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Path: /college-football/penn-state-football-should-not-be-given-death-penalty
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The powers that be at Penn State, after more than a decade of wrong doing, have finally shed a stark and glaring light down the dark corridors of its past.

Transparency is what could have saved Penn State 10 years ago.

Former FBI director Louis Freeh held nothing back and avoided no one in his investigation of the Jerry Sandusky cover-up in State College. He performed his duties to perfection, and the result was a public slaughtering of any shred of dignity Penn State had remaining.

And rightly so.

Freeh, however, never would’ve been intertwined with the Nittany Lions had powerful men in charge of Penn State held themselves accountable in 2001. Or 1998. Or who knows how many other countless times some suspecting indecisive mind failed to step forward with information about the horrific acts of a cruel monster.

Certainly, the guilt trickles up and down the chain of command – and in different quantities for different individuals. An orderly hierarchy of responsibility is a valued and imperative aspect to our great country and, in this case, it failed miserably.

I believe that Joe Paterno knew full well what his sins were, and he paid with his life. Yes, he was aging rapidly and was battling cancer. But guilt is as heavy a human emotion as there is, and I think it killed JoePa.

Sandusky is right where he belongs — in prison for the rest of his living days. Gary Schultz, Graham Spanier and Tim Curley will be joining him very shortly. And Penn State’s reputation will be tarnished forever. It’s a permanent right cross directly to the face of what had been one of the most respected and revered programs in all of athletics. And the resulting black eye will have costs and ramifications that we may not fully understand — or be able to quantify — for years or possibly decades. The organic punishment that will be handed down by prospective students, courtroom judges and talk show hosts could cost Penn State into the billions of dollars.

And rightly so.

The civil suits should be heavy handed. The court of public opinion will be unrelenting. And those who failed to report or act on suspicions will be forced to live with their guilt for the rest of their lives. And you can bet it will be haunting.

But should Penn State football be given the Death Penalty?

Absolutely not.

I believe that athletic competition, at its core foundation, is inherently good. I have to. It’s why I pay my mortgage writing and talking about football games and basketball tournaments. Teamwork, unity, discipline, hard work, personal responsibility, commitment and honesty are just a few things I learned growing up on a football field and baseball diamond.

And it is these very principles that must lead Penn State into the future.

Power, greed, money, fear and arrogance caused the cover-up, not the sportsmanship that my father instilled in me at a young age. The only silver lining, if there is one at all, to the worst scandal in NCAA history is the potential for change and progress that is has created.

Penn State was corrupt and it will undoubtedly and appropriately pay a heavy price for its actions. But the future offers an opportunity for the Penn State students, alumni, faculty, administrators and supporters who were, and still are, completely innocent throughout this entire process.

To Penn State, I offer this advice: Commit yourself and your institution to being proactive in the fight against child molestation. Spend money, dedicate time, be vigilant and creative in the battle raging right now in every American city against the evils of child predators.

It is this fight that is most important to me. And it’s in this bout that Penn State football can be the most useful. Not winning championships or going to bowl games or bringing ratings to ESPN on Saturday afternoons.

Penn State football was incredibly powerful for all the wrong reasons eight months ago. It now has a chance to rebuild and transform itself into something so much more than a football team and protected university cash cow.

I wrote this at the end of my article on the day Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State:

“This is about the kids – and there are no silver linings.

I cannot expect victims’ hearts to relax now that 40 counts (for now) of child sexual abuse have been levied against one sick human being. The arraignment of Gary Schultz and Tim Curley won’t repair the frayed nerve endings that have been permanently damaged. I cannot expect victims to sleep easier at night because Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier have been fired as head coach and President at Penn State.

And even when Jerry Sandusky gets what is most-assuredly coming to him in a federal penitentiary, the horrific memories of the past will not be expelled from the furthest reaches of those children’s memories.

I can only hope with every ounce of my soul that somewhere a frightened young child, panicked irresolute parent or morally weak graduate assistant will find the internal strength to learn from what has happened in State College, Pa., and vow to never let it happen again.”


It will take many years, but I believe that Penn State football, with the right people in the right places pushing in the right direction, will be a part of a new culture in Happy Valley.

One that is renowned, not reviled.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Penn State Football Should Not Be Given the Death Penalty</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 13:42
Path: /nascar/nascar-horsepower-rankings-6
Body:

1. Matt Kenseth   Kenseth was the man to beat at Daytona for a second straight trip, although the fortunes of plate racing found him third by night’s end. Still, RFR is the team to beat on the plate tracks.

2. Jimmie Johnson   Johnson’s 2012 plate racing results: 42nd, 35th and 36th. In fact, his plate stats over the last few years — outside of a Talladega win — aren’t that impressive. Speaks more to the style of racing than the driver.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.   You can throw a blanket over the top 3. Each has 13 top 10s in 18 races and at least one win. Junior slots third here because he trails Kenseth in the standings and Johnson in the wins column.

4. Tony Stewart   Stewart closes the gap on the “Big Three” every three weeks or so. His problem lies in consistency — he seems to either finish in the top 3 on race day or outside of the top 20.

5. Denny Hamlin   It’s hard to fault a guy for getting wrecked while racing for the win at Daytona. That was the story of Hamlin’s night, so we’ll give him a pass and see what New Hampshire holds.

6. Greg Biffle   Biffle took the blame for the final “Big One” of­ the night in Daytona, though it’s hard to pin that on any one driver. His sliding from top 5 to 21st in the wreck is punishment enough.

7. Brad Keselowski   Keselowski seems to always be near the center of the storm. From getting hit on pit road to spinning out without any help, he had a rough night but rebounded for a respectable eighth-place showing.

8. Kasey Kahne   Stewart’s dancing partner at Daytona, Kahne managed a seventh-place run thanks to the craziness in the final two football field’s worth of the 400.

9. Clint Bowyer  Since a scintillating four-week stretch that culminated in a win, Bowyer has limped to 16th- and 29th-place runs. That said, he’ll be a pre-race favorite in Loudon this Sunday.

10. Martin Truex Jr.   Truex is still hanging tough at seventh in the point standings, but a win would go a long way in securing a spot in the Chase.

11. Jeff Gordon   Somehow brought a wrecked racecar home to a 12th-place finish. Still 87 points out of a Chase birth.

12. Kevin Harvick   Congrats to the Harvicks on the birth of their first child, Keelan Paul, born on Sunday.

13. Joey Logano  Currently occupies wild card spot No. 2 — but it’s oh-so-close in the mid-teens.

14. Kyle Busch   If it’s not mechanical woes that fell Busch, it’s a Daytona “Big One.”

15. Carl Edwards   Thirty-two points out of 10th in the standings and desperately scrambling to get things on track.

Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman


by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter:
@MattTaliaferro 

Teaser:
<p> Matt Kenseth leads Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads north to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 13:21
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-new-hampshire
Body:

The race may have ended Saturday night, but the smoke has yet to settle following the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway — both literally and figuratively.

Defending series champion Tony Stewart did what few could Saturday night, passing Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle for the lead. The two were attached at the bumper and out ahead of the pack for the majority of the night, leading a combined 124 of the 160 laps. Yet in the final frantic laps, Stewart was able to work with Kasey Kahne and push around the pair on the outside.

Earning his third victory of the year, Stewart tied Brad Keselowski with the most wins this season, and further solidified his spot in the Chase. Aside from a 32nd-place finish at Kentucky, Stewart and his Steve Addington-led crew have one win and four finishes of third or better in the last five events.

The two-time champion typically hits his stride during the summer stretch, and that seems to be the case again this year, so the competition should pay heed at New Hampshire, a track where Stewart owns for victories.

At times is seems Stewart performs at his best when faced with adversity and distractions abound for his organization at the moment. With the U.S. Army pulling all funding from NASCAR at the end of the year and Ryan Newman's name coming up in the Silly Season talk, Stewart is going to have to start answering questions soon.

However, there are bigger controversies, more time for that to develop, and Smoke just so happens to be heading to one of his best tracks, statistically speaking.

Over the past two seasons, Stewart has one win and two runner-up finishes in four races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. That 24th-place finish in the other event? He led 100 of the 300 laps, but ran out of fuel on the final lap giving the win to Clint Bowyer in September 2010.

Stewart-Haas Racing was the class of the field in this race last season when Newman led the organization to a 1-2 sweep of both qualifying and the race. Newman also led 62 laps in September's Chase race, but was among those short on fuel in the closing laps.

Despite a win this season, Newman currently trails Kyle Busch and Joey Logano in the wild card standings. A strong run (or a win) would move the No. 39 team closer to the championship battle.

Bowyer, the Sonoma winner, is another driver with his eye on the wild card standings. After scoring the win on the road course, Bowyer has dropped from seventh to 10th in the standings after a 16th at Kentucky and wreck-induced 29th in Daytona.

Bowyer is strong in Loudon though, with two wins and four top 5s in his 12 visits, however, also has seven finishes of 17th or worse. He has led a combined 229 laps in the last three New Hampshire races, with one win (Sept. 2010), a 17th and a 26th after running out of fuel with the lead in the final laps.

Five Favorites: Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin

The aforementioned wild card battle continues to intensify with each race, as Busch, Logano, Newman and Kahne jockey for the final two Chase spots over the next eight weeks. The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Busch and Logano currently hold the two transfer positions, but there is a lot of racing left before anything is decided.

While Busch has been trying to kick the trend of poor finishes, Logano has one win, two top 5s and three top 10s in the last five races. Along with his strong runs on the Cup slate, Logano has also been tearing things up in the Nationwide Series (four wins, a fifth and a sixth in the last six events), leaving the 22-year-old feeling comfortable and confident behind the wheel, despite being a prominent figure in the Silly Season rumor mill.

The July New Hampshire race has been good to the driver of the No. 20 Toyota throughout his young career. In his three July starts at the “Magic Mile” Logano has one win, two top 5s and three top 10s. Logano has not fared as well in the fall race, however, with three finishes outside the top 20 in four attempts.

Look for the trend of strong runs to continue this weekend as Logano and crew chief Jason Ratcliff go after their second win of the year, positioning themselves for a Chase berth.

Five Undervalued Picks: Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkorses for your Fantasy NASCAR team as the series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 13:04
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-top-10-head-coaches-2012
Body:

Championships. Leadership. Awards. Longevity. Statistical records. Likeability. Talent development.

An NFL head coach can be evaluated with many criteria. Generally, winning championships over a long period of time is the easiest (or not-so-easiest) way to the top of any ranking. Who does more with less? Who gets his team to the playoffs the most consistently? Who is the best motivator? Whose team is best prepared come crunch time? And who has the shiny hardware to back it up?

So as of July of 2012, Athlon Sports has magically given the reins of an NFL franchise to you the fans. And you have your pick of the 32 NFL head coaches. The question becomes:

Which NFL coach would you hire to lead your franchise?

Here is Athlon's take:

Note: Age is as of Sept. 5, 2012, the first game of the 2012 NFL season

1. Bill Belichick, New England (2000-present), Cleveland (1991-95)
Age: 60, Regular season record: 175-97 (17 seasons), Postseason record: 17-7 (10 appearances)

Outside of Tom Coughlin, Belichick is the oldest coach on this list. But age isn't what matters here, it's results, and in that respect Belichick is cleary head and shoulders above the rest of his coaching brethren. He has the most regular-season and postseason wins, conference championships, and most importantly, three Super Bowl titles. He's been named the AP NFL Coach of the Year three times and already has secured his spot in the Hall of Fame even though his career is nowhere near finished. Fans may love to hate him, but Belichick has earned the respect of both NFL players and his coaching peers alike, just as he has earned his spot atop this list.

2. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco (2011-present)
Age: 48, Regular season record: 13-3 (1 season), Postseason record: 0-1 (1 appearance)

If Belichick is the present top dog in the NFL coaching ranks, Jim Harbaugh may be the future, which is saying something considering he has a grand total of one season under his belt. But that's what happens when you take a San Francisco team that hadn't produced a winning season since 2002 and turn into an NFC West champion and earn AP NFL Coach of the Year honors in the process. The 49ers came up short in the playoffs, but the future of the once-proud franchise that won four Super Bowl titles in the 1980s and another in 1994 looks extremely bright with Harbaugh at the helm. He's already got the coaching bloodlines (his father, Jack, has been in coaching for more than four decades and his brother, John, is Baltimore's head coach), the NFL pedigree (14-year career as QB), the leadership skills and the persona, now all he needs is the on-the-field results to establish himself as the league's next great head coach.

3. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay (2006-present)
Age: 48, Regular season record: 63-33 (6 seasons), Postseason record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

McCarthy already has what Harbaugh is chasing — a Super Bowl title — and could very well end up being the 49ers' head coach's greatest obstacle in achieving that goal. In six seasons leading the Packers, McCarthy has managed the transition from Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre to current reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, and done so with great success. Not only did the Packers win Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season, McCarthy has his team positioned to contend for more titles in the near future. In fact, McCarthy is the same age as Harbaugh and more than a decade younger than Belichck, meaning his best years could still be ahead of him.

4. Tom Coughlin, NY Giants (2004-present), Jacksonville (1995-2002)
Age: 66, Regular season record: 142-114 (16 seasons), Postseason record: 11-7 (9 appearances)

Coughlin may be the old guy on this list, but he's showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The first head coach in the hisotry of the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise, Coughlin got his second chance with the Giants, and has made the most of it. Showing the toughness and perseverance that he instills in his teams, Coughlin teetered on the brink of unemployment several times only to come back stronger. Now with two Super Bowl titles in the past five seasons, Coughlin has every bit of the notoriety, respect and job security that accompany his accomplishments. The only real question surrounding the hard-nosed veteran coach is how much longer will he be on the sideline?

5. Sean Payton, New Orleans (2006-present)
Age: 48, Regular season record: 62-34 (6 seasons), Postseason record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

In his six seasons at the helm of one of the NFL’s most inept franchises, Payton has been anything but. He has one losing season, three division titles, four playoff berths, one AP Coach of the Year award and one Super Bowl championship over Peyton Manning. He also is suspended for a full season after his involvement in the Saints' bounty scandal. He is still relatively young, has one of the brightest offensive minds in the game and will assuredly bounce back from this PR black eye. Yet, it is impossible to currently separate the champion from the suspension at this moment. Time will heal all wounds and Payton will be back winning games soon enough — just not in 2012.

6. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh (2007-present)
Age: 40, Regular season record: 55-25 (5 seasons), Postseason record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

Tomlin, like Belichick, McCarthy and Payton, has already reached the ultimate summit when it comes to being an NFL head coach — he's won the Super Bowl. The youngest to ever win the Lombardi Trophy at 36 years old, Tomlin is currently the second youngest head coach in the league. Dennis Allen, Oakland's first-year head coach, is six months younger than Tomlin. However, similar to Coughlin with the Giants, Tomlin hasn't let his age define nor limit him. Look no further than the fact that he's yet to have a losing season, has won 10 or more games in every season but one, and already has two AFC Championships on his resume.

7. John Harbaugh, Baltimore (2008-present)
Age: 49, Regular season record: 44-20 (4 seasons), Postseason record: 5-4 (4 appearances)

Younger brother Jim may get more of the headlines and attention for his work with the 49ers, but that shouldn’t take anything away from what the elder Harbaugh has accomplished in his first four seasons as an NFL head coach. Under the older Harbaugh brother, the Ravens haven’t won fewer than nine games in the regular season and have won at least one game in the playoffs each season. The next step for Harbaugh and his team is getting over the hump in the AFC Championship game. The Ravens are 0-2 in their conference title game, including last season’s gut-wrenching 23-20 loss to the Patriots in Foxboro.

8. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis (2012-present), Tennessee (1994-2010)
Age: 54, Overall Record: 142-120 (16 full seasons), Postseason record: 5-6 (6 appearances)

Few have ever been as consistent over a longer period of time than Fisher. Especially, in the modern what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL world coaches currently operate within. Since his first full season in 1995 at age 36 (7-9), Fisher has posted only four losing seasons while moving a team from Houston to Nashville via Memphis, and is the franchise's winningest coach. He reached the playoffs six times, won four division titles and came up one famous yard short of a Super Bowl title following the 1999 season. He is a model of consistency and his hard-nosed attitude plays in any NFL city. His most impressive work might have been the reclamation project of the Titans from a paltry 9-23 in 2004 and 2005 to NFL prominence (23-9 from 2007-08) two years later.

9. Gary Kubiak, Houston (2006-present)
Age: 51, Regular season record: 47-49 (6 seasons), Postseason record: 1-1 (1 appearance)

Despite a sub-.500 record, Kubiak has earned his No. 4 ranking due to his transformation of the Texans from expansion team to Super Bowl contender. It took longer than fans, and probably owner Bob McNair, had originally envisioned, but the first fruits of Kubiak’s persistence and labor came forth last season in the form of the franchise’s first 10-win regular season, division title, postseason appearance and playoff victory. Kubiak has produced a .500 or better season in four of his six seasons at the helm of the Texans. That’s no small feat for any team, let alone an expansion team that had to start from scratch.

10. Andy Reid, Philadelphia (1999-present)
Age: 54, Regular season record: 126-81-1 (13 seasons), Postseason record: 10-9 (9 appearances)

For a coach who is constantly on the Hot Seat while constantly defending his players, coaching staff and family, few have ever won as much as Reid. The Eagles have posted one losing season in 12 years since Reid’s first campaign, with only one 8-8 mark on the ledger (2007). He has made the playoffs nine times, has eight double-digit win seasons, went to four straight NFC title games, earned 2002 NFL Coach of the Year honors and nearly pulled-off a Super Bowl upset of the Patriots back in 2004. He has seen major roster and coaching overhaul (eight different coaches have left his staff to become NFL head coaches) and has made the playoffs through it all. While he has yet to win the big one and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008, Reid seems completely unjustly criticized for his performance as the Eagles' winningest coach.

Best of the Rest

Mike Smith, Atlanta (2008-present)
Age: 53, Regular season record: 43-21 (4 seasons), Postseason record: 0-3 (3 appearances)

Smith has done nothing but win since taking over the Falcons. He has never posted a losing record, has made the playoffs three times in four years and won the NFC South in 2010. He earned NFL AP Coach of the Year honors in his first year (2008) after taking over a 4-12 team and turning them into an 11-win playoff team. In fact, Atlanta had just two winning seasons in the nine years prior to Smith taking over. His next hurdle is winning when it counts as his 0-3 playoff record has left Falcons fans craving more.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit (2009-present)
Age: 46, Regular season record: 18-30 (3 seasons), Postseason record: 0-1 (1 appearance) 

An eight-year Fisher henchman at Tennessee, it hasn't taken Schwartz long to instill his former boss’ toughness in the Motor City. For a franchise that is three years removed from the only 0-16 mark in NFL history and hadn’t seen a playoff berth since 1999, Schwartz has the Lions poised for their second straight postseason trip in 2012. Five separate coaches have tried to return the Lions to success and only the Baltimore native has been able to do it. His offense shattered multiple offensive team records a year ago. He is the youngest coach in the NFC by one day over Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano.

Rex Ryan, New York Jets (2009-present)
Age: 49, Regular season record: 28-20 (3 seasons), Postseason record: 4-2 (2 appearances)

Some of the bloom has come off of Ryan’s rose as his Jets failed to make the playoffs last season after finishing 8-8. However, Ryan still has yet to post a losing record in his three seasons and did come a game away from the Super Bowl in each of his first two seasons. Ryan has shown he can talk a good game, but he also knows he better back it up with the results on the field, starting this season.

John Fox, Denver (2011-present), Carolina (2002-10)
Age: 57, Regular season record: 81-79 (10 seasons), Postseason record: 6-4 (4 appearances)

Fox’s record may not look that impressive, but in 10 seasons as the Panthers’ head coach he won three division titles and led the team to Super Bowl XXXVIII following the 2003 season. Fox’s overall .506 winning percentage in the regular season is also largely the result of his disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2010, his final season in Carolina. Now in Denver, Fox turned a Broncos team that went 4-12 in 2010 into an AFC West division champion in 2011, albeit one with an 8-8 record. Expectations are even higher this year for Fox and his Broncos, who will have Peyton Manning directing the offense.

Mike Munchak, Tennessee (2011-present)
Age: 52, Regular season record: 9-7 (1 season)

Munchak’s got only one year as a head coach on his resume, but he led the Titans to three more wins than the previous season and just missed a wild card berth in his rookie season. Munchak had the unenviable task of replacing mainstay Jeff Fisher, who had been the franchise’s head coach the previous 17 seasons, but now there’s no question whose team this is.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati (2003-present)
Age: 53, Regular season record: 69-74-1 (9 seasons), Postseason record: 0-3 (3 appearances)

Lewis deserves plenty of credit for the two division titles and three playoff appearances he has led the Bengals to in his nine seasons in charge. Remember, when Lewis and the Bengals won the AFC North title in 2005 that ended a 15-year playoff drought for the franchise. However, Lewis also deserves his share of the criticism for his teams’ lack of consistency. Under Lewis the Bengals have yet to post consecutive seasons with a winning record or back-to-back playoff berths.

— by Mark Ross and Braden Gall, published on July 12, 2012

@bradengall

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the NFC's Best Coach?
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best Coach?

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters

Ranking the NFL’s Best Backup Quarterbacks

The 10 Worst NFL Teams Since Expansion

NFL Quarterbacks Rewrote Record Books in 2011

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Dan Marino: An NFL Horror Story

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC South
Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings


NFC South
Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2012 Preview magazine

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the NFL's Top 10 Head Coaches in 2012</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-east-offensive-lines
Body:

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

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

Ranking the Big East's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. South FloridaDespite the departure of two starters, the Bulls get the nod as the No. 1 offensive line in the Big East. Left tackle Mark Popek has 21 career starts and is an Athlon first-team All-Big East selection for 2012. The competition around Popek is up for grabs, as senior Damien Edwards is poised to replace Jeremiah Warren at left guard. Sophomore Austin Reiter left spring with the edge to fill the void left behind by Chaz Hine at center. The right side of the line is set with the return of guard Danous Estenor and tackle Quinterrius Eatmon. The Bulls only gave up 16 sacks and ranked 31st nationally in rushing offense last season. With three solid starters returning, this unit should perform at a high level once again in 2012.

2. LouisvilleThis group struggled to match its 2010 performance last year, but there’s plenty to like about the Cardinals going into 2012. Senior Mario Benavides missed the first three games of last year due to injury and the line never seemed to jell as a result. With Benavides at full strength and another spring practice under its belt, Louisville’s offensive line is poised to to rank among the conference’s best. Alex Kupper started all 13 games last season and will anchor the left side of the line at tackle. John Miller started 10 games as a freshman in 2011 and could contend for All-Big East honors this year. Sophomores Jake Smith (right guard) and Jamon Brown (tackle) will hold down the right side. The Cardinals allowed 41 sacks last season, but that number should be cut in half in 2012.

3. SyracuseWith three starters back, this unit should be a strength for the Orange in 2012. Left tackle Justin Pugh is the headliner and enters his junior year ranked among the top tackles in college football. He is a third-team All-American selection by Athlon Sports and has earned All-Big East honors in each of his first two seasons. Guard Zack Chibane started all 12 games last year and should be in the mix for all-conference accolades in 2012. Center Macky MacPherson also returns after recording 12 starts last season. This group will miss guard Andrew Tiller and tackle Michael Hay, but there’s plenty to lean on with three starters coming back to Syracuse.

4. Rutgers Improving the offensive line was a high priority for Rutgers entering last season, especially after allowing 61 sacks and ranking near the bottom of the nation in rushing offense in 2010. This unit was better in 2011, as it allowed only 30 sacks, but rushers managed only 2.8 yards per carry. Only two starters return for 2012, but this group will gain the services of Maryland transfer R.J. Dill, who started 33 games in three years with the Terrapins. Sophomore Kaleb Johnson is a rising star at left tackle, while junior Andre Civil is a returning starter, but could struggle to crack the starting unit in 2012. The guard spots are expected to go to Antwan Lowery and Taj Alexander, but Betim Bujari or David Osei could figure into the mix. Bujari and Dallas Hendrikson will compete to be the No. 1 center. Cutting down on the sacks allowed was a good sign for Rutgers last season, but this group has to open up more lanes for running backs in 2012. The Scarlet Knights still have holes up front, but this unit appears to be on the right track entering fall practice.

5. Cincinnati There’s not much separation between Rutgers and Cincinnati for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in this list. Although the Bearcats return two starters and others with experience, this group suffered heavy losses with the departure of center Evan Davis, tackle Alex Hoffman and guard Randy Martinez. Hoffman and Martinez were All-Big East selections in 2011. Eric Lefeld enters his sophomore year entrenched at left tackle, while guard Austen Bujnoch returns after starting 13 games last year. Sean Hooey is a towering right tackle (6-foot-9) and recorded six starts in 2011. Dan Sprague has the edge at center, while sophomore Kevin Schloemer finished spring practice with the lead at right guard. Ohio State transfer Sam Longo could figure into the mix at center or guard. With a new starter at quarterback and running back, it will be important for this group to pickup where they left off last year.

6. Connecticut With two key players gone from last season’s line, the Huskies have significant voids to fill entering fall practice. Center Moe Petrus and left tackle Mike Ryan were two of the Big East’s standout offensive linemen and will be missed. The good news for line coach (and offensive coordinator) George DeLeone is the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Senior Adam Masters is back at left guard after starting all 12 games last season. Right tackle Kevin Friend (10 starts in 2011) and guard Steve Greene (8 starts) are expected to anchor the right side of the line in 2012. The other two spots in the lineup are up for grabs, with senior Jimmy Bennett expected to get the nod at left tackle, while Penn State transfer Alex Mateas holding an edge to start at center. 

7. PittsburghWhile quarterback Tino Sunseri received much of the blame for Pittsburgh’s offensive woes last year, the offensive line deserved a good bit of criticism as well. This group allowed a whopping 64 sacks, and rushers allowed just 3.5 yards per carry in 2011. The offensive line struggled to fit in Todd Graham’s up-tempo spread attack, but this unit is better positioned to succeed under new coach Paul Chryst and a pro-style offense. Another reason for hope up front is the return of guard Chris Jacobson. He missed most of last season with a knee injury and should stabilize the right side of the line. Ryan Turnley is one of the top returning centers in the Big East, but the rest of the group is up for grabs. Juantez Hollins and Matt Rotheram appear to have the inside track on the tackle spots, while Cory King has the edge at left guard. This unit will be improved, but there are enough question marks to keep it near the bottom of the Big East.

8. Temple This unit was a strength for the Owls last season, but with four new starters taking over, a drop off in performance is expected for 2012. The lone returning starter is senior Martin Wallace, who started all 13 games for Temple last season. This unit expects to get a boost with the return of senior Sean Boyle at center. He missed all of 2011 due to a shoulder injury, but his experience will be valuable for a line that needs leadership. While Wallace and Boyle should be dependable players, the rest of the group is young and depth is an issue. Freshman Zach Hooks could get the nod at left tackle, while sophomore Jaimen Newman finished spring practice as the No. 1 right guard. Junior Jeff Whittingham is penciled in as the starter at left guard. If the Owls want to make a bowl game in their first season back in the Big East, developing continuity up front will be critical this fall. 

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

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Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big East Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 05:42
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-title-contenders-have-offensive-line-question-marks
Body:

When determining a preseason pick for college football’s national champion, offensive lines are often the most overlooked aspect to ranking teams No. 1 through No. 124. Quarterback play and success is equally important, but developing a standout offensive line can be just as crucial.

In the BCS standings released on December 4, 2011, each of the top five teams – LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon – ranked in the top 25 in fewest sacks allowed. Six of the top 15 teams in Athlon’s 2011 offensive line rankings made a BCS game, while Boise State won 12 contests and finished in the top 10.

Factors such as scheme, conference and quarterback play all figure into sack totals, so it’s impossible to target one specific stat to rank offensive lines.

As the countdown to the 2012 college football season hits under 50 days, it’s time to take a look at how the national title contenders stack up on the offensive line. Some of the top contenders – USC, LSU and Alabama – are in great shape. However, potential contenders like Florida State or Georgia have big question marks to answer.

Athlon will release its national offensive line rankings later this summer, but here’s an early glance at how some of the top contenders look up front.

Offensive Lines In Great Shape

It’s just a coincidence, but each of the teams in Athlon’s projected top five is in great shape up front.

Alabama (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 3) – William Vlachos will be missed, but the Crimson Tide won’t miss a beat up front. Senior Barrett Jones is college football’s best returning lineman and will shift from left tackle to center. The guard spots will be manned by Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen, while junior D.J. Fluker should have a breakout year. Left tackle is a question mark, but Cyrus Kouandjio  - the No. 2 recruit in the 2011 Athlon Consenus 100 – is ready to start.

LSU (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 2) – The combination of Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews might be the best tackle duo in college football, but LSU’s Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst aren’t too far behind. In addition to the strength at tackle, the Tigers bring back guard Josh Williford and center P.J. Lonergan, while Josh Dworaczyk returns after missing all of 2011 with an injury. The Tigers allowed 18 sacks last season and allowed rushers to average 4.8 yards per rush. With two likely All-Americans (Hurst and Faulk) leading the way, LSU should once again keep its punishing ground attack going, while pushing for a spot in the national title game.

Oklahoma (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 5) – Three starters are back from a unit that allowed just 11 sacks last season. Gabe Ikard has emerged as one of the nation’s best guards, while this group should get a boost with the return of center Ben Habern. The senior missed time due to an arm injury last year. Seniors Lane Johnson and Tyler Evans and sophomore Daryl Williams are expected to round out the starting lineup. The Sooners struggled to find their offensive rhythm over the final three games of last season, but with one of college football’s top lines returning, along with quarterback Landry Jones, Oklahoma should average nearly 40 points a game.

Oregon (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 4) – Some of the credit to the Ducks’ rushing attack over the last three years has to go to running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas, but the offensive line also played a key role in its success. This group returns three starters in 2012, and the replacements stepping in have experience. Left tackle Jake Fisher is a rising star, while right guard Ryan Clanton played in 11 games last year. Starting left guard Carson York suffered a significant knee injury in the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, but is expected to return early – if not by the season opener – in 2012.

USC (Athlon 2012 projected finish: 1) – Despite losing left tackle Matt Kalil, the Trojans are in good shape up front. Four starters are back, including 2012 Athlon All-American center Khaled Holmes. USC’s offensive line gave up only eight sacks last season and shouldn’t see that number increase by much this season. Considering the Trojans could match up against LSU (one of the best defensive lines in college football) in the national title game, it’s important for this group to jell this fall.

In Great Shape…Outside of Athlon’s Projected Top 10 for 2012

Michigan State – Quarterback Kirk Cousins must be replaced, but the Spartans can lean on running back Le’Veon Bell and four starters on the offensive line.

NC State – Looking for a sleeper pick to win the ACC in 2012? Take a look at the Wolfpack. Quarterback Mike Glennon is back, and four starters return on the offensive line.

Texas A&M – Transitioning to the SEC will be a challenge, but the Aggies can lean on tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Center Patrick Lewis also returns after earning honorable mention All-Big 12 accolades last year.

Projected Top 25 Teams With Question Marks

Clemson – The Tigers have the firepower (quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins) to win the ACC, but the offensive line could hold this team back from reaching a BCS bowl. This group loses three starters, including both tackles in Phillip Price and Landon Walker. Center Dalton Freeman and guard Brandon Thomas is a good building block, but Clemson’s high-powered offense could sputter with a sluggish performance up front.

Florida State – The Seminoles are a good darkhorse pick to win the national title, but winning the championship won’t be possible without better play from the line. This unit struggled throughout 2011 and ranked 110th nationally with 41 sacks allowed. Florida State will be young on the offensive line once again in 2012, as the starting five could be composed entirely of sophomores. Line coach Rick Trickett should have this group playing better, but it’s hard to see the Seminoles making the jump to elite offensive line status in 2012.

Georgia – This unit could be the only area holding the Bulldogs back from contending for a national title. The Bulldogs must replace three starters, including second-team All-SEC center Ben Jones and first-team tackle Cordy Glenn. Justin Anderson also departs after making 14 starts in 2011. There’s some experience returning with Kenarious Gates (9 starts in 2011), Chris Burnette (12) and Dallas Lee (7), but Jones, Anderson and Glenn will be missed. This unit allowed 33 sacks last year and may struggle to lower that number in 2012.

Michigan – Transitioning from Rich Rodriguez’s spread attack to Al Borges’ offense didn’t have much effect on the Wolverines’ offensive line. This group allowed only 18 sacks and led the way for rushers to average 5.2 yards per carry. With the departures of center David Molk – one of college football’s best linemen in 2011 – and right tackle Mark Huyge, it may take some time for Michigan to jell up front. The good news for coach Brady Hoke is three starters are back, but replacing Molk’s leadership won’t be easy. With a difficult season opener against Alabama, the Wolverines will have an early litmus test to determine how far this unit has improved since spring practice.

Oklahoma State – Although the Cowboys must replace four starters up front, it’s hard to consider this a real weakness. Line coach Joe Wickline consistently reloads, so Oklahoma State’s offense shouldn’t see too much of a drop in production in 2012. Lane Taylor is the headliner, but three expected starters (Michael Bowie, Parker Graham and Jonathan Rush) could all be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors by the end of the year. The biggest question mark is at center, where Evan Epstein is replacing Grant Garner (the Big 12’s top offensive lineman in 2011).

Virginia Tech – It’s a good thing the Hokies have Logan Thomas under center. The junior’s mobility will be an important asset in 2012, especially as Virginia Tech replaces four starters on the offensive line. Gone are All-ACC standouts in Blake DeChristopher and Jaymes Brooks, while Andrew Lanier and Greg Nosal have also finished their eligibility. Center Andrew Miller is a solid building block, but there’s a lot of question marks around him. Georgia transfer Brent Benedict is expected to claim one of the guard spots, but likely starters Nick Becton (left tackle), David Wang (left guard) and Vinston Painter (right tackle) have zero starts in their career.

Solid…But Not Spectacular

Arkansas – It’s tough to envision the Razorbacks as a national title contender without Bobby Petrino on the sidelines. However, Arkansas returns quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis and catches Alabama and LSU in Fayetteville. Alvin Bailey has potential to be one of the best guards in the nation, while junior Travis Swanson is back after a solid sophomore campaign.

Nebraska – This unit returns only two starters, but there’s enough experience returning to keep the Nebraska rushing attack going in 2012. Guard Spencer Long is expected to challenge for All-Big Ten honors, while Andrew Rodriguez is back after making seven starts last year. Seung Hoon Choi (guard) and Tyler Moore (right tackle) are expected to crack the starting lineup after combining for 10 starts in 2011. Jeremiah Sirles played in 12 games last year and should seamlessly slide into the left tackle spot. 

Notre Dame – Largely due to the quarterback issues, the Irish’s offensive line flew under the radar last season. This group allowed only 17 sacks and allowed rushers to average 4.8 per carry. Three starters are back, including left tackle Zack Martin. Notre Dame needs a quarterback to emerge to reach a BCS game, but this line could rank among the top 10 nationally in 2012.

South Carolina – The Gamecocks allowed 31 sacks in 2011, but rushers averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Only two starters are back in 2012, but sophomore A.J. Cann is an emerging star, and center T.J. Johnson could be one of the best in the SEC.

Stanford – Despite losing David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, the Cardinal should have one of the Pac-12’s top offensive lines. David Yankey and Cameron Fleming form a solid duo to build around, while a talented freshman class will add to the competition in the fall.

Texas – Even if the Longhorns struggle to get better quarterback play, their offensive line, rushing attack and defense should push this team to 10 wins. Texas will have four starters back in 2012 and adds touted junior college recruit Donald Hawkins at left tackle.

West Virginia – This unit was criticized often last year but should be better with another offseason to learn under line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. The Mountaineers return three starters and regain the services of guard Josh Jenkins (missed 2011 with knee injury).

Wisconsin – The Badgers rarely struggle to reload up front, but three first-team All-Big Ten selections are gone, while coach Bob Bostad departed Madison. The returning starters (Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner) are two of the best in the Big Ten, but the Badgers must reload at three spots.

Can’t win the National Title…but Has Question Marks

Ohio State – Urban Meyer’s arrival in Columbus should add some much-needed punch to the Buckeyes’ offense, but the line was a question mark last season and may not be much better in 2012. Ohio State allowed 46 sacks in 2011 and must replace three starters this season. Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell are the lone returning starters, and both players started in all 13 games last season. The rest of the starting lineup has experience, but it may take some time for this unit to jell. The Buckeyes can’t win the national title, but could finish among the top 10 teams in college football for 2012.

 

Returning Starters on the Offensive Line for BCS Conferences*

ACC

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
9 Florida State 3
15 Clemson 2
16 Virginia Tech 1
28 NC State 4
29 North Carolina 4
35 Georgia Tech 4
36 Virginia 3
48 Miami, Fla. 2
57 Wake Forest 1
72 Maryland 2
80 Duke 4
86 Boston College 4


Big East

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
23 Louisville 4
34 South Florida 3
45 Pittsburgh 2
46 Rutgers 2
56 Cincinnati 2
67 Syracuse 3
69 Connecticut 3
73 Temple 1

Big Ten

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
6 Ohio State 2
7 Michigan 3
14 Nebraska 2
17 Wisconsin 2
18 Michigan State 4
44 Penn State 1
49 Northwestern 3
50 Iowa 2
52 Illinois 3
53 Purdue 3
62 Minnesota 2
89 Indiana 2

Big 12

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
5 Oklahoma 3
11 Texas 4
12 West Virginia 3
19 Oklahoma State 1
22 TCU 2
27 Kansas State 2
40 Baylor 3
58 Texas Tech 3
60 Iowa State 3
81 Kansas 3

Pac-12

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
1 USC 4
4 Oregon 3
21 Stanford 3
25 Washington 3
33 Utah 3
38 California 3
42 UCLA 2
43 Arizona 5
51 Washington State 3
55 Arizona State 2
61 Oregon State 2
84 Colorado 3

SEC

2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
2 LSU 4
3 Alabama 4
8 Georgia 3
10 South Carolina 2
13 Arkansas 3
26 Florida 5
30 Auburn 3
31 Missouri 3
32 Texas A&M 3
37 Tennessee 5
41 Vanderbilt 2
47 Mississippi State 2
71 Ole Miss 1
75 Kentucky 2


Non-BCS Conferences and Independents
 

Independents    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
20 Notre Dame 3
39 BYU 3
65 Navy 1
96 Army 3
     
Conference USA    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
66 UCF 2
70 Houston 4
74 Tulsa 2
78 East Carolina 4
82 Southern Miss 4
83 Marshall 3
93 SMU 0
105 UTEP 4
106 UAB 1
107 Rice 1
113 Tulane 2
115 Memphis 4
     
MAC    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
59 Ohio 3
77 Western Michigan 4
79 Toledo 2
85 Northern Illinois 1
94 Bowling Green 4
97 Kent State 3
99 Miami (Ohio) 3
102 Ball State 3
103 Eastern Michigan 5
110 Central Michigan 3
111 Buffalo 4
119 Akron 1
122 UMass 4
     
Mountain West    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
24 Boise State 3
54 Nevada 3
87 Fresno State 4
88 Wyoming 2
91 Colorado State 3
92 Air Force 2
95 San Diego State 2
108 Hawaii 2
112 UNLV 5
117 New Mexico 5
     
Sun Belt    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
64 Arkansas State 2
68 FIU 4
76 UL Lafayette 4
100 UL Monroe 3
101 Western Kentucky 4
104 North Texas 4
109 Troy 3
114 MTSU 2
120 FAU 3
123 South Alabama 2
     
WAC    
2012 Ranking Team Returning Starters
63 Louisiana Tech 4
90 Utah State 3
98 San Jose State 2
116 New Mexico State 2
118 Idaho 3
121 Texas State 2
124 UTSA 5


* Returning starters were compiled from depth charts in Athlon's 2012 National College Preview Annual. Athlon's criteria for a returning starter is making seven starts in a season or six consecutive starts to finish the year.


by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
 

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
2012 College Football Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

Ranking the Big 12's Offensive Lines for 2012

Ranking the Big East's Offensive Lines for 2012

Ranking the Pac-12's Offensive Lines for 2012

Ranking the SEC's Offensive Lines for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Title Contenders Have Offensive Line Question Marks</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 05:36
Path: /college-basketball/summing-college-basketball-coaching-carousel
Body:

Only in college basketball could 45 programs make coaching changes and only a handful of them be truly blockbuster. No moves at Arizona or Kentucky as in recent seasons.

The biggest name to move may be Frank Martin from Kansas State to South Carolina. The biggest vacancy was at Illinois, where the Illini struck out on their top candidates before hiring Ohio’s John Groce.

That’s not to say there won’t be any surprises. Just think, at this time last year Missouri’s hire of Frank Haith from Miami was ridiculed. He finished the season as the AP Coach of the Year.

So while there may not have been a true marquee move among the 45 coaching changes in Division I since last year, there were plenty of notable changes across the country and perhaps a few surprises.

Who knows, maybe Larry Brown will follow in Haith’s footsteps with postseason hardware.

TOP 10 NEW COACHES
1. Dan Hurley, Rhode Island
Old job:
Wagner head coach
He replaces: Jim Baron
The Wagner-to-Rhode Island move isn’t much of an attention-grabber, but it should be this season. Hurley took over a team that went 5-26 in 2009-10 under Mike Deane, and two years later Hurley led Wagner to a school-record 25 wins and a second-place finish in the Northeast Conference. He should be able to capitalize on his famous name and his deep connections with the region. He’s a New Jersey native who went 223-21 from 2001-10 at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J.

2. John Cooper, Miami (Ohio)
Old job:
Tennessee State
He replaces: Charlie Coles
Here’s another low-major to mid-major coaching move casual fans might dismiss at their own risk. Cooper led Tennessee State to its first 20-win season since 1978-79 and first winning season since 1995-96, and it wasn’t even the highlight of the season. Tennessee State was the only team to defeat Murray State during the regular season and came within two points of upsetting the Racers in the Ohio Valley tournament final. He takes over for Coles, who retired after 16 seasons at Miami.

3. Frank Martin, South Carolina
Old job:
Kansas State
He replaces: Darrin Horn
Kansas State’s dysfunction is South Carolina’s gain. CBSSports.com reported disagreements between Martin and athletic director John Currie (though Martin has denied it). In any case, South Carolina hopes Martin can do for the Gamecocks what he did for Kansas State. Martin and Lon Kruger are the only K-State coaches to reach four NCAA tournaments in a five-year span, and Martin was the only Wildcats coach to win 20 games in four consecutive seasons. Martin also led K-State to at least one NCAA Tournament win in all four appearances. On the other hand, South Carolina is 0-5 in the Tourney since 1973. The job is tougher at South Carolina, and Martin won’t have a Michael Beasley to jumpstart his tenure.

4. Tim Miles, Nebraska
Old job:
Colorado State
He replaces: Doc Sadler
Nebraska has never won an NCAA Tournament game and hasn’t had a chance to end that losing streak since 1998. Nebraska gave Sadler six seasons, and now the Cornhuskers appear to be committed to give Miles some time to turn the Cornhuskers around, too. Miles’ seven-year contract is the longest for any coach in school history -- yes, that includes football coaches. Miles has proven he can build programs. He won 17 games in his first two seasons combined at Colorado State before leading the Rams to three postseason berths in his final three seasons, improving from the CBI to the NIT to the NCAA Tournament. At then-independent North Dakota State, Miles led the Bison road wins over Marquette in 2006-07 and Wisconsin in 2005-06. He left the cupboard stocked enough at North Dakota State for an NCAA Tournament appearance the season after he left.

5. Johnny Jones, LSU
Old job:
North Texas
He replaces: Trent Johnson
Jones may have gone underappreciated nationally thanks to only two NCAA Tournament appearances in 11 seasons in Denton, but consider where he started: His predecessor won 20 games total in four years. Under Jones, the Mean Green won 20 games in five consecutive seasons. He’s an ideal fit at LSU, where he played for Dale Brown during the Tigers’ 1981 Final Four trip. After that, he spent 13 seasons as an LSU assistant during a run of nine consecutive NCAA bids. Jones knows the terrain in Louisiana and he can recruit. He helped land Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Jackson as an assistant in Baton Rouge.

6. Jim Ferry, Duquesne
Old job:
LIU Brooklyn
He replaces: Ron Everhart
Duquesne isn’t an easy job, but it’s much better than it was when Everhart took over in 2006. Before then, the Dukes won 10 or more games only twice in the previous 11 seasons. Moreover, Duquesne is in better shape than when Ferry arrived at LIU Brooklyn, which he took from the bottom of the NEC to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Ferry has spent all of his coaching career in the Northeast. Will he be able to pry enough Atlantic 10-caliber recruits from New York to play in Western Pennsylvania?

7. Larry Eustachy, Colorado State
Old job:
Southern Miss
He replaces: Tim Miles
Colorado State increased its win total every season under Miles, culminating in 20 wins and an NCAA Tournament appearance last season. The Rams are positioned well to continue that trend with Eustachy leading the top four returning scorers from last season, plus Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson. In eight seasons at Southern Miss, Eustachy resurrected his career at the same time he resurrected the Golden Eagles’ program. If Colorado State can reach the NCAA Tournament -- a pretty good possibility with the returning personnel -- the Rams will be the fourth team Eustachy has led to March Madness.

8. John Groce, Illinois
Old job:
Ohio
He replaces: Bruce Weber
Ohio made the most of two NCAA Tournament appearances in four seasons under Groce, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2012 and upsetting Georgetown in the first round in 2010. Perhaps that inflated the perception of Groce -- he was 34-30 overall in MAC play -- but Illinois is getting a coach who can recruit at a high level within the Big Ten. At Ohio State, he recruited Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequon Cook. At Illinois, he’ll work to convince Illinois fans they didn’t need Shaka Smart, but he’ll also need to convince Chicago recruits to play in Champaign.

9. Bruce Weber, Kansas State
Old job:
Illinois
He replaces: Frank Martin
The ongoing Bruce Weber hot-seat watch at Illinois finally ended, but Weber couldn’t have landed in many better situations with most of the Wildcats’ roster returning for next season. Kansas State fans weren’t excited about the hire, but this is still a coach who led a team to the national title game and a 37-2 season in 2005. He’s still regarded as a good X’s and O’s coach, but will Weber be able to recruit to Kansas State when he struggled to recruit to Illinois near the end of his tenure?

10. Jim Christian, Ohio
Old job:
TCU
He replaces: John Groce
Try to look past an undistinguished four seasons at TCU, though last season’s 7-7 record in the Mountain West represented a six-game turnaround and the Horned Frogs’ best conference mark since 2004-05. It’s better to look at Christian’s six years at Kent State. The Golden Flashes won at least 20 games every year under Christian and reached the NCAA Tournament in 2006 and 2008. Now he’s back in the MAC and in the state of Ohio. Like Eustachy, Groce and Weber, he inherits a veteran team with NCAA Tournament potential.


AROUND THE COACHING CAROUSEL
Five key rookie coaches

Tony Benford, North Texas: He’s a first-time head coach, but he has a long resume as an assistant as a recruiter with a combined 18 seasons at Marquette, Arizona  State and New Mexico.

Pat Kelsey, Winthrop: Kelsey played for Skip Prosser at Xavier, coached under him at Xavier and Wake Forest and eulogized his mentor at Prosser’s funeral. He stepped away from basketball for a season before returning to a program that made nine NCAA appearances from 1999-2010.

Danny Manning, Tulsa: Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith and Bill Self won titles after coaching at Tulsa. Manning brings title rings (one as a player, another as an assistant) to the Golden Hurricane.

Dan Muller, Illinois State: Muller was a senior the last time Illinois State played in the NCAA Tournament. He rose through the ranks of Kevin Stallings’ Vanderbilt staff as a tactician and recruiter over the course of a dozen years.

Richard Pitino, FIU: The 29-year-old son of Rick Pitino may be a little more invested in his position than predecessor Isiah Thomas. It’s a tough job, but Pitino has big-time school experience at Louisville and Florida, plus that last name.


Four second-chance coaches
Barry Hinson, Southern Illinois:
His Missouri State teams were competitive in the Missouri Valley but never reached the NCAA Tournament in nine seasons. After time on the Kansas staff, Hinson will try to revive the Salukis, who haven’t had a winning season since 2007-08.

Keno Davis, Central Michigan: His three years at Providence ranged from pedestrian to dreadful. Before that, he led Drake to its best season in nearly 40 years, finishing 28-5 in his only season as a head coach there in 2007-08.

Jim Baron, Canisius: Baron pulled Rhode Island out of a post-Jim Harrick funk but wasn’t able to reach the top of the Atlantic 10. He’s a veteran not afraid of low- and mid-major reclamation projects. Canisius fits that mold.

Doug Wojcik, Charleston: Another case of good but not good enough. Wojcik returned Tulsa to 20-win status, but the program stalled in the NIT.


Three more new coaches under 30
Jamion Christian, Mount St. Mary’s:
Member of Mount St. Mary’s Class of ’04 worked for another young coach in Shaka Smart at VCU last season.

Bashir Mason, Wagner: At 28, he’s the nation’s youngest head coach, which isn’t an oddity in the NEC with Christian at Mount St. Mary’s and 31-year-old Andy Toole at Robert Morris.

Wes Miller, UNC Greensboro: He was a walk-on for North Carolina’s 2005 title team and a starter the following season. Not quite a new coach, he went 11-11 as an interim coach after Mike Dement was dismissed.


Two big jobs filled with former Clemson assistants
James Johnson, Virginia Tech:
Johnson spent only 11 days as a Clemson assistant (replacing Rick Ray, below) before returning to Virginia Tech to replace his old boss Seth Greenberg. A unorthodox move for the Hokies, but he was regarded as one of their better recruiters.

Rick Ray, Mississippi State: He’s the first new basketball coach in Starkville since 1998. At Clemson and Purdue, he was part of staffs that reached the NCAA Tournament in five of the last six seasons.


One puzzling hire
Larry Brown, SMU:
He hasn’t coached in college since leading Kansas to the 1988 championship. He’ll be 72 when the season starts and 73 when downtrodden SMU makes its move to the Big East. And he’s already cutting players. On top of all that, he has a coach-in-waiting in tow in former Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich. We’ll get to see Larry Brown vs. Danny Manning for a year in Conference USA. What happens beyond that is anyone’s guess.

-David Fox 

@DavidFox615

Teaser:
<p> Summing up the college basketball coaching carousel</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12
Path: /college-football/texas%E2%80%99-manny-diaz-rising-star-college-football%E2%80%99s-coaching-ranks
Body:

Longhorn Network vice president for production Stephanie Druley still shakes her head when she sees Manny Diaz walk into the LHN studios near downtown Austin to be interviewed.

When her brother called to say Diaz was a candidate for the Texas defensive coordinator job in January 2011, after Will Muschamp had left to become head coach at Florida, Druley didn’t believe him. That’s because Druley remembered Diaz as a 21-year-old production assistant at ESPN, toiling away, cutting up film of NFL games in a tiny screening room in Bristol, Conn., while aspiring to become the next Dan Patrick.

“The Manny you see now is, in many ways, the Manny we knew back at ESPN,” says Druley, who ascended from an associate producer of NFL programming at ESPN to the senior coordinator of all NFL programming and then to VP of LHN.

Manny was a very intense guy who had a super strong work ethic, worked hard and takes an extreme amount of pride in what he does,” Druley adds. “He set high expectations and achieved them, and he has that sneaky sense of humor, too.”

Long before Diaz landed the defensive coordinator job paying $625,000 per year at Texas; long before he helped coach players like Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and Stephen Tulloch as an assistant at NC State under Chuck Amato; and long before he coached the likes of defensive tackle Fletcher Cox at Mississippi State under Dan Mullen, Diaz was an aspiring broadcaster helping put together “SportsCenter.” His final job at ESPN was compiling highlights of Tiger Woods’ first Masters victory in 1997.

As a 21-year-old production assistant, Diaz even became a songwriter.

Diaz found himself in the House of Blues in New Orleans leading up to Super Bowl XXXI between the Packers and Patriots trying to convince a blues band to put his lyrics to music for the intro of “NFL Countdown.”

“The lead singer’s name was Coco Robicheaux,” Diaz says laughing. “It was like out of a movie. So I wrote this song that was all about like Cheeseheads, Packers and Patriots. And the guy was like, ‘This isn’t a song. Where’s the melody?’

“And I was like, ‘The melody is your job. I just wrote a bunch of words that rhyme about the Packers and Patriots.’ Low and behold, they pulled it off and it aired.”

Druley laughs at the thought now.

“We were all stuck in this office in the mall connected to the Superdome, and Manny was putting that musical tease together,” Druley says. “That’s one of the lasting images I have of him at ESPN.”

Diaz’s journey from production assistant to one of college football’s hottest coordinators would take a dramatic twist a couple days later in New Orleans during a 6 a.m. interview of then-Patriots coach Bill Parcells.

For months, ESPN analyst and former Green Bay Packers star receiver Sterling Sharpe had been telling Diaz he would make a good coach because of the way he broke down film for the on-air hosts. Diaz had studied journalism at Florida State because he loved sports and wanted to be in the arena but didn’t want to be in the stands like a fan.

Sharpe had gotten Diaz believing there was a step between playing the game and covering the game — coaching the game. As Diaz watched ESPN’s Tom Jackson interview Parcells, the feeling finally crystallized inside of him.

“I want to be him,” Diaz thought, looking at Parcells. “I want to coach. I want to be the one being interviewed, not the one conducting the interview.”

Diaz’s father, Manny Sr., the son of Cuban refugees who became a successful attorney and later the mayor of Miami from 2001-09, asked his son, “What makes you think you can be Bill Parcells?”

And the kid who accompanied his father to Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes games in the Orange Bowl responded, “What makes you think I can be a big dog at ESPN?”

“I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to Bill Parcells’ level,” Diaz says now, looking back. “But I don’t know if I would have ever been on air at ESPN or any other place, for that matter. But it was clear at that point, I had to go try and be a football coach.”

Diaz’s first big break came while he was working in the football office at Florida State and an entry-level quality control job came open. Diaz got it, and over the next two years in that role, he soaked up everything he could from Bobby Bowden and legendary FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews during a run that included a national title in 1999. All the while, Diaz’s wife, Stephanie, was supporting him by working in the FSU athletic department after giving birth to Colin, the first of three sons, in July 1997.

Amato was impressed enough to take Diaz with him as a graduate assistant to NC State in 2000, when Amato was named head coach of the Wolfpack. Stephanie Diaz took a job teaching middle schoolers at a Catholic school in Durham, N.C., to feed the family.

After the 2001 season, there were two openings on the NC State defensive staff, and Diaz was named linebackers coach and given play-calling duties.

“That was the biggest break,” Diaz says.

In that 2002 season, Diaz found himself calling plays against Texas Tech’s Mike Leach in a game that NC State won in overtime in Lubbock.

“It was wild,” Diaz says.

The Wolfpack went on to win 11 games that season, finished No. 12 in the country, beat Florida State, took down Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl and had one of college football’s best defenses.

After three more seasons with Amato, coaching the likes of defensive end Mario Williams and linebackers Stephen Tulloch and Manny Lawson, Diaz became defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State, a job he held for four years. Diaz was then named defensive coordinator at Mississippi State under Dan Mullen in 2010, a season in which the Bulldogs posted a 9–4 record, including a 10–7 win over Florida in The Swamp.

When Mack Brown’s program took a downward turn after playing in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game and slumped to a 5–7 record in 2010, Brown replaced half of his staff, including both coordinators. Brown called coaching colleagues in the SEC, who said Diaz’s defense gave them fits. It’s a scheme predicated on getting upfield and attacking gaps with a lot of zone blitz pressure. Brown was able to land Diaz — and more than doubled his salary (from $260,000 at Mississippi State to $625,000 at Texas).

Manny certainly took an unconventional path to getting into coaching,” Brown says. “Not many people go from journalism and interning at ESPN into coaching, but if you really get to talking to him, you realize he’s always had a passion for sports, and particularly football.

“He really enjoys studying and learning the game, and I’ll give him credit — when he decided it was the route he wanted to go, he took a big gamble, switched careers and jumped right into it. He was very fortunate to be around so many great coaches as he worked his way up, because they were great mentors for him.”

At the age of 38, Diaz is well on his way to becoming a head coach. Texas led the Big 12 in both rush and pass defense in 2011, and the Longhorns defense has a chance to be better in 2012. If Diaz’s side of the ball plays at a championship level this season, it could be his last as an assistant coach.

Meanwhile, Druley and Diaz still share a good laugh about that blues band intro to “NFL Countdown” at Super Bowl XXXI back in New Orleans.

“You would hear updates about Manny at North Carolina State or Mississippi State,” Druley says. “Then, he went to Texas, and I sent him a note letting him know that it was my alma mater. Little did I know I would be joining him a month later in Austin (with LHN).

“But Manny is sort of like my classmate at ESPN who is now the guy coming back for the reunion who was super successful.”

— By Chip Brown

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

Related Big 12 Content

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

2012 Texas Longhorns Team Preview

Big 12 2012 Heisman Contenders

Teaser:
<p> Manny Diaz is one of college football's top rising stars in the assistant ranks.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 04:50
Path: /college-football/college-football-recruiting-rankings-do-they-matter-1
Body:

Auburn fans were getting nervous. It was National Signing Day 2012, and if you listened to talk radio, read blogs or followed Twitter around lunchtime that day, you could have been excused for thinking the sky had fallen in Auburn.

The Tigers kept swinging for the fences on recruits. And too often, they kept whiffing while bitter rival Alabama coasted to another mythical recruiting national championship.

A Rivals.com national analyst went on the radio in Birmingham and labeled Auburn one of the nation’s biggest disappointments. An analyst from the Auburn Rivals website took to the air and used words like “disappointment” and “shock and awe” to describe the Tigers’ class.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to Auburn, the 2010 national champion. Programs typically get the biggest bounce from a national title a full year later. Of the nine BCS champions that preceded Auburn, five improved their recruiting ranking by Rivals a year later, and two stayed the same compared to the class they signed a month after winning the title.

But Signing Day 2012 was still young for Auburn and, in the minds of recruiting analysts, Gene Chizik and his staff righted themselves. The Tigers finished 2012 ranked 10th by Rivals, only slightly behind their No. 7 spot in 2011.

How good is their latest class? Who knows? Check back in three years or so.

But in the around-the-clock world of college football recruiting, there are winners and there are losers. And they get declared now. Rivals, Scout, ESPN and 247Sports all take turns ranking players and teams in a lucrative business that makes recruiting a 365-days-a-year obsession for some fans.

Recruiting rankings matter. Until they don’t.

Five-star players are great. Unless they’re not.

Nothing matters more in college football than recruiting. Hire the best coach and it usually doesn’t mean a thing without exceptional players. Yet on the flip side, teams can have exceptional talent and underachieve without proper coaching and discipline.

How good are recruiting rankings at predicting future college football success? That’s the difficult question Athlon Sports set out to answer by reevaluating past rankings — all by Rivals, for consistency purposes — and seeing how those results played out on the field.

If you talk to coaches, they’re all pleased every single year by their recruiting class. The next coach to stand up on Signing Day and declare, “We did poorly, my bad,” will be the first. Yet privately, coaches know there are winners and losers in recruiting, even if it may take several years for that to become evident.

Eight of the past 10 teams with a No. 1 recruiting class by Rivals played for the BCS championship within three years, and seven won the title. The only Rivals No. 1 not to play for a national title within three years was 2006 USC, which would have played for the BCS championship in the 2006 season if the Trojans had not lost on the final weekend. The other No. 1 class not to play for the title within three years is 2010 USC, whose clock is still ticking.

Between 2007 and 2011, Alabama produced the best average ranking from Rivals. Nick Saban’s stockpiling of elite talent translated into two national championships in the past three years, plus four straight 10-win seasons.

But recruiting rankings aren’t the end-all, be-all, either. If they were, why have Texas, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and Georgia all experienced relatively poor seasons recently despite being among the 10 highest-ranked classes over the past five years? Or, the question needs to be asked, were those classes also misevaluated by the analysts from the beginning?

Either way, whenever talented classes add up, the pressure increases on coaches to deliver. It’s in part why Mark Richt faced a make-or-break year last season at Georgia before reaching the SEC Championship Game. It’s in part why Ole Miss (20th by Rivals in recruiting from 2007 to 2011), UCLA (21st) and Texas A&M (22nd) all fired their coaches after disappointing 2011 seasons.

The theory goes that compiling an average top-25 recruiting ranking over five years should make a team pretty good by that fifth year. Right? Not necessarily. Twelve teams that averaged a top-25 recruiting class from 2007 to 2011 lost five games or more in 2011. Take a bow, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Auburn, Notre Dame, Ohio State, North Carolina, Miami, California, UCLA, Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

Teams with elite recruiting classes can experience declines on the field for all kinds of reasons. The NCAA is investigating or sanctioning the program. The stud quarterback isn’t a stud as projected or doesn’t stick around. Players become ineligible or transfer or get arrested. Coaches leave for other jobs or don’t get enough out of their teams.

Ole Miss may be the best example of how recruiting rankings only go so far. The Rebels’ classes were rated 27th, 29th, 18th, 18th and 19th from 2007 to 2011. On the field, Ole Miss went 27–35 during that period, winning nine games each in 2008 and 2009 but then going 4–8 and 2–10 in the final two years of Houston Nutt’s coaching tenure.

Look at last year’s final BCS standings: 1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Oklahoma State, 4. Stanford, 5. Oregon, 6. Arkansas, 7. Boise State, 8. Kansas State, 9. South Carolina, 10. Wisconsin. Only two of those teams averaged a top-10 class over the previous five years: LSU and Alabama. They also happened to play for the BCS championship.

If not for a double-overtime loss to Iowa State last season, Oklahoma State would have played LSU for the national title. Yet Oklahoma State never had a top-25 class in the five years preceding the Cowboys’ 2011 season. Neither did Boise State, Kansas State or Wisconsin.

Stanford produced solid recruiting rankings of 20th, 26th and 22nd from 2009 to 2011. But the school was 50th in 2008 and not even in the top 50 in 2007.

Oregon had very solid recruiting classes from 2007 to 2011, including a top-10 finish last year. South Carolina had a top-25 class all five of those years, reaching as high as No. 6 in 2007. Arkansas had two top-25 classes in that five-year period and was ranked as high as 16th and as low as 49th.

Swooning over recruits is reminiscent of Jerry Seinfeld’s observation many years ago about free agency in professional sports. Given how frequently pro athletes change teams, Seinfeld quipped, cheering for our favorite franchise amounts to rooting for laundry.

Some fans aren’t rooting wildly for laundry. They’re rooting wildly for hormones.

They’re hoping hormones honor commitments. They’re hoping hormones don’t get in trouble. They’re hoping hormones live up to the hype at a time when teenagers typically aren’t physically or emotionally mature yet.

Coaches can justify immersing themselves in this perverse madness. Their livelihood depends on it. What’s the excuse for rabid fans who can’t get enough of recruiting rankings and the daily commitment tracker?

Two decades ago, fans reached into this niche recruiting industry through periodic magazines and newsletters. After that came the 1-900 phone numbers. Back then very few people could envision the interest there would be in recruiting. 

Then came the Internet to provide more updated information, message-board chats between rabid fans and eventually streaming video for consumers to see the recruits perform for themselves. Jim Heckman, the former son-in-law of legendary Washington football coach Don James, started the first Rivals. He actually offered to build the model in 1995 for ESPN, which thought there would only be a couple thousand subscribers.

But the Internet giveth and taketh away. The original Rivals went bankrupt in 2001 during the dotcom bust. The thinking was the first Rivals failed by giving away content and relying on advertising, so the business model switched to paid subscriptions.

At one point, some key employees from Rivals and Scout.com worked together as one operation in the original Rivals. Heckman lost the brand name, technology and subscribers in the subsequent liquidation sale to a group led by Shannon Terry, Greg Gough and Bobby Burton.

Heckman started from scratch and co-founded Seattle-based Scout Media in 2001, taking with him a couple dozen Rivals employees. The tension between Rivals and Scout resulted in a series of lawsuits several years ago centered on tactics used to lure individual team site publishers after the original Rivals folded.

Fox purchased Scout for a reported $60 million in 2005. Two years later, Yahoo! bought Rivals for approximately $100 million. ESPN has since gotten into the recruiting ranking business but struggled developing individual school sites. Meanwhile, Burton and Terry have since left Rivals to start 247Sports.

All of these sites hire recruiting analysts and reporters to inform the public about which players are getting offers, where they’re taking visits, and how highly teams are ranked. The not-so-quiet secret is that some analysts are fans of the teams they cover, and most services rely on information from coaches, creating a unique relationship. The recruiting services need reliable information, but sometimes they don’t get it unless they rank a coach’s players high or talk them up.

Coaches may be leery of analysts. But at prominent football schools, especially in the South, they learn to play the recruiting ranking game. A coach may be perfectly content with the players he recruits. But he doesn’t want to get a reputation for never getting ranked by analysts.

Recruiting rankings have gotten better in recent years. There are more eyes watching around the country, more 7-on-7 events to evaluate, and more college coaches with a vested interest in the hype for the rankings not to have improved.

It’s just a small anecdote, but consider how some future Associated Press All-Americans have been evaluated before college. Thirty-six percent of the 2009 first-team All-Americans (not including kickers) were rated by Rivals among the top 10 at their positions entering college. Last year, that figure increased to 48 percent.

Every year there are always misses. That’s the nature of the beast, for whatever reason. Still, some of the misses are eye-opening in hindsight.

Oklahoma State All-American Justin Blackmon was the 91st-rated wide receiver out of high school in 2008. He wasn’t even considered the best Blackmon at wide receiver, playing second fiddle to 79th-ranked Chance Blackmon, who has one catch in four years at Colorado and Houston.

LSU All-America cornerback Morris Claiborne was another future NFL first-round pick who was underrated out of high school. Claiborne was a 3-star recruit in 2009, a player without a position, so he became that year’s No. 58 “athlete” by Rivals.

There is no team sport for which it’s as difficult to evaluate prospects at such a young age as football. The nature of the sport provides so many unknowns. Will the player put on weight or lose it? Will he stay healthy? And when times are tough, will he respond with the competitiveness and heart a coach hopes to see?

Nonetheless, fans must find immediate recruiting winners and losers. Coaches know deep down there are recruiting winners and losers. And the recruiting services make money off telling fans who the winners and losers are before the players even step on campus.

This is college football recruiting in 2012, a world where getting ranked high can make or break a coach.

 

BEFORE THEY WERE ALL-AMERICANS

How the 2011 AP All-Americans were ranked by Rivals.com prior to attending college.

OFFENSE    
Position Player, College Ranking/Position
QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor No. 4 Dual-threat Quarterback
RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin No. 33 Running Back
RB Trent Richardson, Alabama No. 2 Running Back
OT Barrett Jones, Alabama No. 1 Center
OT Matt Kalil, USC No. 3 Offensive Tackle
OG David DeCastro, Stanford No. 11 Center
OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin No. 39 Guard
C David Molk, Michigan No. 5 Center
WR Justin Blackmon, Okla. State No. 91 Wide Receiver
WR Robert Woods, USC No. 1 Athlete
TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson No. 12 Tight End
AP Sammy Watkins, Clemson No. 3 Wide Receiver
K Randy Bullock, Texas A&M No. 5 Kicker
     
DEFENSE    
Position Player, College Ranking/Position
DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina No. 21 Outside Linebacker
DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois No. 28 Weak-side Defensive End
DT Devon Still, Penn State No. 10 Strong-side Defensive End
DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State No. 53 Defensive Tackle
LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College No. 44 Outside Linebacker
LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia No. 4 Weak-side Defensive End
LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama No. 15 Inside Linebacker
CB Morris Claiborne, LSU No. 58 Athlete
CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU No. 13 Cornerback
S Mark Barron, Alabama No. 5 Athlete
S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia No. 40 Athlete
P Brad Wing, LSU No. 5 Kicker

 

Top 25 Recruiting Rankings by Rivals.com, 2007-2011
 

Team Average Ranking 2011 Record
 1. Alabama 3.6 12–1
 2. USC 3.8 10–2
T3. LSU 5.8 13–1
T3. Florida 5.8 7–6
 5. Texas 6 8–5
 6. Georgia 8.4 10–4
 7. Florida State 9.8 9–4
 8. Oklahoma 10.8 10–3
 9. Notre Dame 11 8–5
10. Auburn 11.4 8–5
11. Ohio State 11.6 6–7
12. Tennessee 14 5–7
13. Michigan 14.2 11–2
14. South Carolina 16.4 11–2
15. Oregon 16.8 12–2
16. Miami 18.2 6–6
17. Clemson 18.4 10–4
18. North Carolina 20.6 7–6
19. Nebraska 21.6 9–4
20. Ole Miss 22.2 2–10
21. UCLA 24 6–8
22. Texas A&M 25 7–6
T23. California 25.2 7–6
T23. Virginia Tech 25.2 11–3
25. Penn State 27.6 9–4

This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 College Football Preview Annual.


Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team
College Football Predictions for 2012

Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings

Countdown to 2012 College Football Kickoff

Teaser:
<p> College Football Recruiting Rankings: Do They Matter?</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 04:31
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/big-ten-mascots-perform-call-me-maybe
Body:

Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" song has spurred many video parodies, including the Miami Dolphins' cheerleaders and Harvard's baseball team

And what better way to prepare for the 2012 college football season than a video of Big Ten Mascots and their take on the song.

Even if you don't like the song or are tired of the parodies, Minnesota's mascot (Goldy) and Wisconsin's (Bucky) makes this one worth the three minutes of your time. 

It's good to have some down time every now and then, but I think we can all can agree when videos like this pop up...it's time for football season to get here. 

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Mascots Perform Their version of call me maybe</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 15:49
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-14
Body:

Tradition vs. Change. Shorten races vs. keeping them the same. Tandem drafting vs. pack racing. Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council faced many choices with this week’s NASCAR survey.

There was more, including what has been the biggest surprise of the season to how they graded last weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Daytona. The opinions vary — and in some cases are quite strong. Here’s what the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had to say about these issues.


Tradition vs. Changes, which one matters most to you?
Former champion Jeff Gordon was asked during a media session last weekend at Daytona about possible changes for the sport. Part of Gordon’s response included this statement: “What is more important — history and tradition or the most entertaining form of racing?” The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was asked that question — what means more to you? Tradition or changes to make the sport more exciting?

67.2 percent said traditions
32.8 percent said changes to make the sport more exciting

What Fan Council members said:
• Gimmicks are the road to ruin. This is a great sport, making changes to appease the fly-by-night fans will just alienate your most loyal fans while temporarily pleasing those who will leave you inevitably to follow some other trend.

• It's sad that some people need to be entertained. I prefer to keep the traditions. That said, I would understand if NASCAR was forced to make changes in order to compete. I just hope they realize they can keep the traditions while adding extra entertainment.

• I love the traditions, but I have to confess: If the entertainment value doesn't increase, I won't be watching much longer.

• I’m not an old fuddy-duddy veteran fan complaining all the time about these changes. I only started watching in 2005. I was confused by all the constant changing and thought it was strange. But isn’t the racing better?? I think so.

• This one was easy for me. In my opinion, history and tradition are exciting. I understand the need to tweak things now and then because the cars have changed and the level of competition has become more level. But major overhauls, such as instituting a playoff system where one was not only unnecessary but doesn't fit the sport, don't work. They provide a temporary shot of interest among non- or casual fans but when that dissipates (as it has done), the sport is left with unhappy core fans that are less prone to instill a love of the sport in their kids, which in turn creates a void in the fan base in the next generation.

• I think NASCAR is one of the few sports that have changed to make it more exciting. Traditions and history only will get you by for so long.

• It's nice to know we have input to NASCAR. At some point, the line needs to be drawn. The show is the show. Not all races are awesome and not all are stinkers. Whining about every flaw leads to constant criticism of our sport. NASCAR seems to be in good shape compared to some other forms of motorsports (AMA). I don't know exactly what criteria NASCAR uses to make changes, but I'd like to think they use surveys like this one.

• I would rather stick to our roots. Trying to give the fans what they want, in my opinion, has made the racing worse. Look at the All-Star Race in May. That race turned into a race of strategy rather than a showdown for a million bucks. Also, look at Bristol.

• I'm all for keeping the traditions in the sport so long as the teams are allowed to innovate and compete to be the best. If that doesn't happen, then you have to go the route of the WWE and do tricks to make the races/racing more exciting. There has to be more excitement even in the long races. Drivers/teams are riding around in the first half to 3/4 of the races just logging laps and then the exciting racing starts. Sad.

• Get back to basics and the numbers will improve.

• Sometimes traditions hinder progress.


What races need to be shortened (if any)?
NASCAR Chairman Brian France said last weekend at Daytona that series officials would look to shorten races, noting it has “worked well” at Auto Club Speedway, Dover and Pocono. Fan Council members were asked what races, if any, needed to be shortened.

35.6 percent said the Atlanta race (500 miles ... last year’s race was 4 hours, 0 minutes)
34.9 percent said Texas fall race (500 miles ... was 3 hours, 16 minutes last year)
34.2 percent said the Texas spring race (500 miles ... was 3 hours, 7 minutes in April)
29.5 percent said “None”
27.4 percent said Charlotte fall race (500 miles ... was 3 hours, 25 minutes last year)
26.0 percent said Talladega fall race (500 miles ... was 3 hours, 29 minutes last year)
18.8 percent said Talladega spring race (516 miles with GWC ... was 3 hours, 13 minutes in April)
(Every track received votes, but no other track received more than 15 percent of the votes)

What Fan Council members said:
• This makes no sense at all. Why would anyone want the races shortened? Are they going to reduce ticket prices by an equal ratio? Doubtful.

• Just about anything with a 500 after it should be shortened.

• Might as well shorten both ’Dega races if these guys are just gonna ride.

• The race I really think needs shortening is the Coke 600. I know it's traditionally been the one marathon race, but we saw this year that with the style of racing we're seeing the extra 100 miles is dreadfully boring.

• Stop catering to ADD Nation! The sport needs a few long races. The Coke 600 and Southern 500 should never be shortened.

• For me, the races don't need to be shortened because of the time of the race (with few exceptions). They need to be shortened to prevent drivers from riding around until the end of the race. The plate races are the prime example of this. But we see this at a lot of tracks. I think the road courses, Phoenix, NHMS and a few other have races that are about the right distance.

• I'm never in favor of cutting from any race. If you need to cut laps and miles from a track to make a race more interesting, maybe you should be taking a look at the product that's being put out there.

• I wouldn't mind the length of any race if they actually raced. I'm sick of them riding around for two to two-and-a-half hours and then racing the last 50 to 100 laps.

• No sir, no sir, no sir! Do not shorten any more races!

• I think the time from Atlanta is deceiving because there were so many cautions for the bad weather.

• I think there needs to be only three races longer than 400 miles: the Daytona 500, the Southern 500 (at Darlington over Labor Day weekend) and the 600-miler at Charlotte. These days the cars and drivers can handle the 500-mile length no problem, so it's no longer a matter of whether they will last the grueling length. Now it's drivers just logging laps in the middle, so let's cut that down some, especially at the cookie-cutter tracks.


What’s been the biggest surprise of the Cup season?

36.9 percent said Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick among winless drivers this year
30.4 percent said Matt Kenseth leaving Roush Fenway Racing after the season
13.4 percent said lack of cautions this season
8.2 percent said Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s strength
7.2 percent said success of Michael Waltrip Racing
3.9 percent said “Other”

What Fan Council members said:
• The big names who are winless is a HUGE story, but things happen. The Kenseth story is UNBELIEVABLE and I never thought it would ever happen.

• I HATE Toyota, but MWR has been a huge surprise, I have to admit.

• I'm in total disbelief over Carl's season. Something's gotta give. And since when did he become Jack's red-headed stepson?

• There are a lot of mid-season surprises, but I am most surprised at the lack of wins and great performances from drivers like Edwards, Harvick and Gordon.

• Danica Patrick still running after both Darlington events. Anybody who understands the nature of that beast would have bet against it.

• I would have picked Junior’s strength a couple of weeks ago, but I still can't believe that Kenseth is leaving Rousch Fenway after so many successful years there.

• Lack of cautions is really making this boring, but with the way the CoT has been, it's not a surprise when NASCAR isn't throwing cautions for water bottles. Dale Jr. is the big one for me. We all knew he had the equipment and was getting accustomed to Steve Letarte, but he is far more confident and focused than I've ever seen him. He's not just doing the best he can to get in the Chase as his main goal. He BELIEVES he can win

• AJ Allmendinger getting suspended for failing a drug test eclipsed my surprise at Matt Kenseth leaving Roush Fenway Racing. I initially ignored the mentions of Matt's contract because I fully expected him to re-sign with Roush. I was surprised when the rumor began that he was really a free agent. AJ's suspension 90 minutes before (Saturday night’s) race came out of left field.

• The lack of cautions is by far the story this year. That long green run at Texas brought it to the forefront. When there are green flag pit stops at Martinsville, you have a problem.
 

Teaser:
<p> The&nbsp;Backseat Drivers Fan Council discuss tradition vs. change, tandem rdafting vs. pack racing, shortening races, 2012 surprises and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 13:49
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-head-coaches-who-nfcs-best
Body:

Championships. Leadership. Awards. Longevity. Statistical records. Likeability. Talent development.

An NFL head coach can be evaluated with many criteria. Generally, winning championships over a long period of time is the easiest (or not-so-easiest) way to the top of any ranking. Who does more with less? Who gets his team to the playoffs the most consistently? Who is the best motivator? Whose team is best prepared come crunch time? And who has the shiny hardware to back it up?

So as of July of 2012, Athlon Sports has magically given the reins of an NFL franchise to you the fans. And you have your pick of the 16 NFC head coaches. The question becomes:

Which NFC coach would you hire to lead your franchise?

Here is Athlon's take:

Note: Age is as of Sept. 5, 2012, the first game of the 2012 NFL season

1. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco (2011-present)
Age: 48, Overall Record: 13-3, Postseason Record: 0-1 (1 appearance)

Jim Harbaugh is inexperienced as an NFL head coach and has yet to win a Super Bowl, but this isn't your ordinary second-year head coach. His father, Jack, has been in coaching for more than four decades and his brother, John, has made a name for himself as the Baltimore Ravens head coach. He has a 14-year NFL career as a quarterback (26,288 yards, 129 TD) and has instantly been an dynamic addition at three head coaching stops. He never had a losing season at San Diego, including two Pioneer League championships, before taking over for a 1-11 Stanford. The Cardinal won 16 total games under the previous two coaches (five years) and Harbaugh quickly delivered the program's first-ever BCS bowl win in four seasons. He then took over a 49ers team that hadn't had a winning season since 2002 and promptly earned an NFC West crown and first-round bye. The "Quarterback Whisperer" also turned Alex Smith into a playoff quarterback, and if not for two special teams fumbles, who knows what his first year in the Bay would have looked like. Harbaugh's cult-of-personality leadership skills are virtually unmatched in the league and his instant impact on everything he touches is blatantly obvious. In one season, Harbaugh has one division title and an AP Coach of the Year award.

2. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay (2006-present)
Age: 48, Overall Record: 63-33, Postseason Record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

The blue collar Pittsburgh native has about as pristine a coaching resume one can have in six seasons. He has had one losing season (6-10, 2008), has made the playoffs four times, won two division championships, posted the best record in the NFL and returned the Lombardi Trophy to its rightful home in 2010 as a world champion. The offensive wizard has as much job security as a guy named Belichick and goes to battle each week with the best player in the league under center. The one big knock for McCarthy? Two of his three total loses in the postseason have come at the hands of Tom Coughlin and the NY Giants, both at home. What keeps McCarthy ahead of Coughlin? He is nearly two decades younger and has never once come close to the Hot Seat. His best years could still be ahead of him — a scary thought for the rest of the NFC.

3. Tom Coughlin, NY Giants (2004-present), Jacksonville (1995-2002)
Age: 66, Overall Record: 142-114, Postseason Record: 11-7 (9 appearances)

There is little left for the hard-nosed Coughlin to prove in this game. And at age 66, the only real question surrounding the Waterloo, N.Y., native is how much longer will he be on the sideline? He is entering his 17th season and has been to the top of the NFL mountain twice — and near the pink slip line on more than one occasion. After three straight losing seasons in Jacksonville, he was fired before landing back on hs feet in New York. His 68-60 record was excellent for an expansion team, taking the Jags to the playoffs four straight years. Coughlin has brought the Giants to the playoffs five times in eight years and he has a 7-3 mark in the postseason for the G-Men. He has been extremely close to the unemployment line on multiple times, which is likely more a function of working in the craziest city in the world, only to bring his team back from the brink. Now, after entering the rarified air of “two-time Super Bowl Champion,” one has to wonder what's left for him to prove?

4. Sean Payton, New Orleans (2006-present)
Age: 48, Overall Record: 62-34, Postseason Record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

In his six seasons at the helm of one of the NFL’s most inept franchises, Payton has been anything but. He has one losing season, three division titles, four playoff berths, one AP Coach of the Year award and one Super Bowl championship over Peyton Manning. He also is suspended for a full season after his involvement in the Saints' bounty scandal. He is still relatively young, has one of the brightest offensive minds in the game and will assuredly bounce back from this PR black eye. Yet, it is impossible to currently separate the champion from the suspension at this moment. Time will heal all wounds and Payton will be back winning games soon enough — just not in 2012.

5. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis (2012-present), Tennessee (1994-2010)
Age: 54, Overall Record: 142-120, Postseason Record: 5-6 (6 appearances)

Few have ever been as consistent over a longer period of time than Fisher. Especially, in the modern what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL world coaches currently operate within. Since his first full season in 1995 at age 36 (7-9), Fisher has posted only four losing seasons while moving a team from Houston to Nashville via Memphis, and is the franchise's winningest coach. He reached the playoffs six times, won four division titles and came up one famous yard short of a Super Bowl title following the 1999 season. He is a model of consistency and his hard-nosed attitude plays in any NFL city. His most impressive work might have been the reclamation project of the Titans from a paltry 9-23 in 2004 and 2005 to NFL prominence (23-9 from 2007-08) two years later.

6. Andy Reid, Philadelphia (1999-present)
Age: 54, Overall Record: 126-81-1, Postseason Record: 10-9 (9 appearances)

For a coach who is constantly on the Hot Seat while constantly defending his players, coaching staff and family, few have ever won as much as Reid. The Eagles have posted one losing season in 12 years since Reid’s first campaign, with only one 8-8 mark on the ledger (2007). He has made the playoffs nine times, has eight double-digit win seasons, went to four straight NFC title games, earned 2002 NFL Coach of the Year honors and nearly pulled-off a Super Bowl upset of the Patriots back in 2004. He has seen major roster and coaching overhaul (eight different coaches have left his staff to become NFL head coaches) and has made the playoffs through it all. While he has yet to win the big one and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008, Reid seems completely unjustly criticized for his performance as the Eagles' winningest coach.

7. Mike Smith, Atlanta (2008-present)
Age: 53, Overall Record: 43-21, Postseason Record: 0-3 (3 appearances)

A relative unknown from Daytona Beach, Fla., and Jack Del Rio’s staff in Jacksonville, Smith has done nothing but win since taking over the Falcons. He has never posted a losing record, has made the playoffs three times in four years and won the NFC South in 2010. He earned NFL AP Coach of the Year honors in his first year (2008) after taking over a 4-12 team and turning them into an 11-win playoff team. In fact, Atlanta had just two winning seasons in the nine years prior to Smith taking over. His next hurdle is winning when it counts as his 0-3 playoff record has left Falcons fans craving more. He entered his head coaching career later than many on this list (49), but still has plenty of good years left in the tank.

8. Jim Schwartz, Detroit (2009-present)
Age: 46, Overall Record: 18-30, Postseason Record: 0-1 (1 appearance) 

An eight-year Fisher henchman at Tennessee, it hasn't taken Schwartz long to instill his former boss’ toughness in the Motor City. For a franchise that is three years removed from the only 0-16 mark in NFL history and hadn’t seen a playoff berth since 1999, Schwartz has the Lions poised for their second straight postseason trip in 2012. Five separate coaches have tried to return the Lions to success and only the Baltimore native has been able to do it. His offense shattered multiple offensive team records a year ago. He is the youngest coach in the NFC by one day over Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano.

9. Mike Shanahan, Washington (2010-present), Denver (1995-2008), LA Raiders (1988-1989)
Age: 60, Overall Record: 157-119, Postseason Record: 8-5 (7 appearances)

The aging 22-year NFL vet is quite the anomaly. He has seven postseason berths, four division titles, two Super Bowl championships and has clearly proven he has staying power. Yet, he has one playoff win since John Elway retired (1998) and hasn’t had a winning season since 2006. Additionally, his ability to post six winning seasons in the eight years following Elway’s departure is a testament to his ability. He may be past his prime, but the Redskins, and more specifically Robert Griffin III, have a chance to rejuvenate the 60-year-old head coach.

10. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona (2007-present)
Age: 50, Overall Record: 40-40, Postseason Record: 4-2 (2 appearances)

This may come as a surprise to some, but the Cardinals have had one losing season since hiring the former Pittsburgh assistant. After winning a title with the Steelers, all Whisenhunt did was get Arizona to its first-ever Super Bowl in year number two in the desert. He has two division titles in five years and is two wins away from tying Don Coryell as the franchise’s all-time winningest coach. Since 1976, the Cardinals have made the playoffs four times, twice under the direction of Whisenhunt.

11. Lovie Smith, Chicago (2004-present)
Age: 54, Overall Record: 71-57, Postseason Record: 3-3 (3 appearances)

Like Shanahan, Smith has had an interesting career in Chicago. In his first job as a head man, he got the Bears back to the Super Bowl in only three seasons. Yet, He has had two winning campaigns since and only one playoff win. He has been to the postseason only three times in his eight-year Windy City career, but appears to have one of his best defenses to date returning in 2012. He has been to the brink of the Hot Seat and returns every time intact, and if not for key injuries last fall, likely would have collected his second-straight winning season. Chicago has five playoff appearances since Mike Ditka roamed the sidelines, and Smith claims three of those. This is a key year for the Gladewater, Texas native. 

12. Jason Garrett, Dallas (2010-present)
Age: 46, Overall Record: 13-11, Postseason Record: N/A

A classic overachiever as a player, I believed that Garrett was the right man for the job when Jerry Jones made the switch mid-season two years ago. The young head coach went 5-3 in his first head coaching stint with Dallas after taking over for a 1-7 team. He delivered an 8-8 season last year but has loads of pressure to succeed entering his second full season at the helm of the most high-profile franchise in the league. Jones doesn’t settle for .500 records, and for a team with one playoff win since 1996, the onus falls squarely on one of two sets of shoulders — Garrett and Tony Romo. At 46, he is a just few months older than Schwartz, who is the youngest coach in the NFC. 

13. Pete Carroll, Seattle (2010-present), New England (1997-1999), NY Jets (1994)
Age: 60, Overall Record: 47-49, Postseason Record: 2-3 (3 appearances)

There are only four current head coaches who have won a division title in both the AFC and NFC and Carroll is one of them. His college resume is pristine, with multiple national championships and seven conference titles. Many believe his NFL tenure has been a failure to this point, yet he has three playoff trips in six seasons and has won fewer than seven games only once, six in his first professional season. While his laidback shtick played extremely well at USC, it still remains to be seen if he can succeed at an elite level in the pro ranks. He has one season of 10 wins in his career and won the NFC West with a 7-9 mark two years ago.

14. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay (2012-present)
Age: 46, Overall Record: N/A, Postseason Record: N/A

Generally, a long track record of success in the college ranks means very little to a head coach’s pro potential. Yes, Schiano took Rutgers to unprecedented heights, won the Big East and National Coach of the Year awards in 2006 with an 11-2 mark. But he never won a conference title and never took the Scarlet Knights to the all-important BCS bowl. That said, he is and has always been a pro-style coach. He runs pro-style schemes and has a pro-style coaching mentality. With a young team loaded with upside defenders and a solid running game, Schiano has a chance to succeed despite being a complete unknown in the NFL.

15. Ron Rivera, Carolina (2011-present)
Age: 50, Overall Record: 6-10, Postseason Record: N/A

Rivera is largely unproven as a head coach but has a solid track record as a defensive coordinator. His defenses in Chicago and San Diego were, at times, dominant. His Bears units finished second and fifth in the league in total defense (2005, 2006) and No. 1 and 3 in scoring, while his 2010 Chargers unit led the NFL in total defense. He has worked for three separate head coaches and is a veteran of the league. His Panthers showed little improvement from the 2010 defensive implosion last fall and his ability to win long-term is a virtual unknown.

16. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota (2010-present)
Age: 53, Overall Record: 6-16, Postseason Record: N/A

In his first full season at the helm, Frazier did little to prove that he is an elite NFL head coach. He was 3-3 back in 2010 after he took over  for a Brad Childress-coached team that was 3-7 at the time. However, his aging defense got significantly worse last year — from eighth to 21st in total defense and from 18th to 31st  in scoring defense last fall. The Vikings' defensive coordinator from 2008-10, the unit has gotten progressively worse since he's been in charge. On a team that is in complete rebuilding mode in arguably the toughest division in the NFC, it is hard to see Frazier lasting too long unless the Vikings show marked (and shocking) improvement in 2012.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Head Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best?
2012 NFL Training Camp Schedules and Locations

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters

Ranking the NFL’s Best Backup Quarterbacks

The 10 Worst NFL Teams Since Expansion

NFL Quarterbacks Rewrote Record Books in 2011

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Dan Marino: An NFL Horror Story

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC South
Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings


NFC South
Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2012 Preview magazine

Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Head Coaches: Who's the NFC's Best?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News, Big East
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-impact-transfers-2012
Body:

College football transfers can make an immediate impact on the conference and national title races. Need evidence? Russell Wilson's decision to transfer from NC State to Wisconsin was enough to boost the Badgers into the Rose Bowl and come within a few plays from an unbeaten regular season.

Athlon previously examined the top transfers prior to spring practice. However, much has changed since then and with more movement among players over the last few months, here's an updated look at the top 10 impact transfers for 2012, along with a watchlist for 2013.

1. Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin (from Maryland) – For the second consecutive season, the Badgers’ starting quarterback will be a transfer. Russell Wilson led Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl appearance and a Big Ten title, so the pressure is on O’Brien to produce right away. O’Brien had a standout freshman season at Maryland, earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors after throwing for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns. However, with a new coordinator and receiver Torrey Smith catching passes in the NFL, O’Brien struggled to match his production from his freshman season. While Wilson had only one year of eligibility to use, O’Brien can play two seasons in Madison. He isn’t likely to match Wilson’s production or effectiveness, but O'Brien is an upgrade over the current options on the roster. With running back Montee Ball and stalwarts Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner returning on the offensive line, O’Brien won’t be asked to win games all on his own. However, he needs to have a much better season than he did in College Park in 2011 if the Badgers want to win the Big Ten title.

2. Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas (from Notre Dame) – After a failed stint at Notre Dame, Charlie Weis is back on the sidelines at Kansas. Weis has created a buzz in Lawrence and landed Crist from Notre Dame to start in 2012, while picking up quarterback Jake Heaps (BYU) and receiver Justin McCay (Oklahoma) to start in 2013. Crist committed to Weis at Notre Dame, but failed to fulfill his potential, finishing with 2,327 yards and 16 touchdowns in three years. Injuries derailed Crist for two years, but he was benched after a slow start in the 2011 season opener and barely played the remainder of the year. Crist’s familiarity with Weis’ offense should pay dividends, and he should be an upgrade on last season’s quarterback play. However, Crist is unlikely to provide enough of a boost for Kansas to get to six wins and a bowl in 2012.

3. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (from Oregon) – Seastrunk was one of college football’s most sought after recruits in the 2010 signing class. He redshirted as a freshman in 2010 and transferred from Oregon before playing a snap in 2011. Seastrunk isn’t the biggest back, but his speed will be a valuable addition to Baylor’s backfield. He rushed for 138 yards on seven attempts during the spring game and will be expected to share carries with Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin. Salubi rushed for 331 yards and three touchdowns last season and will likely begin the season as the No. 1 back. However, Seastrunk will see plenty of carries and provides a much-needed big-play threat in Baylor’s offense with Robert Griffin off to the NFL.

4. DeAnthony Arnett, WR, Michigan State (from Tennessee) – Arnett might not be a household name like Dayne Crist or Danny O’Brien, but his addition was a huge boost for Michigan State. Not only are the Spartans losing quarterback Kirk Cousins, but they must replace the top three receivers from last season. Arnett was a key contributor as a true freshman at Tennessee last year, catching 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to obtain a hardship waiver from the NCAA and is eligible immediately in East Lansing for the 2012 season. Arnett has some work to do to crack the starting rotation, but will provide an experienced weapon for quarterback Andrew Maxwell. 

5. Mike Blakely, Auburn (from Florida) – After enrolling early at Florida, Blakely made the surprising decision to transfer after his first semester in Gainesville. Running back wasn’t expected to be a significant need for Auburn after the 2011 season, but 1,000-yard rusher Michael Dyer transferred to Arkansas State. Onterio McCalebb is slated to be the Tigers’ No. 1 back, but he may not have the durability to withstand 25 carries a game. Alabama transfer Corey Grant and sophomore Tre Mason will also figure into the backfield, but Blakely has momentum entering fall practice after rushing for 65 yards and a score in the spring game. Auburn could choose to use a committee of backs in 2012, but Blakely figures to be see plenty of opportunities. 

6. Cody Green, QB, Tulsa (from Nebraska) – With Taylor Martinez entrenched as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, playing time for Green would have been limited over the next two years in Lincoln. In two seasons with the Cornhuskers, he threw for 657 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 254 yards and three scores on the ground. Tulsa has a solid supporting cast in place on offense, as running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas return, along with two All-Conference USA candidates on the offensive line. Green should be a good fit in Tulsa’s offense and will have the Golden Hurricane in contention for the Conference USA West Division crown.

7. R.J. Dill, OT, Rutgers (from Maryland) – Dill’s decision to transfer to Rutgers could play a key role in deciding the Big East title. He started 33 games over three seasons at Maryland and has one more year of eligibility with the Scarlet Knights. The offensive line has been a source of criticism for Rutgers over the last two years, and this unit loses All-Big East starters Desmond Wynn and Art Forst. Dill is unlikely to be an All-American, but his presence should help to stabilize the right side of the line and allow the Scarlet Knights to establish their ground attack in 2012.

8. Ryan Katz, QB, San Diego State (from Oregon State) – Katz was pinpointed as one of the Pac-12’s top breakout players for 2011, but he was benched in the second game of the year. Katz threw for 2,401 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010, but threw for only 104 yards in the first two games of 2011. With quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman departing, the Aztecs will be starting over on offense. Katz left spring practice as the starting quarterback and will have one of the Mountain West’s top receiving corps to throw to. If he can return to his 2010 form, Katz will be a solid pickup for San Diego State.

9. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU (from Texas) – Gilbert was one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the 2009 signing class and was anointed as Texas’ starter once Colt McCoy finished his eligibility. He started all 12 games in 2010 but threw for only 2,744 yards and 10 touchdowns, while tossing 17 interceptions. Gilbert got off to a slow start in 2011 and was benched after the Sept. 10 victory against BYU. With Kyle Padron transferring to Eastern Washington, Gilbert has a clear path to the starting job at SMU. After facing enormous pressure in Austin, the junior has an opportunity to shine outside of the spotlight. June Jones is one of college football’s top offensive minds, and Gilbert could have a big season in the Mustangs' offense.

10. Brent Benedict, OG, Virginia Tech (from Georgia) – The Hokies’ biggest weakness in 2012 is the offensive line. Gone are four starters, including All-ACC selections in Blake DeChristopher and guard Jaymes Brooks. Benedict ranked among the top 150 prospects coming out of high school by most recruiting services, but suffered a significant knee injury in his senior year. He redshirted during his only season at Georgia and all signs point to a return to full strength in 2012. Benedict is expected to start at right guard this year and provided he can stay healthy, this should turn out to be a huge addition for the Hokies. 

 

Others to watch for 2012

Austyn Carta-Samuels, QB (Wyoming to Vanderbilt)
Brice Butler, WR (USC to San Diego State)
Amir Carlisle, RB (USC to Notre Dame)
Cullen Christian, DB (Michigan to Pittsburgh)
Tommy Davis, DB (Northern Illinois to Illinois)
Jonathan Dowling, DB (Florida to Western Kentucky)
Chris Dunkley, WR (Florida to South Florida)
De’Leon Eskridge, RB (Minnesota to San Jose State
Cameron Fordham, OL (LSU to NC State)
Khairi Fortt, LB (Penn State to California
Tyler Gabbert, QB (Missouri to UCF)
Corey Grant, RB (Alabama to Auburn)
Montel Harris, RB (Boston College to Temple)
Storm Johnson, RB (Miami to UCF)
Jacob Karam, QB (Texas Tech to Memphis)
James Kittredge, DT (Vanderbilt to Michigan State)
Alex Mateas, C (Penn State to Connecticut)
Bryce McNeal, WR (Clemson to Louisville?)
Shakim Phillips, WR (Boston College to Connecticut)
Kyle Prater, WR (Northwestern to USC)
Silas Redd, RB (Penn State to USC)
Josh Shaw, S (Florida to USC)
Phillip Sims, QB (Alabama to Virginia)
Phil Smith, OL (Georgia Tech to UCF)
Darryl Stonum, WR (Michigan to Baylor)
Jordan Webb, QB (Kansas to Colorado)
Forrest West, DL (Colorado to NC State)
Ryan Williams, QB (Memphis to Miami)
Toney Williams, RB (Tennessee to Ball State)
Brandon Willis, DT (North Carolina to UCLA)
Connor Wood, QB (Texas to Colorado)

 

10 to Watch for 2013

Aaron Green, RB, TCU (from Nebraska)
Michael Dyer, RB, Arkansas State (from Auburn)
Max Garcia, OT, Florida (from Maryland)
Jake Heaps, QB, Kansas (from BYU)
Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida (from Notre Dame)
Justin McCay, WR, Kansas (from Oklahoma)
Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma (from Fresno State)
Pete Thomas, QB, NC State (from Colorado State)
Darius White, WR, Missouri (from Texas)
Brandon Williams, RB, Texas A&M (from Oklahoma)

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related College Football Content

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

Teaser:
<p> College football's top 10 impact transfers for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:55
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-best-and-worst-hires-2012
Body:

The college football coaching carousel was busy in the offseason, as 28 programs changed hands. Here’s how we rank the new hires:

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Previous Job: College football analyst, ESPN

Pros: Meyer boasts an incredible 104–23 record as a head coach in stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. His teams are 60–18 in conference play, and he has led two teams to a national title (’06 Florida, ’08 Florida) and another to an undefeated season (’04 Utah).

Cons: Meyer’s tenure at Florida didn’t end on the best note. He resigned in December 2009, citing health reasons, but changed his mind the next day. His 2010 Gators struggled on offense and limped to an 8–5 record (4–4 in the SEC). Meyer stepped down once again in December 2010.

Final Analysis: This is a tremendous hire. Ohio State is very fortunate that Meyer was available as basically a free agent the year in which it was looking for a new coach. If Meyer’s health is not an issue and his batteries are recharged, there is little doubt that he will win Big Ten championships during his time in Columbus.
 

2. Mike Leach, Washington State

Previous Job: College football analyst, CBS Sports

Pros: Leach won at a high level at Texas Tech, compiling an overall record of 84–43 and a mark of 47–33 in the Big 12 in 10 seasons. His offenses were consistently among the most explosive in college football.

Cons: Leach comes with some baggage — though no one is quite sure just how much. There has to be a reason so many schools passed on him in the past two years, right?

Final Analysis: This is an absolute home run hire for Washington State, which has really struggled to compete in the league over the past five years. With a well-deserved reputation as one of the top offensive coaches in the game, Leach will be able to attract top-flight talent at the skill positions to Pullman. It will be difficult for Wazzu to out-recruit rivals Washington and Oregon on a consistent basis, but the Cougars will at least be relevant with Leach running the ship.


3. Terry Bowden, Akron

Previous Job: Head coach, North Alabama

Pros: Bowden has a fantastic record in 18 seasons as a head coach at Division III Salem (19–13), Division I-AA Samford (45–23–1), Auburn (47–17–1) and Division II North Alabama (29–10). He is very well known nationally and will be able to attract talent to Akron. Bowden spent the 1986 season — his only year as a full-time assistant coach at any level — as the quarterbacks coach at Akron.

Cons: Bowden hasn’t coached in the FBS (or Division I-A) ranks since 1998, when he was forced out at Auburn after a 1–5 start.

Final Analysis: Bowden is a proven commodity who brings instant credibility to a program that has slipped to the bottom of the MAC food chain. He will get quality players — don’t be surprised if Akron becomes a popular destination for transfers — and win plenty of games. Great hire by Akron.


4. Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Auburn

Pros: Malzahn is regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football. Auburn struggled this past season, but Malzahn’s four previous offenses — two at Auburn and two at Tulsa — finished seventh, 16th, first and first nationally.

Cons: Malzahn’s lack of head coaching experience in the collegiate ranks might have been considered a negative had he jumped to a BCS conference job, but not so at Arkansas State.

Final Analysis: Malzahn was reportedly in the running for the top job at Kansas and North Carolina. Didn’t happen — for various reasons. Rather than return to Auburn for another season, he opted to accept Arkansas State’s offer to succeed Hugh Freeze. This is quite the coup for the Red Wolves, who will be favored to repeat as champs of the Sun Belt.
 

5. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Wisconsin

Pros: Chryst has been one of the top offensive coordinators in college football over the past nine seasons, two at Oregon State and the past seven at Wisconsin. The Badgers have led the Big Ten in scoring offense in each of the past three years.

Cons: Chryst has never been a head coach on any level.

Final Analysis: It’s been a tumultuous time at Pittsburgh, which fired an alum (Dave Wannstedt) and hired three head coaches (Mike Haywood, Todd Graham and Chryst) in a 13-month period. In the end, however, things have worked out for the Panthers. The highly respected Chryst appears to be an ideal fit. His offenses have been built around power running attacks and efficient quarterback play — a recipe that should work well at Pittsburgh.
 

6. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Previous Job: Head coach, Houston

Pros: Sumlin compiled a 35–17 record (24–8 C-USA) in four seasons at Houston, and did so in entertaining fashion. The Cougars averaged 42.6 points on Sumlin’s watch and led the nation in total offense twice and ranked second once. This will be his second stop in College Station (offensive coordinator in 2001-02).

Cons: It’s tough to poke holes in Sumlin’s résumé, but it is worth noting that his record at Houston was 3–6 in games in which Case Keenum did not play (ACL injury in ’10).

Final Analysis: Sumlin was the obvious choice for Texas A&M after the school made the decision to cut ties with Mike Sherman. Nothing is a given in the world of college football, but it’s tough to envision Sumlin not enjoying success as the boss in College Station.
 

7. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Previous Job: College football analyst, CBS Sports Network

Pros: Rodriguez enjoyed a tremendous seven-year run as the head coach at West Virginia, compiling a 60–26 record and doing so with some of the most exciting offenses in the nation. He also succeeded (43–28–2, seven years) at Glenville (W.Va.) State, an NAIA school in West Virginia.  

Cons: Rodriguez struggled to win games at Michigan, a school where it’s hard not to win. He went 15–22 overall and 6–18 in the Big Ten, the worst three-year stretch at the school since the mid-1930s. Rodriguez has had minor issues with the NCAA at both stops as a head coach at the FBS level. Also, he has not coached out West, and most of his coaching staff does not have experience in the Pac-12 — something that could hurt recruiting.

Final Analysis: This is a very important hire by Arizona AD Greg Byrne, who served as a one-man committee. RichRod has some baggage — struggled at Michigan plus NCAA issues — but he is a very good coach who will play an exciting brand of football. This is a solid hire.
 

8. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Previous Job: Head coach, Arkansas State

Pros: Freeze enhanced an already strong résumé by leading Arkansas State to its first-ever Sun Belt title in his only season as the head coach. He also did an outstanding job in his only year as the Red Wolves’ offensive coordinator (2010), and had a 20–5 mark in two seasons as the head coach at Lambuth College, an NAIA school in Jackson, Tenn.

Cons: Freeze has only four years of experience in FBS football, two with Ole Miss (2006-07) and two with Arkansas State (2010-11).

Final Analysis: Freeze is a Mississippi native who is a perfect choice to take on the difficult task of making Ole Miss football a consistent winner in the brutal SEC West. The sample size of his work isn’t large, but he has been very successful at every stop.
 

9. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Previous Job: Head coach, Southern Miss

Pros: Fedora was successful in his tenure at Southern Miss, with an overall record of 34–19 and a 20–12 mark in Conference USA. Prior to becoming a head coach, he was a highly regarded offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State.

Cons: Fedora won a bunch of games at USM, but the 22 wins in his first three seasons were actually one fewer than the 23 that Jeff Bower won in his final three years at the school.

Final Analysis: North Carolina has been unable to enjoy sustained success since Mack Brown bolted for Texas in 1997. Butch Davis recruited at a high level but never lost fewer than five games in his four seasons in Chapel Hill. Fedora looks like a great fit at North Carolina — but so did Davis before him and John Bunting before Davis.
 

10. John L. Smith, Arkansas

Previous Job: Head coach, Weber State

Pros: Smith knows the Arkansas program very well. He was on staff as the special teams coordinator from 2009-11 before leaving (for only four months) to serve as the head coach at his alma mater, Weber State. He has 18 years of head coaching experience.

Cons: Smith is a bit on the eccentric side, which is fine when things are going well. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself if this team faces some adversity.

Final Analysis: At first, this seemed to a be a curious hire. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Arkansas, with a veteran roster, is built to win now. Smith knows the players and he knows most of the coaches. There should be a seamless transition. The Hogs will no doubt miss Bobby Petrino the playcaller, but in the short term they might not miss Petrino the program CEO.  
 

11. Jim McElwain, Colorado State

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Alabama

Pros: McElwain spent the last four seasons on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama and was a part of two national championship teams. He is highly respected by his peers and has plenty of experience coaching out West, with stops at Eastern Washington, Montana State and Fresno State.

Cons: McElwain has no experience, on any level, as a head coach.

Final Analysis: Colorado State, once the premier program in the Mountain West, won exactly three games in four of the past five seasons. That is not acceptable. McElwain’s charge is to add some spice to an offense that ranked 97th or worse in scoring in each of the past three seasons. He wasn’t the sexiest hire of the offseason, but he is a solid coach who should have this program more competitive in the near future.
 

12. Tim Beckman, Illinois

Previous Job: Head coach, Toledo

Pros: Beckman did a very good job in his three seasons at Toledo, with an overall record of 21–16 and a 17–7 mark in the MAC (including 14–2 in the final two years). And while Toledo is consistently one of the top programs in the league, the Rockets had suffered through three straight losing seasons prior to Beckman’s arrival. He was also a successful defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State (2007-08) and a position coach (cornerbacks) at Ohio State (’05-06).

Cons: This is being a bit picky, but Beckman’s clock management down the stretch of Toledo’s 63–60 loss at home to Northern Illinois in November was highly questionable. That game ended up costing the Rockets the MAC West title.

Final Analysis: Beckman fits the profile of a Big Ten coach: He’s been a head coach in the MAC, a coordinator in a BCS league and a position coach in the Big Ten. He wasn’t the most exciting hire of the offseason, but Beckman looks to be the right guy at the right time for Illinois football.
 

13. Garrick McGee, UAB

Previous Job: Quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator, Arkansas

Pros: McGee spent the past four seasons under the tutelage of Bobby Petrino, one of the top offensive coaches in the nation. While Petrino called plays for the Hogs, McGee was heavily involved in the game plans, and he coached two outstanding quarterbacks in Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson.

Cons: McGee has never been a head coach on any level.

Final Analysis: McGee made the somewhat surprising career move in 2007 to leave his position as the offensive coordinator at Northwestern to be a position coach at Arkansas. Turned out to be a wise move. He was elevated to the coordinator position after two seasons and landed his first job as a head coach two years later. UAB is a difficult job, with very little fan support and very poor facilities, but the school is located in a fertile recruiting area. McGee will enjoy some success if he can identify — and sign — the best players in the state who aren’t quite good enough to play in the SEC.
 

14. Matt Campbell, Toledo

Previous Job: Offensive line coach, offensive coordinator, Toledo

Pros: Campbell did an outstanding job in his three seasons as the Rockets’ offensive coordinator. Toledo ranked eighth in the nation in scoring in 2011 and averaged 51.0 points in its final six games. He is young, energetic and reputed to be one of the top recruiters in the MAC.

Cons: Youth is a good thing in the world of coaching, but Campbell is only 32 years old, and his coaching staff is among the youngest in the nation.

Final Analysis: It’s a bit of a gamble to hire someone so young and so inexperienced, but this is a gamble that is likely to pay off for UT. Campbell is a bright offensive coach who will keep the momentum headed in the right direction at Toledo.
 

15. Todd Graham, Arizona State

Previous Job: Head coach, Pittsburgh

Pros: Graham is 20 games over .500 (49–29) in six seasons as a head coach — at three different programs. In 2006, he took a Rice team that had gone 1–10 the year before to the school’s first bowl game since 1961. He has had only one losing season as a head coach.

Cons: Graham has bolted after one year twice in his relatively short career as a head coach, leaving Rice after the 2006 season for Tulsa and Pitt in 2011 for Arizona State. This reputation as a program-hopper could hurt recruiting. Also, he has had high turnover among his staff in previous stops. 

Final Analysis: Graham was crucified by the national media for leaving Pittsburgh after one year, but the guy is a pretty good coach. Pitt struggled in 2011 (6–6 overall), but Graham didn’t have the type of personnel needed to succeed in his spread attack. He might not be the most well-liked man in coaching, but he should be able to win consistently at a school that has underachieved over the past two decades.
 

16. Jim Mora, UCLA

Previous Job: NFL Analyst, FOX

Pros: Mora brings name recognition from his two stints as a head coach in the NFL — Atlanta (2004-06) and Seattle (2009). He is a high-energy guy who hired an outstanding coaching staff that has already shown the ability to recruit well.

Cons: Mora has one season of experience in the collegiate ranks, as a graduate assistant at Washington in 1984.

Final Analysis: UCLA went outside the box on this hire after its attempt to land Boise State’s Chris Petersen failed. Mora’s lack of experience in college football is a concern, but it’s not something that can’t be overcome. As stated, he has surrounded himself with very good assistant coaches who will help make his transition smoother. Bottom line: Mora is a good coach and UCLA appears to be a solid fit for him. The guess here is that this will be remembered as an outstanding hire.
 

17. Justin Fuente, Memphis

Previous Job: Co-Offensive coordinator, TCU

Pros: Fuente spent the previous five years working for Gary Patterson, one of the top coaches in the game. He is young — 36 when the season starts — and will bring some much-needed positive energy into the Memphis program. Unlike his predecessor, Larry Porter, Fuente has previous experience as a coordinator, having served as the primary play-caller at TCU the past three seasons.

Cons: He has no experience as a head coach.

Final Analysis: After enjoying decent success under Tommy West, Memphis took several large steps backward during the two-year Larry Porter era. Fuente has a very difficult job, but he appears to be an ideal fit. He lacks experience, but he is very well respected and has a strong pedigree. Memphis has finally made a financial commitment to football — Fuente will be given every opportunity to succeed.
 

18. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State

Previous Job: Defensive coordinator, Texas A&M

Pros: DeRuyter has been an effective defensive coordinator at four stops over the past decade. He inherited a unit at Texas A&M that ranked 105th in the nation in 2009 and had the Aggies ranked 55th and 59th in his two seasons — while playing in the high-powered Big 12.

Cons: DeRuyter has never served as a head coach on any level.

Final Analysis: Pat Hill did great things at Fresno State, but it was time for a divorce after 15 seasons. DeRuyter, a California native who was educated at the Air Force Academy, is the ideal coach to take over as the program moves from the WAC to the more competitive MWC.
 

19. Charley Molnar, Massachusetts

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, Notre Dame

Pros: Molnar has 28 years of experience in the collegiate ranks, including 11 as an offensive coordinator. He has spent the past six seasons with Brian Kelly — one at Central Michigan, three at Cincinnati and two at Notre Dame. He is very familiar with the MAC, UMass’ new league, having coached at Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Kent State and Eastern Michigan.

Cons: Molnar has been a full-time assistant since 1989, working at 10 different schools. Only once has he been a coordinator at a BCS conference school, and that was at Notre Dame, where he didn’t call the plays.

Final Analysis: UMass was one of the elite FCS programs in the mid-2000s, but the Minutemen have missed the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. Molnar’s job will be to keep UMass competitive as it migrates to the MAC East. With 11 years of experience in the league, as well as several other stops in the Midwest, he appears to be a solid choice to lead the Minutemen into a new era.
 

20. Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss

Previous Job: Assistant head coach, defense, South Carolina

Pros: Johnson is a highly regarded defensive coach who is fresh off a successful four-year run at South Carolina. He has also been the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, Alabama, Clemson, Southern Miss and Appalachian State. Johnson has four years of experience as a head coach at two different schools (Gardner-Webb, 1983 and The Citadel, 2001-03).

Cons: Johnson’s staff isn’t exactly comprised of young up-and-comers. The head coach is 60 years old, and defensive coordinator Tommy West is 58.

Final Analysis: Johnson gets his first shot at an FBS head coaching position at one of the top jobs in Conference USA. In his previous stint as a head coach, Johnson struggled early but went 6–6 in his third year at The Citadel — one of only three non-losing seasons at the school since 1997. This hire isn’t overly exciting, but Johnson is a solid football coach who will likely do well in Hattiesburg.
 

21. Curtis Johnson, Tulane

Previous Job: Wide receivers coach, New Orleans Saints

Pros: Johnson was regarded as an outstanding recruiter during his 10 years (1996-2005) as the receivers coach at Miami (Fla.). He has experience coaching at the highest level of the collegiate ranks and also has spent six seasons in the NFL.

Cons: Johnson has no experience as a head coach or a coordinator.

Final Analysis: Tulane is one of the more difficult jobs in the nation. Support is extremely low, and the school lacks tradition. There was talk of building an on-campus stadium, but that hit a snag over the winter. This program needs an influx of talent. Johnson should be able to recruit well, which will give him a better chance to succeed than his predecessor.
 

22. Charlie Weis, Kansas

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Florida

Pros: Despite his lack of success as the head coach at Notre Dame, Weis is still regarded as one of the top offensive minds in football. He should be able to attract quality skill players to Kansas, which has had only one player earn either first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors on the offensive side of the ball in the past two seasons.

Cons: Weis struggled at Notre Dame, with a 35–27 record in five seasons (16–21 in his final three years). And it’s obviously much easier to win at Notre Dame than Kansas. Also, Florida struggled mightily on offense in 2011 (105th in the nation), Weis’ lone season as the Gators’ coordinator.

Final Analysis: Kansas went to a BCS bowl as recently as 2007, but the program is now clearly the worst in the Big 12. The school wanted to make a splash with this hire. Mission accomplished. But was it a good hire? Time obviously will tell, but it’s difficult to envision a coach who was five games under .500 in his final three season at Notre Dame winning consistently at Kansas.  
 

23. Bill O’Brien, Penn State

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, New England Patriots

Pros: O’Brien brings a solid résumé to Penn State. He spent 12 years in the ACC (eight at Georgia Tech, two at Maryland and two at Duke) and the past five in the NFL, working for Bill Belichick.

Cons: He has no experience as a head coach — not ideal for someone who is taking over for Joe Paterno on the heels of one of the biggest scandals in college football history. In his two years as an offensive coordinator at Duke (’05-06), the Blue Devils went 1–22. Also, other New England assistants — Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel and Josh McDaniels — have not fared well as head coaches.

Final Analysis: Penn State’s decision to turn to O’Brien has been widely criticized, by media and fans. But let’s be honest: The pool of candidates interested in taking over in Happy Valley was not overwhelming. O’Brien’s job will not be easy: The product on the field has been rather ordinary in recent seasons, and the Penn State brand has been greatly tarnished. He will need time to rebuild and prove that he was the right man for the job.

 

24. Tony Levine, Houston

Previous Job: Special teams coordinator, tight ends coach, Houston

Pros: Levine has been a highly regarded assistant coach who has worked for some quality head coaches — Kevin Sumlin (Houston), Bobby Petrino (Louisville) and Tommy Tuberville (Auburn) — and spent time as an assistant in the NFL. He is well-liked by the Houston players and plans on keeping many of the same offensive schemes in place.

Cons: Has only one game of experience as a head coach — a 30–14 win over Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl — and zero time spent as an offensive or defensive coordinator at any level.

Final Analysis: Houston AD Mack Rhoades is a well-respected administrator, but this was a curious hire. It’s a mighty big jump from coaching special teams to being a CEO of an FBS program. Houston has been a consistent winner in Conference USA under Art Briles and Sumlin; the program cannot afford to take a step back as it heads to the Big East in 2013. UH is putting its eggs in an unproven basket.
 

25. Kyle Flood, Rutgers

Previous Job: Assistant head coach, offensive line coach, Rutgers

Pros: Flood is a native of Queens who has spent the past seven seasons on Greg Schiano’s staff at Rutgers. He was a part of six bowl teams at Rutgers, and he consistently produced quality offensive linemen. Flood is also regarded as an outstanding recruiter.

Cons: Flood has basically been a position coach in each of his 19 seasons as an assistant. He has had the title of co-offensive coordinator (Rutgers ’09-10) and run game coordinator (Rutgers ’07), but has never been the primary play-caller.

Final Analysis: It’s never a good time to lose a head coach, but Schiano’s decision to leave Rutgers came at a really bad time — the week before National Signing Day. The school made a run at FIU’s Mario Cristobal before turning to Flood, a trusted assistant who would make the transition as easy as possible. On that front, Flood and his staff should be commended for keeping the majority of the Scarlet Knights’ recruiting class intact. Now, they will have to prove they can get the job done on the field.
 

26. Norm Chow, Hawaii

Previous Job: Offensive coordinator, Utah

Pros: Chow is a Hawaii native who has a reputation as one of the top quarterback coaches in the nation. He served on LaVell Edwards’ staff for 27 years and was the offensive coordinator at USC during the vacated-championship years of the Pete Carroll era.

Cons: The numbers don’t necessarily back up the popular view that Chow is an elite offensive coach. In each of his last four seasons as an offensive coordinator (2011 at Utah and ’08-10 at UCLA), his teams ranked 109th, 100th, 88th and 111th in the nation in total offense. Chow is the oldest — he will be 66 in the fall — of the 28 new head coaches in the FBS ranks

Final Analysis: Chow is an overrated offensive coordinator who did not land his first job as a head coach until his 40th season in the profession. His background in the state of Hawaii is a plus, but this move does not appear to be a step up from Greg McMackin.
 

27. Bob Davie, New Mexico

Previous Job: College football analyst, ESPN

Pros: Davie has five years of head coaching experience at Notre Dame. He also has recruiting ties in Texas, one of New Mexico’s primary areas of focus.

Cons: Davie has been out of coaching since 2001, when he was fired as Notre Dame head coach. The Irish were 19–16 in his final three seasons, with a losing mark in both 1999 (5–7) and 2001 (5–6).

Final Analysis: This is a puzzling hire. I’m not sure why the New Mexico administration believes that a coach who could not win consistently at Notre Dame — more than a decade ago — will be able to build a winner at New Mexico. Glen Mason, the former head coach at Kent State, Kansas and Minnesota, was reported to be a finalist. He might not have been the sexiest hire, but at least Mason did well (relatively) at all of his stops as a head coach. 
 

28. Carl Pelini, Florida Atlantic

Previous Job: Defensive coordinator, Nebraska

Pros: Pelini played a key role in Nebraska’s transformation from one of the worst defensive teams in the nation (112th in ’07) to one of the best (seventh in ’09, 11th in ’10).

Cons: Pelini doesn’t have the most impressive résumé, having spent only four of his 25 years in coaching as a full-time assistant at a BCS conference school. He coached in the high school ranks for 12 years and served as a defensive line coach in the MAC before being hired by his brother, Bo, in 2008. 

Final Analysis: This hire was a bit uninspiring. Pelini is a Midwest guy who has never coached south of the Mason-Dixon line and has no ties to the state of Florida. He was successful as a defensive coordinator, but he worked for a defensive-minded head coach; you never know just who to credit for a unit’s success in those situations. One other cause for concern: Pelini didn’t get off to great start with a few local high school coaches when he failed to honor some previous verbal commitments.

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Teaser:
<p> Ranking College Football's Best and Worst Hires for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/urban-meyers-arrival-has-ohio-state-football-back-track
Body:

The note was abrupt: “Urban, make sure the garage door is shut.” It wasn’t signed, because there was no mistaking who wrote it.

Soon after Urban Meyer was hired as Ohio State’s new football coach, he moved in with his mentor, Earle Bruce, his former boss when Meyer was a wide-eyed graduate assistant at OSU in 1986 and ’87.

Bruce had lost his wife of 56 years, Jean, to cancer in December just a couple weeks after Meyer had been named head coach at Ohio State. Meyer needed time to redirect his family and belongings from Florida to central Ohio and lived with Bruce for about a month while sifting through potential new homes and pouring himself into his new job.

But this is no “Odd Couple” sequel. Bruce never scolded his guest for placing dirty socks on the couch or leaving the trash bin full. He just wanted to make sure Meyer remembered to hit the garage door remote on the way to his new daily grind. Hence the note.

“We laughed about it,” the 80-year-old Bruce says, “because he says ‘Geez, that’s just like my wife. She does that (stuff) to me, too.’”

Meyer doesn’t go around seeking a whole lot of instruction from others. He’s proved in short order that he’s comfortable in his own skin by putting forth his personal directives, which center on toughness, competitive fire, accountability and achievement.

But make no mistake — they are traits he learned to value under coaches such as Bruce and Lou Holtz, and that served him well when he began to cut his teeth as a head coach at Bowling Green (2001-02). From there, he landed at Utah (2003-04), where he compiled a 22–2 record and won national acclaim.

In the six years that followed at Florida, Meyer established himself as one of the premier coaches in the country, racking up a mark of 65–15 and winning three SEC East titles, two conference championships and BCS national championships following the 2006 and ’08 seasons.

Buckeye fans remember the first one all too well, as Meyer, an Ohio native, led the Gators to a 41–14 bludgeoning of No. 1 OSU in Glendale, Ariz.

Meyer took a very brief leave of absence following the 2009 season — which coincided with the end of the Tim Tebow era — then returned and led UF to an 8–5 mark and Outback Bowl win. But he walked away from the game again after that season and took a job as an analyst for ESPN to occupy his newfound free time.

While in the booth, Meyer saw his name linked to potential openings at Penn State and Ohio State while scandal and the ouster of elite coaches Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel tormented the respective programs. By the time OSU faced Michigan in Ann Arbor, the cat was out of the bag — Luke Fickell would be removed from his temporary post as head coach, and Meyer would be pulled in with a lavish contract.

Ohio State offered a six-year, $24 million-plus deal, and the 47-year-old Meyer accepted. Thus began a new and suddenly promising era of Buckeye football — despite the program’s lingering NCAA sanctions.

Still, questions, and some baggage, came with the acquisition.

Would Meyer be able to recruit at a high level with a Buckeyes program reeling from a 6–7 season and staring at scholarship reductions and a 2012 postseason ban? Would he burn out again or encounter more health concerns like the ones that shelved him in Gainesville? Is his Bruce Wayne persona and SEC-like approach really the right fit for a Midwestern program still licking its wounds from its most embarrassing setback?

The answer to the first query is a resounding yes. Even with a late start and amid a sea of negative recruiting, Meyer pulled in a head-spinning number of 4- and 5-star prospects, including defensive linemen Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se’Von Pittman as well as offensive linemen Kyle Dodson and Taylor Decker.

Fickell and Mike Vrabel were retained on the OSU staff and helped nail down several of those players. Meyer moved Stan Drayton from receivers coach to tutor the running backs and hired six new full-timers, including former Notre Dame assistants Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton, who were instrumental in easing Decker’s mind as he flipped his commitment from ND to Ohio State.

In fact, eight members of the 25-player signing class originally had committed to other programs. That caused an uproar around the Big Ten.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema aired his concerns about Dodson’s late change of heart from UW to Ohio State by complaining publicly about the move and privately to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi also were miffed about OSU going after Pittman, a longtime Spartan commit, citing the gentleman’s agreement the program had enjoyed with Tressel in past years.

But Meyer never blinked and vowed to recruit even harder going forward.

He already has an impressive head start on his 2013 recruiting class, signaling that better times appear to be just around the corner for Buckeye fans.

But to make sure his players had no acceptance of failure, he lured strength coach Mickey Marotti from Florida and launched a demanding offseason program reminiscent of the days of Earle and Woody Hayes.

The result of every drill, every practice, every academic pursuit is measured against a standard and given a winner/loser tag.

“The structure of this program is to compete, and they don’t have a choice,” Drayton says. “If they don’t want to compete this is not the program for them.”

Says Meyer: “I want to see that distaste in somebody’s face when they lose. If they don’t share that same distaste that a lot of our coaches have, I don’t really want to see them play.”

While Meyer oozes intensity, regularly calls for 6 a.m. team meetings, likes to throw Buckeyes into one-on-one smack drills and has no hesitation in calling out players’ deficiencies — something Tressel avoided with senatorial skill — he also has begun to display a lighter side.

He cracked several jokes at the team’s Spring Kick-Off luncheon and also invited students to witness a weekend practice. In fact, he had them circle tightly around the players on some kicking drills and vowed to have one of them try some placements in front of the team next year.

“Sometimes we forget what this is all about,” Meyer says. “It’s about student-athletes and the student body and making the collegiate experience a positive thing. What does every student want? Ownership and access. So we’re going to give it to them. It’s their stadium. It’s their football team.”

Drayton, who also worked under Meyer at Bowling Green and Florida, has noticed the change. “He’s the same Urban Meyer as far as X’s and O’s and as far as intensity on the football field, but he’s in a better place right now, I think, spiritually,” he says. “He’s not letting a whole lot of things get to him as much, but it’s not like he’s taking the foot off the gas pedal at all.

“The intensity is still there and the command is still there, but now that he’s delegated some of those responsibilities and is trusting his supporting staff that much more, it’s just going to be better for him.”

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Teaser:
<p> Urban Meyer is remaking Ohio State football in his image.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-offensive-lines
Body:

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

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

Ranking the Pac-12's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. USC – Despite the departure of left tackle Matt Kalil, the Trojans should still have the No. 1 offensive line in the Pac-12. Four starters are back from a unit that allowed only eight sacks and allowed rushers to average 4.9 yards per carry last season. Center Khaled Holmes should be in the mix for All-American honors after picking up second-team All-Pac-12 accolades last year. Kevin Graf started all 12 games at right tackle in 2011 and was in the mix to replace Kalil on the left side, but sophomore Aundrey Walker seemed to solidify that spot at the end of spring practice. The guard spots are expected to be manned by sophomore Marcus Martin and junior John Martinez. The depth of this unit will get a boost in the fall with the arrival of true freshmen (and Athlon Consensus 100 recruits) Zach Banner, Max Tuerk and Jordan Simmons.

2. Oregon – A healthy Carson York makes this a much more stable unit for Chip Kelly. Assuming he returns to the lineup at full strength, this offensive line should be as good, if not a touch better than last year’s group. Nick Cody returns to right tackle and Hroniss Grasu should be that much better as a sophomore now at center. Add to it athletic upgrades at left tackle with Jake Fisher and right guard with Ryan Clanton, and line coach Steve Greatwood has to be excited about his uptempo collection of blockers. It’s not as if this group has finished in the top six nationally in rushing and paced the Pac-12 for four straight years in rushing. Wait…

3. Stanford – Replacing Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro won’t be easy at all. They were two of the best at their positions nationally. However, left guard David Yankey is an Athlon Sports first-team All-Pac-12 pick and right tackle Cameron Fleming is a second-team all-league preseason selection. Sam Schwartzstein returns to the center position as a senior as well. And with David Shaw/Jim Harbaugh’s continued preaching of physicality, this group should be just fine once again. Kevin Danser and Cole Underwood will be atop an intense battle for the right guard and left tackle positions, respectively with arguably the greatest offensive line recruiting class ever assembled. Stanford has some losses but will be fine along the line.

4. Utah – Running back John White’s 2011 season is even more impressive when you consider the Utes didn’t have much of a passing attack after quarterback Jordan Wynn was lost for the year with a shoulder injury. Although White deserves much of the credit, the offensive line shouldn’t be overlooked. This group allowed 33 sacks last season, but also faced more pressure with the lack of a passing attack. Two key starters are gone from 2011, as tackles John Cullen and Tony Bergstrom have finished their eligibility. Three starters are back in Salt Lake City for 2012, including seniors in center Tevita Stevens and guard Sam Brenner. Fellow senior Miles Mason is a returning starter at left guard, but is locked into a tight battle with Jeremiah Tofaeono for snaps. Junior Percy Taumoelau (left tackle) and freshman Daniel Nelson (right tackle) are expected to be in the starting lineup, but junior college recruits Charles Lozano, Marc Pouvave and Junior Salt will push for time.

5. California – Jim Michalczik is one of the Pac-12’s top offensive line coaches and should push this unit to improve in 2012. Three starters are back from last season, but gone are two key performers, including first-team All-Pac-12 selection Mitchell Schwartz. Guard Brian Schwenke is expected to contend for all-conference honors in 2012, while Dominic Galas and Matt Summers-Gavin are back after starting all 13 games last season. Senior Tyler Rigsbee and junior Bill Tyndall look like the frontrunners at left tackle, while Geoff Gibson or Jordan Rigsbee will likely get the nod at right guard. California allowed 28 sacks in 2011, but with three seniors penciled in as returning starters, this unit should cut that number in 2012.

6. Arizona – Generally speaking, coaches love it when all five starters return to an offensive line. And there's no question Rich Rodriguez, and his zone read option rushing attack has to be excited about it. Yet, this group must show improvement to come close to recreating the Pat White-Steve Slaton magic at West Virginia. Arizona finished 114th nationally in rushing and 11th in the league while ranking 59th nationally in sacks allowed. There is promise in this group as center Kyle Quinn returns as a leader on and off the field. There's also concerns about transitioning from an offense based more on the pass, to a scheme that relies more on the run. While Quinn could contend for All-Pac-12 honors, the rest of the group needs to stay focused if they expect to improve in 2012.

7. Washington – With Keith Price back at quarterback and a solid receiving corps in place, the Huskies should once again average over 30 points per game in 2012. However, there are concerns about this unit, especially after this group suffered a setback late in the spring when returning starter Colin Porter decided to retire due to injuries. Although Porter’s departure was a blow, the Huskies still return three starters up front. Colin Tanigawa is back after starting 11 games as a freshman last season, while Erik Kohler will shift from the right side to anchor the line at left tackle. Center Drew Schaefer is the leader and should push for All-Pac-12 honors in 2012. There are some injury concerns with this group, and there’s room to improve after allowing 34 sacks last year. The Huskies have the pieces in place to expect a turnaround, but left tackle Senio Kelemente and Porter will be missed.

8. UCLA – Three starters are back to lead to Jim Mora's first offensive line in Westwood. But with the return of elite recruit and early contributor Xavier Su’a-Filo from his LDS Mission, this group could be dramatically improved in 2012. Jeff Baca and Greg Capella offer some veteran leadership, while freshman Jake Brendel looks to take over at center. With the loss of Wade Yandall to medical issues, this group will certainly have some young pieces. The cupboard isn’t bare, however, as the former regime recruited well at the position. Mora and his staff simply need to assemble the right players in the right places. Su’a-Filo, if he picks up where he left off, has a chance to be a special player.

9. Arizona State – This is a rebuilding time for Arizona State’s offensive line. The good news is there is little place to go but up after finishing 85th in rushing and 73rd in sacks allowed last year. Threes starters are gone but new coach Todd Graham has been cautiously optimistic about this section of his offense. Right guard Andrew Sampson and left tackle Evan Finkenberg return as the leaders of the group and must get this collection of talent to play up to its capabilities.

10. Oregon State – Mike Riley’s teams have consistently run the football with authority for much of his time in Corvallis. But 118th in the nation isn’t get the job done. Neither is 81st in sacks allowed. But three starters are back and the former elite recruit Michael Philipp returns after missing last season due to injury. This unit was banged-up again in the spring and must develop some depth if it expects to run the football the way Riley craves. Look for a lot of names to get looks through summer camp, including top 100 freshman Isaac Seumalo.

11. Colorado – Although the Buffaloes check in at No. 11 in this ranking, there’s some promise for this group. Left tackle David Bakhtiari earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2011 and should be one of the best linemen in the conference this season. Junior Gus Handler is back after starting 10 games in 2011, while guard Ryan Dannewitz returns at right guard (11 starts last year). Sophomore Alex Lewis made one start at left tackle last season and is poised to claim the job at left guard. Jack Harris claimed the right tackle starting spot at the beginning of 2011 but suffered a broken leg and missed most of the season. Colorado has some solid pieces in place, and this unit could rank much higher on this list at the end of the year. However, the Buffaloes need to cut down on the sacks allowed from last season (31), while opening up more rushing lanes for the running backs (3.5 yards per carry in 2011).

12. Washington State – With Mike Leach’s arrival in Pullman, the Cougars are expected to be one of college football’s top passing offenses in 2012. Washington State is also expecting a big season from quarterback Jeff Tuel, who missed most of last year with injuries. However, the offense could stall if the offensive line doesn’t come together. The headliner of this group will be John Fullington. He has 18 career starts in the first two years of his career and is shifting from left guard to left tackle. Matt Goetz started the final nine games at center last year and should be the starter there in 2012. Dan Spitz is expected to start at right guard, while Wade Jacobson is back after missing most of last season. After allowing 40 sacks last year, the Cougars need to be much better up front in order to reach a winning record in 2012.
 

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

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Ranking the Pac-12 Wide Receiving Corps for 2012
Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

2012 Pac-12 Predictions

Pac-12's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Pac-12 Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:26
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, Fantasy Football, NFL, NFL, Fantasy, Overtime
Path: /nfl/50-funny-fantasy-football-team-names
Body:

NFL action is getting closer by the day, which means it’s time to plan your fall road trips and to name your 2012 fantasy football team. It’s tough to win your league every season, but you can have the best team name each year. Here’s our list for 2012, in no particular order of awesomeness.

Vick in a Box

Henne Given Sunday

Cassel Greyskull

Joe Buck Yourself

I'm thinking RBs

Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe

Suh Girls, One Cup

Drinkin’ Fortes

Forgetting Brandon Marshall

James Starks of Winterfell (Does the Packers running back watch Game of Thrones?)

Show Me Your TDs

Breaking Bademosi (The Browns cornerback has to be a fan of Walter White.)

The Gould Standard

I Pitta the Fool

Just a Big Roos

Breastonlargement

Tonsil Shockey

Makin’ It Wayne

Stephen Cooper Advertising (The Chargers pass rusher has to like Mad Men.)

Jersey Leshoure

Jake’s Hurt Locker

The Road Wilfork

The Big Legursky (The Steelers right guard plays by the rules.)

Cruz Control

Revis and Butthead

Red Hot Julius Peppers

My Mornhinweg Jacket

The Celek Few

Succop to the Boss (I’m sure the Chiefs teammates get along well with Romeo Crennel.)

Snyder’s Cash for Clunkers

Golden Tate Bridge

A Boy Named Suh

In the Garden of Weeden

Vinatieri Strokes (The legendary kicker has to watch The League.)

Coples Therapy

The Blair White Project

Joe Adams Family

Ginn and Juice

Planet Alterraun (The Titans defensive back has to love Star Wars.)

Flacco Seagulls

Get a Kluwe

All Torian Vehicle

Madu Men

Skeltons in the Closet

Drayton Florence and the Machine

Ming the Mercilus (Is the Texans rookie a fan of Flash Gordon?)

Never Forsett

DeMarco Polo

Jacquizz Show

Taken to the Woodhead

A few extras...

The Red Barron (Bama fans can substitute crimson.)
Belichick Yo Self
Sergio Kindle Fire
Corn on the Kolb
Fitzgerald and the Tantrums
Insane Clowney Posse
Dontay Moch Draft
Nate Potter and the Nocturnals
Press Your Luck
Scobee Snacks

And some former favorites...

Ron Mexico’s Perro
Favre Dollar FootLong
Burressted Development
Straight Cash Homey
Where Tai Streets Has No Game



2012 NFL Fantasy Football Rankings:

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Big Board

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I
2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football Team Names</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 06:07
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News, WAC
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-wac
Body:

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

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

2012 Preseason WAC All-Fantasy Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Starters

 

QB—Colby Cameron, Sr. (LA Tech)

Last season:  Passed for 1,667 yards and 13 TDs, rushed for 180 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Idaho, @ NM St, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St

 

QB—Andrew Manley, So. (New Mexico State)

Last season:  892 yards and 6 TDs passing.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ UTEP, New Mexico, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  San Jose St, Bye, BYU

 

RB—Hunter Lee, So. (LA Tech)

Last season:  Rushed for 650 yards and 5 TDs, 13 receptions for 126 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8-9; UNLV, Bye, Idaho, NM St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St

 

RB—Kerwynn Williams, Sr. (Utah State)

Last season:  Rushed for 542 yards and 3 TDs as RB#3 behind Robert Turbin and Michael Smith.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; NM St, @ UTSA, Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ LA Tech, Idaho

 

RB—De’Leon Eskridge, Sr. (San Jose State)

Last season:  Transferred from Minnesota.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; @ UTSA, Texas St, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ NM St, BYU, LA Tech

 

WR—Quinton Patton, Sr. (LA Tech)

Last season:  79 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Idaho, @ NM St, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St

 

WR—Noel Grigsby, Jr. (San Jose State)

Last season:  89 receptions for 886 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Utah St, @ UTSA, Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  UCLA, @ Arizona St, Washington

 

WR—D.J. Banks, Jr. (LA Tech)

Last season:  Transferred from Tulane.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Idaho, @ NM St, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St

 

TE—Ryan Otten, Sr. (San Jose State)

Last season:  52 receptions for 739 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Utah St, @ UTSA, Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  UCLA, @ Arizona St, Washington

 

FLEX—Terrence Franks, So. (Texas State)

Last season:  Rushed for 863 yards and 9 TDs in the FCS.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8-9; @ NM, Idaho, Bye, @ San Jose St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  LA Tech, @ Navy, @ UTSA

 

K—Matt Nelson, Sr. (LA Tech)

Last season: 15-for-21 on FG attempts, 46-for-48 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8-9; UNLV, Bye, Idaho, NM St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St

 

DEF/ST—Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Last season:  No. 41 scoring defense, No. 13 in turnover margin.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11; @ NM St, UTSA, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas St, Utah St, @ San Jose St

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Chuckie Keeton, So. (Utah State)

RB—Ryan Bass, Sr. (Idaho)

RB—Marcus Curry, Sr. (Texas State)

RB—Robert Clay, Sr. (New Mexico State)

WR—Jacarri Jackson, Jr. (LA Tech)



 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the WAC</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 02:23
Path: /nascar/recapping-busy-week-nascar-sprint-cup-series
Body:

AJ Allmendinger issued his first public comments Tuesday since NASCAR temporarily suspended the Penske Racing driver before last weekend’s race at Daytona for a failed drug test.

“I have informed NASCAR that I have requested that the ‘B’ sample be tested, following the steps according to NASCAR’s 2012 rule book regarding this situation,” Allmendinger said in a statement.

“I fully respect NASCAR's drug usage policy and the reasons they have it. I am hoping this can get resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get back to driving the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge. I am sorry that this has caused such a distraction for my Penske Racing team, our sponsors and fans. Obviously, I would never do anything to jeopardize my opportunity here at Penske Racing or to my fellow drivers. I am very conscious about my training and health and would never knowingly take a prohibited drug.”

Penske Racing previously announced that Sam Hornish Jr. would drive for Allmendinger this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He drove for Allmendinger at Daytona, arriving from Charlotte, N.C., shortly before Saturday’s race and finished 33rd.

Allmendinger’s test results should be known later this week.

If his “B’’ sample affirms the previous drug test, then Allmendinger would remain suspended and be given a program he would have to undergo to regain his status to race in NASCAR. If his “B’’ sample disproves the previous sample, Allmendinger would be reinstated immediately.

With only a one-year contract with Penske Racing, Allmendinger’s future is further clouded. Car owner Roger Penske spoke on Sirius XM’s NASCAR Radio on Tuesday about Allmendinger’s future.

“I think that we’ll have to assess this situation,” Penske said. “You know, it’s something you just don’t do overnight. We’ll look at the details and understand it and we’ll make our moves accordingly. But at this point it would be way premature for me to speculate on what we might do. I think we’ve got to focus on our team and NASCAR, we’ve got good momentum and we’ve got to finish out this season strong. This will, obviously, the outcome of this will dictate what will be the future from the standpoint of ourselves and any member of our team that would be in this situation.”

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around a busy NASCR Sprint Cup circuit. AJ Allmendinger's failed drug test, Denny Hamlin's contract extension, the US Army's bailing out of the sport and plenty of baby news is on the docket.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 19:52
Path: /mlb/2012-mlb-all-star-game-fixing-its-problems
Body:

This is the 11th season that the All-Star Game has “counted.” If you recall, way back in 2001, both teams ran out of pitchers and the game ended in a tie after 11 exciting innings, leaving fans at the stadium and TV viewers disappointed, to put it mildly.

So, in all his wisdom, Commissioner Bud Selig — along with TV executives — led efforts to bring some meaning back to the All-Star Game. The result is that the All-Star Game determines home-field advantage for the World Series.

I don’t understand how players and teams accept determining home-field advantage by teams elected by the fans in a popularity vote. No disrespect to Pablo Sandoval, but the National League will play the game with one of its best players, David Wright of the Mets, starting on the bench. Dan Uggla, maybe not even the third-best second baseman in the NL, will start the game, leaving Brandon Phillips of the Reds out of the game completely.

(And before you start going all Dusty Baker on me, it’s clear to most everyone outside of Cincinnati that Jose Altuve is the most deserving second baseman in the NL, and it doesn’t make sense to take three second baseman, so Phillips must be left out.)

And even the players aren’t above the whole popularity thing. How else do you explain why A.J. Pierzynski wasn’t selected by his peers to represent his league? He’s having as good a season as any catcher in the American League, but he’ll be watching from home as the AL tries to secure home-field advantage.

With the starters voted in by the fans, some players elected by a survey of players, and other reserves selected by the manager, how can we expect the best of each team to be there?

And without the best vs. the best, how can we use this game to determine home-field advantage?

While there are so many things wrong with that, it isn’t the only problem MLB has with its midsummer showcase.

In case you missed it over the winter, there was a clear directive from MLB requiring players selected for the game to be there. No more begging off with slight or phantom injuries. So, how’s that working out?

The Nationals’ Ian Desmond, selected as a reserve for the National League, has already begged out of the game due to an injury involving his side. Okay. However, over the weekend he seemed healthy enough to get four hits in seven at-bats with two home runs and two stolen bases — and that was just Saturday and Sunday. How does that make sense? Even with the Nationals in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1981 when the franchise was in Montreal, Desmond doesn’t seem too concerned with helping his NL mates secure home-field advantage for the World Series.

The game no longer reflects the way the game is played on a daily basis. Only in the All-Star Game do we see pitchers throwing no more than two innings. Since that’s the way the game is played, if you really wanted to win, wouldn’t you stock your team with relief pitchers who have mastered the one-inning appearance?

And rarely do we see All-Star managers attempt to get favorable matchups. There’s no lefty vs. lefty strategizing like you would see during a pennant race. In case you haven’t noticed, there are no setup men on either roster. Not only are there some deserving candidates, but those pitchers are perfectly suited for this type of game.

And managers take great pains to get everyone in the game. If they were really trying to win, would you see Matt Joyce replacing Josh Hamilton or Howie Kendrick subbing for Robinson Cano? Those are just two of the moves made in last year’s game.

And I know that this year’s situation is rare, but we have a manager (Tony La Russa) selecting a good portion of the team for the National League and actually running the game, but with no stake in it whatsoever.

Here are a couple of suggestions to improve the All-Star Game for the fans.

1) Forget home-field advantage for the World Series
I know that players treating this game as meaningless is what caused MLB to overreact in the first place. But here’s a thought: Tie players’ foundations to the game. Most players have a cause they support, and if they don’t already, being selected to play in the All-Star Game would give them a reason to find a cause. Only foundations and charities of players who participate will benefit. Winning players’ foundations will benefit more than the losers. How many players will beg out of an opportunity to boost their charitable work? No more than are begging out now.

2) Keep player selection as is
Keep the fans involved in selecting players. Keep the players vote. Allow managers to select reserves. And, by all means, keep the rule that all teams must be represented. No group of fans should be left out of this classic.

3) Make it a complete All-Star week
I really like the idea of the Futures Game. It’s a terrific way to reward prospects and give the fans a glimpse into the future. The Futures Game should be played at the site of the All-Star Game on Monday night, prime time, when there’s no other baseball. After the All-Star Game on Tuesday, honor the past with an Old-timers All-Star Night. Rather than having the recently retired Randy Johnson face the aging Yogi Berra, have a three-inning game with older players from the 1950s and ’60s. Then have a seven-inning version with more recently retired players like Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. You think fans wouldn’t flock to see those guys in uniform one more time? After an off-day on Thursday, it’s back to the regular season on Friday.

Oh, and the solution for home-field for four games in the World Series? How about taking the most wins in interleague play? After all, that seems to be a more fair and accurate way to judge the better league anyway.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> I don’t understand how players and teams accept determining home-field advantage by teams elected by the fans in a popularity vote. With the starters voted in by the fans, some players elected by a survey of players, and other reserves selected by the manager, how can we expect the best of each team to be there?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 12:29
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-head-coaches-who-afcs-best
Body:

Championships. Leadership. Awards. Longevity. Statistical records. Likeability. Talent development.

An NFL head coach can be evaluated with many criteria. Generally, winning championships over a long period of time is the easiest (or not-so-easiest) way to the top of any ranking. Who does more with less? Who gets his team to the playoffs the most consistently? Who is the best motivator? Whose team is best prepared come crunch time? And who has the shiny hardware to back it up?

So as of July of 2012, Athlon Sports has magically given the reins of an NFL franchise to you the fans. And you have your pick of the 16 AFC head coaches. The question becomes:

Which AFC coach would you hire to lead your franchise?

Here is Athlon's take:

Note: Age is as of Sept. 5, 2012, the first game of the 2012 NFL season

1. Bill Belichick, New England (2000-present), Cleveland (1991-95)
Age: 60, Regular season record: 175-97 (17 seasons), Postseason record: 17-7 (10 appearances)

Love him or loathe him, there’s no debate who’s No. 1 in the AFC. Not only is Belichick the dean of AFC head coaches (and second-longest tenured in the NFL behind only Philadelphia’s Andy Reid) and a three-time AP NFL Coach of the Year recipient (2003, ’07, ’10), the hooded one is already 10th all-time in career wins. Last season Belichick also became the first head coach in NFL history to win at least 13 games during the regular season in five different seasons (2003, ’04, ’07, ’10, ’11).

In the end, however, what really sets Belichick apart from his peers is his postseason success. His 17 postseason victories are the third-most in NFL history and then there are the five AFC Championships and, of course, the three Super Bowl titles, including back-to-back in 2003 and ’04.

2. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh (2007-present)
Age: 40, Regular season record: 55-25 (5 seasons), Postseason record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

The second spot came down to a pair of AFC North head coaches – Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, who are strikingly similar on several levels. Tomlin has one more year under his belt, but he and Harbaugh have identical regular-season winning percentages (.688), playoff records (5-3) and have split their 10 head-to-head meetings.

It’s extremely close, but for now Tomlin gets the edge over his division rival because of his Super Bowl ring, two AFC titles and a 2-0 edge over Harbaugh in their head-to-head playoff meetings. The fact that Tomlin has won 10 or more games in every season but one so far in his career doesn’t hurt his case either.

3. John Harbaugh, Baltimore (2008-present)
Age: 49, Regular season record: 44-20 (4 seasons), Postseason record: 5-4 (4 appearances)

Younger brother Jim may get more of the headlines and attention for his work with the 49ers, but that shouldn’t take anything away from what the elder Harbaugh has accomplished in his first four seasons as an NFL head coach. Under the older Harbaugh brother, the Ravens haven’t won fewer than nine games in the regular season and have won at least one game in the playoffs each season.

The next step for Harbaugh and his team is getting over the hump in the AFC Championship game. The Ravens are 0-2 in their conference title game, including last season’s gut-wrenching 23-20 loss to the Patriots in Foxboro.

4. Gary Kubiak, Houston (2006-present)
Age: 51, Regular season record: 47-49 (6 seasons), Postseason record: 1-1 (1 appearance)

Despite a sub-.500 record, Kubiak has earned his No. 4 ranking due to his transformation of the Texans from expansion team to Super Bowl contender. It took longer than fans, and probably owner Bob McNair, had originally envisioned, but the first fruits of Kubiak’s persistence and labor came forth last season in the form of the franchise’s first 10-win regular season, division title, postseason appearance and playoff victory. Kubiak has produced a .500 or better season in four of his six seasons at the helm of the Texans. That’s no small feat for any team, let alone an expansion team that had to start from scratch.

5. Rex Ryan, New York Jets (2009-present)
Age: 49, Regular season record: 28-20 (3 seasons), Postseason record: 4-2 (2 appearances)

Some of the bloom has come off of Ryan’s rose as his Jets failed to make the playoffs last season after finishing 8-8. However, Ryan still has yet to post a losing record in his three seasons and did come a game away from the Super Bowl in each of his first two seasons. The bombastic Ryan is perfectly suited to handle the media circus that comes with being a head coach in the Big Apple. In fact, you could say he relishes the spotlight that comes with the job.

But with the spotlight comes the glare, and there’s nothing Ryan can say that can change the facts when it comes to the championship pedigree of the two New York teams. The Giants have won two Super Bowl titles in the past five seasons and a total of four since the Jets won their only Lombardi Trophy, way back in 1969. Ryan has shown he can talk a good game, but he also knows he better back it up with the results on the field, starting this season.

6. John Fox, Denver (2011-present), Carolina (2002-10)
Age: 57, Regular season record: 81-79 (10 seasons), Postseason record: 6-4 (4 appearances)

Fox’s record may not look that impressive, but in 10 seasons as the Panthers’ head coach he won three division titles and led the team to Super Bowl XXXVIII following the 2003 season. Fox’s overall .506 winning percentage in the regular season is also largely the result of his disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2010, his final season in Carolina. Otherwise, the Panthers finished no worse than 7-9 in any of the other nine seasons he was at the helm. He also took the Panthers to two NFC title games, coming up short against the Seahawks in 2005.

Now in Denver, Fox turned a Broncos team that went 4-12 in 2010 into an AFC West division champion in 2011, albeit one with an 8-8 record. Expectations are even higher this year for Fox and his Broncos, who will have Peyton Manning directing the offense.

7. Mike Munchak, Tennessee (2011-present)
Age: 52, Regular season record: 9-7 (1 season)

Munchak’s got only one year as a head coach on his resume, but he led the Titans to three more wins than the previous season and just missed a wild card berth in his rookie season. Munchak had the unenviable task of replacing mainstay Jeff Fisher, who had been the franchise’s head coach the previous 17 seasons, but now there’s no question whose team this is.

It’s only fitting that owner Bud Adams would hand-pick Munchak as Fisher’s successor. After all, Munchak is entering his 31st season with the Houston/Tennessee franchise. The team’s first-round draft pick in 1982, Munchak spent his entire 12-year playing career as a member of the Oilers’ offensive line and then joined the coaching staff in 1994. Inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2001, Munchak spent 14 seasons as Fisher’s offensive line coach before succeeding his friend and former boss as the Titans’ head coach last season.

8. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati (2003-present)
Age: 53, Regular season record: 69-74-1 (9 seasons), Postseason record: 0-3 (3 appearances)

Lewis deserves plenty of credit for the two division titles and three playoff appearances he has led the Bengals to in his nine seasons in charge. Remember, when Lewis and the Bengals won the AFC North title in 2005 that ended a 15-year playoff drought for the franchise.

However, Lewis also deserves his share of the criticism for his teams’ lack of consistency. Under Lewis the Bengals have yet to post consecutive seasons with a winning record or back-to-back playoff berths. The 2005 season was followed by an 8-8 finish, while the '09 division crown was preceded by a 4-11-1 showing. Lewis led the Bengals to a wild card berth last season, which more than likely saved his job considering the team went 4-12 the year before.

9. Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville (2012-present), Buffalo (2004-05)
Age: 50, Regular season record: 14-18 (2 seasons)

Mularkey is on his second team, but it should be pointed out that he wasn't fired from his first head coaching gig. Even though his second Buffalo team didn't fare as well as the first one (9-7 in 2004, 5-11 in '05), it was Mularkey, and not the team, who made the decision to go in a different direction.

Mularkey resumed his coaching career in Miami before serving as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator the past four seasons. During that time, he helped the Falcons to three playoff appearances and oversaw the development of quarterback Matt Ryan. He now will direct his efforts to turning around a Jacksonville franchise that has missed the playoffs the past four seasons and, more importantly, see if Blaine Gabbert can become a capable NFL quarterback.

10. Norv Turner, San Diego (2007-present), Oakland (2004-05), Washington (1994-2000)
Age: 60, Regular season record: 107-113-1 (14 seasons), Postseason record: 4-4 (4 appearances)

Turner is the most difficult veteran head coach to rate for this exercise. He gets points for his longevity, as his 14 seasons as a head coach is second only to Belichick’s 17 among his AFC peers. He also has won 107 regular-season games, making him one of only 35 coaches in NFL history to surpass 100 victories.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that he has a sub-.500 record in his career, has only made it to the playoffs four times, and is on his third team. Half of Turner's 14 seasons as head coach have ended with a .500 or worse record. That said, Turner also could very well lead his Chargers to the AFC West division title and/or the playoffs this season, so there’s the potential for him to write a new chapter to his coaching career in 2012.

11. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis (2012-present)
Age: 51, First season as NFL head coach

Pagano has yet to coach his first NFL game, let alone a game on any level for that matter, but considering his background, you have to like his chances. Pagano is the fourth former Ravens defensive coordinator since 2002 to become a head coach. Two of the members of this club – Marvin Lewis and Rex Ryan – are still on the job with the team that hired them and rather high on this list, while the other, Mike Nolan, didn’t enjoy quite the same success. Nolan went 18-37 in four forgettable seasons as the 49ers' head coach. No doubt Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay and Colts’ fans alike are hoping Pagano follows more in the footsteps of Lewis and Ryan, rather than Nolan, when it comes to his head coaching tenure.

12. Joe Philbin, Miami (2012-present)
Age: 51, First season as NFL head coach

Philbin, like Pagano, is 51 years old and entering his first season as a head coach at any level. Philbin has nine years of NFL coaching experience, all of those with Green Bay. Prior to becoming the Dolphins’ 10th head coach in franchise history, Philbin served as the Packers’ offensive coordinator for the past five seasons, where he worked with future Hall of Famer Brett Favre and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.

The quarterback situation in Miami is slightly more unsettled than the one in Green Bay or even Indianapolis, where Pagano has Andrew Luck, this year’s No. 1 overall pick, to build around. And in the end, much of Philbin’s success as a head coach will be tied to his ability or inability to identify and develop his franchise quarterback. Could it be Ryan Tannehill, the first quarterback taken by the Dolphins in the first round of the draft since Dan Marino in 1983? Only time will tell, but this much is clear - Philbin’s Fins will need to show signs of progress early if he hopes to be in charge long enough to find out.

13. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland (2011-present)
Age: 47, Regular season record: 4-12 (1 season)

Shurmur’s first season as the Browns’ head coach was anything but impressive, but it’s what he does from here out that really matters. The Browns are probably at least a year or two away from contending for a playoff spot, but thanks to some recent strong drafts, the postseason should become a realistic goal in the near future.

Shurmur was hired by Cleveland president Mike Holmgren after two seasons as the Rams’ offensive coordinator. During that brief tenure, he helped the Rams improve from 1-15 in 2009 to 7-9 in 2010, thanks in large part to the performance of quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Now Shurmur has two new offensive weapons to build around in 2012 first-round picks running back Trent Richardson (No. three overall) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (No. 22). The path back to respectability and competitiveness in the AFC North needs to start this year, otherwise Shurmur is sure to hear it from the Dawg Pound.

14. Dennis Allen, Oakland (2012-present)
Age: 39, First season as NFL head coach

Allen by far was the hardest one to “rank” for this. Not only is he the current youngest NFL head coach at 39, he only has a total of 10 years of NFL coaching experience under his belt. He’s been a coordinator a grand total of 18 games, as he served as Fox’s defensive coordinator in Denver last season. A fast-riser in the NFL coaching ranks, he now gets to prove his mettle in the revolving door of head coaches that is Oakland.

Allen is the Raiders’ 18th head coach in the franchise’s illustrious history, but their eighth since 2000. Allen is also the first hire made by new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie and the first Raiders’ head coach with a defensive background since John Madden retired following the 1978 season. Given the franchise’s history and reputation, Allen could either make a name for himself as the next great Raiders’ head coach or be simply known as the guy who kept the seat warm for whoever’s next.

15. Chan Gailey, Buffalo (2010-present), Dallas (1998-99)
Age: 60, Regular season record: 28-36 (4 seasons), Postseason record: 0-2 (2 appearances)

Buffalo could surprise and earn a playoff berth in 2012, but if that happens, I suspect more of the credit will go to the Bills’ offseason additions, namely free agent signee Mario Williams, than to Gailey himself. Gailey does have a winning season and a division title in his four seasons as a head coach. However, he’s yet to win a playoff game and has won a total of 18 games since posting 10 wins in his first season as the Cowboys’ head coach in 1998. Gailey enjoyed more success in his six seasons as Georgia Tech’s head coach (44-32) than he has in four pro seasons.

16. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City (2011*-present), Cleveland (2005-08)
Age: 65, Regular season record: 26-41 (5* seasons)

Crennel is getting a second chance in Kansas City, but that’s mainly because of the disaster that Todd Haley left behind. Crennel went 2-1 in the Chiefs’ final three games last season following Haley’s dismissal, posting the best winning percentage (.667) in his career during that small sample size. Crennel won 10 games with the Browns in 10-6, but that wasn’t even good enough to make the playoffs, and he went 14-34 (.292) in his three other seasons at the helm in Cleveland. He’s also 65 years old, so this is more than likely his last head coaching shot.

*Crennel served as the Chiefs' interim head coach for the last three games of the 2011 season.

— By Mark Ross, published on July 10, 2012

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the NFC's Best Coach?
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best Coach?

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters

Ranking the NFL’s Best Backup Quarterbacks
The 10 Worst NFL Teams Since Expansion

NFL Quarterbacks Rewrote Record Books in 2011

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Dan Marino: An NFL Horror Story

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2012 Preview magazine

Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Head Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 05:44
Path: /college-football/big-east-football-which-teams-are-rise-or-decline
Body:

With kickoff to the 2012 college football season still weeks away, it's time to evaluate where each team is headed. This is essentially a checkup or a state of the program overview for each team in the conference. Are they on the rise or decline? What factors in the future could have an impact on success? 

Big East State of the Program: On the Rise or On the Decline?

Cincinnati

Record over the last 5 years: 47-18 (24-11 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 78-49 (30-19 Big East – 7 years)

The Bearcats have been one of the Big East’s most successful teams over the last five years. Mark Dantonio established a solid foundation from 2004-05, while Brian Kelly elevated the program to back-to-back BCS bowls. After a 4-8 mark in 2010, Butch Jones returned the Bearcats into Big East title contention, but an injury to quarterback Zach Collaros late in the year was a huge setback.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Despite the losing record in his first season, Butch Jones is the right coach for Cincinnati. The Bearcats have some key losses to replace in 2012, but should be in the mix for a bowl game. The next step for Cincinnati is to win more in-state recruiting battles with Ohio State. Considering the talent in Ohio, the Bearcats should rank near the top of the Big East in recruiting every season. Facilities are improving, as Cincinnati added a practice bubble and expansion of the stadium has been discussed. With Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East, Cincinnati has a chance to become one of the top programs in the conference.

 

Connecticut

Record over the last 5 years: 38-26 (19-16 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 70-53 (22-27 Big East – 7 years)

The Huskies have made steady progress since joining the FBS ranks in 2000. Randy Edsall turned Connecticut into a consistent winner, posting at least six victories in six out of eight seasons from 2002-09. Edsall also led the Huskies to a Fiesta Bowl appearance, but decided to bolt to Maryland after that game. Paul Pasqualoni was a curious hire, and Connecticut missed out on a bowl in 2010 for the first time since 2006.

State of the Program: Slightly Declining

Although Edsall had a terrible first season in College Park, he took the Huskies to five bowl games and a share of the Big East title in 2007 and 2010. Pasqualoni’s ties in the Northeast should help Connecticut’s recruiting, but his tenure at Syracuse declined over the last four years. Considering Pasqualoni will be 63 when the 2012 season begins – is he really the long-term answer? Another sub .500 season should place Pasqualoni squarely on the hot seat. If there’s another round of conference realignment, Connecticut is expected to be one of the first targets for the ACC. The Huskies are poised to move up the ladder in the next 10-15 years, but this program slowly sliding back after last season.
 

Louisville

Record over the last 5 years:
29-33 (13-22 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 77-48 (24-25 Big East – 7 years)

For the most part, the last 10 years have been a success for Louisville football. Of course, there’s the forgettable three-year tenure by Steve Kragthorpe, but the Cardinals won at least seven games in 7 of out the last 10 years. Bobby Petrino led Louisville to an appearance in the 2007 Orange Bowl and at least nine victories in each of his four years with the Cardinals. Charlie Strong had quite a mess to clean up from the Kragthorpe era, but has rebuilt Louisville into a top 25 team.

State of the Program: On the Rise

It’s no secret Louisville is an emerging Big East power. With West Virginia off to the Big 12 and Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC, the door is open for the Cardinals to dominate in the Big East. Of course, that could quickly change with more realignment, as Louisville could be on the radar for future ACC or Big 12 expansion. Although Strong will be in the mix for offseason vacancies, there is no shortage of resources for this program to continue finishing near the top of the Big East in future seasons.

 

Pittsburgh

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (22-13 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 74-51 (42-27 Big East)

Pittsburgh football was largely dormant throughout the 1990s. The Panthers had only two winning seasons from 1990-99, but the hire of Walt Harris helped to get the program back in the right direction. Harris led the Panthers to a BCS bowl appearance in 2005, before leaving to coach at Stanford. Dave Wannstedt went 16-19 through his first three years, but led Pittsburgh to at least eight victories in each of his final three seasons. Wannstedt was fired after the 2010 regular season, and Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood was hired to replace him. Haywood wasn’t on the job long before he was fired due to an off-the-field incident. The Panthers lack of success with head coaches continued with Todd Graham, who spent one season in the Steel City before bolting to Arizona State.

State of the Program: On the Rise

New coach Paul Chryst will bring some much-needed stability to Pittsburgh. The Panthers are a sleeper team to watch in the Big East title race for 2012, and this program will likely move to the ACC in time for the 2013 season. Although the Panthers have played in only one BCS bowl since 2000, there’s potential to win big and the move to a high-profiler conference should help.

 

Rutgers

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (16-19 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 66-58 (28-41 Big East)

Greg Schiano inherited a program that had won just 10 games in the four seasons prior to his arrival. His tenure got off to a slow start, as Rutgers won just eight games in Schiano’s first three years. However, he eventually turned the Scarlet Knights into a consistent bowl team. Rutgers won at least eight games in five out of Schiano’s final six seasons, including an 11-2 record in 2006.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Schiano’s decision to depart for the NFL has clouded the immediate future of this program. Although new coach Kyle Flood has done a good job on the recruiting trail, he has no experience as a collegiate head coach. If Flood is able to build on what Schiano created, Rutgers will be in great shape for the next 10 years. However, Flood’s hire was an interesting decision for a program that struggled to find success throughout the 1990s. Schiano never won an outright Big East title, but there’s no question he left the program in much better shape than how he found it. 

 

South Florida

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (13-22 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 73-49 (21-28 Big East – 7 years)

The Bulls have come a long way since their first football game on Sept. 6, 1997. Over the last 10 years, South Florida has played in six bowl games and achieved a No. 2 ranking in 2007. Jim Leavitt had a messy end to his tenure in Tampa, but deserves credit for building the program from scratch to national relevance. Skip Holtz was hired to take South Florida to the next level, but he is just 13-12 in his two seasons with the Bulls.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Florida will always have the Big 3 – Florida, Florida State and Miami – but there’s plenty of room for USF. The Bulls have an excellent recruiting base and there’s a lot of potential surrounding this program for 2012 and beyond. South Florida has underachieved at times, which holds it back from being placed in the “on the rise” category. Holtz is the right coach and should have the Bulls contending for a Big East title in future seasons. South Florida has been considered a sleeping giant, but considering its location, conference and potential, it should be able to be one of the top teams in the new Big East in 2013.

 

Syracuse

Record over the last 5 years: 22-39 (8-27 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 43-77 (17-52 Big East)

Although Syracuse has been a basketball power, it’s been a struggle to find success on the gridiron over the last 10 years. The Orange went 10-37 under Greg Robinson and has played in just one bowl game since 2005. Coach Doug Marrone took Syracuse to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, but is 9-15 in his other two seasons.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

It’s tough to peg where this program is headed. There’s certainly more potential for Syracuse than what has been shown in recent years, but after winning eight games in 2010, the Orange took a step back and finished with a 5-7 mark in 2011. Marrone is a good fit at Syracuse, but moving to the ACC isn’t going to make it any easier to win games. Although success has been limited, Marrone seems to have the program on the right track and could get back into the postseason in 2012.

 

Temple

Record over the last 5 years:
35-27 (no Big East games during this period)
Record over the last 10 years: 43-77 (3-17 Big East – 3 years)

It has been quite a roller coaster ride for Temple football over the last 10 years. The Owls were dismissed from the Big East in 2004 and were forced to play as an Independent before joining the MAC in 2007. Former coach Al Golden deserves a ton of credit for this program’s turnaround, as he took a team that had won only seven games in the four years prior to his arrival, to winning 10 over his first three seasons. Temple’s return to the Big East was huge for the conference in 2012, as it gives the Big East eight football members.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Can Steve Addazio keep it going? That’s the big question facing Temple in 2012 and beyond. He had a successful debut season, but he has no proven track record as a head coach. Addazio’s background in the Northeast will help the Owls in recruiting, along with the move to a higher profile conference. Temple may struggle to get to a bowl in 2012, especially with the amount of roster turnover experienced from last season’s team. The Owls aren’t ready to challenge for a spot in the top 25, but they certainly won’t return to the struggles this program had in the 1990s. 
 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)


2012 Big East Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

Related Big East Content

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

Ranking the Wide Receiving Corps in the Big East for 2012

Big East Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Big East Football: Which Teams Are On The Rise or Decline?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 05:42
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-offensive-lines
Body:

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

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

Ranking the Big 12's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. Oklahoma – Despite the departure of left tackle Donald Stephenson, the Sooners should have the No. 1 offensive line in the Big 12. Guard Gabe Ikard is one of the best in college football, while guard Tyler Evans and tackle Lane Johnson will be in the mix for all-conference honors. Center Ben Habern missed most of last season with an arm injury and was expected to return at full strength for 2012. However, he decided to end his career in August. Ikard could take Habern's place at center. Daryl Williams is expected to start at right tackle, while Adam Shead will likely slide into one of the guard spots. This group allowed only 11 sacks last season and should be strong once again in 2012.

2. Texas – The Longhorns certainly aren’t devoid of talent. In fact, there is more talent along the Burnt Orange line of scrimmage than nearly every team in the nation. Developing that talent has been the issue of late, however. Enter Stacy Searels. The offensive line coach enters his second season on the 40 Acres charged with toughening up a unit that has underachieved. His first order of business was signing junior college stud Donald Hawkins, who is penciled in as the starting left tackle. The rest of the line returns intact as two extremely highly touted juniors, Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters, need to develop into leaders while two sophomores - Dominic Espinosa and Josh Cochran - should only continue to improve. The talent and depth is obvious, but for Texas to challenge in the Big 12 race, this group has to protect the quarterback better (73rd nationally in sacks allowed, including eight to Oklahoma).

3. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys suffered some heavy losses up front, including first-team All-Big 12 tackle Levy Adcock and center Grant Garner – the Big 12’s 2011 Offensive Lineman of the Year. Only one starter returns for 2012, but Oklahoma State is expected to still own one of the conference’s best lines. Much of the credit for this group’s success has to go to line coach Joe Wickline, who consistently replaces players and keeps the front five performing at a high level. Guard Lane Taylor is the unit’s only returning starter, but he should contend for first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012. Parker Graham and Michael Bowie are expected to man the tackle spots after combining for 11 starts last year. Guard Jonathan Rush suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 4 last year but all signs point to a return to full strength by the opener in 2012. Center Evan Epstein enters his final year of eligibility, but doesn’t have much experience. Considering how important Garner was to this offense, much of the focus up front will rest with Epstein and how well he will perform in 2012.

4. West Virginia  Three starters are back along an offensive front that should feature three seniors, one junior and a sophomore. Joe Madsen has been praised by the coaches as one of the best on the roster and will be the unit's leader at center. Guard Jeff Braun and tackle Pat Eger showed improvement last fall and should hold down the right side of the line. Big soph Quinton Spain (6-5, 335) looks to be the top choice at left tackle but will have to hold off a host of up veterans to keep that starting spot. The real kicker for the Mountaineers will be fifth-year senior Josh Jenkins. One of the most highly-touted prospects to ever sign with WVU, Jenkins returns after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. His return to form could transform an average group of blockers into an area of strength for Dana Holgorsen.

5. Baylor – Improving the offensive line has been a priority for coach Art Briles since he came to Waco. The Bears have had five offensive linemen drafted since 2009, including two in the first round – Jason Smith and Danny Watkins. This group must replace two All-Big 12 performers – Philip Blake and Robert T. Griffin – but three proven starters are back. Junior Cyril Richardson is a mammoth guard at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds and will be in the mix for first-team All-Big 12 honors. Senior Ivory Wade enters 2012 with 33 consecutive starts and will shift from tackle to replace Blake at center. Guard Cameron Kaufhold is back after starting all 13 games last season. Redshirt freshman Spencer Drango is expected to get the nod at left tackle, while sophomore Troy Baker finished spring as the No. 1 option on the right side. Despite the losses, there’s plenty to like about this group heading into 2012.

6. Kansas State  – For a team with a quarterback who recorded 27 touchdowns and 1,141 yards on the ground, KSU finished only fifth in the Big 12 in rushing. The Wildcats also finished dead last in sacks allowed (3.31) and 115th nationally. So Bill Snyder might not be sure if replacing three starters with younger players is a good or bad thing just yet. B.J. Finney returns to the center position, while Nick Puetz returns as the lone senior returner. Manase Foketi was expected to be in the mix at left tackle, but he requested a transfer following spring practice. With Foketi's status in doubt, junior Cornelius Lucas could be in line to start on the left side. Tomasi Mariner, Cody Whitehair and Boston Stiverson are all youngsters who will battle for time along the right side of the line. This team would like to throw the ball more in 2012, but the O-Line has to prove it can protect Collin Klein if it expects to win the Big 12.

7. Kansas – After finishing last in the Big 12 in scoring offense in 2011, there’s some hope for a turnaround at Kansas for 2012. The quarterback position has stabilized with Dayne Crist arriving from Notre Dame, while the Jayhawks have capable running backs in James Sims, Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon. The line loses two starters, including All-Big 12 center Jeremiah Hatch, but three key players are back for 2012. Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson is drawing the interest of NFL scouts, while guard Duane Zlatnik earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2011. Trevor Marrongelli started all 12 games at guard last season but will shift to center to replace Hatch. Junior college recruit Aslam Sterling is penciled in at right guard, and junior Riley Spencer is expected to get the nod at right tackle. This unit allowed 31 sacks last year but should be able to improve upon that total with three solid contributors returning.

8. Texas Tech – This unit will be a key area of development throughout the summer and fall camps. Two starters are back as Deveric Gallington is locked in at center while LaAdrian Waddle has the left tackle spot to himself. It also appears that Brian Thomas, who played on one of the Big 12’s most talented lines a year ago at Texas A&M, will stabilize the left guard position after transferring in this spring. Experienced and versatile backups Beau Carpenter and Terry McDaniel will battle with freshman Le’Raven Clark for the remaining starting jobs. The offensive line will be the key difference for an offense that appears to be settled at nearly every other position.

9. TCU – You aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toad-O. Well, technically, TCU will play in Lawrence Week 2, but the Horned Frogs will be facing a different caliber of defensive line this fall. Moving from the Mountain West to the Big 12 will test an offensive line that returns only two starters. This is the offense’s biggest weakness and depth could be an issue as well. Center James Fry and guard Blaize Foltz are seniors and will be asked to carry the load. Behind those two there are a lot unknowns, however, there is upside as well. James Dunbar has experience and should be better after switching from left to right tackle. BYU transfer Tayo Fabuluje has big-time athletic ability and size while John Wooldridge, Michael Thompson and Eric Tausch provide versatility at a number of positions. This group will be the coaching staff’s area of focus come summer camp.

10. Iowa State – There’s really not a bad offensive line in the Big 12, so the separation between No. 6 and No. 10 on this list is very minimal. The Cyclones have three starters returning but must replace their two best players from last season’s unit – left tackle Kelechi Osemele and guard Hayworth Hicks. Osemele was a first-team All-Big 12 selection, while Hicks earned second-team honors. Tom Farniok is a rising star after starting all 13 games at center as a redshirt freshman last year. Junior Ethan Tuftee and senior Brayden Burris are back as returning starters and will help provide stability and leadership up front. Senior Carter Bykowski and junior Kyle Lichtenberg will battle to replace Osemele at left tackle, while Bob Graham, Jacob Gannon and Oni Omoile are in the mix to replace Hicks at right guard. The Cyclones will miss Osemele and Hicks, but this group isn’t going to see a dramatic drop in performance. 
 

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

Related Big 12 Content

Big 12 Wide Receiver Rankings for 2012
Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

Big 12 Heisman Contenders for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
The History of Big 12 Realignment
Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12
TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big 12 Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 05:39
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech%E2%80%99s-logan-thomas-rising-superstar-acc
Body:

While many of his classmates undoubtedly spent spring break in tropical climates, soaking in rays and paying too much for watered-down drinks, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas was on the beach for a very different reason.

The Hokies’ junior quarterback spent a week in San Diego in March, working out for four days with quarterback-coach-to-the-stars George Whitfield, whose roster of clients has included Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.

Whitfield’s ever-evolving training regimen included a trip to the beach, where the 6'6", 262-pound Thomas waded knee-deep into the Pacific Ocean, then simulated taking drop-backs through the uneven current, trying to keep his balance and maintain a solid base. He caught on quickly, a recurring theme from the trip.

“I just think he’s going to be a very, very special college football player,” says Whitfield, who raves about Thomas’ size, agility and smarts. “To see him up close and personal and how diligent he is and just how big of a man he is, he’s going to be scary. It’s kind of a shock and awe thing when it all comes together.”

Virginia Tech is starting to get spoiled with its quarterbacks. After four years of Tyrod Taylor, who left after 2010 as the school’s all-time leader in total offense, passing yards, quarterback rushing yards and career wins, the Hokies seamlessly passed the baton to Thomas, who served as Taylor’s understudy for two seasons before taking a prime-time role last year.

He looked every bit the part, breaking Taylor’s single-season total offense mark with 3,482 yards and accounting for 30 touchdowns on his way to a second-team All-ACC selection.

Thomas’ 3,013 passing yards were second-most in a season for a Tech quarterback to Don Strock’s mark of 3,243 set in 1972. His 11 rushing touchdowns were tied for the most by a quarterback in school history and were three more than the program’s standard-bearer — Michael Vick — ever had in a season. And it all happened in Thomas’ first year as a starter.

“I think it’s rare for most people,” Hokies head coach Frank Beamer says of Thomas’ maturity. “But I think Logan’s in a different category.”

Thomas’ rapid rise is even more remarkable considering his background. A multi-sport star at Brookville High in Lynchburg, Va., about 100 miles east of Blacksburg, he thought of himself as a basketball player for most of his life. On the football field, he played receiver until moving to quarterback his final two years, earning state Player of the Year honors as a senior and leading his team to the championship game, a 50–46 loss in which he threw four touchdowns.

Still, he considered his best path in college to be at tight end or H-back, going so far as to eliminate any school that recruited him solely as a quarterback. Virginia Tech obliged, getting him to sign in February 2009. During his first practice in August, Hokies coaches, in a bit of a switcheroo, urged him to try throwing the ball. He was raw, but the skill set, which included a cannon for an arm, was evident.

The reluctant quarterback soon embraced the position, redshirting that first year and serving as a backup in 2010. He sat in on meetings with Taylor, the team’s entrenched starter, soaking up whatever he could. Reps in the spring and fall became crucial as he tried to play catch-up at the position.

“Most people, they spend their whole lives gearing to be a quarterback at this level,” Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. “Football camps, quarterback camps. Logan in high school didn’t really play quarterback until he was a junior, then he picked up a basketball, then he ran track, and he picked up a football again Aug. 5. …

“I think because of that, you’re still going to see a guy who continuously improves. He still has the opportunity I believe — and he believes — to have better days in front of him.”

With all eyes on him last year, Thomas calmly guided the Hokies to their eighth straight season of 10 or more wins and a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Somewhat shaky at first, with five interceptions in the first five games, Thomas found a comfort level, accounting for 25 touchdowns in the final nine games, including five each in crucial Coastal Division wins against Miami and Georgia Tech.

Although Thomas no doubt draws comparisons to Newton, another 6'5", 250-plus-pound athlete who redefined the dual-threat quarterback in the college game two years ago, he’s not quite the same runner. While Thomas is a load to take down in the open field — he dragged half the Georgia Tech defense into the end zone on a 12-yard quarterback sneak in November — he much prefers to move around in the pocket and throw it.

“He’s incredibly agile and athletic for being such a big man,” Whitfield says. “The only other person I’ve been around that’s that size and that athletic is Ben Roethlisberger. Him and Ben are both slightly bigger than Cam. And they’re both light on their feet. I’m sure in some alternate universe, these guys could be free safeties.”

The big challenge comes this year. Thomas was blessed last season with a veteran offensive line featuring four fifth-year starters, a pair of wideouts who ranked 1-2 on Tech’s all-time receiving list and running back David Wilson, the ACC Player of the Year who ran for over 1,700 yards. They’re all gone now, and Virginia Tech must re-tool with eight new starters on offense. But with Thomas, the Hokies have a chance to duplicate last year’s success.

Tech coaches have thrown everything in the playbook at him, but he’s taken it in stride. Teammates describe Thomas as being more relaxed this spring. Even he admits he was too uptight at times last year.

“I wanted to be perfect with everything,” Thomas says. “Sometimes you can’t be perfect on every snap. And I kind of beat myself up about it, but this year you kind of let it roll off your back, because you know there’s the next down coming. That’s kind of just something I learned through the second half of our season.”

Thomas’ future is bright enough that it has many Hokies fans worried he could enter the NFL Draft after his junior year. Whitfield, who has frequent discussions with pro scouts and coaches, believes Thomas will be in the discussion as one of the top-rated quarterbacks whenever he decides to go.

“He absolutely could be a No. 1 pick,” Whitfield says.

Tech is preparing for the possibility, with quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O’Cain acknowledging that if Thomas is projected as a high first-round draft pick, it will be tough to turn down (although highly touted quarterbacks like 2012 NFL No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, USC’s Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones have done just that recently, returning for their senior seasons).

“I believe he feels that the more he plays, the better it’s going to give him his foundation for the NFL,” O’Cain says. “And again, you never know if he just goes out and has a phenomenal year, and I hope he does. I hope he has a phenomenal year …” O’Cain pauses and laughs before finishing his thought. “But just not a high first-round draft choice.”

— by Andy Bitter

This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 ACC Preview Annual.

Related ACC Content

Athlon’s 2012 ACC Predictions
Athlon’s 2012 All-ACC Team

2012 Virginia Tech Hokies Team Preview

ACC’s 2012 Heisman Contenders

Teaser:
<p> Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas is a Rising Superstar in the ACC</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 04:35
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-best-hires-2011
Body:

As evidenced last season, new coaches can make an immediate impact on college football conference title races. Michigan's hire of Brady Hoke allowed the Wolverines to jump back into a BCS bowl, while James Franklin led Vanderbilt to its second bowl game since 1982.

Athlon ranks the new coaches from 2011 season:

1. Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State
Before: 4–8 (4–4); After: 9–3 (8–0)

Freeze guided the Red Wolves to their first-ever Sun Belt title in his only season in Jonesboro. Arkansas State swept through the league with an 8–0 record and an average margin of victory of 16.8 points.

2 . Brady Hoke, Michigan          
Before:
7–6 (3–5); After: 11–2 (6–2)

Hoke restored order in Ann Arbor, leading Michigan to a three-game improvement in the Big Ten, and, more important, its first win over Ohio State since 2003. The key? A defense that allowed 128.5 fewer yards per game and jumped 93 spots in the national rankings. 

3. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Before:
2–10 (1–7); After: 6–7 (2–6)

The Commodores won more games last season (six) than the two previous seasons combined (four). They won four of those games by at least 23 points (including two in SEC play), and their final four league losses came by an average of 4.8 points. This team was dramatically improved.

4. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
Before:
3–9 (3–5); After: 9–4 (6–2)

The Ragin’ Cajuns improved by six wins and won a bowl game for the first time in school history, rallying past San Diego State, 32–30, at the New Orleans Bowl. They scored 30 points or more in all but three games.

5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Before: 9-4 (5-2); After: 10-3 (5-2)

The Mountaineers improved their win total by only one in Holgorsen's first season, but they claimed a share of the Big East title and dismantled Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Holgorsen's pass-first offense injected some energy into the fanbase, and the program is riding a wave of momentum going into 2012. 

6. David Shaw, Stanford
Before:
12–1 (8–1); After: 11–2 (8–1)

Jim Harbaugh made the move to the NFL, but the Cardinal were just as imposing with Shaw running the show. Stanford outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per game and went 5–0 in road games.

7. Pete Lembo, Ball State
Before:
4–8 (3–5); After: 6–6 (4–4)

The highlight of Lembo’s first season came early, a 27–20 win over Indiana in Indianapolis. The Cardinals also beat Ohio, champs of the MAC East, en route to a .500 record in league play.

8. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
Before:
10–3 (6–2); After: 8–5 (7–1)

The Golden Hurricane survived a brutal early schedule — at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State at home, at Boise State, all in September — and won seven straight games from Oct. 1 through Nov. 19. The offense wasn’t quite as explosive, but the Tulsa D was vastly improved.

9. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois
Before: 11–3 (8-0); After: 11–3 (7–1)

Doeren and the Huskies were upset in their MAC opener against Central Michigan but reeled off nine straight wins to close the season. NIU won its first MAC title since 1983.

10. Dan McCarney, North Texas
Before:
3–9 (3–5); After: 5–7 (4–4)

The Mean Green closed strong, winning two of their final three to finish with a .500 mark in the Sun Belt for the first time since 2004. McCarney, the former Iowa State head coach, has North Texas on the right track.

11. Darrell Hazell, Kent State
Before:
5–7 (4–4); After: 5–7 (4–4)

The Golden Flashes took advantage of a softer second-half schedule to win four of their final five games to even their MAC record at .500. The defense was stout (No. 22 in the nation), but the offense struggled.

12. Al Golden, Miami (Fla.)
Before:
7–6 (5–3); After: 6–6 (3–5)

The Canes took a step back in the win column — most notably in ACC play — but were more consistently competitive under Golden. Miami’s six losses came by an average of 5.5 points; in ’10, the Canes’ six losses were by an average of 13.0 points.

13. Steve Addazio, Temple
Before:
8–4 (5–3); After: 9–4 (5–3)

Addazio got a lot done in his first year as a head coach. The Owls put a scare into Penn State (in a four-point loss), dominated Maryland on the road and won their first bowl game (37–15 over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl) since 1979.

14. Rocky Long, San Diego State
Before:
9–4 (5–3); After: 8–5 (4–3)

The Aztecs weren’t quite as formidable as in 2010, when they lost four games by five points or less, but they still won eight games and finished over .500 in MWC play.

15. Will Muschamp, Florida
Before:
8–5 (4–4); After: 7–6 (3–5)

You can argue that Urban Meyer didn’t leave a full cupboard of talent, but it’s hard to call the Gators’ 2011 season a success. They ranked 105th in the nation in total offense and had a losing record in the SEC for the first time since 1986.

16. Todd Graham, Pittsburgh
Before:
8–5 (5–2); After: 6–7 (4–3)

Graham is now hated by Panther faithful for his abrupt departure, but his only season at Pitt wasn’t a complete debacle. Playing with offensive personnel that didn’t fit his system, he still went 4–3 in the Big East, and it’s worth noting that four of his six losses (he wasn’t around for the bowl game) were by four points or less.

17. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Before:
3–9 (2–6); After: 3–9 (2–6)

The Gophers lost at home to New Mexico State and North Dakota State in nonconference action, and their six Big Ten losses came by an average of 27.3 points.

18. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Before:
8–5 (5–2); After: 5–7 (3–4)

The Huskies won at least eight games in the four seasons prior to Pasqualoni’s arrival but slumped to a 5–7 mark in 2011. The offense ranked 108th in the nation.

19. Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio)
Before:
10–4 (7–1); After: 4–8 (3–5)

The RedHawks captured the MAC title in 2010 but managed only four wins under Treadwell, despite the return of 16 starters. The defense regressed (from 28th to 48th), and they too often lost the turnover battle (85th in margin). 

20. Jon Embree, Colorado
Before:
5–7 (2–6); After: 3–10 (2–7)

The Buffs ended the season with an upset at Utah, but not much else went well in Embree’s first season at his alma mater. Colorado ranked 109th in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

21. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Before:
5–7 (1–7); After: 1–11 (0–8)

The Hoosiers were dreadful in 2011, with their only win coming over FCS foe South Carolina State. They were outscored in 11 games vs. FBS competition by 18.9 points per game.

22. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Before: 9–4 (5–3); After: 2–10 (1–7)

Where do we start? The Terps had the biggest drop in wins in the FBS ranks, from nine in 2010 to two in ’11. They lost their final 10 games against FBS opponents, including at home to Temple by 31 points. And in the season finale, they led NC State 41–14 in the third quarter before giving up 42 straight points. 

by Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

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Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 04:22

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