing offenses won’t have much room to run on the interior against Nebraska.

 

Demetrius Cooper, DE, Michigan State

The Spartans already have one of college football’s top defensive end tandems with Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush, and it appears the depth on the outside will only improve with the emergence of Cooper. The Illinois native redshirted last season, and according to the Michigan State roster, gained 31 pounds from 2013 to '14. Cooper had a strong spring and finished with two tackles (one for a loss) and one sack during the White vs. Green scrimmage. Don’t expect the redshirt freshman to post monster numbers this year, but Cooper should be a key piece of Michigan State’s defensive line rotation.

 

Pat Elflein, OG, Ohio State

Ohio State’s offensive line is under construction this offseason. The Buckeyes lost four starters, but junior Taylor Decker is back to anchor the left side of the line, and Alabama transfer Chad Lindsay is expected to start at center. Elflein is slated to start at right guard and impressed in limited action last year. The Ohio native played in all 14 games and started in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State. There’s a lot of turnover at guard in the Big Ten in 2014, and if Elflein continues to develop after a solid showing last year, he could be one of the top players at his position in the conference.

 

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Carlos Hyde was the first back to top 1,000 yards under coach Urban Meyer, and his departure to the NFL is a big loss for Ohio State’s offense. Hyde’s tough running will be missed, but the Buckeyes aren’t hurting for options. Elliott is expected to handle the bulk of the carries, with Dontre Wilson, Warren Ball, Curtis Samuel, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn all expected to contribute to the rotation in 2014. Elliott impressed in limited action last year, rushing for 262 yards on 30 carries (8.7 ypc). He may not handle 250 carries, but Elliott will headline a deep and talented Ohio State backfield.

 

Darian Hicks, CB, Michigan State

The Spartans no longer have Darqueze Dennard manning the “No Fly Zone” in East Lansing. But coordinator Pat Narduzzi isn’t too worried about his secondary in 2014, as junior Trae Waynes is a likely All-American and Hicks is ready to step up and replace Dennard at the other cornerback spot. Hicks played in all 14 games and recorded only two tackles, but the sophomore is primed for a bigger role in Michigan State’s defense this year.

 

Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State

New coordinator Bob Shoop followed James Franklin from Vanderbilt to Happy Valley, and the Pennsylvania native inherits a defense that returns six starters. Shoop’s defenses at Vanderbilt were underrated, and he should mold Penn State’s defense into one of the best in the conference this year. After playing in all 12 games last season, Johnson is expected to become a full-time starter at tackle in 2014. The New Jersey native recorded 27 tackles (three for a loss) and one sack. With Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan anchoring the outside end spots, Johnson should have plenty of room to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.

 

Alex Lewis, OT, Nebraska

Nebraska’s offensive line returns just one starter from 2013, but the Cornhuskers should be solid up front in 2014. Lewis transferred to Lincoln after starting 12 games at guard for Colorado in 2012. He also played in 12 games as a freshman in 2011 with the Buffaloes. The Arizona native solidified his place atop the depth chart in the spring and should be a key piece in Nebraska’s offensive line and rushing attack in 2014.

 

Geno Lewis, WR, Penn State

Allen Robinson accounted for 97 of Penn State’s 241 receptions last season, leaving little in the way of proven options for quarterback Christian Hackenberg in 2014. While there’s not much in the way of proven receivers, the Nittany Lions aren’t hurting for talent. Jesse James, Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman headline a deep group of tight ends, while Lewis is a rising star on the outside at receiver. After redshirting in 2012, Lewis caught 18 passes for 234 yards and three scores in his first season of action with Penn State. The Pennsylvania native closed out 2013 on a high note, grabbing three receptions for 91 yards and two scores against Wisconsin. Freshmen DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin, Saaed Blacknall and De’Andre Thompkins are names to watch in the fall, but Lewis should be the top receiving target for Hackenberg.

 

Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois

Even though Lunt hasn’t been guaranteed the starting job, it’s hard to envision the Oklahoma State transfer not taking the first snap for the Fighting Illini. Lunt was a four-star recruit in the 2012 signing class and threw for 1,108 yards and six scores as a true freshman for the Cowboys. After one season in Stillwater, Lunt transferred back home to Illinois and landed with the Fighting Illini. Coordinator Bill Cubit injected immediate improvement into Illinois’ passing game last year, and Lunt should be a perfect fit in this offense.

 

Chikwe Obasih, DE, Wisconsin

The Badgers are breaking in several new faces on defense in 2014, as only three starters return from a unit that held opponents to 16.3 points per game last year. Obasih redshirted in his first season in Madison and was one of the . Obasih ranked as the No. 343 player in the 247Sports Composite and recorded two tackles in the spring game. At 245 pounds, Obasih is undersized against traditional power offenses, but he has the speed and quickness off the edge to be a disruptive force in the backfield.

 

Jabrill Peppers, CB, Michigan

We could list a couple of Michigan defenders here, but Peppers is just too talented to leave off the list. Peppers ranked as the No. 3 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and is slated to push for a starting job in the fall. The New Jersey native could play a number of roles in the Michigan secondary in 2014, as he might start at cornerback or safety or play in the nickel role for coordinator Greg Mattison. Regardless of where he lines up, Peppers is too valuable for the Wolverines to keep on the sidelines. The true freshman could be a difference maker in Michigan’s secondary and also could see time on special teams this year.

 

Miles Shuler, WR, Northwestern

With Kain Colter expiring his eligibility, expect Northwestern to focus more on the passing game behind new (but experienced) quarterback Trevor Siemian in 2014. Siemian should have plenty of options in the receiving corps, especially with Shuler’s emergence in the spring. The Rutgers transfer is largely unproven, as he caught 11 passes in two years with the Scarlet Knights. However, Shuler has excellent speed and should help the receiving corps out of the slot. Shuler won’t need to catch 50 passes to make a huge impact, but his speed should create a few big plays.

 

Reggie Spearman, LB, Iowa

Iowa’s linebacking corps loses three standout performers from a unit that held opposing Big Ten offenses to just 19.6 points per game last year. Despite the departure of three starters, the Hawkeyes aren’t in bad shape at the position. Senior Quinton Alston and junior Travis Perry are experienced, while Spearman recorded 10 tackles in his first season in Iowa City. The Illinois native has a bright future and should secure a starting role on Phil Parker’s defense in 2014.

 

Dontre Wilson, RB/WR, Ohio State

It seems Urban Meyer has been looking for the next Percy Harvin for a couple of years now, but Wilson could finally be the right fit as a hybrid receiver/running back. Wilson rushed for 250 yards and one score last season and caught 22 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Expect Wilson to be more involved in the Buckeyes’ offense in 2014, as the departure of Carlos Hyde will open up more carries on the ground, while the receiving corps is searching for more playmakers.

 

DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue

The Boilermakers finished 1-11 in coach Darrell Hazell’s debut, but there were a few bright spots on the depth chart. Yancey played in 11 games as a true freshman last year and grabbed 32 receptions for 546 yards and two scores. The Georgia native averaged 17.1 yards per catch, which ranked No. 2 among receivers in the Big Ten. Yancey should see his numbers increase in 2014 and should be one of the Big Ten’s top big-play threats. Another name to watch in West Lafayette this year: Running back Raheem Mostert.

Teaser:
Big Ten Football Breakout Players for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-still-hasnt-seen-best-bo-wallace
Body:

HOOVER, Ala. — When Bo Wallace caught a glimpse of himself on film from Ole Miss’ bowl game, the Rebels quarterback saw something that needed an immediate change before the 2014 season.

Wallace threw one interception against Georgia Tech in the bowl game, but he was otherwise solid in the Rebels’ 25-17 win.

No, it wasn't necessarily his performance. Instead, Wallace bristled at the shoulder-length hair peaking out of his helmet. During the offseason, he visited the only person he’ll let cut his hair — a woman in Nashville — and trimmed it to a more presentable shagginess.

“This is as long as it’ll get,” Wallace said from SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. “I want to take a more professional approach to my senior year.”

Part of that professional approach entering his final season is proving that Ole Miss hasn’t seen Wallace at his best. Certainly not since the end of last season.

The postseason was a bit of redemption after his disastrous performance in the Egg Bowl, but Wallace talks as if he knows winning a Music City Bowl isn’t going to make anyone forget that he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in a 17-10 loss at Mississippi State.

The loss put a damper on a season in which Ole Miss otherwise exceeded expectations. The Rebels navigated a tough schedule to start the season with road wins over Vanderbilt and Texas and a home victory over LSU. The only losses during a 7-3 start were to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M.

Game 11, though, is when Wallace’s arm — and confidence — started to fail him.

“I think about it every day,” Wallace said of his flop against Mississippi State. “I work every day to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I don’t think it will.”

Beyond the hair, Wallace says he’s undergone a “complete overhaul” of his throwing mechanics during the offseason. He worked with Tom House, a former major league pitcher who works with quarterbacks and pitchers on mechanics.

The problems that culminated in three interceptions in the Egg Bowl started in the fourth game of 2012 against Tulane when he sustained a shoulder injury. Wallace finished out the season, but he threw 17 interceptions. Offseason shoulder surgery helped, but only for a time.

Wallace’s 2013 season started in fine form, he threw 17 touchdown passes to five interceptions during the first 10 games. He doubled his interceptions in the last three.

Here’s a look at how he started and how Wallace played in losses to Mississippi State and Missouri.
 

Bo Wallace Season Splits
 Comp./Att.YardsYards/Att.TDINT
First 10 Games209 of 3232,6648.2175
vs. Missouri and Mississippi State52 of 824265.204


Wallace had worn down during the second half of the season, and he knew his arm wasn’t there. For a quarterback who had the reputation of a gunslinger in junior college, this was tough to swallow. The quarterback who averaged 9.2 yards per attempt in JUCO averaged 5.2 in two losses. He still tried to play like he had a big arm, leading to questionable decisions.

“You see that throw down the field and know you can make a big play on it, but you don’t want to try it because you might underthrow it and get picked,” Wallace said.

After working with House, Wallace said he’s able to get more velocity on the ball. In an ideal throwing motion, Wallace’s hips come first and the shoulder creates the torque. After his injury, his hips and shoulder were in sync, and he couldn’t get any torque on the throw.

That, presumably, has changed. Wallace says he’ll be able to stretch the field, something that hasn’t been part of his game for stretches of the last two games.

In year during a changing of the guard at quarterback in the SEC, Wallace could quickly move to or near the top of the pack

“He's just been overshadowed by some really good players,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “The guy has a chance to own every passing record in Ole Miss history before he leaves there.”

The latter may be a stretch. Wallace will have trouble catching Eli Manning in a few areas — Wallace is 41 career touchdowns short of Manning. But Wallace needs 3,779 passing yards to catch Manning’s career total. If Wallace hits that, he’ll also eclipse Manning’s single-season record of 3,600 yards.

If Wallace’s shoulder holds up, those kinds of marks may be attainable.

“He feels finally healthy and confident,” Freeze said. “I really think he's at a point where he certainly has every avenue right now to step in and be one of the guys in this conference.”
 

Teaser:
Ole Miss Still Hasn't Seen the Best from Bo Wallace
Post date: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/2014-15-college-basketball-big-tens-top-transfers-and-freshmen
Body:

The top programs in the Big Ten, for the most part, take a more traditional route for building rosters. Sign high school players and develop them into veterans.

Sure, there are outliers. Ohio State pulls five-star recruits as well as any program in the country. Illinois under John Groce has been active in the transfer market.

Even though the standard practice in the Big Ten tends to follow Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan, plenty of new arrivals should make an impact in the league.

In the first of our series breaking down the top newcomers around college basketball, we take a look at the top freshmen, transfers, redshirt freshmen and players returning from injury around the Big Ten.

1. Anthony Lee, Ohio State
Transfer from Temple

The 6-foot-9, 230-pound Lee will give Ohio State a key player in thin frontcourt. He was one of the top rebounders in both the Atlantic 10 and the American as the Owls changed leagues. Lee ranked in the top 200 in offensive and defensive rebound rate last season and ranked 11th nationally in defensive rebound rate two years ago, according to KenPom.com. He also averaged a career-high 13.6 points per game last season.

2. James Blackmon Jr., Indiana
Freshman

Like his father, James Blackmon Jr. came down to Indiana and Kentucky in recruiting. Unlike his father, the son picked Indiana. Blackmon’s arrival is good for other psychological reasons for IU as the Hoosiers kept another top prospect in-state. Blackmon he’s also a McDonald’s All-American shooting guard who will take some of the pressure off junior point Yogi Ferrell.

3. Kameron Chatman, Michigan
Freshman

Michigan will be a team in need of some new stars in 2014-15. Caris LeVert is the next in line, but Chatman will be an intriguing name to watch. He’s a 6-foot-7, 197-pound who could be one of Michigan’s most versatile players. The Wolverines have an opening at the 4, but Chatman’s also a skilled passer. He'll be small for a power forward, but not to play the position in the Michigan lineup.

4. Mark Donnal, Michigan
Redshirt freshman

Donnal was going to have trouble cracking the lineup last season, so he redshirted. His development on the practice squad puts him in line for a starting role this season. As is typical for a Michigan forward, Donnal can hit the 3 but his post play is in question.

5. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Freshman

Russell didn’t become eligible until late June, but his arrival means Ohio State will have the most highly touted member of its signing class available this season. The McDonald’s All-American is a combo guard who should give the backcourt a much-needed scoring jolt.

6. Leron Black, Illinois
Freshman

Black, a 6-7 forward from Memphis, will give Illinois some much-needed toughness. He’ll be a quality rebounder on a team that already has a top-notch rim protector in Nnanna Egwu.

7. Melo Trimble, Maryland
Freshman

Maryland will need Trimble, a top-40 recruit, to take a bigger role than perhaps anticipated. Trimble may step into the point guard spot vacated by Seth Allen, who transferred to Virginia Tech. Trimble is the Terrapins’ first McDonald’s All-American since 2003.

8. Ahmad Starks, Illinois
Transfer from Oregon State

Illinois was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country last season, hitting only 31.7 percent of shots from long range. The Illini will boost this by adding Starks, who was Oregon State’s most prolific 3-point shooter with 185 in 97 games.

9. Vic Law, Northwestern
Freshman

Law, a 6-6 forward, could be one of the most important recruits Northwestern has signed in a long time. He’s an elite athlete who will give second-year coach Chris Collins a versatile player on both ends of the court.

10. Aaron Cosby, Illinois
Transfer from Seton Hall

Cosby is another key name for the Illinois backcourt, which already includes Rayvonte Rice. Cosby can play both guard spots and averaged 12.6 points and shot 42.6 percent from the field during his final season at Seton Hall.

Teaser:
2014-15 College Basketball: The Big Ten's Top Transfers and Freshmen
Post date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 15:43
All taxonomy terms: Hot Seat, running backs, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-nfl-running-backs-hot-seat-2014
Body:

For the second straight year, no running back was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. And in free agency, no ball-carrier signed for more than $10.5 million with a team. No matter how you look at it, the league’s attitude towards running backs has changed, which puts even more of a premium on production.

 

So when it comes to the running back position, NFL could truly mean “Not For Long,” as there are a number of former high draft picks that face uncertain futures as they enter the final year of their rookie contracts. On the other end of the spectrum, there also are several veteran backs that find themselves on the wrong side of 30 and need to prove they are still capable of getting the job done when the ball is in their hands.

 

Here are 10 running backs that need to make the most of their opportunities in 2014:

 

1. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

The third pick of the 2012 draft still has two years left on his rookie contract, but could be running short on opportunities to prove his worth. Already on his second team, Richardson fared even worse after being traded to the Colts (2.9 ypc) than he did with the Browns (3.5 ypc). With Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) and Vick Ballard (ACL) poised to return from injury, Richardson is certainly no lock to assume the starting job, even if the Colts gave up a first-round pick to get him in the first place.

 

2. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

Richardson isn’t the only former All-American running back that played at Alabama struggling in the NFL either. Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, has yet to enjoy anywhere near the same level of success as a pro. Hampered by injuries, which have limited him to 37 games in his first three seasons, Ingram is averaging just 4.1 yards per carry as a Saint with 11 touchdowns. Darren Sproles is now in Philadelphia, but Ingram is still behind Pierre Thomas on the depth chart and could end up being passed by Khiry Robinson, an undrafted free agent last season, as well. Not exactly an ideal situation for someone who will be a free agent after the season. 

 

3. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders

McFadden will turn 27 prior to the start of the season, yet his career is at a crossroads. The fourth overall pick of the 2008 draft, McFadden has shown glimpses of his all-around ability, but injuries and inconsistency have been the hallmarks of his career to this point. A free agent this past offseason, McFadden ended up signing a one-year deal to return to the Raiders, even though the team signed Maurice Jones-Drew (see below). McFadden better make the most of the touches he gets this fall, or else they may end up being the last he sees in the NFL.

 

4. Chris Johnson, New York Jets

The Tennessee Titans released Johnson in April, eating the last year of his contract. A 2,000-yard rusher in 2009, Johnson didn’t sit on the market too long, signing a two-year pact with the Jets. Set to turn 29 in September, Johnson has been consistent (six straight 1,000-yard seasons) and durable (only one missed game) in his six seasons, but he’s also shown signs of slowing down. After averaging 5.6 yards per carry in his magical 2009 campaign, he has seen that steadily decline to just 3.9 last season. Johnson believes he’s still capable of carrying the load, which would certainly help take some of the heat off of both his head coach and his quarterback.

 

5. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots

Following a breakthrough 1,200-yard campaign in 2012, Ridley seemed primed to establish himself as one of the top running backs in the league. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to build on that success as ball-security issues (four lost fumbles), led to him taking a back seat to LeGarrette Blount, among others. Blount is now in Pittsburgh, but Ridley still has to prove to Bill Belichick that he can take care of the football when it’s in his hands. Not only do the Patriots have other options in the backfield, but Ridley also needs a strong season to help establish his value with free agency on the horizon.

 

6. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos

Ball is in just his second season and is the unquestioned starter in Denver. However, a lot of responsibility comes with that job, especially on a Super Bowl contender like the Broncos. With Knowshon Moreno in Miami, Ball should more than double his carries (120) from last season while also becoming a key part of the passing attack. Besides the production, however, Ball also has to prove that he’s capable of protecting the most important piece to this team – Peyton Manning. That’s especially the case if the Broncos have any hopes of getting another shot at the Lombardi Trophy in February.

 

7. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers

Checking in at No. 3 on this same list prior to last season, Mathews answered the bell to the tune of a career-best 1,255 yards rushing. In the playoffs, however, the durability questions arose again when an ankle injury limited his effectiveness in the Divisional Round loss in Denver. A free agent after the season, Mathews is still young enough (27) to cash in. However, it may not be with the Chargers since they signed former Colt Donald Brown to a three-year deal this offseason and just extended Danny Woodhead two more years.

 

8. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

Similar to Mathews, Murray also was pretty high on the hot seat list last season. And like Mathews, Murray responded with a Pro Bowl-caliber season that saw him rush for 1,121 yards. Unfortunately, Murray also has his own durability questions, as he has yet to make it through a full season healthy. Another pending free agent, Murray’s future seems a little more secure considering he’s a year younger and the Cowboys don’t really have a better option right now on their roster. Still, Murray could make his agent’s (and his head coach’s) job a lot easier if he’s able to duplicate last season’s success.

 

9. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

If there is anyone who is ready to put 2013 behind them, it’s probably Rice. Besides seeing his production plummet (from 1,143 yards rushing in 2012 to 660), Rice also must still deal with the judicial system (NFL has suspended him for the first two games) when it comes to his indictment on third-degree aggravated assault stemming from a February incident involving his then-fiancée, now wife. With three more years remaining on his contract, the cost (cap hit/dead money) seems too high for the Ravens to simply cut their losses. But there’s no question that Rice needs to be at his best this season – both on the field and off of it.

 

10. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons

After signing with Atlanta last offseason, Jackson thought he would finally get another shot to play in the postseason, while the Falcons thought they were solving their rushing woes. Unfortunately, neither goal was realized as Jackson rushed for career-worst 543 yards and the Falcons went from the top seed in the NFC playoffs to a 4-12 afterthought. At 31 years old and with more than 2,500 carries on his resume, the Falcons aren’t asking Jackson to be the workhorse he was earlier in his career. However, they do need more than 3.5 yards per attempt and seven total touchdowns they got from Jackson in 2013, especially if Atlanta wants to get back into the playoff discussion this season.

 

Other Names to Watch

(alphabetical order)

 

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

Has rushed for more than 1,100 yards in three straight seasons, but he’s 31 years old and a free agent after this year. The 49ers drafted Carlos Hyde in the second round and also have Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and a rehabbing Marcus Lattimore on the roster.

 

Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills

Thrived (890 yards rushing, 10 total TDs) in relief of an injured C.J. Spiller last season. Spiller still appears to be a building block for the future, however, as Jackson is 33 years old and a free agent after this season.

 

Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland Raiders

The 2011 rushing champion tested the free agent market and ended up signing a three-year deal (just $1.2 million guaranteed) with Oakland. Are MJD’s best days behind him or can he return to Pro Bowl-caliber form?

 

Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers

This duo is part of a crowded backfield and each has already restructured their contract to help secure a roster spot. Still, the Panthers need to find a productive running game to help Cam Newton break in a new receiving corps and stay in contention in what figures to be a competitive NFC South.

 

Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns

After tour of duty as Arian Foster’s backup in Houston, Tate gets his opportunity to carry the load in Cleveland. Contract (two years, only $2.5 million guaranteed) and the presence of rookie Terrance West are two indications that Tate may be on short leash in the Dawg Pound.

Teaser:
10 NFL Running Backs on the Hot Seat in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-23-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for July 23:

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. My neighbor leaves me anonymous notes about my dog's barking.

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• The reigning champ of insane ballpark concession fare: . By my math, that's equal to 16 McDonald's Quarter Pounders.

to cause a minor Twitter freak-out. Related item: .

. Somewhat terrifying.

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• Watch Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig videobomb some poor reporter.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 10:24

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