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-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
National Signing Day is upon us!
Tomorrow coaches, parents, fans and media members alike will be starring at fax machines (yes, they still use those) in anticipation of building a championship roster.
You can’t win football games without good players – and having better athletes than the next guy normally helps with the winning process. The Alabama Crimson Tide won the 2008 recruiting national championship and it turned into an actual national championship four years later. Additionally, the 2009 Alabama class was ranked No. 3 in the nation by Athlon Sports.
Of the Crimson Tide’s starting 22 in the BCS national championship destruction of LSU, 15 signed in either the 2008 or 2009 classes. It's safe to say recruiting is the lifeblood of the college football machine.
Certainly, the evaluation, development and scouting process plays a bigger role in eventual wins and losses. And yes, the star-ranking system is an imperfect science. But as the years go by, the evaluation process becomes more accurate and more predictable. So the current recruiting rankings, e.g.. the Athlon Consensus 100 where all the internet rankings are averaged together, are as perfect a system as we have ever had.
Who will land the top collection of players in the 2012 haul? There will be fireworks a plenty come NSD, but here is how the team rankings stand with less than 24 hour until players can sign (7:00 AM ET, Feb. 1).
Note: A national recruit is a prospect who is ranked in the top 150 by one of the six recruiting services. Athlon’s “national” recruits are roughly the top 300.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (27 commitments)
AC100: 10, National Recruits: 14
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Kwon Alexander (No. 82), Korren Kirven, Dalvin Tomlinson, Ricardo Louis
Green-Beckham is the nation’s top player but it appears that race might be over with Missouri holding a slight edge over Arkansas. Tracy Howard looks like he will be selecting the Florida Gators. Nick Saban could still miss on all six national recruits left on the board and still land the top class in the nation. Alabama leads the nation by a wide margin with 10 AC100 verbal pledges at this point. Holding onto star safety prospect Landon Collins might be his top focus during the final hours of this recruiting cycle. It appears that, barring a small miracle, that Alabama will earn its second recruiting national championship in five years under Saban.
2. Texas Longhorns (26)
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 16
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham
Mack Brown had most of his work done nearly a year ago when they entered March of 2011 with 12 commitments already. Roughly a year later, Brown has an outside chance to push for the top slot. He landed two national recruits, defensive back Daje Johnson and linebacker Dalton Santos, to push their total to a nation-leading 16 national recruits. With DGB the only big fish left on the block, Horns’ fans should actually have one of the more stable NSD.
3. Florida Gators (21)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 12
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Darius Hamilton (No. 14), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 20), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Avery Young (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68)
No team may have a better finish to the 2012 class than Will Mushcamp. With six player ranked in the top-26 nationally still listing Florida as a finalists, Gators fans should have plenty of excitement to look forward to on Wednesday. Diggs, Hamilton, Howard and Williams look to be Florida leans with Agholor likely choosing between USC and the Gators. With Harvey-Clemons leaning towards Georgia and Young likely picking between Auburn and Georgia, landing all of the coveted names above is virtually impossible. However, if Muschamp can land three of four AC100 targets, Florida could push Alabama and Texas for the top slot.
Few coaches have ever impacted a recruiting class in such short order as Urban Meyer has in Columbus this winter. He has landed eight prospects – a number of whom were former Penn State, Notre Dame or Michigan State verbals – since being presented as the head coach and this weekend stole Armani Reeves from Penn State. He is making a serious late push for the No. 1 athlete in the nation in Stefon Diggs and has a chance to land three other AC100 recruits as well. Should Meyer pull Diggs, Neal, Diamond and Caleb, the Buckeyes might have an outside chance to push for the top slot.
5. Michigan Wolverines (23)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 10
National Targets: Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Alex Kozan
Brady Hoke has done an excellent job in his first full year on the job in Ann Arbor. Landing Diamond or Kozan would merely be icing on the cake. The Maize and Blue are basically set heading into National Signing Day and won’t be waiting to hear from too many big names. Certainly, Hoke was to keep Diamond away from fellow Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Wisconsin, but signing the big offensive lineman might give Michigan the top class in the conference.
6. Florida State Seminoles (16)
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Andrus Peat (No. 22), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Leonard Williams (No. 68), Colin Blake, Ricardo Louis
One thing is certain about NSD 2012, one team from the state of Florida is going to make big waves. Be it the Gators or the Seminoles, a Sunshine State program will push Alabama for the top slot in the nation. The Noles rank second in the nation with six AC100 commitments and Jimbo Fisher seems to be in a shape for the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and fellow elite level prospect Ronald Darby. If Fisher can pull an upset or two on NSD, the Noles could easily push into the top five, but possibly the top two.
7. Miami Hurricanes (32)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 8
National Targets: Tracy Howard (No. 18), Avery Yong (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68)
With only two AC100 commits, Miami lands in the top-10 based on the depth of a potential 32-man class. And in the face of the issues surrounding the Nevin Shaprio scandal, Al Golden has done a fantastic job attracting talent. With one of the largest classes in the nation already intact, Canes fans shouldn’t expect too much movement on Wednesday despite still being mentioned by four AC100 recruits as a finalists. It would be an upset if Miami landed any of the AC100 targets left on the board.
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Davonte Neal (No. 56), Ken Ekanem
Brian Kelly won his biggest recruiting battle two weeks ago when the nation’s No. 2 quarterback, Gunner Kiel, enrolled in class in South Bend. With another stellar group of defensive lineman coming to Notre Dame, Kelly’s haul should once again be one of the nation’s best. If Kelly can pull an upset or two with Agholor, former commit Darby and Neal, this group has a chance to land in the top five.
9. Oklahoma Sooners (20)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Brandon Beaver, Colin Blake, Will Latu
There is still plenty of work to be done for Bob Stoops but it appears that landing the country’s top player is an unlikely proposition. And the Sooners also look like a long shot for Agholor and Banner as well. That said, the Crimson and Cream always does something exciting on signing day and that could include names like Beaver or Latu. Regardless of what happens on NSD, this Oklahoma haul will likely land it he top-10 nationally.
10. Georgia Bulldogs (16)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 20), Avery Young (No. 53), JaQuay Williams (No. 99), Cordarrelle Patterson
This isn’t one of the bigger classes in the SEC, but it has some serious star power. With two of the top 16 prospects in the nation heading to Athens, the quality of this class is elite and likely underrated nationally. With Harvey-Clemons looking like a UGA lock, Mark Richt would claim four of the top-31 players in the nation. Young will be picking between Auburn and Georgia with the Dawgs a slight favorite in that race. Should Richt land both, the Bulldogs could finish No. 2 in the nation with 7 AC100 signees and would lock the Dawgs into the Athlon top-10.
11. Clemson Tigers (20)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Ronald Darby (No. 34)
12. South Carolina Gamecocks (24)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: None
13. Texas A&M Aggies (22)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Thomas Johnson (No. 29)
14. USC Trojans (13)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Tracy Howard (No. 18), Andrus Peat (No. 22), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Zach Banner (No. 50), Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Kyle Dodson
15. LSU Tigers (20)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Kwon Alxander (No. 82), Cordarrelle Patterson
16. UCLA Bruins (25)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Brandon Beaver, Deaysean Rippy, Bryce Treggs, Javon Williams
17. Cal Golden Bears (18)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Shaq Thompson (No. 6), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Thomas Johnson (No. 29), Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Kenny Lawler, Raymond Ford
18. Stanford Cardinal (16)
AC100: 4, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: Andrus Peat (No. 22), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Aziz Shittu (No. 63)
19. Auburn Tigers (15)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Avery Young (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68), Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Kwon Alexander (No. 82), JaQuay Williams (No. 99), Alex Kozan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Ricardo Louis
20. Oregon Ducks (19)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 6
National Targets: Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Thomas Johnson (No. 29), Jaydon Mickens
21. Tennessee Volunteers (20)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 6
National Targets: Richie Brown, Quinshad Davis, Korren Kirven, Cordarrelle Patterson
22. Texas Tech Red Raiders (25)
AC100: 0, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: None
23. Virginia Cavaliers (26)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: None
24. Virginia Tech Hokies (27)
AC100: 0, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: Joel Caleb (No. 95), Ken Ekanam, Korren Kirven
25. Mississippi State Bulldogs (25)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 2
National Targets: Richie Brown, Alonzo Moore
Which team had the best weekend, as far as improving its NCAA profile?
Nathan Rush: Notre Dame’s 50–48 victory at Connecticut on Saturday was another impressive win for the Fighting Irish’s NCAA Tournament résumé. Coach Mike Brey’s club also boasts wins over then-No. 1 Syracuse, Pittsburgh and at Louisville in double-overtime. ND hopes those triumphs overshadow its lopsided losses to Missouri (87–58), at Gonzaga (73–53) and at Cincinnati (71–55). There is still work to be done down the stretch in Big East play, but Notre Dame’s chances improved with this weekend’s win at UConn.
Mitch Light: Iowa State played its way into most mock brackets this week with a 72–64 win over Kansas in Ames. It was the first top-50 RPI win of the season for the Cyclones, who are 15–6 overall and 5–3 in the Big 12. Fred Hoiberg’s club has some wins that look good on paper — vs. Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma State at home and at Texas A&M — but of that group, only Texas at No. 59, is in the top 100 of the RPI. Iowa State still has plenty of work to do, but it’s always nice to have a win over a top-10 team in your back pocket on Selection Sunday.
Mark Ross: Notre Dame has posted quality wins the past two weekends. Last Saturday, the Fighting Irish welcomed No. 1 Syracuse to South Bend and handed the previously undefeated Orange their first loss of the season and paired that by defeating UConn, 50–48, on the road this past Sunday. Mike Brey’s team has won its last three Big East games to put them near the top of the crowded conference standings. Notre Dame struggled with injuries and inconsistency early on, but seems to have found its identity and is starting to put together a respectable NCAA Tournament résumé. The Irish’s next opportunity to make a statement comes on Saturday when they host Marquette, one of the teams they currently trail in the Big East standings.
Name a mid-major team that you are most confident can win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament. And pick a true mid-major — not a team like Gonzaga, Memphis for Xavier.
Mitch Light: I’ll take Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders missed an opportunity for a huge résumé-building win last weekend — dropping an 84–77 decision at Vanderbilt — but this is a team that is built for success in March. Kermit Davis’ club boasts one of the best big men in the mid-major ranks in Iowa State transfer LaRon Dendy (14.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg), and the Raiders feature a solid guard rotation led by Marcos Knight, Bruce Massey and Raymond Cintron. This team can score, but its forte is on the defensive end of the court. The Blue Raiders are allowing an average of 60.3 points per game and opponents are shooting 38.4 percent from the field. Middle Tennessee’s at-large hopes aren’t great, but I fully expect this team to win the Sun Belt Tournament title and emerge as a popular upset pick in the NCAAs.
Nathan Rush: Murray State has raced out to a 21–0 record, including an impressive win at Memphis in December. No team from a big six BCS conference wants to draw the Racers in the first round of the NCAA Tourney. First-year coach Steve Prohm’s team is capable of making a mini-run in March. The pride of the OVC has a reliable veteran backcourt duo of junior Isaiah Canaan (18.7 ppg, 3.8 apg) and senior Donte Poole (14.7 ppg), and a solid post presence with 6’7" senior Ivan Aska (12.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) — a trio that shoots a combined 84.5 percent from the free throw line.
Mark Ross: I’m going to take Long Beach State, who you could argue is one of the West Coast’s top teams. The 49ers are 16–6 overall and a perfect 9–0 in the Big West. This is a veteran team that hasn’t shied away from playing top-notch competition and has had its fair share of success in those games. Long Beach State defeated then-No. 9 Pitt on the road in its second game of the season and followed that up by taking San Diego State to overtime on the Aztecs’ home court before losing by four. The 49ers played Kansas and North Carolina in back-to-back games on the road in the first part of December and held their own, losing to Kansas by eight and to the Tar Heels by six. The 49ers have also played Louisville and Kansas State, and have a late December neutral court win over Xavier on their résumé, which currently finds them ranked in the top 40 of the RPI. The 49ers need to stay focused on their immediate goal, which is to win the automatic bid out of the Big West, but should they come up short this is certainly a team worthy of at-large consideration. An NCAA Tournament bid would be the program’s first since 2007, and this is the type of team no one wants to face in March.
Which player impressed you the most over the past weekend?
Mitch Light: We’ve been waiting for Terrence Jones to break out, and that’s exactly what happened Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge. Kentucky’s sophomore forward, a preseason first-team All-American by many media outlets, scored 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds as Kentucky cruised to an easy win over LSU. Jones averaged 15.7 points and 8.8 boards as a freshman, but is down to 12.4 and 6.5 as a sophomore. He has been overshadowed by the newest wave of elite UK freshmen — most notably Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — but Jones is still a very important part of this team and a guy who will have to play well for the Wildcats to win a national championship.
Nathan Rush: Arizona lost a heartbreaker to Washington, 69–67, on Saturday night, but Solomon Hill did all he could to lead the Wildcats to victory. The underrated junior from Los Angeles scored 28 points — going 9-of-10 from the field, 8-of-9 from the free throw line and 2-of-2 from 3-point range, including a game-tying trifecta with 6.9 seconds remaining. The 6’6", 226-pound Hill also added 11 rebounds and committed only one turnover in a game-high 37 minutes. But the effort wasn’t enough and, for the third time in five games, Zona lost a contest by two points or less.
Mark Ross: Ten minutes into Saturday’s Marquette vs. Villanova game, the Golden Eagles were down 28–10 to a Wildcats team that had just 10 wins the entire season. Halfway through the first half, Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette’s senior guard and leading scorer, had managed just one made three throw. In the 30 minutes of action that followed, Johnson-Odom poured in 25 points, along with six rebounds, five assists and two steals, as Marquette outscored Villanova, 72–50, and escaped the Wildcats’ home floor with a hard-fought 82–78 win. Even though Marquette is well on its way to an NCAA Tournament bid, the Golden Eagles could ill afford a slip up against a reeling Villanova team whose only hope to make it to March Madness probably lies with winning the Big East Tournament.
— by Mark Ross
Let’s start with Tom Terrific’s numbers — a two-time NFL MVP with nearly 40,000 yards passing, 300 TDs and a career passer rating of 96.4 in his 12 seasons. He has started 159 games in the regular season and won 124 of them, which is the fifth-most of all-time. To put in another way, No. 12 has won nearly 80 percent of the games he has started in the regular season.
As impressive as that may be for the regular season, Brady has nearly the same winning percentage (76 percent) in the postseason. For his career, Brady is 16-5 in the playoffs, which ties Joe Montana for the most postseason wins by a starting quarterback.
Brady also is the in top 5 on the all-time list when it comes to postseason touchdowns (36, 3rd), passing yards (5,009, fourth) and completions (472, 2nd) in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Montana has the most career playoff touchdown passes with 45, while Brett Favre has the most yards (5,855) and completions (481).
Most importantly of all, Brady will have his chance to claim the record for most postseason wins and add to his playoff stats this Sunday when his New England Patriots take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. This will be Brady’s fifth Super Bowl as a starting quarterback, which will tie John Elway for the most starts in the “Big Game.”
A win would be Brady’s fourth in five Super Bowl appearances, which would tie him with Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most victories by a starting quarterback. Brady also will tie Montana for most Super Bowl MVPs if he gets his third one in Sunday’s game. Brady already holds the record for most career completions in Super Bowl history and could break the marks for both passing yards and touchdowns on Sunday.
The bottom line with Brady is this – he’s a winner, a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer and deserves to be in the “Greatest of All-time” conversation, even if his Patriots fall to the Giants on Sunday. Not bad for someone taken in the 6th round, no. 199 overall, of the 2000 NFL Draft.
Consider that Brady will be 35 when the 2012 NFL season starts this fall. Outside of missing basically the entire 2008 season after going down with a knee injury in Week 1, Brady has been durable. Since taking over for Drew Bledsoe as the Patriots’ starting quarterback in Week 3 of the 2001 season, Brady has started all 159 regular-season and 21 postseason games he has played in.
Brady should have several more productive years ahead of him, meaning he should only add to his already impressive statistics. Further, considering the Patriots have been in the playoffs all but two of his 11 seasons as the starter (with one of those being 2008 when he only played in Week 1), Brady should have plenty of opportunities to claim basically every postseason passing record that exists.
The point is this, all but one of the quarterbacks that have already been mentioned — Montana, Favre, Elway, Bradshaw — are Hall of Famers (Favre will be once he’s eligible) and generally a part of the “Greatest of All-time” conversation, to some degree. One would probably want to add Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, and perhaps one or two others to the list as well.
Regardless of who is on this list, Brady measures up to them all, whether your measuring stick for greatness is statistics, wins or postseason production. And while he may not be your choice for “Greatest of All-time,” he at least needs to be mentioned any time you have the conversation.
After all, Brady already has won more Super Bowls than Favre, Untias, and Marino combined. How’s that for your conversation starter?
Believe the hype. As far as intrigue goes, Super Bowl XLVI has the potential to be one of the greatest ever.
Yet, potential is just that. Much as we would like, there’s no way to know whether Sunday’s Giants v. Pats battle will come down the last play, like its Week 9 counterpart did. We can hope that Super Bowl XLVI will be an edge-of-your-seat slugfest, similar to New England’s Week 17 victory in 2007, but we just don’t know. It’s foolish to pencil in a game even half as exciting as either of those, let alone (arguably) The Greatest Game Ever Played.
But we know what’s on the line. Not many Super Bowls have has as many – legitimate — storylines and angles heading into media week as this Big Game does. There’s no need for manufactured stories. This is Brady vs. Eli, in Peyton’s House. Tom vs. Billy Boy. Red Face vs. Hoodie. New York vs. Boston. Part Deux.
Of course, having real things to talk about has never stopped the media from talking about other things. This is the story of those things, and why they are WTF-worthy.
As always, quotes below are paraphrases of general idiocy.
“The Giants and the Patriots Are Two of the Worst Teams to Ever Play in the Super Bowl.”
There’s some truth to this. The Giants are owners of a -4 point differential in their 9-7 regular season as well as Aaron Ross. An eighth grade substitute math teacher is their chief signal caller on defense. That defense, for parts of the regular season, was something beyond porous while their running game, ranked dead last, was even worse.
Meanwhile, the Patriots didn’t beat a winning team until the season’s 20th week and prominently feature five or six trashcans as defensive starters. Their best outside receiver, Deion Branch, had his last relevant moment nearly a decade ago, when he won the MVP of the last Super Bowl without a roman numeral ‘V’ in its title. And most recently, their GOAT quarterback was severely outplayed in the AFC Championship game by an opponent known best for his ‘goat’ status and his weird, half-goatee choice in facial hair.
Yet, everything is relative, and the Giants and Pats’ apparent shared mediocrity is no exception. The 2011 NFL season was nearly unparalleled in its parity, with 18 of the league’s 32 teams winning between six and ten games.
The Kansas City Chiefs, despite losing perhaps their three best players to season-ending injury, won seven games and finished in fourth in the AFC West. The three teams ahead of them each won eight times.
The Colts, the league’s worst team, were without services of the best damn spokesperson the quarterback position has ever seen. Conversely, the league’s best team – the 15-1 Green Bay Packers, may they rest in peace – was quite literally one-dimensional.
Never as great as we were made to believe, the Packers were able to succeed against middling competition as eventual league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the team’s 3rd-ranked passing attack compensated for a 27th-ranked rushing attack and the league’s worst defense. Once they reached the postseason, Rodgers’ margin for error narrowed. No one else was able to pick up the slack.
If the 2011 NFL Season is remembered correctly, it will be thought of as a season of the extra-ordinary, a year in which the mediocrity of the majority allowed the select talented few to look even more talented by comparison.
Matt Stafford and Eli Manning are very good players, but it is difficult to believe they are half as good as Dan Marino once was. Eli fell 150 yards short of breaking Marino’s single-season passing mark, while Stafford and Brady and Drew Brees were able to break the nearly 30-year-old record.
More important, however, the watered-down competition presented the perfect opportunity for an underdog to start gnashing its teeth. Recipe for 2011 success: get hot at the right time, do two or three things right while everyone else only does one, make as few mistakes as possible, then pray. The Giants can confidently say they followed that recipe better than anyone else. Lucky? Perhaps. Opportunistic is probably more apt. The Giants did both what they needed to and what no one else was able, and now they’re in Indianapolis as a result.
On the other side, the system meant a team as flawed as the Patriots would face as little resistance as possible on their path to Indy. Their flaws, especially in the regular season, would go relatively unexploited. Top it off with Tebow and Flacco in January, and its fair to say the Pats haven’t faced a team better team all season then they will on Sunday.
They did lose to the Giants in Week 9. But these ain’t November’s Giants. And while the 2012 iteration might not be The Best Team Ever, in the Year of the Extra-Ordinary, it’s difficult to make the case that they don’t deserve to be there.
“If Eli Wins The Big One – Again – He Might Just Be Better Than Peyton”
No, he won’t be. Not even might be. There’s no question here, no debate, not even if Eli wins, throws for 600 yards, wins the Super Bowl and somehow steals Giesel away from Tom in the process. Probably not even if he came back next year, dropped Gisele for Kate Upton, then threw for 600 yards in a third Super Bowl MVP performance.
In sports, we value two things above all else: the now and the championship. We elevate our winners while forgetting the ones who have done so in the past. Yes, winning is the most important thing. But contrary to what we’ve been told, it’s not the only thing. It’s completely foolish to eschew a decade of achievement in favor of two February nights, glorious though they may be.
Over thirteen seasons, Peyton Manning passed for less than 3,700 yards exactly never. He’s passed for over 4,000 yards on 11 different occasions, a feat Eli’s accomplished thrice. Peyton’s thrown at least 30 touchdowns six times and 49 touchdowns once and won four MVP awards and made five All-Pro first teams and three All-Pro second teams.
Eli’s thrown for 30 touchdowns once, in a season in which he threw 25 interceptions. He’s made two Pro Bowl teams. And great as he may be, he can’t make claim to any of the other accolades and statistics that make big brother quite possibly the greatest player of all time.
Before the 2011 season, Eli wasn’t even considered the best quarterback in his division, let alone his family. And while he has been consistently great this year, and while his past has been better than anyone gives him credit for, there’s no way thirteen extra wins can bring a man from good to G.O.A.T. Perspective, people. Have some.
“Tom Brady is As Good As Ever.”
Patently false. Don’t get me wrong, Brady is still the league’s best quarterback and quite possibly the best to ever play the position. He threw for five thousand yards and 39 touchdowns this season. Not exactly Rex Grossman-type numbers.
But watching him on a game-to-game basis, it is quite clear this isn’t the same unbeatable stalwart we’ve always watched. Maybe you can blame that on a weaker-than-usual offensive line and outside receivers, and maybe you’d be right. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that there aren’t a few more passes thrown astray and a few more balls held a bit too long than ever before. The numbers say this is one of Brady’s best seasons, but the eyes say something different. And if there’s anything this upside-down, Eli-better-than-Peyton season has taught us, it’s to trust your eyes. And your gut. And then give both of them a whole lot of open field and shitty defensive backs to work with.
“Lock Up Tom Coughlin, He’s Going to Be Here For a While.”
There’s no debate: Tom Coughlin has earned himself a long term contract extension. But that’s if he wants it.
Last week, Coughlin and son-in-law/Guard Chris Snee shot down suggestions that retirement might be in the old man’s near future, but it’s certainly something to still keep in mind. Coughlin is the league’s oldest coach and will also be it’s only active one – other than Bill Belichick — to have his name on multiple Lombardi trophies. There’s little left for him to accomplish and not much time left for him to do it. Even if Tom sticks around for his ninth season in New Jersey, it’s hard to see him coaching for much longer. Bill Cowher, anybody?
Jesse Golomb is the Editor-in-Chief of TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter, or drop him a line via email.
-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
National Signing Day 2012 is two days away.
As usual, the flip-flopping fireworks should provide plenty of entertainment for recruitniks and college football fans alike. But while fans bases all across the fruited plain await the vital decisions from Athlon Consensus 100 recruits like Dorial Green-Beckham, Stefon Diggs, Arik Armstead and Eddie Goldman, fans in Austin and Tuscaloosa have their sights set on a slightly bigger prize.
Barring some unforeseen prospect Armageddon, the 2012 Athlon Sports National Recruiting Championship will be given to either the Crimson Tide or the Longhorns.
Mack Brown, who recently was given a contract extension through 2020, and the Texas Longhorns have set a new benchmark for early commitments. Twelve of Brown’s current 26-man class committed before March of 2011, and he has had to hold onto his future stars for nearly a full year. With the exception of AC100 wideout Thomas Johnson, the coaching staff in Austin has kept the core of the 2012 class completely intact. It is a testament to the power of the Burnt Orange brand in the state of Texas.
Texas is currently leading the nation with 16 “national” commitments (a player who is ranked in the top 150 by at least one service) and is second in the country with six AC100 verbals. The Horns boast two of the top-10 players in the nation in tailback Jonathan Gray and defensive tackle Malcom Brown. It marks the second year in a row that Brown has signed the nation’s No. 1 running back (Malcolm Brown, 2011). This is a balanced and versatile class with four stellar “athletes,” a group headlined by AC100 newcomer Kendall Sanders. Senator Brown, as usual, has added elite depth to virtually every position on his roster.
That said, Signing Day shouldn’t bring too much movement for the Longhorns’ class with the exception of one very big name, although Burnt Orange fans picked up some good news this weekend with commitments from four-star Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson defensive back Daje Johnson and three-star Van (Texas) three-star Dalton Santos. Green-Beckham is the No. 1 player in the nation, and five teams will be holding their breath on Wednesday when the Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wideout signs his name. Texas, Arkansas and Missouri are the only schools that received an official visit, giving Texas a great shot to pull the upset. If Brown wants to claim the No. 1 class in the nation, landing DGB will be imperative.
That is because Nick Saban’s bunch is the team to beat.
Not only can the Tide show off their flashy new BCS Crystal Ball, but the mythical recruiting title will only ensure Alabama’s continued success into the near future. The Tide's 2008 — which was Athlon’s No. 1-ranked group — and 2009 classes both landed in the top three nationally and were the reason Alabama claimed the 2011 BCS National Championship. Fifteen of the Crimson Tide’s 22 BCS game starters signed in either 2008 or 2009. And the 2012 haul could be a phenomenal foundation for yet another title run in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama currently leads the nation with 10 AC100 commitments, is second behind Texas with 14 national verbal pledges and is ranked No. 1 in the team rankings by all four major recruiting services heading into NSD. While Bama lacks a top-10 recruit like the Horns’ Gray-Brown duo, Saban can point to a much longer list of potential NSD targets than Texas. Green-Beckham has Bama in his final five, but Alabama is considered a long shot. However, landing the country’s top defensive tackle, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate’s Eddie Goldman, would likely sew up the recruiting national title for the Tide.
Fellow AC100 prospects Tracy Howard and Kwon Alexander could also land at Alabama. It appears, however, that Howard, the No. 18-rated player in the nation, will choose between Florida and LSU. The Gators are the team to beat with the Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar prospect. Alxander, from Oxford (Ala.), is ranked as the No. 82 player in the AC100 and will pick between Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
Saban has other names in mind that would likely wrap up the 2012 NSD championship as well. Nationally ranked Korren Kriven and Dalvin Tomlinson would also be enough to crown this Alabama haul as the best in the nation. Sitting at 10 AC100 commitments, the Tide does have a chance, albeit a long one, to potentially set or tie the all-time record for AC100 signees in one class. Should Saban pull the clean sweep — meaning Green-Beckham, Goldman, Howard and Alexander — he would set a new record with 14 AC100 signees. Urban Meyer and the Gators signed a record 13 such recruits in 2010.
Speaking of the Gators, and barring unprecedented miracle work from Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Will Muschamp is really the only coach who can challenge Brown or Saban for national recruiting supremacy this week. There are 22 AC100 prospects left uncommitted as of today, and Florida is listed as a finalist for at least seven of them. Top-10 athlete Stefon Diggs, along with Howard, linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, offensive tackle Kyle Murphy, speedy play-maker Nelson Agholor, big blocker Avery Young and defensive end Leonard Williams could all pick the Gators.
While it’s extremely unlikely that the Gators pull all seven AC100 names, Muschamp is assured to land at least a couple and will likely be one of the bigger stories on NSD. Diggs, Howard and Agholor are all ranked in the top 26 nationally, and all three appear to be headed to Gainesville. Should those three names pop for Florida, the Gators would claim five of the top-26 prospects in the nation (D.J. Humphries, Jonathan Bullard). The Gators are the only team in the nation as hot as the aforementioned Buckeyes on the recruiting trail. (Hmm, what do those two schools have in common?)
That said, the Gators are a long-shot to compete for the recruiting crown. In fact, it would be an upset if anyone other than Alabama claims the trophy. Even if the Tide misses out on Green-Beckham, Goldman and Alexander, it could still claim the national recruiting title by simply clinging to its current 27-man group. It would likely take Saban losing a recruit or two (looking at you Landon Collins) while Texas lands DGB to push the Horns to the top slot. And the odds of Saban not pulling off at least one upset is slim-to-none.
All signs point to Alabama claiming its second recruiting national title of the Saban era.
The competition for the signatures of unproven 18-year-olds often includes more twists and turns than a spy novel. Here, insiders present a few slices of life out on the recruiting trail.
From Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on twitter), Athlon Sports:
Back in the late 1990s, I was covering Vanderbilt, and the staff was really after Jimmy Williams, a running back (at the time) from Baton Rouge. He final five schools were Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Vanderbilt. This was the type of kid Vanderbilt never gets. About a week before Signing Day he committed to Northwestern. Perry Fewell, the current defensive coordinator of the Giants, was the defensive backs coach at Vanderbilt, and he was recruiting Williams. Perry was absolutely crushed. Well, the Sunday before Signing Day, I got a call from someone who told me to get in touch with Jimmy Williams. So I called Jimmy, and he told me that he had just committed to Vanderbilt. He was a very religious kid. The night before he prayed about his decision and went to bed as a Northwestern commitment but woke up and decided to go to Vanderbilt. He said ‘the man upstairs’ directed him to Vanderbilt. He played running back as a true freshman and Vanderbilt before switching to cornerback. He played six years in the NFL as corner and kick returner.”
Chris Level (@ChrisLevel), RedRaiderSports.com:
I had a running back a few years ago — who ended up signing with a school on the west coast — text message me on the Saturday night of his official visit, ‘Yo man, where are the girls at?’ ... not sure if he had me mixed up with someone else or why he thought I'd know but we found it amusing.
Barry Every, Rivals.com:
When I worked at Georgia we had this top OL prospect with offers from all over the country coming in for a visit. His dad drove him down and dropped him off. After 48 hours the dad had not come back to pick him up. The coaches called (the father) and said it was a violation for him to be on campus for more than 48 hours. The compliance office stepped in and made the kid sit on the curb outside the football building (Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall) and said we could have no contact with him. Who knows when his dad came back to get him. But he ended up signing with NC State and later was drafted in the NFL.
J.C. Shurburtt (@JCShurburtt), 247Sports.com:
One evening during the 2011 recruiting cycle, I received a well-written e-mail from a James Wilder Jr. claiming he had committed to Florida. Wilder Jr., of course, was the highly regarded running back/linebacker from H.B. Plant High in Tampa who everybody in the country wanted and we had heard the Gators, then coached by Urban Meyer, were in good shape for his services. So naturally, without thinking, I sent out a Tweet ‘Just got an e-mail from James Wilder saying he has committed to Florida.’ The thing went viral in a matter of minutes as other writers ‘re-tweeted’ the blurb.
I quickly thought after sending it that it may be a hoax. I wasn’t particularly close to Wilder during the process and though it’s common for prospects to send out mass e-mails and texts to media members when they make a decision, something didn’t feel right about this one. Come to find out, it was a hoax. Some clown had created a fake Facebook page, e-mail address, etc., for Wilder and wanted to take the media for a little ride. Unfortunately, I was the victim. Several newspapers picked up on the story and I had a little egg on my face for a while, but it’s something I will never forget. It also goes to show you that even with the coverage of college football recruiting- which hit its prime during the advancement of technology and the Internet- that it is indeed a brave new world we live in with regards to social media and the flow of information.
Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport), HawkeyeReport.com:
There was a kid named Ka’Lial Glaud from New Jersey who had interesting idea about how to decide which college program he would chose, flipping a coin. That's right, flipping a coin. Iowa was in the final three and finished third, very late deciding to eliminate them. With little time to decide, Glaud decided between Rutgers and West Virginia by flipping a coin on Signing Day. Heads means West Virginia, tails and he is headed to Rutgers. He ended up with the Scarlet Knights.
Scott Kennedy, Scout.com/FoxSports:
One of my favorite misnomers in this business is the perception that college coaches spend hours upon hours poring over high school game film, doing exhaustive research on players. There was one player who from Florida who had all the offers anyone could imagine, but anyone I knew who had seen him in person said the kid couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie. So, I’m at a college prospect camp and one of the coaches is justifiably excited about the players who have shown up to his camp, and as he’s going over the list with me, he mentions the player with all of the offers, and I said ‘Coach, what do you like about him, I’ve heard some mixed reviews.’ He proudly answered, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what, Miami brought him right into their office and offered him.’ Gee, thanks for the scouting report.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer), CBSSports.com:
I heard from a coach about a juco safety that had received several Pac-10 offers, so I decided to give him a call and do a story on him. Called him and talked with him for maybe 30 minutes and had a great conversation with him about several schools he was interested in. I hang up and write up the story that was going to run the next morning. A few hours later I got a text from one of our regional recruiting guys telling me the kid had committed to Utah this morning — before our conversation. I talked with the kid for 30 minutes about five schools, and he didn't once bring up the fact that he had already committed. I even asked when he was planning on committing and he said not for several months. Needless to say, the story never ran.
Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons), 247Sports.com:
A few years ago I was keeping close tabs on one wide receiver recruit that was trying to decide between a west coast program with a wide open offense and his hometown school in the southeast. I was texting with this prospect into the night and past midnight and he was completely torn up about the decision. He wanted more than anything to head out west but his family wanted him to stay home. When he went to bed that night, he had decided that he would head to the west coast. The next morning he signed with the hometown school. The lesson from my perspective is that any time a prospect is having a hard time with a decision, the smart bet is on Mom and the local program. As a side note, that prospect has yet to see significant playing time or make any kind of any impact.
Tom Lemming, CBS Sports:
In the 1980s, there was a really good ball player in Illinois, being nationally recruited. Back then, head coaches were the ones going out and signing the top players. They had to be there at 8 o’clock in the morning (on Signing Day). Everybody was coming after this kid, so at 8 o’clock there were several head coaches waiting by the front door ready to sign this player. The door opens at 8 a.m. promptly and out walks a very famous Big Eight head coach who had spent the night on the kid’s couch, outsmarting all the other coaches. He signed him before any of the other schools had a shot to get him.
Scott Kennedy, Scout.com/FoxSports:
A few years ago there was a player I didn’t particularly think much of. I asked a well respected offensive line coach what he thought of him. ‘Nah, I didn’t like him. I mean we offered him because everyone else had, but we weren’t going to take him.’ I asked the coach if they really offered him. He said ‘Does he think we have?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said ‘That’s what we want him to think.’
Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons), 247Sports.com:
Just this year one of the more bizarre recruiting situations played out that I’ve seen since doing this. Floyd Raven was an unknown prospect heading into the summer before his senior year. He blew up at Ole Miss’ summer camp and eventually committed to Ole Miss. However leading up to signing day, he showed a lot of uncertainty. He decommitted from Ole Miss, committed to Texas A&M, decommitted again only to re-commit to Ole Miss.
Heading into National Signing Day it was assumed that he would sign with Ole Miss without any kind of issues. The Letter of Intent did arrive in Oxford that day but as Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt informed the media later that day, Raven’s signature wasn’t his own but his mother’s. She had forged his signature and so Ole Miss didn’t accept the LOI and asked for another one. Raven instead signed an LOI and sent it to Texas A&M. Added to the situation is the fact that Ole Miss was in desperate need of cornerbacks and assumed that two great ones were coming in with Raven and 4-star Jermaine Whitehead. Not only did Raven shock the Ole Miss staff ,but Auburn was able to make a Signing Day steal with Whitehead as well, issuing a major hit in an area of need for the Ole Miss class.
Turn Back the Clock
Jan. 28, 1958
Dodgers star catcher Roy Campanella was injured in an automobile crash near his home on Long Island. He was left paralyzed, ending his Hall of Fame career.
Jan. 29, 1936
The Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner became the first-ever Hall of Fame class.
Jan. 30, 2000
In Super Bowl XXXIV, the St. Louis Rams held on for a 23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled by linebacker Mike Jones a yard short of the end zone on the final play of the game.
Jan. 31, 1990
The first-ever all-sports daily “The National” began publishing. Headquartered in New York, the Editor-in-Chief was former Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford. The first cover featured NBA players Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Patrick Ewing. It ceased publishing on June 13, 1991.
Feb. 1, 1914
A group of players from the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants played an exhibition game in Egypt. The game was part of a world tour that began in November of 1913 in Tokyo and ended in February in London. The tour included games in Japan, Australia, Philippines, Ceylon, China, India, France and England. Games in Paris and Rome were rained out.
Feb. 2, 1970
Pete Maravich of LSU became the first college basketball player to score 3,000 points in his career. Pistol Pete averaged 44.2 points a game during his three-year career (freshmen were not eligible) in Baton Rouge, but never played in an NCAA Tournament. He ended his career with 3,667 points.
Feb. 3, 1979
Hall of Famer Rod Carew was traded by the Minnesota Twins to the California Angels for Dave Engle, Paul Hartzell, Brad Havens and Ken Landreaux. The 12-time All-Star with seven batting titles, an MVP and more than 2,000 hits for the Twins signed a five-year contract for $4 million with the Angels, something the Twins had been reluctant to do. Carew ended his career with 3,053 hits.
What once seemed unfathomable – Peyton Manning NOT in an Indianapolis Colts uniform – seems not so improbable with every passing day. Picking up the pieces from a disastrous 2-14 season, Colts owner Jim Irsay, new general manager Ryan Grigson and just-hired head coach Chuck Pagano have a lengthy to-do list on their hands. And that list most likely starts with who will be under center for the Colts next season.
For starters, Manning is due a $28 million roster bonus on March 8 as part of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he signed last summer. Everyone knows what happened after that — he had neck surgery in September, missed the entire 2011 season during which the Colts win just two games, which in turn
“earned” them the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft where everyone is expecting them to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Irsay has already publicly stated that even if Manning is given a clean bill of health that the Colts will take a quarterback with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. Whether that be Luck or Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III from Baylor remains to be seen, but in some ways this is similar to the situation the Colts found themselves in back in 1998.
Back then the Colts had the No. 1 overall pick and were reportedly somewhat torn between drafting Manning, who played for the University of Tennessee, or Washington State’s Ryan Leaf. In the end, the Colts took Manning and the Chargers traded up to get Leaf at No. 2. The rest, as they say, is history.
Whether or not the Colts find their next franchise quarterback in April in either Luck or Griffin only time will tell, but it still doesn’t answer the question what to do with their current franchise quarterback. The good news is that under the terms of the new CBA, the financial cost of keeping both Manning and the No. 1 overall draft pick isn’t nearly as burdensome as it once was.
Two years ago, the St. Louis Rams took Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the first pick and signed him to a six-year, $78 million deal. The contract had $50 million in guaranteed money and was the largest contract ever for an NFL rookie. Last year, the Carolina Panthers took Auburn quarterback Cam Newton No. 1. Under the terms of the new CBA, which introduced a rookie wage scale, Newton signed a four-year, $22 million deal, all of it guaranteed.
In guaranteed money alone, the Panthers will pay $28 million less to Newton than the Rams will for Bradford. Whoever the Colts select at No. 1 will sign a contract similar to Newton’s and that alone will make it considerably easier for the team to afford their new franchise quarterback and Manning. Remember, Manning still has $63.6 million left on his contract extension, including the $28 million roster bonus due on March 8, which goes through 2015.
In fact, because of the structure of Manning’s contract and NFL rules, in many ways it will cost the Colts less to keep Manning than it would to get rid of him, whether that be by trading him to another team or simply releasing him.
For one, while Manning’s roster bonus is due on March 8, the Colts actually can’t trade him until March 13 because of league rules. At that point, if the Colts did decide to trade him, it would cost them the $28 million for the roster bonus and then an additional $38 million towards their cap.
This just doesn’t seem like a wise move for a team that already is dealing with cap space issues. And that’s without even discussing finding a feasible trading partner, a team that has a need for a 36-year-old quarterback with an ever-growing medical file and, more importantly, the cap space to fit him.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t several teams out there who wouldn’t jump at the chance to bring Manning on board. It’s just that given all of the factors, there probably aren’t that many teams that are in a position to even consider a trade, should the opportunity become available.
It also doesn’t seem likely that they would simply cut Manning. For one, it would still cost the Colts an estimated $10.4 million cap hit to end ties with him. Although that would be cheaper than the cap hit associated with trading him, it would amount to “dead” cap space for them since Manning would no longer be on the roster.
Cutting Manning also makes him a free agent, meaning he can sign with any team and the Colts would get nothing in return. Given Manning’s success with the Colts, not to mention his rapport with fans and standing within the Indianapolis community, that doesn’t seem like a wise move either.
There’s also the option of reworking Manning’s contract and push the date the $28 million roster bonus is due back, although it remains to be seen if that’s even possible or it’s something Manning would even consider.
So while the Colts’ leadership mulls over the options and potential ramifications associated with them, the underlying question to all of this goes back to one thing – is Manning healthy? He will have to undergo a physical prior to the March 8 roster bonus due date, and if he passes, then the aforementioned options are fully in play.
If he doesn’t pass his physical, cutting him probably comes into play even more as the Colts will have to weigh the risks of keeping him on the roster in hopes that he will eventually become healthy. Failing his physical would also greatly impact his chances of signing with another team should he become a free agent. Manning himself could also take the decision out of the Colts’ hands, healthy or not healthy, and choose to retire. It still seems a little early to discuss that possibility, but you never know.
In the end, if Manning is healthy, cleared and able to play, the Colts could be looking at a situation similar to the one the Green Bay Packers had just seven years ago. In 2005, the Packers drafted Rodgers with the 24th overall pick. He backed up Brett Favre, who like Manning is a future Hall of Famer, before taking over as the starter in 2008. Two years later, Rodgers led the Packers to a win in Super Bowl XLV and has established himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL
To be fair, when the Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005 no one had any idea that he would become the elite NFL quarterback he is or that Favre’s career in Green Bay would end like it did. That said, one cannot help but notice the similarities, or irony even, between the Packers’ situation then and the Colts’ now.
So in many ways, the Colts’ future is tied directly to Manning’s fate. If healthy, the Colts’ leadership and fans are both hoping for a path similar to one the Packers started on in 2005. If he’s not healthy, then they will turn their attention to 1998 when a young, franchise quarterback came on board and took the team to places it had never been before. Either way, it appears that No. 18’s days as the Colts’ field leader are numbered.
— By Mark Ross
By David Schuman
Saturday afternoon, the West Virginia Mountaineers (15-6, 5-3 Big East) travel up to snowy Syracuse to take on the No. 4 Orange (21-1, 8-1 Big East). The matchup has admittedly lost some of its luster since West Virginia got blown out at St. John’s 78-62, but it’s still a battle of top-five teams in the conference so it should be a good one.
On display will be arguably the nation’s top team in Coach Jim Boeheim’s squad as well as a favorite for Big East Player of the Year, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones.
Jones is a bona fide star, averaging 20.9 points per game and 11.6 rebounds per game. Don’t expect him to come off the court too much either, as he also averages a robust 37.6 minutes per game. In his senior season, Jones has emerged as the leader of the surprising Mountaineers. Along with senior guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant and his 17.4 per, the two make a formidable inside-out combo.
Syracuse is going to have more difficulty than usual containing Jones without 7-footer Fab Melo in the paint. The improved sophomore has missed the last two games with unspecified academic issues and it’s not looking like the matter will be resolved in time for this one. Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone is clearly weaker without Melo so that bodes well for West Virginia.
They still, however, have to contend with the rest of Syracuse’s talent and depth. With guys like Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters, the Orange will probably be favored in every game left this season. As well they should too, because this team runs the break well and uses their length and quickness to stymie opposing offenses.
As good as West Virginia has been, they are coming off a loss where they didn’t play their best and ‘Cuse is undefeated at the Carrier Dome this year. It’s hard for me to predict anything but a win for the home team, although it could be close. I’ll take the Orange, 69-60.
MLB Mt. Rushmores
by Charlie Miller
We believe that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Detroit Tigers Mt. Rushmore
In their 111 seasons, the Tigers have finished at or above .500 in 67 of those seasons, pretty impressive. But Detroit has only 13 postseason appearances to show for their winning ways. In 10 World Series, the Tigers have come out on the winning side four times. Three times in their history the Tigers have had a winning percentage over .600 and not made the postseason. Once came in 1915, a year the Tigers went 100-54 for their second-best winning percentage (.649) in history. The Tigers are one of only four of the original American League franchises to call the same city home for its entire history. And the Tigers are the only AL team to go by just one name; always known as the Tigers. There is no shortage of candidates for the Tigers’ Mt. Rushmore, but Ty Cobb may be the only lock.
While the Georgia Peach has taken personal hits over the years, there is no denying his production on the field. No one played the game harder or better or with more zeal than Cobb did during his era from 1905-26. He had 3,900 hits for the Tigers. No one has more for one team. Cobb sits atop the Tigers’ all-time lists in more categories than anyone else, and it’s not even close. Cobb finished his 22-year career in Detroit with a .368 batting average. For his entire career, which included two seasons with the Philadelphia A’s, he amassed 4,189 hits and 2,246 runs.
A Michigan man through–and-through, Gehringer spent his entire 19 seasons with the Tigers and finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting for seven consecutive seasons. He won the award in 1937 along with a batting title with a .371 average. He was a narrow runner-up to teammate Mickey Cochrane in 1934, although the second baseman had clearly superior numbers. Known for his quiet nature, it has been noted that he would say hello when he arrived at spring training and good-bye when the season ended and not much in between.
Hammerin’ Hank had a mercurial career with the Tigers in the years surrounding World War II. From 1934-46, Greenberg had just seven full seasons for Detroit, but full seasons they certainly were. In those campaigns in which he played a complete season, he averaged .322 with 40 home runs and 147 RBIs, with 43 doubles and 122 runs. He earned a couple of MVP trophies and finished third twice. He lost one season to a broken wrist after just 12 games, and three full seasons to military service, and in two more seasons he played briefly just prior to and after his service.
The rightfielder from Baltimore quietly put together a Hall of Fame career spent exclusively with the Tigers. Kaline reached the 3,000-hit plateau and missed 400 home runs by one. Kaline entered the league in 1953 as an 18-year-old having never suited up in the minor leagues. In his second full season, Kaline won the AL batting crown with a .340 average and earned the first of his two career runner-up finishes in MVP voting. Overall, he had nine top-10 MVP finishes. He made 15 All-Star teams and was honored with 10 Gold Gloves.
Ace Hal Newhouser had back-to-back MVP seasons in 1945-46 with a runner-up for the award the following season.
For three generations in Michigan, Tigers fans associated games with the voice of Ernie Harwell on the radio.
In 16 full seasons at the helm in Detroit, Sparky Anderson led his team to a winning record 11 times, including eight straight, the only Tigers manager with such a streak.
In 1968 the Tigers erased a three-games-to-one deficit in the World Series to defending champion St. Louis. It was lefthander Mickey Lolich whose heroics in Games 5 and 7 made that championship comeback possible.
Best Current Player
While Miguel Cabrera may seem like an obvious choice, his career numbers in Detroit may not measure up to the greats above. However, starting pitcher Justin Verlander already has an MVP trophy and appears to be on track to spend his entire career with the Tigers.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com
What if Chip Kelly had left Oregon for the NFL? Here are some candidates the Ducks might have looked at as their next head coach.
Mike Bellotti, former Oregon head coach – Bellotti’s name was in the rumor mill for openings at Arizona and UCLA, but it’s uncertain if he was ever a serious candidate. Bellotti worked at Oregon from 1989-94 as the team’s offensive coordinator and then served as the head coach from 1995-08. He compiled a 116-55 record and earned one outright Pac-10 title during his 14-year tenure as the Ducks’ head coach. It could be a little awkward for Bellotti to return to the sidelines after choosing to retire as a head coach and become the school’s athletic director after the 2008 season. However, he’s certainly a good fit in Eugene and would likely keep many of the assistants and schemes the Ducks ran under Kelly. Going from Bellotti to Kelly would seem to be a pretty easy transition.
Pete Carroll, head coach, Seattle Seahawks – If you are Oregon, don’t you at least have to try to nudge Carroll back to the college game? Yes, it's a longshot, but why not? Although the Seahawks improved during the second half of the year, they probably aren’t ready to make a Super Bowl run in 2012. And if the Seahawks struggle to earn a winning record next year, would that be enough to lure Carroll back to the college game? His resume at USC was impressive, recording an 83-19 record over nine seasons and a BCS title in 2004. The Ducks can throw a lot of money in Carroll’s direction, but it’s certainly a longshot that he leaves the NFL. However, it’s not too often one of the top 15 jobs in college football is open, especially on the West Coast.
Dave Christensen, head coach, Wyoming – Christensen inked a contract extension at Wyoming this offseason, but figures to have interest in BCS jobs on the West Coast. He has an 18-20 record in three years with the Cowboys, but has led the team to two bowl appearances with freshmen quarterbacks. Christensen is also familiar with the Pacific Northwest, playing at Washington (1980-1982) and coaching with the Huskies for one season (1988). Although Christensen has emerged as a solid coach and someone who will move up the ranks to a BCS job, he seems like a longshot to land in Eugene - if Kelly leaves for the NFL after the 2012 season.
Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Just like Wyoming’s Dave Christensen, Dykes received a raise and a contract extension after the 2011 season. Dykes has compiled a 13-12 record in two seasons in Ruston, including an 8-5 mark and an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2011. Dykes has experience coaching in the Pac-12, as he worked at Arizona from 2007-09. He also has stops as an assistant at Kentucky and Texas Tech. It’s only a matter of time before Dykes makes the jump to a BCS program, but if the Ducks have to replace Kelly next offseason, it seems unlikely he would be one of the top choices.
Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator, Oregon – The Ducks may not have to look far for Kelly’s successor. Helfrich is considered a rising star in the assistant ranks, making stops at Boise State, Arizona State, Colorado and Oregon. He joined the Ducks in 2009 as the team’s offensive coordinator. Although Kelly significantly shaped Oregon’s offense, Helfrich is well-versed in the up-tempo attack and would likely keep much of the same scheme and assistants in place. If the Ducks want to keep continuity, Helfrich could be a perfect choice to become the next head coach. However, Helfrich has no head coaching experience and one has to wonder if he is ready to take over at one of the top programs on the West Coast. Is he the next Chip Kelly or Bill Stewart? That’s going to be a key question facing Oregon if they have to replace Kelly next offseason.
June Jones, head coach, SMU – Jones was reportedly very close to landing at Arizona State, but he was eventually passed for the job in favor of former Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham. As a native of Portland, Ore., it would be very surprising if Jones didn’t have interest in this position. Jones compiled a 76-41 record in nine seasons at Hawaii and has a 24-28 mark in four years at SMU. He inherited a very difficult situation at both schools and turned both programs into consistent bowl teams. There’s very little downside to Jones, although the current personnel wouldn’t be a perfect fit with his pass-first offense. He will be 60 when the 2013 season starts, so Jones would be the oldest coach in the Pac-12.
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – Roman is a wildcard candidate to watch in coaching searches for 2012. He is a highly-regarded assistant, working under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2009-10, before following him to the 49ers last offseason. Roman was reportedly in the mix at Vanderbilt last year and interviewed at Penn State this season. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but is considered a bright offensive mind, which would certainly go over well in Eugene. Roman is a longshot, but is due for a shot to run his own program in the near future.
Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU – Patterson’s name may pop up in BCS job searches next offseason, but it is highly unlikely he leaves TCU. Most of his coaching career has been spent in the Midwest, playing at Kansas State from 1980-81 and becoming TCU’s head coach in 2000. Patterson is considered one of college football’s top defensive minds, which would be a contrast to Kelly’s offensive background. After he helped to guide TCU to a BCS conference (Big 12), it would take a lot to lure Patterson out of Fort Worth. A longshot, but his track record makes it hard to ignore when elite BCS jobs come open.
Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State – Outside of Helfrich, Petersen seems to be the most likely candidate to take over in Eugene. Petersen has experience in Eugene, as he coached receivers at Oregon from 1995-00. He reportedly turned down UCLA, but Oregon would seem to be a much better fit, as he could stay in the Pacific Northwest. Combine his familiarity with the program and his success at Boise State, Petersen would be a home run hire for the Ducks (if Kelly was to leave). However, Petersen was granted a contract extension and a salary bump this offseason, while Boise State is in the process of updating the football facilities. Although Petersen has had tremendous success with the Broncos, there’s no question Oregon is one of the top 15 jobs in the country. And the commitment is certainly in place to win big (national championships).
Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington – After spending two seasons at Tennessee, Wilcox has moved back to the West Coast to take the defensive coordinator position at Washington. If there’s a candidate that’s built perfectly to become the head coach at Oregon, Wilcox is it. He was born in Eugene, Ore. and played as a defensive back with the Ducks from 1996-99. Wilcox has no head coaching experience, but is very familiar with the Pac-12, as he coached as an assistant at California from 2003-05. The lack of head coaching experience could be the only downside to Wilcox’s resume, as he is considered one the top up-and-coming assistant coaches in the nation.
-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
Texas’ Board of Regents met yesterday to extend head football coach Mack Brown’s contract to 2020. The move was an effort to quell rumors of Brown’s potential exit from the 40 Acres — be it by retirement, resignation or firing.
There is only one problem: Longhorns’ athletic director DeLoss Dodds is dead wrong.
Dodds seems to think that the negative recruiting against the Longhorns will cease and desist once Brown extends his $5.2 million annual contract an additional four years. He seems to believe that if Brown is signed through 2020 — instead of merely 2016 — that the head coach won’t consider retiring over the next nine years. Or perhaps that if Texas goes 13-12 over the next two seasons (again) that the “endowment conglomerate” won’t be pressuring the AD to get fresh blood on the sidelines.
This is because coaching contract extensions are not worth the paper they are printed upon.
Cincinnati’s Butch Jones also got his deal sweetened this week, and it’s a great day for Bearcats fans to celebrate the recent success of their second-year head coach. It's a time for Cincy fans to be proud of their program and be excited about the future. But the fact remains: A little extra coin and a few extra years on the deal won’t keep Jones from taking a better job.
And there are a lot of better jobs than Cincinnati.
Does Dodds honestly believe that big, bad Bob Stoops will stop saying mean things about little ol’ Texas on the recruiting trail now that Brown is signed through 2020? Does he really believe that Tommy Tuberville, Mike Gundy or Art Briles, out of the kindness of their hearts, won’t negatively recruit Big Brother any longer?
Does Brown himself, in the interest of fair play, stop telling recruits that Bill Snyder is really old? Especially considering Texas has lost four straight games to Kansas State?
Does new language in new contracts make it more costly to fire a coach — or more costly for a coach to bail for a better gig? Slightly. Can giving Jones or Brown more cash make them a little happier and therefore more likely to stick around? Possibly. But the power brokers at any major university can sneeze enough money to pay a coach’s buyout if they have soured on the current field general.
Really, what is a $4 million buyout to T. Boone Pickens if he no longer wants Gundy on the sidelines of…T. Boone Pickens Stadium?
Tuberville is a perfect example. Following the 2007 season, the current Texas Tech coach was given an extension by Auburn for seven seasons (through 2014). He was 42-9 in the previous four seasons and had six straight seasons of at least eight wins. Tubes went 5-7 in 2008 and was fired barely one year into his seven-year contract. It doesn’t end there, however, as the Red Raiders gave Tuberville an extension through 2015 last week.
After the first losing season in Lubbock since 1992, Tuberville enters 2012 securely on the coaching hot seat.
Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer received a massive seven-year, $21 million extension in the summer of 2008. The Vols had played in the 2007 SEC Championship game, getting handled by eventual BCS champ LSU. Tennessee started 3-7 in 2008, including a loss to Wyoming, and AD Mike Hamilton announced that Fulmer would be stepping down at the end of the season. Fulmer made it through nine games of a seven-year contract before being fired.
Tommy Bowden at Clemson finished 2007 with a 9-4 record and had never experienced a losing season with the Tigers in nine years. He was given a seven-year extension following the season. "Tommy Bowden has made us a consistent winner," said Clemson Athletic Director Dr. Terry Don Phillips. "He has built a firm foundation for this program in all aspects.”
Bowden didn’t make it to the seventh game of the 2008 season before getting fired. Did Phillips believe anything he said the eight months before?
Ron Zook took his Illinois squad to the Rose Bowl in 2007 and was given a new deal through 2013. One month prior to the start of the 2009 seasons, the Illini felt so strongly about The Zooker that they tacked on another year, pushing his deal to 2014. He went 16-21 over the next three years and was fired three years before the end of his contract.
Sylvester Croom won nine total games in his three years at Mississippi State but finally broke through in 2008 with eight wins and a bowl appearance. He was given an extension through 2011, but after going 4-8 in 2009, was fired by the Bulldogs.
And then there is Notre Dame. Charlie Weis went 19-6 in his first two seasons with two trips to BCS Bowls (both bad losses). The Irish decisions makers inked Weis to a hefty 10-year contract that was slated to run through 2015. He too went 16-21 over the next three years and was fired by Notre Dame following the 2009 season — with seven years left on the deal.
But the tomfoolery goes both ways in this head coach-university contract relationship.
On July 13, 2006, Bobby Petrino signed a 10-year, $25.6 million extension with Louisville. On January 7, 2007, Petrino announced, six months into his 10-year deal with the Cardinals, that he was leaving to take the Atlanta Falcons job. He signed a five-year, $24 million deal with Atlanta. On December 11, 2007, he left the Falcons and signed a five-year contract with the Arkansas Razorbacks at $2.85 million annually.
Petrino signed 20 years' worth of contracts for a total $63.85 million with three different organizations over an 18-month period of time.
In 2006, Alabama was looking for a coach and offered West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez a six-year, $12 million contract. He flirted with the Tide before milking a one-year extension from the Mountaineers. His contract ran through the 2014 season, but two seasons later (2007), RichRod was headed north to Ann Arbor despite a $4 million buyout.
In June of 2009, Brian Kelly signed a contract extension with Cincinnati through 2013. He was given a nice raise to nearly $1.5 million — quite a commitment for Cincinnati. Six months later, Kelly was introduced as the new head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
There are literally hundreds of examples of coaches accepting more lucrative, more prestigious jobs on the heels of signing an extension with their current employer. And there are just as many instances of programs locking down coaches to long-term deals just months before handing that same coach a pink slip.
Negative recruiting cannot be stopped. It will continue to be a seedy, unfortunate but necessary aspect to the recruiting trail until the end of time, regardless of how many years are on your coach’s contract. Coaches will continue to be fired, some rightly so, well before the culmination of their contracts. And field generals will continue to retire or pursue greener pastures without honoring current agreements forever.
So fans in Austin and Cincinnati get a day in the sun to celebrate their football programs and the men responsible for achieving success. It is absolutely a time to be proud and thump chests.
But don’t forget that these contracts mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of college football. And college football is about as fickle as a 17-year old five-star.
It's not every day that a ball boy makes almost as much news than the tennis players he's working for. But this ball boy at the Australian Open made an amazing catch during the Federer/Nadal semifinal tennis match.
Nadal ended up winning the match in four sets 6-7, 6-2, 7-2, 6-4, setting himself up as officially past his rival Federer. But one of the matches highlights came when Federer hit a first serve out, which Nadal hit back. Federer then hit the ball, with a fair bit of velocity off to the side of the court. That's when the ball boy quickly made a one-handed catch in the air and the crowd erupted in applause.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
No school wants to conduct a coaching search just a week before National Signing Day. However, that’s the predicament Rutgers finds itself in, as Greg Schiano decided to leave to become the next head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Schiano inherited a very difficult situation at Rutgers and won only three games in his first two years. However, Schiano turned the Scarlet Knights into a consistent winner in the Big East, posting at least seven wins in seven out of the last eight years. Rutgers made six bowl appearances under Schiano and fell just short of winning the Big East conference title in 2006.
Who will replace Greg Schiano at Rutgers next season?
Steve Addazio, head coach, Temple – In his first season as Temple’s head coach, Addazio led the Owls to a 9-4 record and a victory over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl. Addazio is also bringing in a solid recruiting class this year and has the Owls on the rise in the MAC East. The timing of Schiano’s departure makes it very difficult for any coach to leave their current position to go to Rutgers. However, Addazio is one that the Scarlet Knights need to give strong consideration to. He has stops as an assistant at Syracuse, Notre Dame, Indiana and Florida, and is familiar with the area, as he grew up in Connecticut.
Tom Bradley, former interim coach at Penn State – Bradley is a Pennsylvania native and has spent his entire coaching career at Penn State. He served as the Nittany Lions’ interim coach in the final four games, posting a 1-3 record with a loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. Bradley was highly regarded during his tenure at Penn State for his recruiting and his defenses, which were usually among the best in the Big Ten. However, considering the scandal that surrounded Penn State in 2011, could Bradley be too toxic for Rutgers? For a school that can’t spend a ton of money on its next coach, Bradley would come relatively cheap.
Don Brown, defensive coordinator, Connecticut – Brown was reportedly one of the leading candidates to land at Yale this offseason but eventually pulled his name out of the running. He has a wealth of coaching experience in the Northeast, starting his career at Dartmouth in 1982 and making stops at Yale, Brown, Northeastern, UMass and Maryland. Brown has a 94-45 overall record in 12 years as a head coach and led UMass to the FCS title game in 2006.
Frank Cignetti, offensive coordinator, Rutgers – Rutgers chose Kyle Flood to serve as the team's interim coach while the school searches to fill the full-time position. However, Cignetti could be a strong in-house candidate to keep the job on a permanent basis. He joined Rutgers before the 2011 season, and helped to improve the offense, as the Scarlet Knights jumped from last in the Big East in scoring to fourth. Cignetti has no head coaching experience, but has built a strong resume with stops at North Carolina, Fresno State, California and Pittsburgh, along with the Chiefs and Saints in the NFL.
Mario Cristobal, head coach, FIU – Cristobal’s name has been mentioned in connection with a handful of BCS jobs over the last few years, but he has remained loyal to FIU. Cristobal inherited a disaster when he became the Golden Panthers’ coach in 2007, but has turned the program into a Sun Belt title contender. Under his watch, FIU is 24-38, but has made back-to-back bowl appearances. Cristobal also worked from 2001-03 at Rutgers, serving as the team’s tight end and offensive line coach. There’s no question Cristobal is one of the top coaches from one of the non-BCS conferences. However, he signed an extension before the season and was expected to get a raise after being mentioned heavily for the Pittsburgh position. Cristobal would be a tremendous hire, but it would take a tremendous offer to leave FIU.
Ron English, head coach, Eastern Michigan – English’s overall record at Eastern Michigan (8-28) isn’t impressive, but once you dig a little deeper, it’s apparent he has done a great job in a short amount of time. Eastern Michigan is one of the most difficult jobs in college football, and the Eagles have only one winning season since 1990. English led Eastern Michigan to a 6-6 record in 2011 and has this team in position to move up the MAC standings once again in 2012. English has a good resume, spending time at Arizona State, San Diego State, Michigan and Louisville. He is due for a chance at a BCS job, but English hasn’t coached any in the Northeast.
Ralph Friedgen, former Maryland coach – Why not? Rutgers can’t spend $3 million on a coach, and especially considering how his tenure ended at Maryland, Friedgen has to be eager to get back into coaching. During his tenure with the Terrapins, Friedgen posted a 75-50 record, while leading his team to seven bowl appearances and an ACC title in 2001. Friedgen was born in Harrison, N.Y., just under 40 miles from Rutgers. The only downside to Friedgen is his age – he will be 65 when the 2012 season begins.
Jeff Jagodzinski, former Boston College coach – Jagodzinski recorded a solid 20-8 record during two seasons as Boston College’s head coach (2007-08). He was fired after interviewing for the vacant Jets head coaching position and has spent time with the Buccaneers and worked as the head coach of the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks in 2010. A significant concern if Jagodzinski is to land another head coaching job: He was not regarded as a strong recruiter during his time with Boston College.
K.C. Keeler, head coach, Delaware – Keeler has been a very successful coach on the D-III and FCS level, so it has been a bit of surprise he hasn’t jumped to a FBS position. However, Keeler played linebacker at Delaware from 1978-80, so it will take a special job to pull him away from his alma mater. In 10 years with the Blue Hens, Keeler has recorded a 169-67-1 mark and led the team to one FCS championship. Before coming to Delaware, he posted a 88-21-1 record in nine years at Rowan. Keeler is ready for the next challenge. But is he ready to leave his alma mater?
Tim Murphy, Harvard – Murphy’s name surfaced with the Penn State job, but the school chose to go with New England Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien as its new head coach. Murphy has largely been out of the spotlight, but he has been a head coach every season since 1987. He compiled a 15-8 record in two years at Maine (1987-88), 17-37-1 record at Cincinnati (1989-93) and has a 119-59 record at Harvard (1994-2011). Murphy wouldn’t be a flashy hire, but he’s built a solid resume during his career and has experience coaching in the Northeast from his time at Maine and at Harvard.
Bud Foster, defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech – If not now, when will Foster leave Virginia Tech? He is regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in college football, but has no head coaching experience. Foster is due for his shot to run a program, but he’s been very loyal to Virginia Tech.
Jim Leavitt, San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach – Leavitt had a rocky end to his tenure at South Florida, but had a very successful run as the Bulls’ head coach. Leavitt posted a 95-57 record with South Florida, which included bringing the program from its inception to becoming a consistent bowl team. Leavitt’s baggage from the end of his tenure at South Florida could be too much to overcome or he may look to land back in the Midwest, where he spent the majority of his career before joining the Bulls.
Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State – MacIntyre recently received an extension with San Jose State, so it’s unlikely he will leave to take the Rutgers job. However, he has spent most of his career close to the East Coast. MacIntyre has also done a good job of rebuilding the Spartans, leading the team to a 5-7 record in 2011 – the school’s highest win total since winning six in 2008.
Bill McGovern, defensive coordinator, Boston College – McGovern has no head coaching experience, but is considered one of the top assistants in the Northeast. He has worked at Boston College since 2000, with a prior stint with the Eagles from 1994-96. McGovern has developed a handful of solid linebackers during his tenure with the Eagles and is known as a good recruiter. McGovern would be a good fit, but the lack of head coaching experience certainly hurts his chances of landing the job.
Darren Rizzi, special teams coach with the Miami Dolphins – Rizzi is a name familiar with many at Rutgers, as he served as its special teams coach from 2002-07. He also grew up in New Jersey and has four years of head coaching experience. Rizzi’s overall record is not impressive, posting a 15-14 record in three years at New Haven and a 3-9 mark in one year at Rhode Island.
-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
Recruiting rankings are an inexact science, and even the experts will admit that. It is virtually impossible to measure heart, work ethic, mental focus and self-awareness in 17- and 18-year-old kids. Especially, in the face of the most important decision they will ever make.
As National Signing Day looms next Wednesday, Athlon Sports finalized its Athlon Consensus 100 for the Class of 2012 this week. It is the fifth annual conglomerate recruiting top 100 for Athlon, and even as the truest, most accurate recruiting ranking, there are still plenty of names that fall through the cracks.
The "modern recruiting era," aka the internet recruiting service era, dates back just more than a decade of time. There have been countless contributors who have blossomed into All-Americans despite being much-lesser known commodities than the likes of Matt Barkley.
Here are the best two-star prospects of the modern recruiting era (signing class):
1. Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Abilene (Texas) Wylie (2006)
The NCAA’s all-time record-holder for passing yards (19,217), total offense (20,114), 300-yard games (38), 4,000-yard seasons (3), completions (1,546), passing touchdowns (155) and touchdown responsibility (178) had a single offer coming out of high school. After Keenum had won the state title as a junior at Wylie, Art Briles was the only head coach to offer the slender passer a chance to play FBS football. Over 20,000 yards later, Keenum has not only reinvigorated Cougars football but has also helped elevate his program to the Big East Conference.
2. Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
Rialto (Calif.) Eisenhower (2004)
The big offensive tackle was passed over by local schools USC and UCLA, but Dan Hawkins at Boise State saw something he loved right away. Clady redshirted in his first season in Idaho but started every game for the next three seasons. He was a major part of the 2006 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma before landing on several All-America teams in 2007. After his redshirt junior season, Clady left for the NFL and was selected with the 12th overall pick by the Denver Broncos. He has blossomed into one of the NFL’s top left tackles.
3. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Washington Township (N.J.) Westwood (2004)
The big nose guard had three offers coming out of high school: Boston College, Rutgers and Wisconsin. While the offer sheet was certainly more prestigious than the average two-star prospect’s, it took until October of his final prep season to land the BC scholarship (Rivals.com). During his final season at Chestnut Hill, Raji helped lead a unit that ranked No. 1 in the ACC in rushing defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense. The big nose guard was taken with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and played a major role in the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Championship in 2010.
4. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Pewaukee (Wisc.) High (2007)
Originally committed to Minnesota and signed with Central Michigan, Watt needed two schools and multiple positions to finally land with the Houston Texans. Watt played tight end upon entering college before transferring and walking-on at Wisconsin, where he earned a scholarship with his work ethic and intensity. His switch to the defensive line paid off in droves as he racked up 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks in two seasons. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and became the first rookie defensive lineman in NFL history to record a sack and an interception for a touchdown in a playoff game. Watt started all 16 games as a rookie, led Houston in tackles for a loss (13) and helped the Texans to their first postseason berth in franchise history.
5. Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Anaheim (Calif.) Western (2005)
Hailing from American Samoa originally, Iupati moved to Southern California and excelled as a defensive tackle at Western High School. He was shown interest from other larger programs — Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona — but due to insufficient academic performance, Iupati was not eligibile to receive a scholarship. So the family of this powerful blocker took out a loan to pay for tuition, room and board at Idaho. Under Robb Akey and behind the leadership of Iupati, Idaho went to only its second bowl in school history in 2009 when the Vandals defeated Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl. Iupati was selected with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the 49ers and was a huge part of the NFC Championship run by San Francisco in 2011.
6. Eric Weddle, SS, Utah
Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Alta Loma (2003)
The California native’s offer sheet included New Mexico State, Wyoming, UNLV and Utah back in 2003. It didn’t take long to realize that the Utes had found a great player in Weddle, as the versatile defensive back started the last nine games as a freshman, garning freshman All-America honors. He was a standout strong safety and return man his second year in Salt Lake City. He was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and claimed Emerald Bowl MVP honors. In 2006, he claimed his second straight MWC Defensive POY award. He started 45 of his 48 career games (21 at corner, 18 at safety and six at nickelback) while finishing with 277 tackles, 10 sacks and an MWC-record 18 interceptions. He also ran the ball 52 times for 259 yards and six touchdowns on offense, completed 2-of-6 passes, punted twice and was a holder on field goals. The do-everything athlete was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 62nd (second round) pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
7. Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
Sugar Land (Texas) Austin (2006)
TCU, Iowa State and North Texas were the offers Hughes had to choose from coming out of high school. Gary Patterson knew he had a special player as Hughes was one of only four freshman to see the field in 2006. As a senior in 2009, Hughes led the Mountain West with 11.5 sacks and helped lead a defense that ranked No. 1 in the nation in total yards allowed (239.7 ypg). He was a two-time All-America selection and finished with 142 career tackles, 40.5 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. The Frogs went 42-10 during Hughes’ time, and the defensive end was selected in the first round by the Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft.
8. Jordan Todman, RB, UConn
Dartmouth (Mass.) High (2008)
With offers from only UConn, Purdue and Northeastern, Todman quickly overachieved in Storrs, Conn. As a freshman, Todman rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in his first career game. As a sophomore, his first season as the starter, he rushed for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns. In Todman’s final season as a Husky he finished second in the nation in rushing at 141.3 yards per game. His 1,695 yards led the Big East and he scored another 14 times as a junior. He skipped his final season in college to test the NFL waters and landed with the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft.
9. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Jasper (Texas) High (2006)
Coming out of high school, Weatherspoon was listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. He is now a star 6-foot-2, 244-pound outside linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons. His offer sheet included Missouri, Houston, Iowa State, TCU and Tulane. He claimed Special Teamer of the Year honors as a freshman for the Tigers and in only two full seasons as a starter, Westherspoon registered 266 total tackles, nine sacks, four interceptions and 33.5 tackles for a loss. He was a part of the winningest two-year span in Mizzou history (2006-2007) and was drafted by the Falcons with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
10. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
Portland (Ore.) Jesuit (2007)
The Marecic family moved all over the country — from New Jersey to Boston to Los Angeles to Oregon — before Owen was recruited by Yale, Army and Stanford. Only the Cardinal and Portland State officially offered the two-way star. In his junior season, Marecic was the lead blocker for the Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart. He was also used in short yardage situations on defense as an inside linebacker. Jim Harbaugh then made him a true two-way star as a senior as Marecic was the only FBS player to start on both offense and defense. In a game against Notre Dame, he scored two touchdowns and intercepted a pass in a 26-second span. Marecic was a fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2011 NFL Draft.
11. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy (2007)
Castonzo was the first true freshman to start along the offensive line at BC since 1998, blocked for Matt Ryan and claimed freshman All-America honors in 2007. Became a two-time All-ACC performer and was the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Colts.
12. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Fayetteville (N.C.) E.E. Smith (2004)
A freshman All-American, Curry eventually earned the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. He was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
13. Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
Huntsville (Ala.) Lee (2003)
How many 15-year-olds decide to play football at Louisville instead of Harvard? But a year later Okoye, at 16 years old, became the youngest player in the NCAA. He finished his college career with 55 tackles and eight sacks as a senior. The All-Big East and All-America selection was the youngest senior in the nation (19) before being selected by the Texans with the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
14. Alex Mack, OC, Cal
Santa Barbara (Calif.) San Marcos (2004)
Mack made 39 consecutive starts for the Golden Bears and was a Rimington Trophy finalist for the nation’s top center. He is now a Pro Bowl center for the Cleveland Browns after getting drafted with the 21st overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
15. Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
Richardson (Texas) Berkner (2004)
Offered by Arizona, Kansas, Baylor, Tulsa and Kansas State. Talib’s risky play paid off in college as his highlight reel play at corner earned him the Jack Tatum Trophy and the Orange Bowl MVP in his final season. He was a consensus All-American and the 20th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Other Top Two-Stars To Consider:
Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri (2006) Martin (Texas) High
Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU (2003) Moorpark (Calif.) High
Tank Carder, LB, TCU (2007) Sweeney (Texas) High
Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State (2005) Piscataway (N.J.) High
Mardy Gilyard, RS, Cincinnati (2005) Palm Coast (Fla.) Flagler Palm Coast
How are you supposed to know what a "heron" is if you don't live by any swampy marsh? So, when you're at a spelling bee and someone asks you to spell the word "heron," it's impossible to comprehend what they're saying to you. Is it Harangue? Hairline? Hairwing?
Can you please repeat the word? Can you please repeat the word? What's the word again? Harrowing? Harrow? Can you use it in a sentence again?
And the best part of this video, it has a happy ending...followed by an ironic next word.
If any normal team were to start three freshmen and two sophomores, conference road games would surely be a daunting prospect. Fortunately for Coach John Calipari, his newly minted No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (20-1, 6-0 SEC) are anything but normal. The supremely talented group went into Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia on Tuesday to face the Georgia Bulldogs (10-10, 1-5 SEC) and came away with an easy 57-44 victory.
Georgia kept it close at the beginning, managing to only be down one with 6:40 left in the first half, but Kentucky pulled away from there and the game was never in doubt.
Several players contributed to the effort, as has become the trademark of this Kentucky team, but Darius Miller led the way with 19 points off the bench, including 4 of 4 from beyond the arc. Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist tallied a double-double, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
As easy as this win was, it never felt like the Wildcats were dominating. This was their lowest scoring output of the season and they played the second half in unimposing fashion, outscoring the Bulldogs only 19-18.
To be fair, it was clear Georgia wasn’t going to make any kind of run, but that speaks more to the tough season Coach Mark Fox’s squad is having. They just don’t have the firepower, especially after losing former stars Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. Both are now buried on the end of the Los Angeles Clipper bench while Georgia shoots the second lowest FG% of any team in a power conference.
Despite Kentucky’s ho-hum offensive night, not enough can be said about their defense. The anchor is freshman Anthony Davis, and let me tell you: he is the real deal. Coming into the game, he led the nation with 4.7 blocks per game. Tonight he added five more. Get ready for this eye-popping stat though. Davis has 98 blocks on the season, which is more than Duke, Ohio State and Wisconsin have on their entire teams.
Davis’ mere presence is enough to alter shots. It seemed like Georgia got tentative about going inside, settling often for three point shots. The strategy didn’t pay off, however, as they only converted 5 of the 18 attempts.
The one strange thing about Calipari’s game plan tonight was Davis’ role on offense. The likely #1 overall pick in next June’s NBA draft only had two field goal attempts tonight. Why is this kid not getting the ball more? It was perplexing to watch.
Obviously, Kentucky is the team to beat in the SEC, and arguably in the entire country. Vanderbilt is keeping pace in the SEC standings at 5-1, and they have two games left against the Wildcats, but they can probably only hope for a split because this team is just so talented.
That being said, I would not pick Kentucky to cut down the nets in April. It’s just too risky a choice given their youth. The inexperience seems to be less of an issue this year than with any of Coach Cal’s recent teams, but to paraphrase Brad Nessler during tonight’s broadcast, every time Kentucky comes to town, it’s like the Super Bowl for the other team. Combine the intensity of the Super Bowl with the usual Madness of March, and I see a major upset in the Kentucky Wildcats’ future.
By David Schuman
-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
Recruiting rankings are inexact science and even the experts will admit that. It is virtually impossible to measure heart, work ethic, mental focus and self-awareness in 17- and 18-year old kids. Especially, in the face of the most important decision they will ever make.
As National Signing Day looms next Wednesday, Athlon Sports finalized its Athlon Consensus 100 for the Class of 2012 yesterday. It is the fifth annual conglomerate recruiting top 100 for Athlon and even as the truest, most accurate recruiting ranking, there are still plenty of massive busts.
And the debut of the list back in 2008 featured plenty wastes of talent – particularly at the running back and wide receiver position. And don’t ask Dan Hawkins about his 2008 Buffaloes haul, either.
Here are the biggest busts from the 2008 AC100:
1. Lynn Katoa, LB, AC100 No. 76
Salt Lake City, UT (Colorado)
Katoa got his college career off to a “rocky” start when the Buffaloes linebacker was placed on probation after an off-campus fight in 2008 in which he hit a man in the head with a rock. He violated the terms of his sentence by skipping his substance-abuse monitoring and was sent to jail’s work-release program the following March. He was forced to transfer to an Arizona junior college after Colorado cut him due to academic ineligibility. And four months after his sentencing in the original fight, the troubled linebacker was arrested a second time on third-degree assault outside a Boulder bar. He was held on $2,500 bond at Boulder County Jail. Then in January of 2011, Katoa became one of Boulder's most wanted after being wanted for two counts of second degree assault, two counts of third degree assault, criminal mischief and one count of false reporting to authorities.
2. Boubacar Cissoko, CB, AC100 No. 52
Detroit, MI (Michigan)
The former Wolverine cornerback is currently in prison for committing three thefts and an attempted robbery. To top it off, Cissoko was accused of assaulting three Washtenaw Country jail employees while awaiting sentencing back in July of 2010. He admitted to stealing money from two food deliverymen in Ann Arbor and grabbing money from a cab driver in Ypsilanti in March of 2010. He was also accused of attempted robbery with a pellet gun in Ann Arbor in April of 2010. He was dismissed from Michigan in October of 2009 for violating unspecified team rules twice in 2009.
3. DeVoe Torrence, ATH, AC100 No. 57
Massillon, OH (Akron)
Torrence had been committed to Ohio State before rape charges were brought against the star recruit by Stark Country. The one-day trial ended in a clearing of his arrest due to insufficient evidence as a number of Massillon players were under investigation for sexual misconduct with minors. The sixth-grade girl in question changed her testimony during the trial. Torrence signed with Akron and rushed for 146 yards as a freshman before Rob Ianello announced he would not be returning to the team in March of 2010.
4. Aldarius Johnson, WR, AC100 No. 30
Miami, FL (Miami)
As part of the state champion “Northwestern 8” to sign with Miami (which didn't include future Nebraska star LaVonte David), Johnson entered college as part of the best wideout class in history. He was ranked as the No. 6 receiver in the nation — behind names like Julio Jones, AJ Green, Floyd and Baldwin. Johnson caught 31 passes for 332 yards and three scores as a freshman, but saw all three statistics decline four straight years until being suspended for his final season due to Nevin Shapiro allegations. Johnson has declared for the NFL Draft in 2012.
5. Darryl Stonum, WR, AC100 No. 46
Sugar Land, TX (Michigan)
After 76 career receptions, 1,008 career yards and Michigan’s single-season kick return record of 1,001 yards (2009), Stonum was dismissed from the Wolverines on January 18, 2011. He violated his probation by driving on a suspended license, stemming from multiple arrests. In September of 2008, Stonum was first arrested for operating a vehicle while visibile in impaired. He violated that probation, landing him in jail for three days during the summer of 2010. Then in May of 2011, Stonum received his second DUI while at Michigan and was suspended for the entire 2011 season. His third incident forced Brady Hoke to dismiss the talented but troubled wideout.
6. Kavario Middleton, TE, AC100 No. 44
Lakewood, WA (Washington)
Less than three weeks before the start of camp in 2010, Middleton was dismissed from the Huskies for violating team rules. Drug, attitude and effort issues have all been cited as reasons why Washington had to cut ties with Middleton. After a promising sophomore season in 2009, Middleton completely failed to realize his obvious physical potential. He attempted to enroll at Nebraska but could not meet requirements and landed at Montana. He could be a late-round draft pick this spring.
7. Josh Jarboe, WR, AC100 No. 63
Decatur, GA (Oklahoma)
The gun-toating, troubled wideout won’t be a bust for Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State after a 54-catch, 730-yard, 2-TD junior season in Jonesboro. It just took him three schools to get to the Red Wolves after signing with Oklahoma initially. He was charged with two felonies, including having a weapon on school property, and dropped from the Sooners. He landed at Troy for two seasons before Larry Blakeney had to kick the sophomore off the team. He enrolled at Northeast Community College before signing with Arkansas State in 2011.
8. Darrell Scott, RB, AC100 No. 3
Oxnard, CA (Colorado)
Scott was originally from Tallahassee and lived in Texas before landing at Moorpark High School in California. Apparently, his parents shopped him to private high schools after a 3,194-yard junior season. He landed at St. Bonaventure where he became the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. He signed with Colorado and complained during his first two seasons about lack of touches. He announced he would be transferring to UCLA, however, the Bruins didn’t want the tailback and Scott landed at USF. He did have his best season in 2011 with 814 yards and five touchdowns. But for a kid who played at multiple high schools and multiple colleges before leaving early for the NFL, the No. 1 RB in the nation has to be considered a bust — especially in Boulder.
9. Jameel Owens, WR, AC100 No. 45
Muskogee, OK (Oklahoma)
After catching four passes as a true freshman for Oklahoma, Owens redshirted in 2009 and transferred mid-semester to Tulsa. He caught 18 passes for 246 yards and six touchdowns in 2010 before taking a leave of absence from the team in the spring of 2011. Head coach Bill Blankenship announced in April that Owens would not be returning to the team in 2011. Owens was the No. 9-rated wideout in the nation in a class that might be considered the best WR class in history.
10. Jermie Calhoun, RB, AC100 No. 8
Van, TX (Oklahoma)
In four full years in Norman, Okla., the nation’s No. 2 running back played in 14 of the possible 40 games. He didn’t see the field one time in 2011 and prompted a transfer to Angelo State early in the year. Calhoun touched the ball 11 times in 2010 before tearing his ACL. He has scored one career touchdown and posted career highs of 18 carries and 94 yards back in 2009 against Texas A&M. It is the only game Calhoun has received more than nine touches and more than 45 yards from scrimmage.
11. Justin Johnson, RB, AC100 No. 89
Gilmer, TX (Oklahoma)
After one year in Norman, Okla., Johnson transferred to Abilene Christian for the 2009 seasons. He played in seven games for ACU, carrying 31 times for 103 yards. He transferred and sat out the 2010 season at his second school in Abilene, Texas: McMurry University. He rushed for 771 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011.
12. Blake Ayles, TE, AC100 No. 11
Orange, CA (USC)
The SoCal product was the nation’s No. 1 tight end recruit back in 2008 and never lived up to the hype while at USC. In three years at Southern Caolifornia, Ayles caught 14 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown before transferring to Miami. He was slated to compete for a starting role in 2011 before a second concussion likely ended his college career. He did not play a single snap in 2011. Hey, at least he isn’t in jail.
13. Deion Walker, WR, AC100 No. 67
Christchurch, VA (Notre Dame)
The highly-touted pass catcher simply never was good enough to contribute for the Irish. Walker has played in seven career games in four years and has caught one career pass for 15 yards. Certainly, the Irish have had elite talents at wide receiver, but one career reception defines the term bust.
14. Brandon Barnes, ATH, AC100 No. 98
Bunn, NC (NC State)
The talented do-everything prep athlete has played in five games in his four-year Wolfpack career (one redshirt year). He has totaled 31 touches for 131 yards from scrimmage and will enter his senior year third on the depth chart behind James Washington and Tony Creecy.
15. Brenden Beal, LB, AC100 No. 71
Bethlehem, PA (Florida)
Beal redshirted his freshman year at Florida after suffering an ACL injury and did not see the field in 2009. He sat out 2010 after transferring to Minnesota but missed the entire 2011 campaign with a knee injury. Fans can call it bad luck or misfortune, but from a recruiting perspective, Beal has been a bust.
16. Will Hill, S, AC100 No. 5
West Orange, NJ (Florida)
Hill played on a national championship team and actually made 48 tackles back in 2008 as a freshman. So he isn’t really a total bust. However, his charming personality, mixed with the fact that he was the No. 1 safety prospect in the nation, lands Hill on this list. He finished with four career interceptions, posted 143 total career tackles and left Florida early to enter the NFL Draft after three years. He was not selected in the 2011 Draft and signed with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League. Hill may not belong on a the same list as prison inmates, but his intriguing twitter feed alone deserves a mention. Note: the EDSBS article includes graphic information.
17. Aundre Dean, RB, AC100 No. 54
Katy, TX (UCLA)
The No. 6-rated running back in the nation played in six games for UCLA as a freshman before transferring back to the Lone State State and TCU. Dean earned TCU Offensive Scout Team MVP honors in 2009 and has played the last two seasons for the Horned Frogs. However, Dean has managed only 353 yards on 63 carries over the last two seasons in Ft. Worth. He has played in 20 of the possible 26 games, but got a touch in only 13 of those 20 games. With Ed Wesley, Waymon James and Matthew Tucker returning, Dean should be limited once again in 2012.
18. Dayne Crist, QB, AC100 No. 20
Sherman Oaks, CA (Notre Dame)
The California product has never been able to stay healthy. After showing solid promise to start the 2010 season (2,033 yards in eight games), Crist suffered his second ACL tear and has never been the same since. He has graduated and will compete for the starting job at Kansas under former head coach Charlie Weis next fall. He was the No. 2 quaterback in the nation in 2008, trailing only Terrelle Pryor in the QB rankings. He has the chance to change his legacy in 2012, but has never come close to fulfilling his lofty recruiting status.
19. Lamaar Thomas, ATH, AC100 No. 68
Fort Washington, MD (Ohio State)
One of the fastest players on the Buckeyes roster, Thomas proved he was capable of contributing in his first two seasons with a 20.9 kickoff return average on 18 attempts in 2009. However, "Flash" failed to grasp the wide receiver position and eventually transferred to New Mexico. He sat out 2010 and played in four games in 2011, catching nine passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns to go with 10 rushes for 50 yards.
20. Terrelle Pryor, QB, AC100 No. 1
Jeannette, PA (Ohio State)
It's hard to label a kid with his numbers, wins and production a bust, but TP2 threw away a chance to play for a national title as a senior for a little extra ink. He, and his teammates', actions led to Ohio State vacating the entire 2010 seasons (wins and dollars) and forced head coach Jim Tressel to retire. However, Pryor's decisions have led to Urban Meyer landing in Columbus, so maybe Buckeyes fans need to thank TP2 for affiliating with federally investigated drug dealers.
—by Mark Ross
Similar to the American League, this offseason has seen plenty of changes when it comes to the pitching staffs in the National League. Trades and free agent signings have not only impacted rosters, but have been made in hopes of shaking up the standings in Major League Baseball's Senior Circuit.
In the National League East, not only do the Marlins unveil a new name (Hello Miami, good-bye Florida), new look (logo, colors, uniforms), open a new stadium and have a new manager (Ozzie Guillen), they also have committed nearly $200 million to free agency this offseason. While more than half of that is shortstop Jose Reyes’ six-year, $106 million contract, the Marlins also gave a four-year $58 million deal to left-handed starter Mark Buehrle and a three-year, $27 million deal to closer Heath Bell.
Besides reuniting Buehrle with Guillen, his former manager with the Chicago White Sox, the Marlins also acquired another veteran starter who pitched in the Windy City, Carlos Zambrano. The Chicago Cubs sent the mercurial right-hander and cash considerations (Cubs are reportedly paying more than $16 million of Zambrano’s $19 million 2012 salary) to the Marlins for right-hander Chris Volstad in a Jan. 5 deal. Guillen, who is friends with Zambrano, publicly stated his desire to bring Zambrano with him after he was named the Marlins’ manager, and now it will be up to him to keep his fellow fiery Venezuelan in check and under control.
In Buehrle and Zambrano, the Marlins get two veteran workhorses to team with their returning core of Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco. There are lingering questions about Johnson’s health, he was sidelined for most of the season with shoulder inflammation but is expected to be ready for spring training, and the obvious questions about Zambrano’s temperament/mindset, but if everything goes right, this has the potential to be a potent starting rotation.
It also didn’t hurt that the Marlins went out and signed Bell, who averaged 44 saves in his three seasons as closer for the San Diego Padres. It remains to be seen if Bell’s production will be impacted switching from pitcher-friendly Petco Park to new Marlins Park as his home stadium. Still, considering the Marlins blew 19 saves last year compared to just five for Bell, a change at the backend of the bullpen may end up being just what the Marlins need to make some noise in 2012.
Another NL East team positioned to make some noise in the near future, if not this year, is the Washington Nationals. A young team on the rise, the Nationals already had two top-flight starting pitchers in right-handers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman. Then on Dec. 23, the Nationals added left-hander Gio Gonzalez in a trade with the Oakland A’s.
The cost for Gonzalez was high, as the Nationals sent the A’s three of their best pitching prospects and another player in return, but it was a price they were willing to pay to add the 26-year-old who made his first All-Star team last season. With Gonzalez in the fold, the Nationals have three starters who are capable of winning 20 games and striking out more than 200 batters every season.
That being said, the trio most likely will not reach those milestones together this year, as Strasburg’s innings are expected to be limited to around 180 or so in his first full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2010. Regardless, the future looks bright for the Nationals thanks in part to their new 1-2-3 punch at the top of their rotation.
For now, the best 1-2-3 punch in the division, if not all of baseball, belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies. In Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, the defending NL East champions not only have two Cy Young winners (Halladay, Lee), they have three hurlers who each won at least 14 games, pitched at least 216 innings, had an ERA of 2.79 or lower and made the All-Star Game last season. And if that wasn’t enough, they all finished in the top 5 of voting for last year’s NL Cy Young Award.
While Philly’s Big 3 is back for a second season together, there will be a new closer as Jonathan Papelbon comes over to the NL. Papelbon, the closer for the Boston Red Sox the past six seaons, signed a four-year, $50 million free agent deal that could be worth as much as $63 million over five years. He has 219 saves in his career and should add plenty more to that number closing for one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball.
Similar to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL, the Atlanta Braves have one of the youngest starting rotations in baseball. Tim Hudson, 36, is far and away the oldest of the Braves’ starters. The rest of the rotation includes Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrgens and Brandon Beachy with Mike Minor, Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran expected to fill the fifth spot. Of these, Jurrgens is the oldest at 26 and Teheran, the youngest, will turn 21 later this week.
There are plenty of health-related question marks surrounding the front of the Braves’ rotation. Hudson underwent surgery in November to repair a herniated disc in his back, Hanson missed the last two months of last year with a partially torn rotator cuff, and Jurrgens has missed significant parts of the past two seasons due to different injuries. However, if these guys are healthy and are able to produce like they have in the past, they could combine with the young guns to form a formidable rotation with the potential to be something truly special.
In the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds are hoping this season ends up being special as they are in “win now” mode after making several big moves. The first one came on Dec. 17 when the Reds acquired Mat Latos from the Padres for pitchers Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger and two of the organization’s top prospects in first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal.
The Reds gave up a lot to get Latos, who they hope will team with Johnny Cueto (9-5, 2.31 ERA in 24 starts last season) to give them up essentially two aces in their rotation. Latos, 24, is 23-24 with a 3.21 ERA and 374 strikeouts in 379 innings the past two seasons, but that was with the aforementioned Petco Park as his home base.
Now, he will call the launching pad known as Great American Ballpark his home stadium. Last year, 209 home runs were hit in Great American compared to 100 at Petco. And for his career, Latos has been more of a flyball pitcher compared to a groundball one (0.81 G/F ratio entering 2012). Latos, who received less than five runs of support per start last season, should figure to benefit more in that department this season with the Reds’ offense. On the other hand, it’s also fair to expect him to give up a few more runs each start, especially with him pitching his home games in a hitter-friendly environment.
Latos also has a reputation for being somewhat of a hothead and never being afraid to show his emotions on the mound or in the dugout, especially when things aren’t going his way. It will be up to pitching coach Bryan Price and manager Dusty Baker to guide him through the adjustment period with his new team, situation and home ballpark to get the front-line starter production they, in essence, paid for and, more importantly, need if they have any hopes of contending.
The Reds weren’t done with their pitching makeover with just Latos, however, as on Dec. 23 they acquired reliever Sean Marshall from their division rivals, the Cubs. The Reds sent the Cubs three players in return for the left-handed Marshall, who has thrived as a set-up man the past two seasons. He is 13-11 with six saves, a 2.45 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 150 1/3 innings in that span.
Marshall will continue his role as set-up man for the Reds, where he will precede their new closer, Ryan Madson. Madson, who won a World Series and played in another in his nine seasons with the Phillies, signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal to try and help the Reds make it back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1990.
Madson, like Latos, will be under pressure to perform, as he will be replacing the departed Francisco Cordero. Although it may not have always been pretty, Cordero was effective in his four seasons as the Reds’ closer, averaging 38 saves per season. To put it another way, Cordero’s lowest single-season saves total with the Reds was 34. That’s two more than Madson saved last year in his first full season as the Phillies’ closer.
With Latos, Marshall and Madson on board, the Reds are hoping they have the arms to take down the defending World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals and defending NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers. While the Cardinals will look to defend their championship without first baseman Albert Pujols (signed with Los Angeles Angels), manager Tony LaRussa (retired) and pitching coach Dave Duncan (leave of absence), they will welcome back a key piece to their starting rotation in Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright missed all of the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last February. Prior to that, he won 39 games with a 2.53 ERA and 425 strikeouts in 2009 and 2010, and finished in the top 3 of the NL Cy Young voting both years. Even if he’s not back to his old self right away, the Cardinals’ starting rotation is already better of with Wainwright, who will team with Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook.
Meanwhile, the Brewers will look to their pitching to carry the load even more this season with the departure of Prince Fielder and the expected 50-game suspension for NL MVP Ryan Braun. Last year, Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum combined for 46 of the Brewers’ franchise-record 96 wins, and will probably need even more this year to have any hopes of defending their division title.
Like the Brewers, the Arizona Diamondbacks are looking to defend their division title , and they went out and got another arm this offseason in hopes of keeping them atop the NL West standings. On Dec. 13, the Diamondbacks acquired right-handed starter Trevor Cahill, along with left-handed relieved Craig Breslow, from the Oakland A’s. The A’s received pitchers Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill in return.
Cahill, who will turn 24 on March 1, has 40 wins in three major league seasons and will join a rotation that already includes Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Kennedy, the oldest of the three at 27, is coming off a 21-win season where he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. Hudson won 16 games last year and the Silver Slugger award as the best hitting pitcher in the NL. Together, the trio has the potential to each win 20 or more games this season and beyond.
Likewise, the San Francisco Giants, the Diamondbacks’ division rivals, have three starters of their own that are capable of winning 20 or more games in a season. Tim Lincecum, the two-time NL Cy Young winner (2008-09) has come the closest with 18 wins in 2008, while Matt Cain (12-11, 2.88 ERA in 2011) and Madison Bumgarner (13-13, 3.21 ERA) each appear to have the stuff to do it. And that’s leaving out Ryan Vogelsong, who led the staff with a 2.71 ERA last year, and the guy who has actually won 20 or more games in a season, Barry Zito (23 wins in 2002 with the A’s), in the process.
So just like the AL, the NL appears to be well armed, if you will, especially as it applies to teams who are planning on contending. And if any of these teams are looking for even more pitching, there are plenty of free agents still out there (Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson, Francisco Cordero, etc.) and probably a pitcher or two (Cubs’ Matt Garza, Gavin Floyd of the Chicago White Sox, namely) that could be pried away from their current team, if the price is right.
What other moves, if any, are made by these supposed contenders will probably come down to one question – does my team have enough “arms” to compete, or more specifically, win? This is a hard enough question to answer once the season starts, let alone the end of January. But it’s definitely not a question they will want to revisit come the end of the season, especially if they are one of the teams watching, and not playing in, the postseason.
— by Mark Ross
Pitchers are scheduled to report to spring training in less than a month, and if Major League Baseball’s offseason is any indication, a lot of teams’ postseason hopes will be riding on those arms that will get tuned up in Florida and Arizona.
Between free agent signings, trades and injury comebacks, more than half of MLB's 30 teams will enter the season with a different starting rotation compared to the start of the 2011 season. More to the point, teams that are expected to contend this season made a majority of the biggest moves, adding significance, not to mention, scrutiny, to these transactions.
In the American League, the Los Angeles Angels struck first when they signed C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal. Adding the left-hander to a starting rotation that already features Jered Weaver, who finished second in the AL Cy Young voting last season, and Dan Haren is no less significant than the fact that adding Wilson also meant taking him away from the Angels’ division rival, the Texas Rangers.
Last season, Wilson went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA for the Rangers, earning his first All-Star Game invite and helping them reach the World Series for a second straight year. In Anaheim, he will team with Weaver and Haren, who combined to win 34 games and strike out nearly 400 batters.
The Rangers didn’t sit idly by, however, as in December they won the rights to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish with a posting fee of $51.7 million. The defending AL West champs then completed the deal with the 25-year-old right-hander by agreeing to a six-year contract worth about $60 million just prior to the deadline to sign him within the 30-day negotiating period.
Darvish, who went 18-6 last season in Japan with a 1.44 ERA, will join presumed Opening Day starter Colby Lewis, and most likely, Dexter Holland, Matt Harrison and converted closer Neftali Feliz in the Rangers’ rotation. Alexi Ogando, who won 13 games as a starter last year, is also a possibility, but at this point it appears he will take Feliz’s place in the bullpen this season.
Like their AL West counterparts, the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s also joined in on the rotation makeovers, albeit following a different strategy. Last week, the Mariners agreed to send two young pitchers, Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, to the New York Yankees for top prospect Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi. The A’s also traded away two young starting pitchers, sending right-hander Trevor Cahill and left-handed reliever Craig Breslow to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a Dec. 9 trade and two weeks later shipping left-hander Gio Gonzalez and a prospect to the Washington Nationals. These two trades brought the rebuilding A’s a total of seven players, five of them pitchers, in return.
While Gonzalez and Cahill are significant additions for the Nationals and Diamondbacks respectively, Pineda to the Yankees could turn out to be the real game-changer. Pineda, who went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings as a rookie last season, was expected to team with former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez as the Mariners’ 1-2 punch for years to come.
Now, the 22-year-old right-hander goes to a legitimate World Series contender and helps the Yankees fill what was a glaring need – starting pitching depth beyond CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. The Mariners did well by adding the young, impact bat they needed in the slugging Montero, but they did this trade with an eye towards the future, while the Yankees are focused on the present.
And if adding Pineda wasn’t enough, Yankees GM Brian Cashman bolstered the rotation further by agreeing to a one-year, $10 million deal with free agent Hiroki Kuroda the same night he brokered the trade with Seattle. Kuroda, 36, is considerably older than Pineda, but over the past four years he has posted a 41-46 record with a respectable 3.45 ERA. Last year, he went 13-16 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the right-hander was ninth in the National League with a 3.07 ERA.
With Pineda and Kuroda joining Sabathia and Nova in the rotation, the Yankees have three candidates – A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes – for their fifth spot, a luxury they didn’t have just two weeks ago. The Boston Red Sox, the Yankees’ AL East rivals, are making some tweaks to their rotation as well, but their move came from in-house as they are switching Daniel Bard from a reliever to a starter.
Bard figures to join lefty Jon Lester and right-handers Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz with Aaron Cook, Vincente Padilla and Carlos Silva coming to spring training in hopes of securing the fifth spot. Starting pitching depth will be critical for the Sox this season, who at some point hope to get Daisuke Matsuzaka back after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June. In addition, the team will be without the services of John Lackey, who will miss the entire 2012 season after having Tommy John surgery during the offseason.
For now, one could argue that the Yankees appear to have the strongest starting rotation in the AL East, which is saying something since the division also includes the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa definitely has the youngest rotation in the league, not to mention the majors, as the Rays will trot out left-hander David Price, workhorse James Shields, last year’s AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson and young phenom Matt Moore, one of the early favorites to win the award this season, with either Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann rounding out their starting five. Shields, who turned 30 in December, is the oldest of the six, while Davis, Hellickson, Moore and Price range from 22 to 26 years old.
The AL Central was the quietest of the three divisions when it came to pitching acquisitions in the offseason, but in case of the Detroit Tigers it’s a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” After all, the defending division champs’ rotation is headed up by none other than Justin Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP. Following Verlander, the Tigers look to have righties Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Doug Fister, and possibly 20-year-old Jacob Turner, their top pitching prospect, in their rotation.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians acquired veteran right-hander Derek Lowe from the Atlanta Braves last October and will add him to their young core of starting pitchers Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin in hopes of competing with the Tigers for division supremacy.
And if that wasn’t enough pitching turnover to digest, some of these same teams tinkered with their respective bullpens as well. The most significant moves along those lines involved the Rangers and Red Sox, who will have new closers in 2012.
The Rangers signed Joe Nathan away from the Minnesota Twins to take Feliz’s place, while the Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey from the A’s to replace departed closer Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox also acquired Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros in a separate deal. Melancon, who saved 20 games for the Astros last season, is expected to take Bard’s place as the Sox’ set-up man this season.
What’s more, this is probably not the last of the pitching changes that will be made before the season even starts. For one, dozens of free agent pitchers remain unsigned, including a three-time All-Star and two-time 20-game winner (Roy Oswalt), a starter who’s averaged more than 200 innings over the past four seasons (Edwin Jackson), and a closer who’s saved 34 or more games the past five seasons (Francisco Cordero), to name a few. There also are pitchers like Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs and Gavin Floyd of the Chicago White Sox, who are reportedly available via trade.
So regardless of what other moves happen between now and Opening Day, or even during the season itself, the arms race has clearly begun. Now it’s a matter of seeing which team has the arsenal to play, and ultimately win, in October.
And with that, the Tigers filled a huge hole after the loss of their All-Star catcher Victor Martinez to a knee injury. It also makes the Tigers a major player and gives them three starters with salaries over $20 million a year. Contrast that to 2004, when their entire payroll was close to $60 million.
So while others will debate how the Tigers will find a way to put three players into two positions (1B and DH) (Will Miguel Cabrera move back to third base when Martinez comes back from the DL?), let's look at how this signing affect baseball fantasy drafts.
The first glance is that Fielder will probably drop a little, given that the Tigers park is more of a pitchers park than his previous home in Milwaukee. But honestly, that's probably a minor issue for Fielder, who usually puts up pretty steady homer numbers.
What this is very good for, is Miguel Cabrera, who will have some of the best protection in the majors with Fielder hitting right behind him. There were questions as to how the loss of Martinez would affect his draft position, but now a very wealthy Fielder will make sure Cabbie gets plenty of balls to hit.
And as long as he's sober, he's going to crush it once again this year, and is my pick for the #1 draft slot over Albert Pujols in fantasy baseball.
Would you be happy with either one? Sure. But whenever a player moves to a new city, like Pujols did this offseason when he switched from the Cardinals to the Angels, you never know how that's going to affect a player (ahem, Adam Dunn.) A new league,a new set of pitchers, a different ballpark could all have affects on Pujols as he gets himself settled into Anaheim.
While Cabrera, on the other hand, will have the same consistent routine he had last year, with an arguably even better guy behind him.
To be honest, the best pick this year is #2 overall. That way you're assured of one of these guys, but if you're lucky enough to land #1 overall, as hard as it is to pass up Pujols, go for Cabrera. Just don't take him out for drinks after his games.
You probably didn't know who Chuck Giampa was before you watched this video. And there's a chance that you may never see him again after he completely botched his announcing debut on Showtime's Boxing show.
As you can see, he's clearly not ready to be in front of the camera. And add to that, it seems like he thinks he's not doing a live run, but a taped one. And then add to that that he looks like a human version of Eyore, you've got yourself an Internet classic.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
It's never too early to start thinking about next season. Spring practice will kick off for some teams in late February and before we know it, the 2012 Athlon Sports' preseason college football annuals will be hitting newsstands across the nation.
Athlon's updated top 25 for 2012 reflects the coaching changes and early entries into the NFL Draft, but expect several tweaks before our official preseason poll is released in May.
Related: 2012 Athlon Consensus 100
1. LSU – The Tigers were easily blown out in the national title game by Alabama, but all is not lost going into 2012. LSU has one of the top returning rosters next season, but it also features a handful of question marks. The offense will have one of the top backfields and offensive lines in the nation, but can Zach Mettenberger improve the quarterback play? The defense will miss cornerback Morris Claiborne and tackle Michael Brockers, but this unit should still rank among the nation’s best.
2. USC – If a team is going to end the SEC’s run of dominance, the Trojans figure to be the frontrunner. Quarterback Matt Barkley decided to return for his senior year and will be throwing to one of the top receiving corps in the nation. Replacing offensive tackle Matt Kalil will be one of the biggest question marks for coach Lane Kiffin. The defense showed improvement last year, but must replace three starters, including all-conference selections in end Nick Perry and tackle Wes Horton. The Trojans won’t have the depth of LSU or Alabama, but there’s plenty of talent coming back to Los Angeles for a run at the national title next year.
3. Alabama – After claiming the national title, Nick Saban and his coaching staff have some work to do in order to get this team back to No. 1 by the end of next season. The Crimson Tide suffered some key losses on both sides of the ball, but Saban has recruited well and this team should be able to reload by midseason. AJ McCarron had a breakout performance in the national championship against LSU and will be expected to build upon that game in 2012. Losing Trent Richardson is a huge blow to the offense, but Eddie Lacy, Dee Hart, Jalston Fowler and talented freshman T.J. Yeldon are a capable group. Seven starters are gone off the nation’s best defense, which figures to be tested early with games against Arkansas and Michigan in September.
4. Georgia – It’s not crazy to think Mark Richt could go from coach on the hot seat to contending for the national title in 2012. The Bulldogs have the pieces to contend for a top-five finish next year, starting with quarterback Aaron Murray and a defense that returns nearly everyone. Improving the rushing attack will be one of the priorities during preseason practices, but the offensive line will have to replace two key stalwarts in left tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones.
5. Oklahoma – The Sooners were one of the favorites to win the national title in 2011, but slipped to a 10-3 record and a fourth-place finish in the Big 12. Although it was a disappointing season in Norman, Oklahoma should be back in the top 10 once again next year. The offense never recovered after an injury to receiver Ryan Broyles, but the passing attack should be better with an offseason to sort everything out. Dominique Whaley’s return from a broken ankle should help bolster the rushing offense and help to take the pressure off of quarterback Landry Jones. The defense returns seven starters, while the addition of former Arizona coach Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator figures to only help this group get better in 2012.
6. Oregon – The surprising departure of quarterback Darron Thomas was a setback to Oregon’s chances of winning the Pac-12, but the Ducks remain the favorite to win the North Division. Sophomore Bryan Bennett should be Thomas’ replacement and he showed plenty of promise in limited action last season. Although running back LaMichael James will be missed, the one-two combination of Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas will give the backfield plenty of punch in 2012. The defense finished fifth in the Pac-12 in points allowed, but could be even better next season.
7. Michigan – With Ohio State ineligible for the Big Ten title, the balance of power in the Big Ten is clearly resting in the Legends Division. The Wolverines are the early favorites, thanks to the return of quarterback Denard Robinson and an improving defense. Coach Brady Hoke’s first year in Ann Arbor was a success, as Michigan won 11 games and played in a BCS game for the first time since the 2007 Rose Bowl. For the Wolverines to crack the top five, Robinson has to cut down on his interceptions (15) and up his completion percentage (55%). The defense showed big progress under coordinator Greg Mattison, but will be replacing two key starters on the line. The Wolverines won’t have an easy schedule next year, as Alabama and Notre Dame await in the non-conference portion, while they have conference road games against Ohio State and Nebraska.
8. Arkansas – The Razorbacks are inching closer to Alabama and LSU, and they will have a good chance to make some noise in the SEC West next year. Quarterback Tyler Wilson turned down the NFL for another season in Fayetteville, and the offense will get a boost with the return of running back Knile Davis back from a leg injury. The receiving corps must be revamped, but Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg is a good place to start rebuilding. New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes will have his work cut out for him in 2012, as the Razorbacks will be replacing three of their top players: End Jake Bequette, linebacker Jerry Franklin and safety Tramain Thomas.
9. Florida State – Yes, the Seminoles are back in the top 10 once again. This team did not have the big season most expected in 2011, but the pieces are in place to win the ACC Championship in 2012. And when you consider the losses at Clemson and Virginia Tech, Florida State becomes an even bigger favorite to win the ACC. The defense should be among the best in the nation, while the young talent on offense should be improved with another offseason to work with quarterback EJ Manuel. How well (and fast) a young offensive line develops will determine just how high Florida State can climb next season.
10. Ohio State – With Urban Meyer arriving in Columbus, don’t expect a repeat of 2011’s 6-7 season at Ohio State. Quarterback Braxton Miller is a good fit for the Buckeyes’ new spread offense, while a group of young receivers should be better in 2012. The biggest question mark on offense will be filling holes on the line, as the Buckeyes have to replace standouts Mike Adams (LT) and Michael Brewster (C). The defense finished 19th nationally in yards allowed and could be even better in 2012 with only two starters departing. Although the Buckeyes should have a shot to finish next year with 10 victories, they are ineligible to play for the Big Ten title or a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions.
11. South Carolina – After finishing 11-2 and sweeping the SEC East for the first time in school history, what can the Gamecocks do for an encore? South Carolina is behind Georgia in the pecking order, but the Bulldogs have to visit Williams-Brice Stadium in 2012. Quarterback Connor Shaw played well at the end of the season, and the offense will get a boost with running back Marcus Lattimore returning from a torn ACL. Replacing receiver Alshon Jeffery is the biggest question mark facing the offense in 2012. The Gamecocks finished third nationally in total defense, but suffered some key departures, including end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
12. Texas – The Longhorns aren’t quite ready to contend for the Big 12 title, but they are slowly working their way back into contention. After improving its win total by three games from 2010 to 2011, Texas is poised to make a run at 10 victories in 2012. The defense should be the best in the Big 12, but the offense has to improve if the Longhorns want to push Oklahoma for the top spot. David Ash appears to have earned the No. 1 quarterback spot after his performance in the Holiday Bowl, while the rushing attack features three promising young running backs. Texas always recruits well, and its time for the young players on offense to step up in 2012.
13. West Virginia – Whether the Mountaineers are in the Big 12 or Big East, this team will be a factor on the national scene next year. Quarterback Geno Smith will lead one of the top passing attacks in college football, especially with receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney returning in 2012. While the passing game shouldn’t be an issue, the rushing attack and offensive line must show improvement. Losing coordinator Jeff Casteel was a tough blow for West Virginia’s defense, and this unit must find replacements for defensive linemen Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin, linebacker Najee Goode and cornerback Keith Tandy.
14. Michigan State – After back-to-back 11-win seasons, can the Spartans push the win total higher in 2012? The Spartans should be the biggest challenger to Michigan in the Legends Division, but they will have to replace quarterback Kirk Cousins and the team’s top three wide receivers. With questions surrounding the passing attack, look for the offense to lean more on running back Le’Veon Bell and an offensive line that returns four starters. Losing defensive tackle Jerel Worthy was a tough blow, but end William Gholston is back after registering 12 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2011. The linebacking corps could be among the best in the nation, with Denicos Allen, Max Bullough and Chris Norman returning. The schedule isn’t easy, as Michigan State hosts Boise State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Nebraska in East Lansing, while playing Michigan and Wisconsin on the road.
15. Clemson – The defending Atlantic champs are in good position to contend for the conference title once again in 2012. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins will form one of the top pass-catch combinations in the nation, while running back Andre Ellington figures to top 1,000 yards once again in 2012. While there’s no shortage of weapons coming back for coordinator Chad Morris, the Tigers will be replacing three starters on the line. The defense allowed nearly 400 yards a game in 2011, prompting coordinator Kevin Steele’s departure. Former Oklahoma coordinator Brent Venables was a terrific hire by coach Dabo Swinney, but the defense may be a year away, especially with the departure of four key linemen.
16. Virginia Tech – The Hokies have been a model of consistency under coach Frank Beamer, posting at least 10 victories in 13 out of the last 17 years. And even though Virginia Tech has some significant question marks to address before next season, the Hokies will be the favorite to win the Coastal Division. The offense loses four starters on the line and must replace running back David Wilson. Quarterback Logan Thomas improved as a passer as 2011 progressed and will have to shoulder more of the workload on offense next year. With only two starters departing, the Hokies’ defense should be one of the best in college football.
17. Nebraska – Year 1 of life in the Big Ten turned out so-so for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska began the year as the favorite in the Big Ten Legends Division, but finished with a 9-4 record with losses to Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan and South Carolina. The Big Red should be in the mix for 9 or 10 victories once again in 2012, but could challenge for the division title if the offense continues to jell. Quarterback Taylor Martinez rushed for 874 yards and nine scores but completed only 56 percent of his throws. Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead form a solid combination, but the offense needs to throw the ball better next season. The defense will have some new faces stepping into key roles, as linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard have finished their eligibility. The schedule makers didn’t give Nebraska any breaks either, as the Cornhuskers have road trips to Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State, while Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State visit Lincoln.
18. Notre Dame – Is 2012 the year the Irish get back into a BCS bowl? Although Notre Dame has some key pieces returning, this team is probably ticketed for a spot in the lower half of the top 25 next year. Settling on a quarterback is priority No. 1 for coach Brian Kelly this spring. True freshman Gunner Kiel is already enrolled and will have a good shot to beat out Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson in preseason practices. With uncertainty at quarterback, expect running back Cierre Wood and a solid offensive line to carry the team early on. The defense will have a revamped secondary, but the line – led by Aaron Lynch, Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt – could be one of the best in college football.
19. TCU – Moving from the Mountain West to the Big 12 is a step up in competition, but the Horned Frogs are ready. Coach Gary Patterson is assembling another solid recruiting class, and the team is bringing back several key contributors. The offense is loaded with the return of quarterback Casey Pachall and depth at running back and in the receiving corps. Patterson is one of the top defensive minds in the nation and should prevent this unit from suffering much of a drop-off in production. Losing linebacker Tank Carder is a tough blow, but Tanner Brock returns after missing nearly all of 2011 with an injury.
20. Washington – Thanks to a revamped coaching staff, the Huskies have closed the gap with Oregon in the Pac-12 North. But will it be enough to win the division in 2012? The offense will be among the best in the conference, despite losing running back Chris Polk to the NFL Draft. Quarterback Keith Price has a group of talented receivers returning and the junior should shine with another offseason to work with coach Steve Sarkisian. Landing coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive assistants Tosh Lupoi and Peter Sirmon should pay dividends on the field and in recruiting for Washington. Expect the Huskies to be better on defense next year, but they didn’t catch any breaks in the schedule with road trips to LSU, Oregon and Washington State, while getting USC and Utah in Seattle (CenturyLink Field).
21. Kansas State – The Wildcats were one of college football’s biggest surprises, as they were picked near the bottom of the Big 12 in the preseason, but finished second in the conference with a 10-3 record. This team won’t sneak up on anyone next year, but there’s a lot to like with Kansas State in 2012. Quarterback Collin Klein is back after compiling 40 touchdowns, while linebacker Arthur Brown returns after emerging as one of the Big 12’s top defenders in 2011. If the Wildcats want to contend for the conference title next year, improving the passing attack and replacing three key starters on the line will be crucial.
22. Wisconsin – There’s a lot of new faces stepping into key positions and on the coaching staff next year in Madison. The biggest loss is quarterback Russell Wilson, who turned in a terrific senior year and led the Badgers to another Rose Bowl appearance after transferring from NC State. With Wilson departing, the offense will lean on running backs Montee Ball and James White. However, the line will be replacing three starters. The defense ranked 15th nationally in yards allowed and most of the core will return in 2012. Mike Taylor and Chris Borland will form one of the top linebacking duos in the nation.
23. Louisville – If West Virginia moves to the Big 12, the Cardinals will be the frontrunner to win the Big East crown next season. Despite being one of the youngest teams in the conference in 2011, Louisville managed to earn a share of the Big East title and nearly claimed a spot in the BCS. The offense suffered its share of ups and downs with freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater taking over as the starter, but this group should show improvement in 2012. The rushing attack produced only 121.5 yards per game last season and figures to be a focal point of attention in spring practice. The defense allowed only 20.1 points a game in 2011 and nearly everyone is back. Coach Charlie Strong has Louisville back on the rise and this team should easily surpass its win total (seven) from last season.
24. Boise State – The Broncos have a plethora of key losses on both sides of the ball, but remain the favorite in the Mountain West and should finish with nine or 10 victories in 2012. Replacing quarterback Kellen Moore is the top priority for coach Chris Petersen, with Joe Southwick, Nick Patti, Grant Hedrick and Jimmy Laughrea expected to compete for the job in spring practice. The Broncos will have a revamped defensive line in 2012, but the defense should be among the best in the Mountain West.
25. Oklahoma State – Without quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys won’t match last season’s win total (12) and Big 12 championship. However, this team won’t slip too far, as the cupboard isn’t bare for coach Mike Gundy in 2012. Running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith will anchor the offense while the quarterback situation is sorted out. The defense must replace a couple of key players on the line, but the back seven should be solid. The Big 12 could have six teams start the year in the preseason top 25, so the road to eight or nine wins won’t be easy.
The Next Five
26. Utah – Running back John White and a solid defense will lead Utah once again in 2012. The Utes should be USC’s toughest competition in the Pac-12 South.
27. Georgia Tech – With a little more consistency from quarterback Tevin Washington, the Yellow Jackets could make some noise in the ACC Coastal.
28. Auburn – There’s lots of young talent coming back to Auburn, but how will the new coaching staff mesh with the personnel?
29. NC State – The Wolfpack were one of the hottest teams in the ACC at season’s end, finishing with victories in four out of their final five games. Quarterback Mike Glennon should challenge for all-conference honors, while cornerback David Amerson should be a preseason All-American.
30. Missouri – With the move to the SEC, the Tigers will be one of the most intriguing teams to watch in 2012.
Related 2012 Content:
Very Early SEC 2012 Preseason Predictions
Very Early ACC 2012 Preseason Predictions
Very Early Pac-12 2012 Preseason Predictions
Very Early Big Ten 2012 Preseason Predictions
Very Early Big East 2012 Preseason Predictions
Very Early Big 12 2012 Preseason Predictions
2012 Heisman Trophy Candidates
Very Early Preseason 2012 College Football Top 25
Athlon Roundtable: Who are the BCS National Title Contenders in 2012?
What To Expect from the Crimson Tide in 2012?
What To Expect from the LSU Tigers in 2012?
2012 SEC Schedule Analysis
Three Teams on the Rise in 2012
Three Teams Sliding Back in 2012
Top Non-Conference Games to Watch in 2012
-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
The 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 is finalized.
Like it is every recruiting cycle, the final revamping of Athlon’s top-100 is always the most volatile. The national, regional and state all-star games allow scouts to see the best compete against equivalent talent, sometimes for the first time in their careers. Thus, it creates rapid risers and late fallers in the recruiting rankings.
All six major recruiting services have totally reworked and finalized their rankings for the class of 2012, and the AC100 reflects that. As National Signing Day 2012 inches closer, the ink is now dry on the 2012 recruiting rankings permanently. There are plenty of new faces in the AC100, but the name atop the rankings remains the same.
Dorial Green-Beckham Still No. 1
Green-Beckham, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound receiver, debuted atop the AC100 back in the summer and never fell off the top spot. In fact, he widened the gap as the nation’s best player by adding two additional first place votes. Offense-Defense and Scout.com named the Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver as the No. 1 prospect in the nation, while Rivals.com and NCSA left DGB atop their lists. He finished as the No. 2 player in the nation by 247Sports.com and No. 3 in the nation by ESPN.
Green-Beckham is planning on a National Signing Day announcement and took his second official visit last weekend to Arkansas. He has visited Texas officially, but Missouri, Oklahoma and the Razorbacks appear to hold a slight edge over Texas and Alabama. The star wideout claimed co-MVP honors in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl two weeks ago after scoring on a USAAA bowl-record 79-yard touchdown reception.
There was plenty of movement around DGB, however, as three names dropped out of the top 10. Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol blocker Andrus Peat dropped from No. 5 to No. 23. Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles lineman John Theus, who is committed to Georgia, fell from No. 8 to No. 13. And Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook running back Keith Marshall, formerly the top running back in the nation, dropped from No. 6 to No. 16. Marshall is also headed to Georgia. Hueytown (Ala.) quarterback Jameis Winston also fell from No. 10 to No. 15.
The biggest jump into the top 10 came from Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek blocker D.J. Humphries, who went from No. 17 to No. 3. The future Florida Gator is now the nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman. A pair of defensive tackles, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate’s Eddie Goldman (previously No. 13) and Brenham’s (Texas) Malcom Brown (previously No. 24) , both finished 2012 as top-10 players.
Olney (Md.) Good Councel athlete Stefon Diggs, who recently visited Florida, made a big jump from No. 11 to No. 5. Diggs has stated he will wait until after NSD to sign but proved in San Antonio that he is one of the nation’s most dynamic football forces.
Biggest Risers and New Faces
There are 16 new faces in the Athlon Consensus 100 – by the far the biggest number of new names ever to leap into the top 100. In fact, Daphne (Ala.) linebacker Ryan Anderson was completely unranked — meaning not one of the six recruiting services had ranked Anderson in the top-150 nationally — for the entire recruitment process until today when he lands in the AC100 at No. 84. Future Washington quarterback Cyler Miles made a huge jump after a co-MVP showing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He is now the nation’s No. 4-rated quarterback. A pair of tailbacks, Tarboro (N.C.) runner Todd Gurley and Stone Mountain (Ga.) tailback Mike Davis, both used all-star showings to vault themselves into the AC100 as well. Gurley is headed to Georgia and Davis is committed to South Carolina.
Here is the list of the biggest risers in the final AC100 (* - new to the AC100):
|Ryan Anderson*||LB||Daphne, AL||N/A||#84||UR||Alabama|
|Todd Gurley*||RB||Tarboro, NC||+148||#83||#231||Georgia|
|Mike Davis*||RB||Stone Mountain, GA||+88||#54||#142||South Carolina|
|Amari Cooper*||WR||Miami, FL||+75||#58||#133||Alabama|
|Cyler Miles*||QB||Denver, CO||+73||#91||#164||Washington|
|Kendall Sanders*||ATH||Athens, TX||+73||#87||#160||Texas|
|Leonard Williams*||DE||Daytona Beach, FL||+66||#68||#134||--|
|Kevon Seymour*||DB||Pasadena, CA||+65||#96||#161||USC|
|Ondre Pipkins*||DT||Kansas City, MO||+61||#60||#121||Michigan|
|JaQuay Williams*||WR||Tyrone, GA||+46||#99||#146||Auburn|
|Ukeme Eligwe*||LB||Stone Mountain, GA||+44||#72||#116||Florida State|
|Alex Carter*||DB||Asburn, VA||+44||#76||#120||Stanford|
|Deontay Greenberry||WR||Fresno, CA||+40||#52||#92||Notre Dame|
|Jonathan Bullard||DT||Shelby, NC||+40||#11||#51||Florida|
|Brian Poole*||DB||Bradenton, FL||+40||#71||#111||Florida|
|Isaac Seumalo||OL||Corvallis, OR||+38||#39||#77||Oregon State|
|Zach Kline||QB||Danville, CA||+34||#40||#74||Cal|
|T.J. Yeldon||RB||Daphne, AL||+29||#32||#61||Alabama|
|Sterling Shepard*||WR||Oklahoma City, OK||+23||#100||#123||Oklahoma|
|Trey Williams||RB||Spring, TX||+22||#19||#41||Texas A&M|
|Curtis Riser*||OL||DeSoto, TX||+22||#79||#101||Texas|
|Zach Banner||OL||Lakewood, WA||+21||#50||#71||--|
|Josh Harvey-Clemons||ATH||Valdosta, GA||+20||#20||#40||--|
|D.J. Foster*||ATH||Scottsdale, AZ||+15||#97||#112||--|
Biggest Fallers and Dropouts
If there were a record 16 new faces in the AC100, that unfortunately means that 16 old names had to drop off the list. The quarterback position took a big hit in the finalized rankings as Texas A&M’s Matt Davis, Auburn’s Zeke Pike and Texas’ Connor Brewer each fell outside of the top 100. The highest player to fall out of the rankings, however, was Rochester (N.Y.) Aquinas Institute defensive tackle Jarron Jones. The future Fighting Irish defender had some difficulty at the All-American events once he was facing the nation’s best. New York prep football leaves much to be desired, and his adjustment period likely caused him to drop from the AC100. Yuri Wright, formerly of Don Bosco Prep, plummeted for other reasons, as his lewd and inappropriate twitter timeline ended with his discharge from the program.
Here is the list of the biggest fallers in the final AC100 (* - dropped out of the AC100):
|Avery Johnson*||WR||Pompao Beach, FL||-99||#166||#67||LSU|
|Jelani Hamilton*||DE||Ft. Lauderdale, FL||-74||#154||#84||Miami|
|Matt Davis*||QB||Houston, TX||-73||#161||#88||Texas A&M|
|Zeke Pike*||QB||Edgewood, KY||-71||#153||#82||Auburn|
|Connor Brewer*||QB||Scottsdale, AZ||-70||#134||#64||Texas|
|Jarron Jones*||DT||Rochester, NY||-69||#101||#32||Notre Dame|
|Dominique Wheeler*||WR||Crockett, TX||-69||#127||#58||Texas Tech|
|Anthony Alford*||QB||Petal, MS||-49||#119||#70||Southern Miss|
|Yuri Wright||DB||Ramsey, NJ||-49||#70||#21||--|
|Kwon Alexander||LB||Oxford, AL||-44||#82||#38||--|
|Barry Sanders, Jr.||RB||Oklahoma City, OK||-35||#80||#45||Stanford|
|Ricardo Louis*||WR||Miami Beach, FL||-34||#121||#87||Florida St|
|Quay Evans||DT||Morton, MS||-34||#93||#59||Mississippi St|
|Devonte Fields*||DE||Arlington, TX||-27||#122||#95||TCU|
|Noor Davis||LB||Leesburg, FL||-27||#49||#22||Stanford|
|Jordan Payton*||WR||Westlake Village, CA||-25||#124||#99||Cal|
|Dan Voltz*||OL||Barrington, IL||-24||#114||#90||Wisconsin|
|Sheldon Day*||DT||Indianapolis, IN||-20||#116||#94||Notre Dame|
|Cayleb Jones||WR||Austin, TX||-20||#59||#39||Texas|
|LaDarrell McNeil*||DB||Dallas, TX||-16||#112||#96||Tennessee|
|Tyriq McCord*||DE||Tampa, FL||-10||#107||#97||Miami|
|Evan Boehm*||OL||Lee's Summit, MO||-3||#103||#100||Missouri|
It was a wild weekend around college basketball, with several upsets and plenty of last drama. Some of the most notable results were Florida State winning at Duke, Syracuse tasting its first defeat, Baylor losing at home to Missouri, Tennessee beating UConn, Mississippi State’s comeback at Vanderbilt and Wisconsin winning on the road at Illinois. Our editors answer three questions covering the best and worst from the college hoops week.
1. Name a team that really needs to get its act together over the next few weeks?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Northwestern has the talent to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. But the Wildcats, currently 12–7 overall and 2–5 in the Big Ten, don’t have an NCAA Tournament resume. The Cats broke through with a big win at home vs. Michigan State on Jan. 14, but followed up with a 20-point loss at Wisconsin and a 23-point loss at Minnesota. Northwestern was alarmingly uncompetitive on Sunday against the Gophers, falling behind 11–0 and 21–4. The Cats begin a stretch with three out of four at home this weekend when Purdue visits Evanston. It’s about time for this team to play like it belongs in the NCAA Tournament.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): I want to see what Texas can get done over the next month. The Longhorns did lose a ton — Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph and Gary Brown — from last year’s team, but Rick Barnes’ club still has enough talent to get to the NCAA Tournament. However, a 12–7 record and a tough Big 12 slate has Texas looking at missing March Madness for the first time since 1997-98, Tom Penders’ last season in Austin. The heralded freshman class of Myck Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Jonathan Holmes and Julien Lewis will need to grow up quickly and help veterans J’Covan Brown and Clint Chapman end a current three-game losing streak. The Horns are 2-4 in league play and still have two games against Baylor, plus rematches with the teams that gave them those four Big 12 defeats — Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. Texas will need to go above .500 in its 12 remaining games and win in the league tournament to avoid playing in the NIT in March.
Mark Ross: How about an entire conference, as in the Pac-12. The Pac-12 is currently No. 7 in the RPI rankings, behind the Mountain West, A-10 and Missouri Valley. The Pac-12's current leader is Cal, which is tied with Oregon atop the standings at 6–2, and beat the Ducks in Eugene a few weeks ago. Cal is currently No. 37 in the RPI, followed by Oregon at No. 56. The other 10 teams are ranked 61st and below. One Pac-12 team will get into the NCAA Tournament because of the automatic bid, but unless someone starts making some real noise, this “Big Six” conference may be ‘One and Done’ come Selection Sunday.
2. Which team had the best win over the weekend?
Patrick Snow: There are several good candidates — Notre Dame taking down undefeated Syracuse, Tennessee beating UConn, Wisconsin winning at Illinois — after an exciting weekend, but I have to go with Florida State winning at Duke. The Seminoles were impressive the previous Saturday in beating North Carolina as Deividas Dulkys got red-hot from beyond the arc and the Tar Heels seemed to give up down the stretch. However the victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which broke Duke’s 45-game home winning streak, shows that Leonard Hamilton’s team is for real. The Noles are not quite as good defensively as last season’s Sweet 16 club, but they are scoring more points this year — especially during the current four-game winning streak. FSU is in great shape at tied for first in ACC play, and the Seminoles have the look of being a dangerous March team once again.
Mitch Light: Mississippi State made a nice statement with a comeback win at Vanderbilt Saturday night. The Bulldogs had lost their two previous road games in the SEC, but found a way to rally from 11 down at the half to beat Vanderbilt — a team that had won eight in a row — at Memorial Gym. State opened the second half on a 20–2 run, thanks in large part to some tremendous shooting from long range. The Bulldogs hit 10-of-11 from beyond the arc in the final 25 minutes (second half, plus overtime), with sophomore guard Jalen Steele (four threes in the second half) responsible for much of the damage. Mississippi State has a ton of talent. If Rick Stansbury’s club has its head on straight — which isn’t always the case — there is no reason they can’t be a factor in the SEC title chase.
Mark Ross: How can it not be Florida State? Beating North Carolina at home is one thing, even if it was by a convincing 33 points. Beating Duke on the road in Cameroon Indoor Stadium is something entirely different. But that's the rare double-double Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles pulled off thanks to Michael Snaer's game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer on Saturday. The Seminoles have seemingly found their defensive identity, as they held the Blue Devils to under 40 percent shooting and ended their 45-game home winning streak in Durham. In name, this may be the same team that lost to Harvard and Princeton earlier in the season, but on the court it looks a lot like the team that made it all the way to the Sweet 16 last year.
3. Which team had the most damaging loss over the weekend?
Mark Ross: Not to pile on the Pac-12, but given the conference's across-the-board weakness this season, the last thing Cal needed to do was to lose to Washington State. Yes, Cal is still tied for first in the league standings and this was on the road in Pullman, but this is a Washington State team that has lost to Utah, Pepperdine and UC Riverside — all of which are ranked 175th or lower in the RPI, this season. In a year like this, Cal can't afford too many bad losses, even if they are in conference road games.
Mitch Light: There’s no need to panic in Charlottesville, but I was disappointed that Virginia let a Virginia Tech team that had been 0–4 in the ACC steal a win at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavs had been 2–1 in the league with the only loss coming by three points at Duke. This was simply a game that Virginia had to win if it wanted remain relevant in the ACC race over the next six weeks.
Patrick Snow: I thought UConn’s loss at Tennessee was a bad sign for the reigning national champions. The Vols have played better since freshman big man Jarnell Stokes became eligible, but Cuonzo Martin’s crew is still a team with a losing record. The 14–5 Huskies should easily make the NCAA Tournament, but the non-conference defeat was their fourth loss in six games. Jim Calhoun’s bunch has the talent to make another magical March run, but the loss in Knoxville pointed out some damaging deficiencies. Center Alex Oriakhi has regressed since last season, and freshman big man Andre Drummond has been very inconsistent. UConn has solid guards in stud scorer Jeremy Lamb and point Shabazz Napier, but there has not been much depth with freshman Ryan Boatright out of the lineup as the NCAA investigates his eligibility. Consequently, the Huskies have not been able to play their usual aggressive defense on the perimeter for fear of fouls. Obviously UConn showed us last season that a high league finish is not a prerequisite to win it all. The Huskies have the individual players to do it again, but their latest loss showed some weaknesses that must be corrected quickly.