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The Rangers' Elvis Andrus slipped while covering second, but still managed to tag Erick Aybar while laid out on the dirt. The smile on his face afterwards says it all.
Tulsa is the reigning Conference USA champions and enters 2013 as Athlon’s favorite to win the league title.
The Golden Hurricane unveiled a new helmet for the upcoming season this week, which takes the word “Golden” to a new level.
Tulsa’s helmet is not only gold, but also very shiny. And credit to the school for not changing the overall look of the helmet, as the script Tulsa and stripes are a solid appearance.
Thumbs up to Tulsa on this helmet.
So excited to show off our new helmet tomorrow at media day! pic.twitter.com/MXGvE7NBjB— TulsaEquipment (@TulsaEquipment) August 5, 2013
It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from the coaching staff and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013
Opposing coaches size up the Bears:
“The biggest secret is the offensive line. It’s just flat-out really good — tenacious, good run-blockers, pass-blockers. But it goes unnoticed because of the skill guys who get good numbers and have publicity. Tevin Reese at receiver is an unbelievable weapon. Big home run guy. Lache Seastrunk is great, but they had other guys who could run the ball, too." …
"The quarterback, Bryce Petty, is a big kid who runs well, throws well. He’s a strong weight room guy who runs decently and has an above-average arm." …
"They are really talented on offense, top to bottom." …
"The defense gave up a bunch of yards but played really well at the end of the season. They got better as the year went on." …
"No question they made a big statement beating Kansas State and UCLA. They just punished them. That offensive lineman, seems like he’s been there forever, Cyril Richardson, he’s a great player. The tight end, they don’t use him much, Jordan Najvar, but he’s solid. They have a stable of running backs. Seastrunk might be one of the most talented in the country. I know he proclaimed himself a Heisman guy, and we’ll see about that, but he’s one of the best we have in the league." …
"You have to stop a team like that on third down. Absolutely need three-and-outs, because otherwise they will wear on you because they are home run hitters. Really fast at receiver.”
Opposing coaches size up the Cyclones:
“It will be interesting to see how the quarterback situation plays out. They had three of them, one transferred — the younger kid (Jared Barnett). They lost some production at receiver. They have three starting offensive linemen that return." …
"They are a good, pretty much average offensive line. But they can move the ball, and they have experience running the ball." …
"(Running back) Jeff Woody didn’t play for them much. We thought he was a load. Not sure why he didn’t play more. I’m not sure if he’s in the doghouse or injured. Not really sure there. Good running back, though." …
"Their talent level is middle of the pack, to be honest about it. One of the things last year is they had very athletic quarterbacks, Steele Jantz and Barnett — they were real athletic. But halfway through the season, they went with the other guy, Sam Richardson, for more consistency. I guess he’s the guy. Might be more of a consistent thrower than the others." …
"On defense, they will take a little bit of a hit after losing their best linebackers (A.J. Klein and Jake Knott). They were tough at linebacker." …
"A defensive tackle that was a huge guy, Jake McDonough, they’ll miss him. He was a good player. But the linebackers carried them. They knew how to play and were tough." …
"The wide receiver position can be a question mark for them. They don’t have a lot of talented experience there. The strength is in the running backs.”
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:
“They are losing a lot — almost everyone from the front seven, I believe — but they’ll be insane again, don’t worry. They’ll reload somehow. No team garners more respect within the conference by the way they prepare than K-State." …
"Funny enough, I actually thought their backup quarterback (Daniel Sams) was better than Collin Klein. At least I thought he was a better athlete, which is what they need with that run-heavy offense." …
"Just from what I saw, listening to (our) defensive coaches, that backup (Sams) will surprise next year. I think they have a juco quarterback, Jake Waters, who will compete. But it seems like it’s Sams’ job to lose." …
"Certainly they will miss Klein’s leadership and toughness. Those will be wild cards with the new guy. They’ll create a good atmosphere for quarterback competition in practices." …
"In typical Bill Snyder fashion, Kansas State will be disciplined, they’ll line up correctly, play their asses off, be in the right spots, and be coached really well." …
"Snyder does nothing fancy. Everything about the team is old school. … They’ll still be a team that competes. They are all the same guy, basically. They are robots.”
Opposing coaches size up the Jayhawks:
“This is probably the worst team in the conference. They just don’t have the talent." …
"I thought the running back, James Sims, was pretty good. He’ll be back. He’s pretty versatile, can go inside and out a little bit." …
"Kansas came out with a new mentality every single week. They’d come out with a new formation and just be in that formation the entire game. We showed our kids every single look, formations and stuff, and Kansas just came out and ran the triple-option all game. We called it the flavor of the week. We told our guys to just be sound and play hard and you shouldn’t have much of a problem." …
"That’s just a tough job right now. Charlie (Weis) is in a tough spot. They do have money there, and of course the basketball presence, which helps. I just don’t see them being very successful long term. The talent is different. Maybe that’s smart to go heavy on jucos, which Charlie seemed to do in recruiting this year, because that might be the only way to find the right players. But then you’re competing with Kansas State for recruits, and Kansas State has had a lot of success with that same formula." …
"The quarterback situation should be interesting, though, because I think Weis is pretty high on Jake Heaps. Dayne Crist just wasn’t what they had hoped for at all. They couldn’t get anything going with him. Heaps gives them a chance, but who does he throw to? They don’t have the receiver talent.”
Opposing coaches size up the Sooners:
“I don’t think they are as talented up front on defense as Texas is, but I thought their back end was better. I thought they had good cover guys. The Aaron Colvin kid, he’s a good cover guy." …
"I thought they would give us a lot more problems than they did. Up front, I didn’t think they had the Oklahoma guys of the past — guys like Gerald McCoy and Tommie Harris and all of that. They just don’t have those guys anymore. They used to have some animals up front." …
"Honestly, I know (quarterback) Landry Jones took some heat at times, but I think they’ll miss him. It’s tough to replace a guy who started that many years. It helped that he could adjust to personnel. And he had some big moments." …
"(Quarterback) Blake Bell is an effective goal line guy but not sure how he’ll do as the primary option. He might do great, but the jury’s still out." …
"They’ll rebound somehow. They kicked all those receivers out (of school), but they go out and still get good players. I know as far as receivers, they have decent players, but no one really stood out." …
"What makes Oklahoma go is quick lining up on that offensive line. They’ve had some injuries there but should be able to do what they want." …
"A switch to (multiple defensive fronts) will help. It’s all spread teams you’re facing. You’re going to have to get into situations where you can drop eight guys, rush a lot of guys at the same time. It’s easier to rush three and drop eight. ”
Opposing coaches size up the Cowboys:
“I don’t know anything about the new offensive coordinator, the guy from D-2 (Mike Yurcich). He’s replacing Todd Monken, who’s a sharp guy, (but head coach) Mike Gundy knows what he’s looking for with that offense. They’ve perfected what they are doing over there, so they should be fine." …
"They always have a lot of talent on the offensive side. It’s the same M.O. with them — pretty good offensively, average defensively. The kids will play hard and try to create a lot of turnovers, which helps them." …
"They will still be a 4-3 defense, a cover-4." …
"I think if they can find what they want to do offensively and go ahead and establish the quarterback situation, they’ll be better off."…
"That O-line is solid. If they have five offensive linemen, and you’re blitzing six, you better pick up all six — that’s their coaching mentality. No excuses." …
"I think they’ll be one of the better teams in the Big 12. I just don’t know much about their offense as a whole. They could rely on the passing game more than ever after losing Joseph Randle. He was easily one of the best running backs in the league.”
Opposing coaches size up the Horned Frogs:
“How good is (quarterback) Casey Pachall? Very talented. Good athlete. Good thrower. Helluva competitor. The competitor part, he’s kind of like Collin Klein, who’s not fastest in the world, not a great thrower, but a helluva competitor. Loves to play. Pachall is similar. I think TCU is welcoming him back with open arms. With the stuff he’s been through, you will find out a lot about him. If football is as important to him as he says, they are getting a heckuva player, and he’ll last. If that’s not true, then they’ll know pretty soon. If he’s truly out of the doghouse, he’s as good as anybody in our conference." …
"They played with some young offensive linemen a year ago — some true freshmen, I think — so they will be even better." …
"Josh Boyce was one of the most underrated receivers in the Big 12. I really thought he was talented and versatile. They will miss him." …
"They are deep on defense. They are good at every position. They have corners who play man coverage. They can get a pass rush on a quarterback with a four-man rush. They’ll miss (end) Stansly Maponga, but overall they should be fine. The linebackers are solid. Very solid football team all the way around." …
"That youth on offense hurt them at times. … They did a great job recruiting defensive linemen, so they can run them in and out.”
Opposing coaches size up the Longhorns:
“I don’t think they play up to the level of players that they’ve got. It’s as simple as that. They had a couple of really good players we thought would give us a lot of problems, but we moved the ball really well on them. They just aren’t the Texas Longhorns they were in the past." …
"No doubt, Texas and Oklahoma still are the top-two most talented teams in the conference. They just are." …
"Last year, teams could have their best offensive game of the year against Texas or Oklahoma. It shouldn’t be that way." …
"I think (quarterback) David Ash is average. He’s a true under-center type guy. I actually thought Case McCoy threw the ball better. But the coaching staff is around him more, so they must be confident in Ash that he can be the guy long term." …
"(Former offensive coordinator) Bryan Harsin is a smart guy. He’ll be missed now that he’s at Arkansas State." …
"They are very talented up front (on defense). Their two defensive ends are very, very good. The nose guard was really good as well. Their backers are big, pretty looking guys, but I didn’t think they could move in space as much. That was part of the problem. Because of that, the tackling was suspect because nobody was in the right position. In the Big 12, you need to have backers that can move in space because offenses are all spread out. The safety, Kenny Vaccaro, was the best guy we faced, hands down.”
Opposing coaches size up the Red Raiders:
“Obviously they lose the quarterback, Seth Doege, which is big. He wasn’t an NFL player, but he knew the offense very well, knew where to go with the ball." …
"They have a lot of excitement with the new coaching staff coming in. They have good receivers, a big offensive line, and they are really improved on defense from a few years ago. Not sure which guys are returning, but they improved a year ago as much as anyone. It will be interesting to see if they can build on that." …
"Offensively, they’ll always put up great numbers. With Kliff Kingsbury, it will be up-tempo, wide open and as fast as you can go. They’ll go up and down the field on people. They still have the guys to do that, but the quarterback is the question mark. Not sure who it will be." …
"Maybe that transition will be easy. The (quarterback) they had last year was a very heady player. I think you can win there consistently. They do a good job recruiting in the state. When Mike Leach was there, they won a lot." …
"The big tight end was hurt for them for about half of last season, Jace Amaro. He’s a big guy, and they flexed him out. His numbers don’t look that good, but we thought the world of him." …
"Running backs are middle of the pack, probably. Nothing like (Oklahoma State’s) Joseph Randle, who I thought was one of the best backs in the league. … They were very improved in pass rush and on the defensive line.”
Opposing coaches size up the Mountaineers:
“They’ll be down." …
"Junior college receiver Kevin White, I think he can be a star for them. They also have a few good freshman receivers who are talented and will probably play a lot and help out. But just think about the production they lose with Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Geno Smith, J.D. Woods — they lost about 95 percent of their production. Only real production coming back is (running back) Andrew Buie. Dreamius Smith, a running back from junior college, he’ll probably start for them." …
"They are going to be really good up front. The tackles are experienced. They look the part." …
"Safety Karl Joseph is their best player on defense, where they are still trying to find enough bodies. They’ll try to get more talent and stay in the 3-4. They didn’t have everyone on the same page. I would expect them to get better. They can’t get much worse. They weren’t mentally ready to be in shootouts every week. It was like, ‘Oh God, here we go again.’ They kind of folded at times." …
"The quarterbacks can spin it. They won’t run the ball. Paul Millard has the gunslinger mentality. He’ll probably be the guy because of experience. He’s got the locker room. They won’t announce that until the fall. They are very equal right now between Millard and (Ford) Childress. They’ll go for easy completions to get the young players going. One may step up, but I don’t see the same playmakers they had.”
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It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the SEC to talk anonymously about their opponents.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
SEC Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013
Opposing coaches size up the Crimson Tide:
“They’ll be really good again, don’t worry. They lost a lot of guys on the defensive line — Damion Square and Jesse Williams were very productive, strong guys for them. Last year wasn’t their best defensive line, and they might not have been quick enough to handle fast quarterbacks who could turn broken plays into big gains like Johnny Manziel, but it was solid and they need to develop the right depth there." …
"Even losing D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, they’ll still be really good up front. Those offensive linemen spend two years behind the scenes to get physically bulked up to compete." …
"On offense, they can be better than last year. One of their really good receivers, DeAndrew White, will be back from injury. He’s playing really good. Running back, I think they’ll still be solid. T.J. Yeldon is looking strong." …
"Obviously a lot depends on how well the defense develops. Linebackers and secondary, they’ll be fine. C.J. Mosley is probably the best linebacker in the country. They have depth there. It comes down to that defensive line and whether they can improve against quarterbacks that can beat you with their feet. They really didn’t have an answer for Manziel last season. They could stand to get quicker up front." …
"AJ McCarron keeps improving every year. His footwork has really developed. He can have another great year.”
Opposing coaches size up the Razorbacks:
“They are going to be terrible. What they are doing now, it’s the product of bad recruiting. They have a long way to go. That’s nothing against the new coach (Bret Bielema). But they are going to be terrible in Year 1." ...
"They are really going to struggle. What happened was they had eight starters who got injured, and they were fighting an uphill battle all of last year. I think they’ll struggle up front, they’ll struggle in the secondary, the linebackers should be average." …
"They are going to be slim in a lot of spots. It’s going to take them three years to get a good foundation. It’s a product of bad recruiting — which is typical of a Bobby Petrino school. It’s the same thing that happened at Louisville that got Steve Kragthorpe fired. Petrino didn’t leave him any players. It’s the same thing at Arkansas. They have no players on defense. Petrino would load up on offense and leave the cupboard bare. That’s why he can’t ever get over the hump." …
"If you want to be competitive in the SEC, you better have big, strong defensive linemen, physical guys, and lockdown corners. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a chance. And right now they don’t have that." …
"I don’t know really how good they are up front offensively, but I’m kind of skeptical based on what I know."
"I think the young running back, Jonathan Williams, is going to be good for them. We liked him out of high school.”
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:
“Auburn’s biggest problem was trying to be a pro-style offense with spread-type personnel. They didn’t have many guys who you had to worry about. They had the one good receiver, Emory Blake. He was okay. The tight end (Philip Lutzenkirchen) was a unique weapon for them; he made some plays for them, but then he got hurt." …
"Both Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb were good. McCalebb tore it up at the combine, and Mason was a 1,000-yard back." …
"It came down to the quarterback. They never really decided on a quarterback and never figured that out. (Clint) Moseley and (Kiehl) Frazier didn’t end up being what they anticipated. I’m not sure what is going to happen at that position with (Gus) Malzahn taking over." …
"Malzahn has an outstanding reputation. It is a little different when you are the head coach than just the offensive coordinator, but he knows what he is doing. Him and Hugh Freeze have similar backgrounds — they both have taken high school offenses and made them big-time college offenses. They try to out-tempo you and out-formation you." …
"The tackling is suspect. The defense wasn’t overly physical. It’s a really athletic team. They had some ballplayers. They were really young, so there wasn’t much consistency there." …
"They’ve had a mess of distractions this offseason and probably just want to get back to football.”
Opposing coaches size up the Gators:
“Oddly enough, and I don’t think they were the best offense, but Florida was the most difficult (offensive) team to prepare for last year. They have so many different personnel groupings, and they can do so many different things, and their identity changed on a weekly basis." …
" They are kind of like South Carolina — they want to win games on defense and not turn the ball over. But it did surprise me that they finished 12th in the league in total offense. They had good speed at wide receiver. They had some real unique weapons in Jordan Reed and Trey Burton, guys who could do different things. They had arguably the top back in the league in Mike Gillislee, and they had a very athletic quarterback." ...
"They are trying to find their identity. They probably thought they had their identity at one point, but then some of the bigger, stronger teams in our league kind of challenged that identity. And they had some injuries on the offensive line." …
"I like Will Muschamp. I respect him a lot. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree. His mentor is Nick Saban, and he put his stamp on the team in Year 2 in regard to toughness and winning games in the kicking game and on defense. They lost their defensive coordinator to the NFL, but D.J. Durkin is one of the bright young coaches in the country, and their special teams have been outstanding the past two years. I respect them a lot.”
Opposing coaches size up the Bulldogs
“Aaron Murray is really good. I am a big fan. If you commit people to stop the run and put one-on-one on the perimeter, he has such a nice feel with his wide receivers. If you play two deep or quarters, then they kill you with the run. It’s the combination of (Todd) Gurley and Murray that kills you." …
"They don’t wow you with X’s and O’s because they don’t have to. They remind you of the Miami teams in the early 2000s. They lined up in pro sets and twins and you got a chuckle out of it, then 450 yards and 42 points later they got the last laugh." …
"I watched the quarterbacks at the combine, and Murray doesn’t need to take a back seat to any of those guys. I think he is enjoying college and feels like he has some unfinished business. I’m not so sure that if it was Georgia playing Notre Dame for the national championship and won that he would have gone on to the NFL." …
"Gurley and (Keith) Marshall complement each other so well, and (the staff) is smart in that they have plays designed specifically for Gurley and touches for Marshall. Gurley runs tackle to tackle as well as anyone. He bullies you and he is a big boy, but don’t underestimate how fast he is. And then Marshall runs the perimeter run plays, the outside plays very well. He does a nice job hitting the creases in the defenses. Then don’t underestimate how strong he is. They are both clearly upper-level SEC backs.”
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:
“Kentucky, for the past few years, hasn’t had anybody that’s scared you on offense, on the perimeter or at running back. When your best player is your right guard (Larry Warford), that’s probably a little bit of a problem." …
"They have some good young running backs, and obviously Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow, the two (sophomore) quarterbacks, are pretty talented. I’m sure those guys will improve." …
"Towles is a talented kid. He was pretty highly recruited. He did a great job in his first game against Mississippi State, driving them down the field, but then got hurt. He’s a hometown kid and a fan favorite. I think he can be a pretty good player. My gut is that he is the guy who gets the job, but don’t forget about Max Smith. He was playing well before getting hurt last year." …
"I’m sure (Mark) Stoops will come in and attract some talent. The fact of where Lexington is and his ties to Ohio, you will see an outside-the-box thinking as far as recruiting. They will get some players from Ohio. He already has done a good job in that state." …
"Stoops is well regarded as a defensive coordinator. He did a great job at Florida State. People forget, that defense had been struggling before he got there." …
"(Offensive coordinator) Neal Brown is very confident. He has a little bit of a swagger to him. He did a good job at Troy and Texas Tech.”
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:
“(Defensive coordinator) John Chavis, he’s done the same stuff schematically for what feels like forever. It’s not very difficult. They do a lot of two-man, a lot of Tampa 2. That’s one thing that he’s just not going to change." …
"I don’t think they will be the same up front at all. They lost a lot of players. I just don’t think they are going to be the same." ...
"In my opinion, there’s a slow, steady decline of that program. They are going to get the best of the best in Louisiana, but even back when Nick (Saban) was there, they just don’t have the same type of players as some other places." ...
"Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been really good for awhile. But they are losing a lot on defense. Athletically, they can reload up front. But developing fundamentally sound players, that takes time, time they might not have this year. So I’m not sure they recover that quickly." …
"If you’re not sound, you’ll get knocked down." …
"(Quarterback) Zach Mettenberger, to me, is very average. It’s going to be really interesting because their offensive coordinator was the offensive line coach, so they had single receiver play-action and just loaded up on the ball. With Cam Cameron coming in as the offensive coordinator, it will be a different offense. It’s probably going to open up things a lot more, and Mettenberger will probably be a better fit with doing that. I can’t answer whether he can handle that.”
Opposing coaches size up the Rebels:
“They have a lot of tricks up their sleeve. They always get guys open. They put you in tough situations. Within the framework of one play, it can be an inside run, an outside run; it can be a dump pass or a deep ball. They do so many different things. They have a good plan." …
"They have to be a little concerned about (quarterback Bo) Wallace’s shoulder surgery. James Franklin at Missouri had the same thing, and he wasn’t at full strength at the beginning of last season. Their offense requires a lot of coordination with 11 men working together on every play. It will hurt not having Wallace in the spring, and he will miss a significant portion of the summer. I think he is a good kid. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He wasn’t highly recruited, going to Arkansas State and then a junior college. He was playing as well as anyone in the league toward the end of the year. He needs to eliminate his turnovers." …
"Jeff Scott is pretty good. They’ve got some good young players coming in, but Scott will still be productive. He can do a lot of different things. He is versatile and that is what they look for. He is also a good return guy." …
"You shouldn’t have a freshman offensive lineman come in and play early unless he’s a complete freak. The Laremy Tunsil kid, he’s a complete freak. He will find a way to get on the field this season.”
Opposing coaches size up the Bulldogs:
“They’ve got a new play-caller on defense. They lost Chris Wilson to Georgia, and Geoff Collins is taking over that duty. He’s a good coach. I’m kind of thinking they are going to be pretty good, or at least a lot better." …
"On defense, they just aren’t as athletic as the top teams. Our defensive big guys were bigger than some of their offensive big guys. They can get pounded up front. Linebackers are average athletically. In the secondary, they are always pretty good. That’s how they can get you. They have some athleticism and speed there." …
"Offensively, it’s going to be a little bit of the same. I think schematically they are always going to put up some points. It all depends on whether they can put up a defense that can stop people. They can play against those spread teams that throw it around a lot because they can cover, but in physical matchups, it’s just tough for them. It’s not effort, they just don’t have the guns." …
"The quarterback, Tyler Russell, I think most people like him — he can be a little erratic but has some natural ability. We’ll see if he can take that next step. He didn’t play very well against some of the better teams in the league. But he’s a good player." …
"They had the Johnthan Banks kid who was pretty solid at corner, but otherwise no one really scares you on the field.”
Opposing coaches size up the Tigers:
“I respected their scheme tremendously. You watch the tape of their games against Big 12 competition from the previous year and you watched James Franklin operate, they were very impressive. They beat the hell out of a good North Carolina team in the Independence Bowl to finish that season." …
"They got off to a decent start last year. They beat a pretty good Arizona State team, and they played very well against Georgia up until the end of the game." …
"Between Franklin and some of the other guys getting hurt, especially on the offensive line, they really had trouble moving the ball." …
"I don’t think they have the skill at the wide receiver position or at the running back position that some of the other teams in the league did. And I think the overall SEC took its toll on them as the year went on." …
"(Wide receiver) Dorial Green-Beckham didn’t do much at all, and he was the No. 1 recruit in the nation. To be fair, they never really got the passing game going. He showed signs at times; he had a long reception against Central Florida. But he never got on track. I get the impression that he needs to mature a little bit. He got himself in trouble (suspended for the Vanderbilt game). But he was the No. 1 player in the 2012 recruiting class, so he’s got plenty of talent." …
"The running back coming back from injury, Henry Josey, he’ll be dangerous if he returns healthy. Really talented back.”
Opposing coaches size up the Gamecocks:
“I like quarterback Connor Shaw. He’s underrated. All he does is win. And he is fiercely tough." …
"Dylan Thompson struggled early but played well down the stretch. Had some big games. Won at Clemson. They both played well in the bowl game. Connor probably makes more plays with his feet and has that grittiness to him that made them really good early in the year. Thompson may be the more talented of the two, and clearly South Carolina knows that their defense is legit, and if they don’t turn the ball over and make mistakes, they will win a lot of games. The person who doesn’t make mistakes and puts them in the best positions will be the guy." …
"They should be able to absorb the loss of Marcus Lattimore. Early in the 2011, he was a workhorse for them, but as he got hurt they became more reliant on Connor Shaw and the perimeter runs. Mike Davis is a very good back. They have some good young players that will do a good job for them." …
"Ace Sanders was a great return guy and a good slot receiver. I always thought he was dangerous, but I didn’t look at him and say he was an elite wide receiver in the league. You thought about him more in reverses and things like that, not necessarily as a big-league receiver. The biggest catch of his career came on the last play, against Michigan. He’s a loss, but they have established some really solid depth at receiver.”
Opposing coaches size up the Volunteers:
“They will be an up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense that will play with a lot of enthusiasm." …
"Their problems certainly weren’t on offense last year. They were on defense. Butch Jones has hired some coaches with some experience in the SEC, like John Jancek and Willie Martinez, who know the league and know the type of player it takes to be successful in this league." …
"They have to replace so many key players on offense. That will take some time." …
"The offensive line was very good. Losing (offensive line coach) Sam Pittman may hurt more than losing any of the players. He is a really good coach." …
"I always respected what Cincinnati did under Jones. They seemed to be a well-coached team." …
"They have won two SEC games in two years. That is bizarre. It just shows you how fiercely competitive the SEC is — for a school with those resources to have only two wins in two years." …
"Butch Jones is a hit ‘em in the face kind of guy who will try to win back the state of Tennessee in recruiting. You sense he has the right energy for the job." …
"I’m not sure Derek Dooley was the right guy for the job. That defense last year was record-setting bad. They had a top-five offense nationally, but the defense was so bad it carried the team down. That offense was as good as any team we played.”
Opposing coaches size up the Aggies:
“They lost one of their key offensive linemen, one of the first guys drafted this year, Luke Joeckel, and that’s obviously going to be a loss for them. I think offensively, they are still going to be really, really good. I actually think they are going to be the team to beat in the West, just because of who they have coming back overall, what they do schematically, how fast their offense goes." …
"Mark Snyder is a good defensive coordinator. You look at it, the only games they lost were Florida and LSU, and one of them was their first game of the year. Still, they almost beat Florida. I don’t really know why LSU was so hard for them. It was maybe LSU being able to neutralize A&M up front with its physical, quick defensive linemen." …
"You’re really limited what you can do against A&M’s offensive line." …
"They only run about eight plays or so. It’s just so fast. If you don’t have a system or terminology that allows you to play that tempo, there’s no chance. A&M has already snapped the ball." …
"Where Johnny Manziel is really good — and how he got us — he gets you is same way Cam Newton did. Once you’ve got everyone covered, if you don’t account for the quarterback, he’s going to run for a first down." …
"On defense, they lost a couple of guys. It will be interesting to see what they can do there. … They are so big and quick up front, but they are also lean. They can really move on that offensive line.”
Opposing coaches size up the Commodores:
“Their wideout, Jordan Matthews, is pretty good. He’s really good, actually. He’s pretty athletic, and he will make guys miss. Keeping him is pretty big. He had a chance to go to the NFL." …
"The tight ends are undersized, basically position blockers that can kind of get in the way but aren’t really point-of-attack guys. Vanderbilt will mix and match plays in the running game and try to create matchups that way." …
"The quarterback that transferred from Wyoming (Austyn Carta-Samuels), they feel he’s as talented as the guy they had, Jordan Rodgers. I’d have to see that. He approached spring ball like he’s going to be the guy, like he can win the job. That’s the right way to do it." …
"(Tailback) Zac Stacy was a solid kid who ran well. Not sure if they will go to a running back-by-committee, but Stacy did a lot of things for them. They gave it to him 200-plus times, and he played really hard." …
"Overall, they have a couple of skill guys who can make some plays down field, and the offensive line works well together." …
"You know, they won nine games and play you really tough, but I think they’ll be in the middle of the road — the middle of the pack in the SEC. That’s not a knock on them. James Franklin has done a great job. They’ll win some games. But the next step is to become an elite SEC team, and I’m just not sure they have the personnel yet.”
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After back-to-back 11-win seasons, Michigan State slipped to a 7-6 mark in 2012. The Spartans expected to take a tumble with the departure of quarterback Kirk Cousins, but most expected coach Mark Dantonio to keep Michigan State among the top-25 teams in the nation.
Michigan State’s offense was the main culprit of last year’s 7-6 record, finishing 10th in the Big Ten in scoring. The Spartans also ranked ninth in the conference in total yards per game (359.3). But the defense was one of the nation’s best, as coordinator Pat Narduzzi led this unit to a top-10 national finish in the four main defensive categories.
The Big Ten Legends Division should be one of the most competitive conference battles in 2013. Four teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern – have a legitimate case to be ranked as the preseason favorite.
What will Michigan State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Michigan State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
|8/30 Western Michigan|
|9/7 South Florida|
|9/14 Youngstown State|
|9/21 at Notre Dame|
|10/5 at Iowa|
|10/26 at Illinois|
|11/16 at Nebraska|
|11/23 at Northwestern|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Michigan State’s Legends Division title hopes rest solely on an offense that averaged only 20 points per game last year. Although the Spartans figure to be better on offense by default, that task isn’t easy with running back Le’Veon Bell leaving for the NFL. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell had his struggles last season but is working with an improved receiving corps, and an offensive line that returns three starters. The strength of Mark Dantonio’s team is on defense, and with six starters back, the Spartans should once again rank near the top of the Big Ten in fewest points allowed. Michigan State’s schedule is backloaded, with matchups against fellow Legends Division contenders Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern in November. If the offense improves, the Spartans have a chance to convert some of the close losses into wins. But there’s still plenty of uncertainty about quarterback Andrew Maxwell, along with which running back steps up as a workhorse to replace Bell.
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
Give Michigan State an average offense to pair with its filthy defense, and it might be the favorite to meet Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten title game. The offense isn’t average, though; in fact, it was one of the Big Ten’s worst a season ago, and that was with stud Le’Veon Bell taking handoff after handoff. Bell’s in the NFL now, as is Dion Sims, the team’s best pass-catcher. So, how are the Spartans going to move the ball, keep their defense from wearing down? That’s TBD. The good news: Andrew Maxwell and the receivers can only get better. Even with the likely offensive struggles, Michigan State’s defense is good enough to carry the team, particularly early on. The Spartans have a backloaded schedule, meaning they could gain confidence and—believe it not—bring an 8-0 or 7-1 record into their grueling final stretch (vs. Michigan; at Nebraska; at Northwestern; vs. Minnesota).
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com
Michigan State's defense deserved better last year. The Spartans had the top defensive unit in the Big Ten (first overall, first against the run, third against the pass and first in scoring). The defense in 2013 should once again be solid and among the best in the Big Ten, but an ability to bring a pass rush needs to be emphasized early on for the Spartans. On the other side of the football, as poor as the Spartans were on offense in 2012, I have a good feeling that things will almost have to be better with the coaching staff and talent available. I think last year was a bit of a mirage for Michigan State's offense and have faith in Mark Dantonio and his staff to make at least some tweaks and improvements on the offense to step up from putrid to average.
The beginning of the season should see the typical solid start by Michigan State before things start to get tough. A road game at Notre Dame is always going to be tight but I'll give the edge to the Irish right now. And I can't help but think the second game against South Florida will end up being a closer bout than most will suspect. Same with a road game at Iowa. Michigan State should be in contention in a wild Big Ten Legends Division, with late games against Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern all playing a huge factor in to the division outcome. I have two losses in the road contests and Nebraska and Northwestern but a win at home against the Wolverines. You can probably flip the Michigan and Northwestern outcomes but either way I have them going 1-2 in that key three-game stretch.
Mike Fiammetta, (@B5Q), Buckys5thquarter.com
You know the defense will be there, especially with six starters returning. But what improvements will Michigan State make on offense without Le’Veon Bell? Dion Sims is also in the NFL, leaving quarterback Andrew Maxwell without his top receiving target from a year ago. A backloaded schedule could give the Spartans time for things to gel, though a trip to Notre Dame does loom Sept. 21. The last four weeks are killer, though: vs. Michigan, at Nebraska, at Northwestern and vs. Minnesota. The potential for Michigan State is wild, in varying respects: 7-5 and 10-2 seasons both seem within the realm of possibilities.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Spartans will be extremely recognizable in 2013: salty on defense, physical along the line of scrimmage and mediocre on offense. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell returns to this offense but has to prove he can develop into a dependable playmaker before anyone can make the case for this team to win the Legends Division. Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern boast elite offenses, and Michigan State will have to score points to upset one of the big three contenders in the division. Otherwise, the schedule is actually very manageable as Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin are noticeably absent from the slate.
Michigan State lost a bunch of close games last season (five by four points or less), but also won its share of close ones (four by four points or less). That is one of the reasons why I am expecting the Spartans to finish this season with a record along the same lines as the 7-6 mark they posted in 2012. One thing MSU does have going for it this fall is that Ohio State and Wisconsin aren't on the schedule, as they have been replaced by Illinois and Purdue. That could be a two-game swing in and of itself.
That said, Notre Dame is still on tap, as is a brutal November that has Mark Dantonio's team facing Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern in a row, with the last two coming on the road. As good as the defense should be, led by an experienced and talented back seven, the offense has plenty of question marks, such as who will replace Le'Veon Bell and his 1,700 rushing yards? Unless quarterback Andrew Maxwell makes some huge strides in his final season, the ceiling for this Spartans team is probably around eight wins, not including its bowl outcome.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I don’t think Michigan State is all that great of a team, but they’ve got a nice stretch to start the season. Tough to beat a four-game Big Ten stretch against Iowa, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, plus the first two games against teams with new coaches. Michigan State’s offense isn’t going to be that great, so they’re going to have trouble scoring on a team like Notre Dame and keeping up with teams like Indiana, Nebraska and Northwestern. So why is that Michigan win sitting there? Well, I picked it on a lark back in the game picks for the Wolverines. Besides, what’s a college football season without some inexplicable upsets in rivalry games?
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The NFL’s seventh season of Hard Knocks began yesterday with a second go-round inside training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The series brings all the drama of the NFL preseason with rookies making their way onto rosters, the tough decisions on who to keep and who to cut and players dealing with off-field issues.
The HBO program brings us closer to an NFL team each year, but we think the series would be a little more interesting if there were a college football version — the coaches have bigger personalities, the players are more raw on the field and less familiar with the business angle and professionalism off of it.
Behind-the-scenes access isn’t unheard of during the college football preseason. ESPN gets access from time to time; most major programs share videos through official web sites. But we want an unfiltered, warts-and-all look. Here are the teams we’d like to see:
1. Texas A&M
The Aggies would have been No. 1 before Johnny Manziel’s eligibility was thrown into question Sunday night. What a week ago looked like would be simply the Johnny Football Show now brings added NCAA drama. For better or worse, Hard Knocks: Texas A&M would present a look at the NCAA investigation process and the school’s response as they try to keep Manziel eligible for the Sept. 14 game against Alabama. Kevin Sumlin says he’s in the fact-finding stage, but it would be intriguing to see how he prepares Manziel’s backups for the opener. And for a dose of reality away from all-Manziel, all the time, let’s not forget that A&M players are grieving for the loss of teammate Polo Manukainiu after a car accident claimed his life last week.
What kinds of decisions does a coach make just before a critical season in his career? Lane Kiffin hass already closed regular season practices to the media, though that’s not a decision the average fan will find too intriguing. More than that, Kiffin is overseeing a rare quarterback competition at USC. The last one was four seasons ago when Matt Barkley quickly dispatched Aaron Corp early in the 2009 season. Perhaps more interesting than Kiffin picking between Max Wittek and Cody Kessler would be the reactions of one of the nation’s best receiving duos in Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor to each QB candidate. If the offensive side of the ball isn’t interesting enough, new coordinator Clancy Pendergast is installing a new 5-2 scheme. And finally, two words: Ed Orgeron.
Les Miles is a character, and that would be enough to carry any Hard Knocks season. But this preseason would be intriguing even if Miles were cut in the mold of deadpan coaches like Mark Dantonio or Kirk Ferentz. LSU’s trademark defense is full of new names and faces. The assumption is that the Tigers will pick up where they left off, but it’s going to be a young group. On offense, Miles recently reinstated his top running back (Jeremy Hill) following to legal issues and has a quarterback (Zach Mettenberger) who has a new coordinator and a spotty history on and off the field.
We’re not sure if “The Process” would be compelling television or a football version of “The Joy of Painting.” The most entertaining part may be watching players interact with a state and fan base basking in Roll Tide euphoria and then returning to a disapproving Nick Saban. And after that, Hard Knocks: Alabama would be a chance to get to know the Alabama coaching staff, which is shut down from media interviews once the season begins. Fans somewhere should have a reason to be excited to hire defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
5. Notre Dame
Hard Knocks: Notre Dame might lose a ratings battle with The Bachelor: Manti Te’o, but we’re still watching the Irish try to navigate their return to national prominence and how Notre Dame deals with the BCS Championship Game embarrassment. Brian Kelly has a quarterback battle on his hands between the veteran Tommy Rees (who the fans aren’t totally excited to see) and Malik Zaire (who the fans didn’t expect to see taking snaps until 2014 or 2015).
6. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is kind of Hardcore SEC Fan Central this season. The Rebels need their top-10 signing class to contribute immediately, both as starters and for depth. We know Robert Nkdemdiche through the recruiting process, but Hard Knocks: Ole Miss will give us the first look at the top freshman in the SEC, playing on the defense as his brother, Denzel, who is a star in his own right. Hugh Freeze has only be a college head coach for two seasons, but his homespun qualities have been a perfect fit in the SEC. He’s a positive guy, but he may have to prepare his team for a rough start to the season thanks to the Rebels’ brutal schedule. Moreover, Ole Miss is one of the rare college teams that still does two-a-day practices in preseason camp, though the Rebels don’t exactly go full speed for those sessions.
7. South Carolina
There’s Steve Spurrier wisecracking and Jadeveon Clowney flipping sleds with teammate Gerald Dixon. And Manziel isn’t the only big-time player dealing with fame and everyone wanting a piece of him: Spurrier closed practices and declared a moratorium on talking about “The Hit.” And beyond the Spurrier/Clowney dynamic, Carolina is trying to win an SEC championship and national championship with a quarterback who missed all of spring practice and portions of last season.
8. Washington State
Mike Leach hasn’t changed in his second season at Washington State — he says he’s working on a book on Geronimo — so that will bring ample entertainment. On the field Washington State went 3-9 last season and may have the same record in 2013. Leach won seven games in each of his first two seasons at Texas Tech and nine in his third, so he’s in uncharted territory in Pullman.
Few teams are under more pressure than Texas. The Big 12 is wide open, but there’s little consensus Texas, one of the most talented teams in the league, can win it. Four seasons removed from their last Big 12 title, the Longhorns have also lost ground to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M, never mind being firmly under the thumb of Oklahoma. How Brown coaches for his job and how Manny Diaz tries to repair one of the nation’s worst run defenses would be intriguing storylines.
James Franklin is cliff diving, and Herb Hand is Tweeting and angling for a spot on Chopped. But meanwhile the Commodores are in the midst of one of the best runs in school history. Although Vanderbilt swiftly dismissed the four players at the center of a campus sex crimes investigation, the program is growing accustomed to people paying attention to what’s going on in Nashville for a change.
Fall camps underway....more Johnny Manziel news. College football never stops.
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Tuesday, August 6th
The latest on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel - and it's more bad news for the Aggies.
Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum is likely out until October.
What do scholarship offer letters look like? Check out this story from SB Nation.
The Big Ten Network continues its ranking of the top 25 players in the conference for 2013.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong has a zero-tolerance policy for transfer running back Michael Dyer.
In light of the recent Johnny Manziel news, Texas A&M has retained the same law firm that helped keep Cam Newton eligible at Auburn.
Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal is out for a few days after minor surgery.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall has already indicated C.J. Brown will be the starting quarterback.
Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit is uncertain who will start at quarterback this year.
Oklahoma freshman defensive end D.J. Ward is missing practice due to a spleen issue.
Here's a look at 10 key questions to watch as California opens up fall camp.
True freshman Tyler Boyd could be looking at significant playing time for Pittsburgh this year.
Speaking of true freshmen, Virginia Tech has big plans for Kendall Fuller.
Ole Miss is getting No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche ready to play in the season opener.
Connor Cook is making a good impression in the race to win Michigan State's starting quarterback job.
In a bit of a surprise, a quarterback battle appears to be brewing at Bowling Green.
Here are 10 things to watch as Florida State opens fall practice.
BYU running back Michael Alisa has suffered a setback in his recovery from a broken arm.
Mike Trout continues to wow fans in Anaheim, the Braves are once again the hottest team in baseball, J-Hey sparks Atlanta, lefties can't beat the Indians, Pedro Alvarez kills the Cardinals and A-Rod's financial loss. These and other fantastic facts are part of our amazing baseball stats for the week of July 29-August 4.
.719 Mike Trout OBP last week
Opponents could not kept the Angels’ All-Star outfielder off base last week. Trout batted .500 and drew 13 walks.
2 10-game winning streaks for Atlanta this season
The Atlanta Braves ended the weekend with a 10-game winning streak, their second this season. During the first streak in April, pitching ruled the day. The Braves batted .270 and scored 52 runs during that streak and the Braves’ staff posted a 1.48 ERA. During the most recent streak, the hitters posted a .299 average and scored 66 runs while the pitchers’ ERA rose to 2.30.
11 Consecutive wins for Cleveland when opposing a lefty
The Indians are 23-14 this season in games started by an opposing lefthander. The Tribe have won the last 11 games with the last loss coming on June 23 when Pedro Hernandez of Minnesota beat Cleveland 5-3.
8 Consecutive losses for St. Louis when the Cardinals don’t score 13
It’s been all-or-nothing for the Cardinals’ hitters of late. The Redbirds have lost eight of their last 11 and scored three runs just once in those eight losses. The three wins were courtesy of 13, 13 and 15 runs.
.217 Oakland batting average vs. Texas over the weekend
Just as the two teams battled down the stretch last season, the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers are locked in a tight fight for the AL West title this season. The A’s ended the weekend three games up on the Rangers, but the Texas pitchers quieted the Oakland lineup during the three-game series over the weekend, holding the A’s hitters to a .217 average.
0 Games gained by Kansas City after winning nine of 10
The Royals have been red hot lately, winning nine of 10 games. The problem for manager Ned Yost and his troops is that both teams the Royals are chasing in the AL Central — the Tigers and Indians — have also won nine of 10.
10 Games changed in the NL West since July 7
On July 7, the Diamondbacks held a 4.5-game lead over the surging Dodgers in the NL West. Since then, Arizona hitters have struggled, batting just .237. The D-backs ended Sunday 5.5 games behind the Dodgers and fading fast. Going back to June 22, the difference is 15 games.
12 Runs scored by Jason Heyward last week
The Braves’ outfielder was moved to the top of the batting order prior to last week, and immediately began producing dividends. He parlayed a .469 OBP into 12 runs last week to lead the majors and spark the Braves’ offense during their current double-digit winning streak.
32 RBIs for Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates against St. Louis over the last two seasons
Since the beginning of last season, the Pirates’ third baseman has torched St. Louis pitching like no one else. No other player has more than 13 during that time. Considering his struggles to find consistency, it’s arguable that the St. Louis pitching staff is solely responsible for keeping the 2013 All-Star in the big leagues.
.171 Opponents batting average against the Pirates with the bases loaded
The Pirates’ pitchers have allowed just 13 hits — 10 singles and three doubles — with the bases loaded this season in 76 at-bats. The .171 average with the bases full is the lowest in the majors this season.
.363 Opponents batting average against the Giants with the bases loaded
On the opposite end, the Giants’ pitchers have given up 33 hits in 91 at-bats, including eight doubles, a triple and three grand slams.
2.46 Atlanta’s bullpen ERA this season
Led by closer Craig Kimbrel, the Braves’ bullpen has been the best in the majors this season.
10-15 Cincinnati’s record vs. Pittsburgh and St. Louis
The NL Central will most likely be determined by head-to-head games among the three contenders, which is as it should be. The Reds are trailing in that category with just 10 wins against 15 losses to their rivals. The Cardinals are an even 11-11 while the division-leading Pirates are 14-9.
5 Home runs by Kansas City clean-up hitters this season
With only five long balls from the clean-up spot, the Royals own the lowest total in the majors. The Royals’ No. 4 batters also have the fewest RBIs with 44.
33.5 Million dollars Alex Rodriguez stands to lose during his suspension
If Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension holds up, the Yankees’ infielder will lose his $25 million salary for 2014 and almost $8.5 million for the 49 games he will miss this season. A-Rod is scheduled to begin serving his suspension on Thursday, August 8, but all signs indicate that he will appeal and continue to play during that process.
3.8 Million dollars Ryan Braun stands to lose during his suspension
By accepting a 65-game suspension this season, the Milwaukee outfielder will forfeit close to four million dollars in salary this season. If his suspension had carried into next season, his forfeiture would have been much greater due to his higher salary.
5 Times Josh Hamilton has driven in Albert Pujols this season
Certainly, the Angels envisioned much more production from their two superstars when Hamilton was signed over the winter. The plan was to bat Hamilton fourth behind Pujols. Now with the first baseman/designated hitter injured and likely out for the season, the total may not improve.
30-59 Miami Marlins record when Jose Fernandez doesn’t start
The worst team in the National League is really bad when their ace, Jose Fernandez, doesn’t take the hill. The young righthander is supposedly on an innings limit, so he has a limited number of starts left this season. When he starts, the Marlins are 13-8 (.619), which is the equivalent of a 100-win season. In games started by everyone else, the Marlins are 30-59 (.337), or the equivalent of a 107-loss season.
More Bang for Your Buck
When selecting the best holes you can play, price is usually no object, but not this year. We have chosen golf holes that are just as spectacular as some of their famous contemporaries but come at half the price. All the holes on this list are at courses with greens fees less than $100, proving that sometimes you get well more than what you pay for.
Palouse Ridge Par 4, 463 yards
This is the home course for Washington State University and is consistently ranked as one of the top college courses. The opening hole uses the university's iconic Bryan Clock Tower as an aiming spot for the first two shots. From the tee it's a slight dogleg, and golfers should favor the left side because of the sloping fairway. The clock tower is just left of the middle of the fairway and is a good guide to determine where approach shots should be played. An extra club might be in order because of an elevated green that is 40 yards deep.
Contact: 509-335-4342, http://www.palouseridge.com
Grand National (Lake Course) Par 4, 428 yards
Part of the famed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, this hole is not only one of the best at this facility, but also one of the best of the 11 courses that comprise the golf trail. Native plants, shrubs and trees crowd both sides of the tee box, presenting a visually daunting tee shot, especially from the back tees. This is one of the few holes on the course that doesn't have the famed lake guarding the fairway or the green, but the two fairway bunkers and two greenside bunkers make up for the lack of water. The kidney-shaped green has several undulations and several possibilities for difficult pin positions.
Contact: 334-749-9042, www.rtjgolf.com/grandnational
Wildhorse Par 5, 537 yards
It doesn't seem wise to aim at a bunker, but on this long, reachable par 5, it's encouraged and may make birdie more possible. The hazard on the right is far enough away that it can't be reached, and when a ball lands on that line, it filters to the left because of the slope of the fairway and provides the opportunity of reaching the green in two. If that is an option, aim for the right side of the small green, avoiding the bunker that eagerly awaits miscalculations 10 yards in front of the hole. Lay-up shots have two well-placed pot bunkers that will also trap any careless efforts.
Contact: 308-537-7700, http://www.playwildhorse.com
Circling Raven Par 4, 406 yards
This golf course is part of a casino, and this hole fits the theme. Golfers can gamble off the tee and try to cut off yardage by sending a drive down the left side, taking the dogleg out of play. Go too far left, and the wetlands will take your ball. The second shot also can have a more difficult angle to the green. Safer players will stay to the right, but not too far right, because three large bunkers await any slice. The oval-shaped green is undulating and quick. Beware of left pin placements, as a large greenside bunker will grab anything short.
Contact: 800-523-2464, www.cdacasino.com/golf
Sand Creek Par 4, 345 yards
This is one of the easiest holes on the course, and if played well it is a realistic eagle opportunity. Driving the green depends on the wind, which can knock down shots when it comes from the south. The hole is slightly elevated from tee to green, and a strong tee shot has to negotiate not only the incline but also the strategically placed mounds in the fairway. There's a wide landing area, so gripping and ripping it shouldn't be a problem. There are no hazards fronting the green, but a mound about 20 yards in front of the green will stop balls trying to roll up onto the putting surface.
Contact: 316-284-6161, www.sandcreekgolfclub.com
Ross Creek Landing, Par 3, 204 yards
This is a brief reprieve from the tight fairways of the first five holes. This hole is placed in a wide-open space. The trees are set back behind the green, and the fairway gives the illusion that there is more room than there actually is. The pot bunker that fronts the green is clearly visible, but the larger U-shaped trap on the left is hidden and captures many balls that stray in that direction. The oval-shaped green is deep, and pin placements dictate the shot. Stay away from the left pin, hit the middle of the green and gladly take a two-putt par. The bail-out area is short and right.
Contact: 931-676-3174, www.rosscreeklandinggolfclub.com
Old Kinderhook Par 3, 152
A picturesque hole and the shortest on the course, though not necessarily the easiest. The elevated tee shows you all the pitfalls, including a large bunker on the front right of the green. There are three grass bunkers to the left, and they may be more difficult to extricate a ball from than their sand counterpart. The green is straightforward, and birdies are a definite possibility. One club less than the yardage suggests may be a smart play considering the elevation and prevailing wind.
Contact: 573-317-3500, www.oldkinderhook.com
Lakota Canyon Ranch Par 4, 398 yards
New Castle, Colorado
It is easy to feel like a long-drive champion on this hole with the combination of the course's altitude and the tee box's elevation. The back tees are 67 steps from the cart path, and even if they aren't played, they should be visited for the amazing views of the surrounding mountains. The dogleg left layout can be taken advantage of, but three penalizing pot bunkers are well-placed in the wide fairway. The second shot shouldn't be anything more than a 7-iron, and firing at the pin is definitely encouraged on this large green with one bunker in front.
Contact: 970-984-9700, http://www.lakotacanyonranch.com
Neshanic Valley (Lake) Par 5, 525 yards
Neshanic Station, New Jersey
Another elevated tee with a stunning view, but just like the previous hole, don't get caught gazing at the scenery for too long. The fairway is not too tight, but long hitters will have to contend with bunkers on both the left and right side of the landing area from the tee box. A wetland area dissects the fairway near the green, and long hitters should be able to clear it easily. Shorter hitters will have to carefully select a proper club for the lay-up shot. The slightly undulating green is 35 yards deep and has a sand trap on both the left front and right middle.
Contact: 908 369-8200, www.neshanicvalleygolf.com
Twin Warriors Par 4, 483 yards
Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico
This hole is not only long but also intimidating and should be played with much respect. The fairway is wide at first but narrows the longer you try and go off the tee. Go too long and you will have a downhill lie for your approach shot. The second shot is even more harrowing than the first. There is a deep ravine that separates the fairway and also comes into play on the left side of the green, which is elevated, adding even more length to the second shot. The bailout area on the right is a safe play, but even there a bunker awaits any miscalculations. Par is a great score here.
Contact: 505-771-6155, www.mynewmexicogolf.com
Old Works Par 5, 597 yards
At nearly 600 yards, this is only the third-longest par 5 on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course, but it is the best. Warm Springs Creek runs up the entire left side of the fairway and cuts across the middle near the green. Tee shots should be placed on the right side and will trickle toward the middle due to the tilt of the fairway. Getting to the green in two is difficult even for long hitters, and the green is protected by the creek in front as well as a bunker. A hill at the back will claim any long shots. The green is wide and shallow and much better attacked with a wedge.
Contact: 406-563-5989, www.oldworks.org
Sugarloaf Par 5, 542 yards
Carrabassett Valley, Maine
An unusual setup awaits on this medium-sized par 5, where two sets of tees are available. The left tee box is accessible by bridge, and tee shots must cross over the Carrabassett River that runs along the left side of the fairway. The right takes the water out of play, but golfers must employ a fade to have a chance of getting to the green in two. The fairway tightens considerably from about 250 yards to the green, and trees frame both sides of the hole. Getting to the green in two shots is possible, especially with the prevailing wind at your back.
Contact: 800-843-5623, www.sugarloaf.com
Gray Plantation Par 3, 213 yards
Lake Charles, Louisiana
This challenging par 3 will definitely test any golfer's nerves. The tee shot is about 170 yards of carry over one of the 60 acres of man-made lakes on this course. Getting the ball over the pond is no guarantee of success. There is a large, deep bunker in front of the green that captures any ball that doesn't make the green. Hit too much club, and balls will find the back bunker. Flare a shot, and there is another large bunker waiting on the right. Even the left side of the green doesn't provide a measure of safety, with balls rolling to a small collection area. The green is long and narrow.
Contact: 337-562-1663, www.graywoodllc.com
Bully Pulpit Par 4, 404 yards
Medora, North Dakota
The course has rebounded nicely after the Little Missouri River flooded and damaged several of the holes. Fortunately, this wasn't one of them, and it begins what course architect Michael Hurdzan coined the "Oh my goodness corner" to describe 14, 15 and 16. This hole is in the state's famous Badlands and is surrounded by hills. The drive should be to the left middle of the fairway, which slopes to the right. An additional club is the play for the second shot since it is to an elevated green and into a prevailing wind. The oval green has slight undulations.
Contact: 800-633-6721, www.medora.com
Mountain Ranch Par 4, 395 yards
Fairfield Bay, Arkansas
This is not only the hardest hole on the course, but it is also considered by many to be the hardest hole in the state. What makes it so difficult is the narrow fairway and steep incline off the tee box. There are bunkers on the left and the right guarding against any stray tee shots, and when the rough is high, making bogey from there is almost a certainty. Par is not a given even if you are in the fairway. The green is protected by bunkers in the front, back and the left. The bailout area is the right side, but even reaching that can be a chore. Par is a great score here and not often attained.
Contact: 501-884-3400, www.tboxgolf.net
Old Silo Par 4, 432 yards
Mt. Sterling, Kentucky
This hole has one of the few tight fairways on the course, and traps guarding both sides add to the difficulty. The course's namesake is on the left side but invisible from the tee box. The old silo comes into view on the left as you approach your drive's landing spot, and if your ball goes too far left, the landmark can affect your second shot. A creek runs across the fairway short of the green and turns to protect the left side of the putting surface. Other obstacles are bunkers on the left and right of the green. Putting the ball near the pin is important since the heavy undulation can make two-putts tricky.
Contact: 859-498-4697, www.oldsilo.com
White Clay Creek Par 3, 183 yards
It's the shortest hole on the course, but it will take a golfer's power of concentration not to get distracted. The safest shot is center of the green regardless of where the pin is to set up a two-putt for par. The obvious disturbance is the pond that fronts the left side of the green. The farther back you tee off, the more the water is in play. Aim right and you will bring grass mounds into play if you don't reach the green. The other distractions are the horse racing announcer's call of the races that travel throughout the course and the long, winding whistles from distant trains. Both sounds can be oddly melodic and comforting.
Contact: 302-994-6700, www.whiteclaycreek.com
The Fort Par 4, 474 yards
This finishing hole will exhaust most golfers with its length and treacherous layout. Architect Pete Dye constructed the tee like Augusta National's 18th with a long chute framed by mature trees that will visually intimidate golfers no matter their skill level. Try to drive the right side, because balls will funnel toward the middle of the fairway. The second shot could be on an uneven lie because of the slope and will require a long iron or utility wood to reach the green. The putting surface is receptive to long shots but does have some subtle breaks that may derail par.
Contact: 317-543-9597, www.thefortgolfcourse.com
Some college football fans aren’t huge fans of the latest fashion crazes with different helmets and uniforms for several teams.
But even if you aren’t a huge fan of changing uniforms, you have to admit these throwback Iowa State outfits are a solid look.
The Cyclones will wear these uniforms against rival Iowa on Sept. 14.
Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, level of competition, raw talent and overall athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.
So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest defensive backs of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 cornerbacks and safeties since the BCS was implemented in 1998:
1. Ed Reed, S, Miami
The star safety is one of the greatest to ever put on the pads. He led the team as a freshman in interceptions and forced fumbles en route to back-to-back All-American seasons in 2000 and '01. He led the nation as a senior with nine interceptions for 209 yards and three touchdowns. His leadership helped a stacked Miami team go unbeaten and claim the BCS National Championship in 2001. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Reed holds the school record for career interceptions (21), return yards (389) and defensive touchdowns (5). He was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002. Oh by the way, Reed was a Big East track and field champ in the javelin.
2. Roy Williams, S, Oklahoma
One of the biggest hitters in college football history, Williams dominated college football during his time in Norman. He led the Sooners to an unbeaten BCS National Championship in 2000 while setting the school record for tackles for loss by a defensive back (12.0). The following year, he claimed the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as well as the Nagurski and Jack Tatum Trophies and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a unanimous All-American, first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2002 and will go down in Red River Shootout lore for this spectacular play in the Cotton Bowl.
3. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
It didn’t take long for Berry to make his name known as an SEC defender. He posted a school record with 222 INT return yards on five picks, led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He then returned seven interceptions for 265 yards as a sophomore en route to his first of two unanimous All-American seasons. He was also the SEC Defensive Player of the Year that year. As a junior, Berry returned to win the Thorpe and Jack Tatum Awards and ended with an SEC record for interception return yards. Used on offense and special teams as well, Berry’s superior athletic ability made him the fifth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
4. Sean Taylor, S, Miami
The 2001 Miami national title team might be the best college team ever assembled and Taylor was one of just four true freshman to see playing time that year. He earned All-Big East honors as a sophomore en route to another national title game in 2002. His 2003 campaign, however, is one of the best in school history. Taylor led the nation with 10 interceptions and his rare blend of size and speed made him Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Miami was 35-3 during Taylor’s time and he left school early to be the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
5. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The supremely gifted Peterson played in every game as a true freshman for the defending BCS champs. One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
6. Terence Newman, CB, Kansas State
Newman did a little bit of everything for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. He returned kicks and punts and even played some wide receiver. The lockdown cornerback was an two-time All-Big 12 pick, a unanimous All-American, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB and a first-round pick by the Cowboys in 2003 (weirdly, also 5th overall). Newman also was a two-time Big 12 outdoor track champion in the 100 meters and the league champ in the indoor 60 meters.
7. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
One of the best pure covermen in the history of the SEC, Claiborne was a lock-down corner for LSU in two full seasons as the starter. He developed a reputation as a sophomore with five picks and 37 tackles en route to All-SEC honors. After that, no one threw at him. Despite teams staying away from him and a teammate getting more Heisman hype, Claiborne was named the nation’s top defensive back with the Thorpe Award and was a unanimous All-American. He helped LSU to a perfect 13-0 regular-season mark and an SEC title and a berth in the BCS national title game. He was taken sixth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.
8. Derrick Strait, CB, Oklahoma
As the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, Strait helped lead the Sooners to a perfect BCS National Championship as a freshman. By his senior season, Strait had led Oklahoma back to the BCS national title game and was recognized nationally with the Thorpe and Nagurski Trophies as the nation’s top defensive player. Strait also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 before getting selected in the third round of the '04 NFL Draft.
9. Antoine Winfield, CB, Ohio State
Winfield might be the most underrated defensive back in the history of all levels of football. The consensus All-American helped Ohio State win 43 games in four years and nearly (or should have) played in the first BCS National Championship game in 1998. He was given the Thorpe and Tatum honors as a senior as the nation’s top defensive back before being selected 23rd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.
10. Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The superstar safety was a three-time All-SEC pick, two-time All-American and helped the Crimson Tide win two BCS National Championships. He finished his career with 237 tackles, 13.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks and 12 interceptions. Many coaches called him the best player in the SEC in 2011 and he was taken with the seventh overall pick in the '12 NFL Draft.
11. Troy Polamalu, S, USC
The big-play machine was a three-year starter for the West Coast powerhouse. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, a consensus All-American and stuffed the stat sheet his entire career. The big hitter finished with 278 tackles, 29.0 for loss, six interceptions and four blocked punts. Polamalu led USC back to prominence with a league title and trip to the Orange Bowl before being taken in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
12. Jamar Fletcher, CB, Wisconsin
The Badgers’ coverman has as complete a resume as any during the BCS era. He was a two-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection. He helped Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He holds UW’s all-time record with 21 interceptions and was named the nation’s top defensive back with the Thorpe and Tatum Trophies as a senior in 2000. He was a first-round pick in 2001.
13. Champ Bailey, CB, Georgia
From a versatility standpoint, few have ever been as explosive and dynamic as Champ Bailey. He was a lockdown cornerback, an elite returnman and a dangerous wide receiver. His senior season — the only year he played during the BCS era — Bailey posted 52 tackles and three interceptions on defense and caught 47 passes for 744 yards and five scores on offense. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick and won the Nagurski Trophy in 1998. He was the seventh overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.
14. Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn
The Tigers coverman started 10 games as a freshman, earning Freshman All-American honors. He was a mainstay on the outside of Auburn’s defense for four years and it culminated in a historic 2004 campaign. Rogers was named the Thorpe Award winner, an All-American and helped Auburn to a perfect 13-0 record. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
15. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
The Ohio State Buckeyes have a long tradition of great defensive backs and Jenkins is one of the most decorated. He started and was an All-Big Ten first-teamer for two unbeaten regular season teams that made it to the BCS National Championship in 2006 and ’07. He was a two-time All-American, Jim Thorpe winner, three-time All-Big Ten pick and was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
16. Eric Weddle, S, Utah
Few players have ever done more for their team than Mr. Weddle. He was a freshman All-American at cornerback before shifting to safety for his final three years. He won back-to-back Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Awards and was a consensus All-American. When his collegiate career was over, Weddle posted 277 tackles, 18 interceptions, 22.5 tackles for loss, nine forced fumbles, 10.0 sacks, returned 52 punts, rushed 52 times for 259 yards and six touchdowns. He also threw a touchdown, recovered onside kicks, was used as an emergency punter and held at times on the field goal team.
17. Mike Doss, S, Ohio State
The Buckeyes safety was a rare three-time All-American, three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick and won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 for the BCS National Champions. He finished his career with 331 career tackles, eight interceptions, eight fumbles recovered and 6.0 sacks. He was a second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
18. LaRon Landry, S, LSU
The LSU safety might be the most physically imposing defensive back of the BCS era. He started 10 games as a true freshman for Nick Saban and the 2003 BCS National Championship squad. He made 80, 92 and 70 total tackles respectively during his three-year career and was a two-time All-SEC pick and 2006 consensus All-American. The thumper was the sixth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
19. Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona
The California native was a four-year contributor for Arizona from 2004-07. And fans knew all about Cason after he won Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after his first collegiate game. He scored four times (2 INT, 2 PR) as a senior and he capped his electric career with the Jim Thorpe Award. He was a two-time, first-team all-conference pick and was the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
20. Anthony Poindexter, S, Virginia
He was a leader and one of the hardest hitting players to ever play the game — and made one of the most famous tackles in NCAA history. He set a school record with 98 tackles as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior in 1997. Despite getting injured late in the year, Poindexter earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and became a two-time All-American.
21. Michael Huff, S, Texas
The superstar safety from Texas was a Freshman All-American in 2002 before earning back-to-back first-team All-Big 12 honors as a junior and senior. He was a unanimous All-American on the 2005 BCS National Championship team and was a first-round pick in the '06 NFL Draft.
22. Aaron Ross, CB, Texas
Ross was a bit of a late bloomer but played a key role on the 2005 BCS National Championship squad. He capped his career in Austin with a stellar 2006 campaign in which he won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and the Thorpe Award. Ross played 51 games during his career but only started 15 times, posting 205 tackles, 10 interceptions and was a dynamic punt returner. He was a first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
23. Phillip Buchanon, S, Miami
He was an electric return man and helped lead Miami to the 2001 BCS National Championship. For a school stacked with defensive backs, the first-round pick of the Raiders in 2002 was the best pure cover corner.
24. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
An excellent all-around football player, Banks was just as good a leader and tackler as he was pure coverman. He was a first-team All-American and Thorpe Award winner for the Bulldogs. He posted 158 tackles, 11 interceptions and was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
25. Daymeion Hughes, CB, Cal
The shutdown corner started games all four years of his career, capping his Cal tenure with the Lott Trophy and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a consensus All-American with 72 tackles, eight interceptions and 19 passes broken up before getting drafted in the third round in 2007.
26. Tyrone Carter, S, Minnesota
The Florida native was a tackling machine for the Golden Gophers, finishing his career with an NCAA-record 584 tackles. He was a two-time All-American and won the 1999 Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.
27. Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
Along with Todd Reesing and others, Talib is responsible for the “glory” years of Kansas football. The two-time all-conference pick won the Tatum Trophy and was a unanimous All-American in 2007. He helped lead the Jayhawks to their only BCS bowl berth and win before getting picked 20th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
28. Antrel Rolle, S, Miami
Along with Sean Taylor (No. 4), Rolle was one of just four true freshmen to play on the dominant 2001 BCS National Championship team. He was an All-Big East pick as a sophomore and a unanimous All-American in the ACC in 2004. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
29. Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Haden was the first true freshman cornerback to ever start opening day for the Gators. He helped lead Florida to the BCS National Championship in 2008 and was named National Defensive Player of the Year in '09. He also was a unanimous All-American that year and went seventh overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.
30. Deltha O’Neal, CB, Cal
The All-American was also the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, Mosi Tatupu and Pop Warner Award winner. O’Neal set an NCAA record by returning four interceptions for touchdowns as a senior. He was a first-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.
31. Taylor Mays, S, USC
Mays was a rare three-time All-American from 2007-09 and a second-team All-American in '06 as a freshman. He helped lead the Trojans to three consecutive Pac-10 championships with an overall 34-5 record from 2006-08.
32. Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
He never missed a game in his four-year, 50-game career and led Michigan to three Rose Bowl appearances. He is Michigan’s all-time leader with 43 passes broken up and intercepted 12 career passes. The All-American was a first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
33. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Quarterbacks stayed away from this flamboyant coverman. He was the 2010 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American. The two-time All-Big 12 pick was a first-round selection by the New York Giants in the 2011 NFL Draft.
34. Quentin Jammer, CB, Texas
The consensus All-American was a two-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection while at Texas. He finished his career with 195 total tackles and seven picks before being selected, of course, fifth overall in the 2002 NFL Draft.
35. Reggie Nelson, S, Florida
The hard-hitting safety patrolled center field for the BCS National Champions in 2006 with six interceptions and 51 tackles. He was a consensus All-American and Tatum Trophy winner in 2006. Nelson was taken in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
36. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
The Honey Badger won the Bednarik Award, was an All-American, made impact plays and was a Heisman finalist. However, he was also suspended multiple times, eventually kicked off the team — costing himself two full seasons — and was abused in the 2011 BCS National Championship game. It makes him one of the most difficult players of the BCS era to evaluate.
37. Keiwan Ratliff, CB, Florida
The dynamic playmaker finished his All-American Gators career with school records for interceptions (9) and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by some outlets. The two-time All-SEC pick was a second-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft.
38. Jimmy Williams, DB, Virginia Tech
Playing multiple positions all over the defense, Williams was an unanimous All-American, ACC champion and Jack Tatum Trophy winner in 2005. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
39. Jamaal Brimmer, S, UNLV
One of the more underrated players of the BCS era, Brimmer won back-to-back Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Awards and was a first-team All-American. He also helped UNLV to one of its biggest upsets in school history over Wisconsin in Madison.
40. Marcus Trufant, CB, Washington State
He started all four seasons for the Cougars and helped lead Washington State back to the Rose Bowl in 2002. He is arguably the best defensive back in school history and was the 11th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
Related: The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era
41. Jim Leonhard, S, Wisconsin
42. Chris McAlister, CB, Arizona
43. Fred Smoot, CB, Mississippi State
44. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
45. Tay Cody, CB, Florida State
46. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
47. Deon Grant, S, Tennessee
48. Corey Webster, CB, LSU
49. Eric Reid, S, LSU
50. Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
The Next 25:
51. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
52. Adam Jones, CB, West Virginia
53. Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State
54. Lito Sheppard, CB, Florida
55. DeAngelo Hall, CB, Virginia Tech
56. Donte Whitner, S, Ohio State
57. Marlin Jackson, S, Michigan
58. Will Allen, S, Ohio State
59. Earl Thomas, S, Texas
60. Kyle Wilson, DB, Boise State
61. Tracy Porter, CB, Indiana
62. Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech
63. Jason Allen, S, Tennessee
64. Tom Zbikowski, S, Notre Dame
65. Craig Steltz, S, LSU
66. T.J. Ward, S, Oregon
67. Kenny Phillips, S, Miami
68. Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
69. Michael Griffin, S, Texas
70. Bernard Pollard, S, Purdue
71. Kerry Rhodes, S, Louisville
72. Johnathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina
73. D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
74. Shane Walton, S, Notre Dame
75. Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama
Top 50s of the BCS Era:
The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Linebackers of the BCS Era
To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s 9-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.
Next up: Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (Watkins Glen International)
Race: 221 miles/90 laps (Track: 2.46 miles)
2012 Winner: Marcos Ambrose
A-List (Pick two, start one)
The defending Cup Series champion rolled to a sixth-place finish at Pocono Sunday in a red car, hopefully capping a streak of generally bad races and bad luck that all started when Keselowski first raced the alternate paint scheme at Richmond in May. Those who have grown hesitant to use the Blue Deuce (and yes, it'll be blue at The Glen) in recent weeks might want to pull him up for Sunday.
Keselowski nearly scored a win at The Glen in 2012 in the melee of a finish that saw Kyle Busch wreck off his nose and Marcos Ambrose beat Keselowski to the line in a frantic last-lap dash. Sunday is his fourth Cup start at the New York track where he has an average finish of eighth. A restart crash plagued his finish at Sonoma earlier this season.
Don’t expect a dominant Jimmie Johnson Sunday at Watkins Glen, but the statistics say — in Tony Stewart’s absence due to his broken leg suffered Monday night at a sprint car race in Iowa — Johnson figures to be toward the front. Of course, you already knew that.
Johnson has yet to win at Watkins Glen, but he did score a third-place finish last season and has an average running position of 9.8 in the last eight races there. That’s good for second-best among A-List drivers and third overall only behind road course prodigies Stewart and Marcos Ambrose. Johnson also has another thing going for him: He’s completed nearly 80 percent of the last eight Watkins Glen races in the top 15. Believe it or not, without a Tony Stewart around, Johnson might the most consistent and reliable pick.
(Also consider: Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon)
B-List (Pick four, start two)
If there's a way to start Marcos Ambrose more than once in your lineup Sunday, you should probably investigate the possibility. It's this simple: In five career Watkins Glen starts, the total of his finishing positions is 10. For those counting at home, that's an absurd average finish of second. Second!
Ambrose has won the last two Cup Series races at Watkins Glen, and has a worst finish of third (2008, 2010). Last year, of course, Ambrose took advantage of the crazy finish and oil on the track to skate past Keselowski and Busch for the win. Still, he was in position to take another top-3 finish. Don't get too worried, either, if Ambrose doesn't lead a bunch. He's led just 46 of 452 laps he's raced at Watkins Glen. He’s at the front when it counts.
There was steam coming from the radiator of Kyle Busch's car by the time he finished the wild 2012 race at Watkins Glen, and it was a perfect visual metaphor of what Busch was feeling inside the cockpit. The confluence of NASCAR not throwing a yellow and Brad Keselowski's contact meant Busch, who led a race-high 43 laps (including at the white flag) wound up eighth and wrecked by the time the smoke cleared.
Busch should be back with a vengeance this weekend. His average running position in the last eight Watkins Glen race is tied for fourth among all drivers and second among B-List candidates.
Martin Truex Jr.
Remember when Martin Truex Jr. won at Sonoma in June and seemed so convinced that race wins were ready to come to his team in hordes? Well, the Cup Series has raced five times since then and Truex has a single top 10 amid falling four spots in the point standings.
The Glen, though, could be where he at least shows a decent rebound. Obviously, Truex has a stout road course program behind him (Michael Waltrip Racing has won two Sonoma races in a row) and Truex personally has an average Watkins Glen finish of 13.7 in his last seven starts. That's good enough for fourth-best among B-List drivers.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Sunday's outing at Pocono Raceway felt a lot like old times for Juan Pablo Montoya, mainly in that he was too aggressive too early and caused an unnecessary wreck. Old times, then, might be good for the Colombian in the series' return to a road course. Montoya is the most recent Cup Series Watkins Glen winner not named Marcos Ambrose (2010).
Last season, Montoya set the Watkins Glen track record in qualifying and started from the pole. But a broken lower control arm sent him to the garage, ruining a shot at a second win and fifth-straight top-10 finish. Even with two Watkins Glen DNFs, Montoya has spent 80 percent of his laps at the track in the top 15.
(Also consider: Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers)
C-List (Pick two, start one)
Consistency and performance in the C-List is certainly no given, but you've got to like what Casey Mears will bring to the table Sunday. For starters, Mears was the top-finishing C-List driver in June on the Sonoma road course. More importantly, Mears has been modestly consistently over his career transitions from Hendrick Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing and now to Germain Racing. In the last five Watkins Glen races, Mears has finished between 15th and 20th and always on the lead lap. What more do you want from a C-List driver?
Allmendinger has been a heavy pick on this list in 2013 despite his part-time role, and he's occasionally laid an egg like he did with his DNF at Pocono Raceway. Sunday at Watkins Glen promises to be different, however. Allmendinger is back in JTG-Daugherty's No. 47 for the weekend in lieu of Bobby Labonte and actually got to test with the team at Watkins Glen just last week. That should fair well with Allmendinger's ninth-place average finishing position in four career Sprint Cup races at the track.
(Also consider: David Stremme, Travis Kvapil)
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Actions Sports, Inc.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 6.
• Wonder if Ashley, the Yankees' hottest fan, was watching A-Rod get booed last night. That's her in the picture. No, A-Rod, you can't have her number.
• Jadeveon Clowney has an unfortunate nickname from childhood. I'll end the suspense: It's "Doo Doo." Click to see why.
• Celebrating the one-year anniversary of the London Olympics' greatest meme. And no, she's still not impressed.
• Ever wonder what kid stars of old sports movies look like now? Click here and find out.
• Can you say "ti**ies" on television? Apparently, if you're on Family Feud, you can.
• Not entirely safe for work, but here you go: A game of guess the SI swimsuit model butt.
• The graphics department at ESPN thinks this little leaguer's favorite singer is "Wandai Wrection." Everybody knows they're a band, not a singer.
• Watch a couple of Mormon missionaries in ties school some dudes on a playground, complete with pre-game bricks to induce a false sense of security.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch went from an unknown commodity in the preseason to one of college football’s top quarterbacks last year.
Lynch finished seventh in the Heisman voting last season, and Northern Illinois hopes to help its quarterback’s stock a little more in 2013.
The Huskies have launched a Heisman campaign for Lynch, which includes a twitter page (@LynchFor6), and the school has mailed promotional lunch bags to Heisman voters.
Check out Northern Illinois' campaign, as tweeted out by West Virginia beat writer Mike Casazza
Northern Illinois with an aggressive Heisman Trophy push for Jordan Lynch. pic.twitter.com/UMqYOLBmND— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) August 5, 2013
The Athlon Sports 2013 High School Football Preview arrives just in time for the Friday night lights.
Our premiere edition provides comprehensive coverage of all 50 states — including top 10 rankings for every state, preseason players of the year, all-state teams and a sneak peek at this year's can't miss games. There is also a national top 25 ranking and more than 1,000 recruits ranked by 247Sports.
We go one-on-one with top-ranked defensive end Da'Shawn Hand in "Wow Factor;" explore the "Family Tradition" that has produced football players at Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State; look at 10 of the nation's top coaches in "Sideline Stars;" and debate the merits of an early signing period in "Decision Time."
On the lighter side off the field, we show off the "Gear You Gotta Have" to be harder, better, faster, stronger as well as name our all-fictional high school team, which includes Tom Cruise from "All the Right Moves," A.C. Slater from "Saved by the Bell" and plenty of other gridiron stars from TV and silver screen.
Athlon Sports High School Football Preview has it all. Order your copy now!
The Athlon Sports 2013 High School Football Preview arrives just in time for the Friday night lights.
Don’t adjust your vision – the photo below is of South Florida coach Willie Taggart.
No, Taggart isn’t heading out to change the oil in his car. Instead, the shirt is a symbol of the blue-collar approach Taggart plans to bring to South Florida.
With Taggart at the helm, expect the Bulls to be one of college football’s most-improved teams in 2013.
Predicting college football's national champion is never an easy task. In addition to combing through schedules, returning starters, players lost and statistics, there are several factors impossible to account for. Injuries and luck will have a major impact on the 2013 season - and neither can be projected.
Most of college football's national title winners will come from within the top 10 of most preseason polls, but there are always a few darkhorses sneaking into the top 10 at some point during the season.
What teams could be a darkhorse national title contender in 2013? Using Athlon's projected 125 for 2013, the criteria was simple - the teams must be ranked anywhere outside of the top 10 to qualify.
College Football's Top-10 Darkhorse National Title Contenders
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 8
Why Arizona State is a Title Contender:
Hiring Todd Graham paid immediate dividends for Arizona State last season. The Sun Devils improved their win total by two games and cut down on the mental mistakes that plagued this team in recent years. After closing out 2012 on a three-game winning streak, hopes are high in Tempe for Arizona State to win the Pac-12 South. Provided the offense develops a few playmakers at receiver, the Sun Devils could average over 40 points a game. The defense returns eight starters, including All-American tackle Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford (11.5 sacks last year). The schedule isn’t easy, but allows for marquee victories by Arizona State. Games against Stanford and Notre Dame should be opportunities to pull upsets against top-10 teams.
Why Arizona State Isn’t a Title Contender:
Making the leap from an eight-win team to an 11 or 12-win team isn’t easy. Despite the talent in the front seven, Arizona State ranked 10th in the Pac-12 against the run. The Sun Devils also need to find more depth at cornerback this fall. While the schedule allows for some huge victories, winning at Stanford, UCLA and in a neutral site affair against Notre Dame won’t be easy. Arizona State is certainly a longshot to play for the national title, but Graham and his staff clearly has this program moving in the right direction.
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 4
Why Florida State is a Title Contender:
EJ Manuel was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but there’s not much concern about quarterback play for the Seminoles. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is a potential superstar and even though there will have some growing pains, he is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC this year. Winston is surrounded by one of the nation’s top offensive lines, and there’s no shortage of weapons at running back and receiver. The defense lost a handful of players, but there’s talent waiting in the wings. Sophomore end Mario Edwards Jr. is due to become a prominent factor in the pass rush, while the secondary – despite the loss of Xavier Rhodes – will be stingy. Florida State’s national title hopes are certainly helped by a favorable schedule, as the Seminoles should be favored in at least 10 games this year.
Why Florida State Isn’t a Title Contender:
As mentioned above, the Seminoles have plenty of fresh talent waiting to step into the starting lineup. But what if it takes that talent longer to develop than some may expect? The coaching staff also has six new assistants, including defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Florida State cannot afford an injury on its offensive line, as there’s very little proven depth behind the starting five.
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 2
Why Kansas State is a Title Contender:
Two words: Bill Snyder. Never count out Kansas State in the Big 12 title picture as long as Snyder is on the sidelines. The Wildcats have to replace quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown, but haven’t we heard this story before when it comes to Kansas State? Key players leave, new stars emerge. The Wildcats have a quarterback battle between Daniel Sams and Jake Waters set to begin this fall, but the offense should be in good shape regardless of which player starts. The skill players are solid, and the offensive line could be the best in the Big 12. Road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State won’t be easy, but Kansas State can make up some ground in the Big 12 with November home dates against Oklahoma, TCU and Iowa State.
Why Kansas State Isn’t a Title Contender:
Although Sams and Waters appear capable of leading this offense, Klein’s leadership and play will be missed. A slight drop off on offense should be expected. But the bigger question mark for Kansas State has to be a defense that must replace a handful of key contributors. Linebacker Arthur Brown, cornerback Nigel Malone, defensive ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis won’t be easy to replace. Brown’s departure is huge, but the return of Tre Walker and Blake Slaughter has eased the concerns about the linebackers. With a wide-open Big 12, can the champion of the conference climb high enough in the polls to make a run at the national title? There’s a ton of parity in the league this year, so a 9-3 or 10-2 record might win the conference title.
Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 5
Why Michigan is a Title Contender:
After an 11-2 mark in coach Brady Hoke’s first season in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines took a step back in the win column last year. A tougher schedule resulted in an 8-5 mark in 2012, with three losses by a touchdown or less. The future looks bright at Michigan, especially as Hoke continues to reel in elite talent. The Wolverines return only 10 starters, but there’s plenty of capable players waiting to step into the lineup. Quarterback Devin Gardner shined after taking over for an injured Denard Robinson last year and should be even better in 2013 with an offseason to work as the starter. Gardner is a better fit than Robinson for what Michigan wants to do on offense, and there’s some potential in the receiving corps with sophomore Amara Darboh and senior Jeremy Gallon. The defense finished 13th nationally in yards allowed last season and even though a handful of players must be replaced, the Wolverines have the talent to rank near the top of the Big Ten. The pass defense will get a boost with the return of cornerback Blake Countess, who missed nearly all of 2012 with a knee injury.
Why Michigan Isn’t a Title Contender:
With most of the roster slated to return in 2013, Michigan may be a year away from contending for a national title. And even though there’s talent stepping into the lineup, it may take some time for it to perform at an All-Big Ten level. The offensive line should be solid with the return of tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, but the interior will feature three new starters. Linebacker Jake Ryan is also out until at least October with a torn ACL. The schedule is backloaded, which isn’t a bad thing for a team breaking in a handful of new starters. However, Michigan has to make trips to Michigan State and Northwestern – two of its top contenders in the Legends Division.
Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4
Why Nebraska is a Title Contender:
Offense, offense and offense. The Cornhuskers led the Big Ten in total offense at 460.8 yards per game last season. And the same cast of characters returns for 2013. Quarterback Taylor Martinez made significant strides last year, and running back Ameer Abdullah filled in admirably for an injured Rex Burkhead. Nebraska has one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps, and the offensive line is solid with the return of three starters. Considering the Cornhuskers have a handful of players to replace on defense, the offense may have to win some shootouts in Big Ten play this year. The biggest factor working in Nebraska’s favor is the schedule. If the Cornhuskers get by UCLA on Sept. 14, they could be 7-0 going into November. The final month isn’t easy, but Northwestern and Michigan State – two of the top contenders in the Legends Division – will visit Lincoln.
Why Nebraska Isn’t a Title Contender:
There’s no question Nebraska’s offense will be outstanding in 2013. However, the defense is littered with concerns. The Cornhuskers allowed 115 points over their final two games last year and return only four starters. The front seven needs to be revamped, and several young players could be pressed into action. Kicker Brett Maher won’t be easy to replace, which is a concern as Nebraska heads into a difficult November schedule.
Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4
Why Oklahoma is a Title Contender:
The talent level may have slipped just a tad in recent years, but the Sooners remain a dangerous team in the national title picture. The Big 12 is wide-open, with no clear preseason favorite. Quarterback Blake Bell has yet to prove he can be an every-down option, but the junior has upside and could develop into one of the Big 12’s top offensive players with more experience. Oklahoma also has one of the nation’s best offensive lines, along with a deep receiving corps and a talented group of backs. The defense is a work in progress, but coordinator Mike Stoops should be able to find some answers this fall. The schedule isn’t easy, although the Sooners will have an opportunity to earn a marquee non-conference win at Notre Dame in late September.
Why Oklahoma Isn’t a Title Contender:
Defense. Even though Mike Stoops is a good coordinator, the Sooners are thin on proven talent (and bodies) on the defensive line. Cornerback Aaron Colvin is one of the Big 12’s best defense players, but the secondary is a concern with the departure of safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Demontre Hurst. The schedule isn’t overly challenging. However, matchups at Baylor, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State are all potential losses.
Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7
Why Oklahoma State is a Title Contender:
Considering how wide open the Big 12 is, you could list the predicted top six teams for 2013 in this article. Oklahoma State is Athlon’s projected Big 12 champion this season, but the Cowboys are picked to finish outside of the top-10 in the final poll before bowl games. New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich should keep Oklahoma State’s offense among the best in the Big 12, and running back Jeremy Smith is a capable replacement for Joseph Randle. The defense returns seven starters, including one of the Big 12’s top linebacking corps. With Glenn Spencer promoted to coordinator, the Cowboys expect a more aggressive defense in 2013. And a secondary that ranked 110th nationally against the pass will be improved.
Why Oklahoma State Isn’t a Title Contender:
The uncertainty at the top of the league certainly makes for an interesting title race, but it could also hurt the champion of the Big 12. Too much parity could hurt the conference in the polls, leaving the champion on the outside of the top five. While quarterback Clint Chelf played well in limited action, can he handle the starting job for a full season? While the pass defense should be better, Oklahoma State is thin on depth and proven talent at defensive end. A road game at Texas could decide the Big 12 championship.
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 8
Why TCU is a Title Contender:
As expected, the transition from the Mountain West to the Big 12 wasn’t easy. And despite losing quarterback Casey Pachall early in the year due to a suspension, the Horned Frogs finished a respectable 7-6. With Pachall returning to the team, TCU’s passing attack will be more dangerous in 2013. The Horned Frogs have a good group of receivers returning, while the ground game will get a boost with Waymon James back at full strength from a knee injury. Nebraska transfer Aaron Green is expected to help James and B.J. Catalon shoulder the workload in the backfield. Defense is always a strength under coach Gary Patterson, and TCU allowed the fewest yards per game in conference play last year (323.9). Nine starters are back on defense, including the Big 12’s top secondary.
Why TCU Isn’t a Title Contender:
While the return of Pachall and James will help the offense, the line is a major concern. Tackle Tayo Fabuluje quit the team in the summer, leaving the Horned Frogs with just two starters returning up front. Although the defense should be one of the best in the Big 12, end Devonte Fields is suspended for the first two games, which will leave the pass rush shorthanded against LSU. If TCU wins the Big 12, it will certainly earn it, as road trips to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State are brutal.
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 9
Why Texas is a Title Contender:
The Longhorns are the most difficult team to figure out this preseason. There’s no question coach Mack Brown has assembled elite talent, but Texas is just 22-16 over the last three years. Did this team turn a corner in the bowl win over Oregon State? For Texas to top last year’s nine victories, it all starts at the quarterback position. David Ash showed progress last season, but is he ready to make the jump to be an elite quarterback in the Big 12? The Longhorns don’t need Ash to be Colt McCoy, especially with one of the nation’s deepest backfields at his disposal. The offensive line has made progress in recent years and all five starters are back. The defense underachieved in 2012 but nine starters are back, and linebacker Jordan Hicks returns after missing most of last season with an injury. Texas also has one of the most favorable schedules in the Big 12, as Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech all visit Austin.
Why Texas Isn’t a Title Contender:
Can Texas be trusted? That’s the key question when it comes to preseason picks in the Big 12. The Longhorns have the most-talented roster in the conference, but questions still remain about this team’s ability to take the next step. Ash doesn’t have to be one of the nation’s top quarterbacks for Texas to win the Big 12, but he also has to cut down on his mistakes (seven interceptions in eight Big 12 games). Not only does the defense have to get tougher against the run, it has to eliminate some of the mental mistakes, including a plethora of missed tackles last year. The best barometer of Texas will likely come on Oct. 12 against Oklahoma. The Longhorns have lost 118-38 in their last two meetings against the Sooners.
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7
Why USC Is a Title Contender:
Last year was a huge disappointment for USC. But there’s no question the Trojans have plenty of talent on the roster to make a quick rebound. If Max Wittek or Cody Kessler settles into the starting quarterback role, the offense should rank in the top half of the Pac-12 once again. Silas Redd is capable of rushing for 1,000 yards, and the receiving corps is loaded at the top with the return of Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor. The defense struggled last year, but coach Lane Kiffin’s decision to hire Clancy Pendergast as the coordinator should pay dividends. USC does not have to play Oregon this year and UCLA, Arizona and Stanford all come to the Coliseum.
Why USC Isn’t a Title Contender:
Even though athletic director Pat Haden gave Kiffin a vote of confidence, what happens if things start to go bad early in the year? The Trojans fell apart in the bowl loss to Georgia Tech and have to regain the form that saw this team finish 10-2 in 2011. Although Kessler and Wittek are talented quarterbacks, USC needs to settle on one and not go through an entire season of changing starters. The offensive line has to play better, which will be a challenge with the departure of center Khaled Holmes. The Trojans are thin in the secondary, but the additions of freshmen Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay should help.
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Wisconsin enters 2013 with a hint of mystery surrounding the team. The Badgers have played in three consecutive Rose Bowls, but there’s a new coach on the sideline and different schemes on both sides of the ball.
New coach Gary Andersen comes to Madison from Utah State, where he recorded a 26-24 record in four seasons. Although Andersen’s record wasn’t overwhelmingly impressive, the Aggies were 6-30 in three seasons prior to his arrival. Andersen clearly improved Utah State, but his task at Wisconsin won’t be about rebuilding – at least in 2013. With 11 starters back, the Badgers can make a run at the Leaders Division title and 10 wins this year.
The biggest question mark surrounding Wisconsin is quarterback play, especially with the addition of junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy. The defense is switching to a 3-4 scheme, but the Badgers have plenty of talent in the front seven to weather the transition.
Wisconsin’s schedule isn’t too challenging, but a road trip to Ohio State on Sept. 28 could decide who wins the Leaders Division.
What will Wisconsin's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Wisconsin's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
|9/7 Tennessee Tech|
|9/14 at Arizona State|
|9/28 at Ohio State|
|10/19 at Illinois|
|11/2 at Iowa|
|11/23 at Minnesota|
|11/30 Penn State|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Wisconsin hit a home run by hiring Gary Andersen to replace Bret Bielema. Andersen elevated Utah State to a conference title contender during his time in Logan and inherits a Badgers’ team that’s capable of finishing in the 10-15 range in the final BCS poll. The biggest question marks for Wisconsin rest at quarterback and how this team transition to new schemes on both sides of the ball. Joel Stave would seem to have a slight edge on Curt Phillips and Tanner McEvoy for the starting quarterback spot, but all three could see playing time this year. Moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme in one offseason could present some headaches, but Wisconsin has enough talent to handle the transition. The biggest issue on defense is the secondary, which will have three new starters for 2013. The Badgers have a favorable schedule, but road trips to Arizona State and Ohio State won’t be easy. I also have Wisconsin stumbling at Iowa, but I’d keep a close eye on the Oct. 12 matchup against Northwestern.
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
I hate to simplify things this much, however one can argue Wisconsin’s season comes down to two games: at Ohio State (Sept. 28) and vs. Northwestern (Nov. 12). Yes, at Arizona State is hardly a walk in the park, but it’s a nonconference game. We’re talking about Wisconsin, the program that’s represented the Big Ten in the last three Rose Bowls. Pasadena is the goal, and it’s a possibility again—especially if the Badgers show up in the aforementioned marque games. Seriously, take away the Ohio State and Northwestern dates, and Wisconsin will be the heavy favorite in its other six Big Ten games. Considering the manageable schedule and the talent the Badgers return, both on offense (James White, Melvin Gordon, Jared Abbrederis, Jacob Pedersen) and defense (Chris Borland, Ethan Armstrong, Beau Allen, Dezmen Southward), a 10-win regular season could be in the cards.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com
Wisconsin may have won a Big Ten championship last season, but let's not forget the Badgers actually finished third in the Leaders Division in 2012 behind Ohio State and Penn State, losing the head-to-head match-ups to each. That said, the Badgers figure to have a team worthy of giving the Buckeyes a bit of a tussle this year in the race to Indianapolis if things fall according to plan. Though Wisconsin loses Monte Ball, a player that never really got the attention he probably should have, the Badgers will rely on a strong running game behind a proven James White. The Badgers also have one of the Big Ten's top wide receivers in Jared Abbrederis, so it's time once again to ask the annual question; Does Wisconsin have a quarterback? I think they do with Joel Stave, but we'll see which way new head coach Gary Andersen goes with this. One thing I do feel confident in with Wisconsin is their defense. The Badgers had a defense that was pretty overlooked last season despite finishing third in the Big Ten in total and scoring defense. I suspect Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will keep that theme moving forward in Madison with a guy like linebacker Chris Borland anchoring things in the middle of the field.
Wisconsin should get off to a fast start against some weak opponents but a road trip to Arizona State looks very dangerous. BYU also looks to be a real difficult non-conference game, and who knows what the season will look like for either team when that game comes around in November. I'll give Wisconsin a split in those two, and I'm putting the Badgers on upset alert at Iowa right now. I look for Wisconsin to finish strongly though. If the Buckeyes stumble, Wisconsin can take advantage.
Mike Fiammetta, (@B5Q), Buckys5thquarter.com
With a coaching staff that's entirely new outside of two retained assistants and questions at quarterback, receiver and in the secondary, Wisconsin's one of the hardest teams to pick in the Big Ten. That's probably true for all of college football, as well. A few things are certain, however. The Badgers return a ton of all-Big Ten-worthy talent, including running backs James White and Melvin Gordon, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, linebacker Chris Borland and safety Dezmen Southward. The schedule is also incredibly soft, with non-conference play presenting only one threat (at ASU, though BYU could be considered a challenge) and the Big Ten slate having just one game in which Wisconsin will clearly be an underdog (at Ohio State). The early returns on the Gary Andersen era have been remarkably positive, though of course things could always not gel for the problem areas, namely receiver, offensive line and the secondary. If it does, though, the Badgers very well could find themselves in Indianapolis fighting for a fourth straight Rose Bowl berth.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Not many new head coaches step into a "BCS" job for a team looking to become a four-time defending champion but that is what Gary Andersen has done in Madison. The Badgers have won three-straight Big Ten titles and have a roster — and schedule — capable of competing for another one in 2013. Road games with Ohio State and Arizona State early will really test the rebuilt secondary and efficiency of whoever is playing quarterback. Other tricky tests like Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern at home or rivalry road games with Iowa and Minnesota could all provide slip-ups for a team with new leadership. Most everyone in the industry respects Andersen and the Badger way of winning is proven. But it will be hard-pressed to win a division in which Ohio State resides.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I don’t know if Wisconsin is going to be dramatically better than it was last season, but the season I’ve picked (9-3 in the regular season) is two games better than the Badgers were last year (7-5). The Badgers’ record wasn’t great, but they were awfully close in the losses — three in overtime and the other three away from Madison by six points or less. More competent quarterback play could be the difference, even though the Badgers move on without Bret Bielema. The Arizona State game will be interesting, but that doesn’t set up well for Wisconsin: A decimated secondary against a veteran quarterback, a redshirt freshman center against defensive tackle Will Sutton and an untested quarterback on the road. The experience issues will get better, which is why Wisconsin can hope for a hot finish. Northwestern could shape up to be a key game. The Badgers’ quarterback and offensive line could be in good shape by that point of the year, but the Badgers are still going to have a tough time stopping teams that can throw the ball.
Wisconsin made a great hire in luring Gary Andersen away from Utah State to replace the departed Bret Bielema. Although it may take a couple of seasons for the Badgers to be completely Andersen's team, I'm not expecting much of a drop off in terms of results our of Madison this fall. UW won't break a sweat until heading out west to the desert to face Arizona State and even though the opening of its Big Ten slate could be somewhat rocky, the rest of the schedule shakes out nicely. The Badgers get a break by not having to face either Michigan, Nebraska or Michigan State from the Legends Division, and the toughest conference road date by far is against Ohio State. The Buckeyes will more than likely win the Leaders Division, but the Badgers should be able to claim second and at least match last season's win total before their bowl game.
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It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2013, Athlon asked coaches in the Pac-12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from the coaching staff and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Their Conference Foes for 2013
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:
“(Running back) Ka’Deem Carey’s a tough guy. I don’t see him as a finesse guy. He’s just a hard-nosed football player, a real determined runner. They give it to him a lot, which will help ease the transition with the new quarterback and Matt Scott leaving. He’s going to make some yards out of nothing. I really like the kid. I like him a lot." …
"I have no idea who they have at quarterback. That will be interesting to watch." …
"I think they had a good linebacker crew — probably not great, but good. …
"The good thing about those guys is they have a lot of good players that play hard. They don’t have a bunch of star players. They’ve got good balance with guys buying into the system. That’s how some teams do it, and they are very similar." …
"Certainly the defense needs some work. They gave up a whole lot of points last year. They need to toughen up, but I think they had a lot of young guys they were developing. They should have more depth with this lineup.”
Opposing coaches size up the Sun Devils:
“They could really make a push in the league. They have a lot of starters back and getting (defensive tackle) Will Sutton back was big. They weren’t great against the run, but Sutton was downright dominant in some games." …
"Todd Graham is a pretty good coach. He just has to stick around there for awhile. Obviously he jumped around for a few years, from Tulsa to Pitt to ASU. If he stays, the state of Arizona could get interesting between him and Rich Rodriguez." …
"Quarterback Taylor Kelly is a natural fit for them. Apparently he’s becoming a leader for that team. He has that little ‘it’ factor to him. He probably needs to tuck it more and take more sacks instead of trying to extend a play. He’s got a nice future." …
"After a hot start, that Oregon game kind of brought them down to earth last year. Oregon ran all over them, and they couldn’t stop it. The game wasn’t as close as the score." …
"Arizona State should have more depth this year. They are working on establishing more toughness this spring.”
Opposing coaches size up the Golden Bears:
“Cal will be very interesting. That was a mystery to me last year when they went 3–9. Subpar quarterback play attributed to it, but the wheels just fell off. I didn’t expect that." …
"We’re going to see what the new guy, Sonny Dykes, can do there. They’ve got a chance. They’ve always had talent." …
"Don’t know a whole lot about that staff. I don’t know if they have a quarterback. That will be key for them." …
"They’ve got a pretty good defense coming back. They’ve always given us problems because they play good, sound defense. I know when we played them last year — man, it was a physical, physical football game." …
"I don’t know how they don’t have a quarterback at a place like Cal. But I don’t know whether they have one. A quarterback will be crucial in a pass-happy offense like the one Dykes will bring in." …
"The skill positions are never really a problem there. Losing (receiver) Keenan Allen will be big. He could not only stretch the field, but he was reliable on third down. There’s a young guy, Bryce Treggs, that can really fly.”
Opposing coaches size up the Buffaloes:
“They have a lot of needs that they have to fix. They hired a good football coach in Mike MacIntyre. I really believe that. He can really coach. He’s a good offensive mind and will put players in the best position to succeed. But they have a long ways to go, that’s for sure. Let’s not sugarcoat it. Unless the young players they had grow up in a hurry, this could be a project. They haven’t been significant there in awhile." …
"Defensively, nothing really scares you there. They are big and strong at a few positions, but overall they will need more team speed to keep up with the offenses in the Pac-12." …
"When we played them, it was pretty ugly all around. That’s how it was for them a lot of games last year. … When Colorado was great, they were winning in the California recruiting scene. That’s just hard to do now with so many competitive teams around there, but it can be done." …
"The recruiting just hasn’t panned out for them in recent years. They aren’t winning the best players in Colorado, either. They need players.”
Opposing coaches size up the Ducks:
“You look back at the last three years, they always have that tough loss in November. It’s that time of the year where maybe other teams are peaking at the right time against them or figure something out scheme-wise. They are looking to remedy that." …
"I wouldn’t worry too much about losing Chip (Kelly) and relying on the new coach (Mark Helfrich). From what I hear, he was very involved in the offense last year. Chip was calling plays, but the offensive coordinator was very productive there. You might not see much of a drop-off." …
"With that offense, everyone knows what they’re going to do. It’s a matter of when they do it and when they don’t." …
"Those running backs are special and the quarterback is special. I don’t think there’s really a spot where they are overrated. Maybe with the wideouts, since you can’t really tell how good they are because they don’t throw that much." …
"The thing about the quarterback (Marcus Mariota) is he’s always so poised and he’s really fast. Miss your gap or overplay, and he’s gone.”
Opposing coaches size up Beavers:
“I think they surprised a lot of people last season. Not many saw that kind of start coming. They can get better this year, too, if they can find more consistency at quarterback." …
"Mike Riley does a great job with those guys. He doesn’t always get the best players talent-wise, but he gets the best out of them. He’s very well-respected in the league." …
"They’ve got to get the quarterback play going. Both those guys that split time (Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz) are just OK. They have to find a running back that can consistently play for them. They’ve always had a great one in the past. Right now I think they might need a great one. One hasn’t shown up yet." …
"They’ve always played good defense. I don’t think that’s going to change. They covered well. They’ve always been pretty solid against the pass on the back end." …
"They need to get that offense rolling. I don’t know which quarterback is going to start, but they’ll probably be better off sticking with one and letting him get his confidence up.”
Opposing coaches size up the Cardinal:
“They are going to be good. They are loaded. They’ve got some good running backs down there, even after losing Stepfan Taylor, who basically did everything for them. They’ve got the little Sanders kid, Barry’s kid, that I like." …
"The quarterback, Kevin Hogan, I think he’s going to be good. He came into a tough situation, and he made some crucial throws for them. He doesn’t have a huge arm, but he’s really accurate." …
"They’ve got those offensive linemen that are always stout and really disciplined." …
"They are losing a few guys on defense, but they are always solid. They’ve got a tough defensive line." …
"Their kids play hard. They are just a really good football team. It’s hard to say enough about the job David Shaw has done. They are going to be up there again this year. I see no reason why they shouldn’t. They will be one of the best in the league. …
"They could use more out of the receiver position. They relied a lot on the tight ends and running backs to make plays.”
Opposing coaches size up the Bruins:
“It had felt like a while since we said UCLA was right there toward the top of the league. But now you could argue they are better than USC. I think you can say that. They are coming off a really good year." …
"They lost a few corners and a few defensive linemen, so I’m curious to see how they respond from those losses." …
"They run a good defensive scheme. Overall, the talent on the defensive line has been some of the best in the country." …
"They have really good depth and have recruited well. They lost a few curious games last year toward the end, which makes me think — although they are very good — they might not be championship caliber." …
"(Quarterback) Brett Hundley is a big old joker. He throws a nice ball and is really hard to get down. It’s not that you can't get to him, it's just that when you do, the defensive backs can have trouble with him. He’s got big receivers to throw to. That’s what really can elevate UCLA, the size of the players in their passing game.”
Opposing coaches size up the Trojans:
“They always have a bunch of talent. I don’t think their offensive line is a good as it’s been. The quarterback (Max Wittek) is going to have to prove himself. He does a few good things. He’s not a (Matt) Barkley. Obviously he’s going to be a good player because they always have talent at that spot, but how good he ends up, I don’t know." …
"They’ve got to get the running back (Silas Redd) back healthy. He had a little surgery, I don’t think it was anything really serious." …
"Marqise Lee is the best receiver in the league — he’s really, really good." …
"I think everybody thinks it’s a huge year for Lane (Kiffin). He needs to win or those people down there — they are already grumbling. The key will be, do they look respectable and do they get fannies in the seats? As long as they are getting people coming to games, if they look like they’ve got a decent product on the field, he’ll be OK. If they start looking sloppy and people stop showing up, he’s going to have problems.”
Opposing coaches size up Utes:
“They are very well coached for what they have. I think they had a down year offensively. I just don’t think they found their identity with the scheme they run. I have a ton of respect for their head coach, Kyle Whittingham." …
"I don’t think the quarterback (Travis Wilson) moves the way guys in the past did. He’s kind of a sitting target there. I don’t know if they’ll have an open competition or not. When they were winning a lot of games, their quarterbacks could really move around. He’s big and has a strong arm though." …
"They are a tremendous special teams unit. They do an unbelievable job there." …
"Any time you lose a player like (defensive tackle) Star Lotulelei, you’re going to miss a guy like that. He didn’t dominate every game, but he’s obviously solid. He was extremely athletic, but you could get him out of his game early." …
"Bringing in (co-offensive coordinator) Dennis Erickson will be interesting. They obviously needed a spark after last season, and apparently Erickson wants to push the tempo.”
Opposing coaches size up the Huskies:
“The Huskies certainly have some talent. I like the kid that pulls the trigger up there, Keith Price. You can win some games with him. I just don’t think he’s the guy who can really take them to where they want to go." …
"They’ve got some pretty good running backs. Their receiving core is good. They’ve really got a good offensive line. The defensive line is adequate, not great. But overall, they’ve got some talent there to get it done." …
"Their defense is going to be pretty good. Obviously their secondary is going to be hurting a little bit. They are losing a lot there." …
"They’ve got some holes to fill there, but they have a few good receivers if they can get the ball to them. That tight end (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) is really good, too." …
"They are going to be a competitive team. They recruit well. They’ve got some pretty good players coming in. If they can find a way to get the ball to those receivers, they’ll be good." …
"They’ve got to refine a few things on the offensive line. They had a few games where they simply couldn’t protect.”
Opposing coaches size up the Cougars:
“I don’t know how they are looking right now, but there is a little mystique about them — a lot of grumblings around that team with the way things are being handled. That’s not good. They’ve got some talent, but they are going to have to get on the same page and buy in. I don’t know if there’s some dissatisfaction among the players about how the coach is handling them. I don’t really know for sure what goes on up there. But from what I’ve heard there is some dissatisfaction with how the players are being treated and how it’s run." …
"They’ve got to get a quarterback, particularly to do what they want to do. I don’t know much about their receiving corps. Their best guy (Marquess Wilson) left and didn’t finish out the season. They are going to need some receivers. They also need chemistry and a quarterback." …
"They are going have to get some more players. What they want to do is throw the ball all the time, and in order to do that, you need somebody to throw it and you need somebody to catch it. I’m not sure they have either.”
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A year after being the nation’s most competitive conference at the top, the Big Ten is counting on a handful of new faces to remain so in 2013-14.
Michigan State returns nearly intact, but most of the Big Ten wasn’t so lucky. Indiana is counting on freshmen and a transfer making his third Division I stop to replace NBA Draft lottery picks Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. Michigan also will look to a pair of rookies to take spots vacated by the National Player of the Year and another first-round draft pick.
Wisconsin lost players in its frontcourt, but the Badgers’ biggest new face for 2013-14 is an old one in guard Josh Gasser, who will return from a torn ACL. And Illinois, who was one of the surprise teams of last season, will try to replace its Big Ten veterans with imports from the Missouri Valley Conference.
Turnover — or lack thereof for teams like Michigan State and Ohio State — could play a major role in the Big Ten title chance in 2013-14.
Our look at the transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury last season continues with the Big Ten. Earlier, we’ve profiled the new faces in the ACC, American, Big 12 and Big East.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Indiana lost Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and the bulk of a team that spent a good portion of last season ranked No. 1. The freshman Vonleh, though, means Indiana isn’t going to sink back to the bottom of the Big Ten. At 6-foot-9, he’s a natural power forward with impressive length — he has a 7-4 wingspan. Vonleh recently participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy and held his own despite being one of the youngest players there at age 17.
Josh Gasser, Wisconsin
Returning from injury
Wisconsin’s season looked like it would go south when Gasser, the projected starting point guard, sustained a season-ending knee injury in October. But this is Wisconsin, and consistency is the Badgers’ forte. Recovery from the ligament tears has been slow, but Gasser still expects to be ready for the start of the season. As a shooting guard for his first two seasons, Gasser still had a 1.95 assist-to-turnover ratio. He also picked up the first triple-double in Wisconsin history with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against Northwestern in 2010-11.
Derrick Walton, Michigan
Walton may be the captain of the All-Shoes-to-Fill team as he takes over at point guard for National Player of the Year Trey Burke. Walton was committed to Michigan for two years, so he had plenty of time to study Burke’s style of play. He has a few similarities with Burke — he and his predecessor both stand at 6-feet and have excellent court vision, but Walton comes to the program with higher expectations after reaching last season’s national title game.
Zak Irvin, Michigan
Irvin can play both shooting guard and small forward, but Michigan coach John Beilein may have to find ways to get him in the lineup. Glenn Robinson III plays the 3 and stretch 4, and Michigan has options at the two guard with Nik Staustaks, who was a sharpshooter last season, plus sophomore Caris LeVert.
Drew Crawford, Northwestern
Returning from injury
Crawford considered a transfer, and he would have been eligible immediately as a graduate student. Instead, he’ll return to Northwestern, where he missed all but 10 games last season with a shoulder injury. A season earlier in 2011-12, Crawford was a third-team All-Big Ten selection who averaged 16.1 points per game.
Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
Transfer from Drake
Illinois coach John Groce won’t shy away from putting a ton of responsibility on his backcourt. With Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson gone, that puts some of the onus on Rice, who transferred back home to Champaign from Drake. Former Illinois coach Bruce Weber overlooked Rice even though the guard was the state’s Mr. Basketball, but Rice returned when John Groce was hired. At Drake, Rice used the sleight to fuel him on the way to 15.4 points per game and 5.3 rebounds in two seasons at Drake. The 6-4, 240-pound junior could lead Illinois in scoring.
Tim Frazier, Penn State
Returning from injury
Frazier was a first-team All-Big Ten selection two seasons ago when he averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists, but he missed all of last season with a left Achilles injury. His return moves D.J. Newbill (16.3 ppg) to his more comfortable position at the two guard. That’s the good news. The bad news is Jermaine Marshall elected to transfer to Arizona State, leaving Penn State with one fewer Big Ten-caliber player in the starting lineup.
Evan Gordon, Indiana
Transfer from Arizona State
The brother of former Hoosiers one-and-done Eric Gordon, Evan Gordon has landed at Indiana after playing for Liberty and Arizona State. Gordon is looking to grab the starting off guard spot along rising sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell. What Gordon lacks in size (6-1, 187), he’ll make up for it in experience on a young Hoosiers team. Gordon has averaged 12.1 points per game in his three-season career.
Jon Ekey, Illinois
Transfer from Illinois State
Ekey, who started 75 games in three seasons at Illinois State, will be one of the top newcomers on an Illinois team full of them. Ekey led the Missouri Valley in blocks as a freshman (52), but the 6-7, 220-pound forward can also step out to knock down the 3-point shot. He hit 90 of 234 (38.5 percent) shots from 3-point range in his final two seasons in the Valley before becoming immediately eligible at Illinois as a graduate student.
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Transfer from Wisconsin
Uthoff hasn’t played in a game since his senior season at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Jefferson in 2011 after redshirting his first season at Wisconsin and then sitting out a year at Iowa. Uthoff also became a lightning rod in the debate over NCAA transfer rules when he elected to pay his own way to play for Iowa after the Badgers restricted his transfer to play for the Hawkeyes. Finally able to play, Uthoff is a 6-9 versatile forward who can play inside and out.
Malik Smith, Minnesota
Transfer from FIU
Smith followed his coach, Richard Pitino, from FIU to Minnesota. The guard averaged 14.1 points per game at FIU, but he’ll have to fight his way through a crowded backcourt that includes Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins (no relation).
Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Transfer from Texas Tech
Petteway gives Nebraska versatility and a secondary scoring option the Cornhuskers lacked last season. A 6-6 wing, Petteway can rebound and play point guard, if needed, but Nebraska also signed New Zealand freshman Tai Webster to help at the point.
Other new faces to watch in 2013-14:
Marc Loving and Kameron Williams, Ohio State
Ohio State doesn’t struggle to bring in top recruits, but the Buckeyes are a veteran team with only two newcomers. The power forward Loving needs to develop a physical game while Williams may be a role player as an outside shooter.
Walter Pitchford and Lelee Smith, Nebraska
The Cornhuskers had trouble re-stocking a frontcourt that lost its top two players. At least Pitchford, an athletic forward who sat out last season after his transfer from Florida, will be eligible this season. Smith is a strong 6-8 forward who started his career at SMU before transferring to junior college. This pair will have make up a new-look Nebraska frontcourt.
Luke Fischer, Indiana
He won’t replace Zeller’s ability to run the floor, but Fischer could give the Hoosiers a true center to allow Vonleh to play power forward.
Bryson Scott, Purdue
Scott is a standout combo guard from Fort Wayne who should play his way into the rotation immediately.
Allen Roberts, Penn State
Transfer from Miami (Ohio)
Roberts averaged 12.3 points last season for the RedHawks and will be eligible in December.
He has a dream, and in that dream he’s sure of only one thing.
“A baby blue suit. Always a baby blue suit. No idea, but that’s what it is.”
Da’Shawn Hand has had this dream for years, and while he doesn’t know where he’s headed, he knows in the dream that he’s in his high school, in the baby blue suit, announcing that he’ll go play big-time college football.
“I first had the dream when I was little. I put the hat on and people cheer, and people ask ‘How do you feel?’ and I tell them that the coaches are cool and that I want to play in the NFL one day.”
To make sure the dream becomes a reality, Hand promises he’ll be sporting a baby blue suit on National Signing Day in 2014, a fashion creation he’ll have tailored for the event. But while his outfit might feel lucky, it’s Hand’s ascension as the next great defensive end prospect and the popularity of his chosen position that are responsible for making his dream a reality.
At 6'4", 248 pounds and boasting a 40 time that’s been marked in the 4.8 range, Hand is the consensus No. 1 overall defensive end prospect for the 2014 college football recruiting class. At any other position, he’d be considered a coveted get for any major program, but at the position of defensive end, he and signees like Robert Nkemdiche and Jadeveon Clowney before him are now considered quarterback-crushing program saviors.
“I just think right now it’s about how the game has come around, the era we’re in. You have a lot of 7-on-7 guys now, and quarterbacks and receivers are better than ever. You need to make plays to stop them, and you need athletes to do it,” Hand says.
Hand’s assessment is a consensus among college coaches and scouts. Even as innovations in play-calling have trended upward from high school to the professional levels in recent years, the old NFL adage that stopping a quarterback is the surest path to victory has been embraced as the best way to stop high-scoring spread offenses. Hence the rise of the monster defensive end.
Barton Simmons, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, admits that the valuation of defensive ends has increased noticeably in recent seasons because of the premium placed on the pass rush, from the pro level on down.
“It’s been intentional on our part in grading prospects, because you see that the guys being valued highly right now in the NFL in addition to quarterbacks are defensive ends and offensive tackles,” Simmons says.
“It’s an easy position to evaluate because often it’s the position where you see the most athleticism on the entire field.”
In this instance, “athleticism” is defined by raw power plus size moving very, very quickly. Scouts and coaches aren’t just looking for big bodies at the position, but big bodies with exceptional footwork, straight-line speed and enough power to shed — or attack — blockers.
“That’s the one thing I’ve worked on the most this summer is my explosiveness,” Hand says. “Just that ‘Wow’ factor when you make a big play that shows off your ability. This year I’m about to make more of those plays that make you go, ‘Wow!’”
The inevitable comparison for Hand or Nkemdiche before him is, of course, Clowney, a rising junior at South Carolina. Clowney’s rise as a true game-changer — remember the Michigan game? — has been so sharp that he likely would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft had he been eligible.
The hysteria reached such levels that many in the national media speculated that Clowney should simply sit out South Carolina’s 2013 season to avoid injury. That kind of hype has trickled down, as Hand and players like him are targeted as the “next Clowney.”
“It’s become a position where you can take a great piece of clay and mold him into a great player under the right conditions. It’s not like quarterback where you have to have a certain kind of mentality or maturity. Defensive ends can pin their ears back and go,” Simmons says.
But that doesn’t mean that the right stat line will automatically deliver another Clowney, a player most analysts and coaches consider the peak of the defensive position, a “freak.”
“These guys (Clowney, Nkemdiche, Hand) are all pretty unique,” Simmons says. “Clowney to me is the only one of the group that’s just no doubt a freak athlete. Nkemdiche is close to that, but he’s a little different body type. He’s not a long, rangy pass-rusher like Clowney, but he’s so physically gifted that he could move inside if need be and you wouldn’t lose anything.
“I don’t think we see (Hand) as quite the no-brainer, no-doubt prospect. He might not have that high of an athletic ceiling, but we’re very bullish on him because of his high character mentality off the field. He’s a ‘talent maximizer,’ a guy who will work, a guy who isn’t afraid to do what it takes to get better.”
“Da’Shawn doesn’t carry himself like a blue-chipper. He doesn’t really act like he’s got this attention on him right now,” says John Harris, Hand’s defensive line coach at Woodbridge (Va.) High School.
Harris knew Hand was destined for greatness three years ago when he saw Hand’s unnatural size for a freshman, but his endorsement is stronger than ever after working with what he calls one of the fastest-learning players he’s ever seen.
“Maybe the best part of his game is actually how fast he is mentally. When he gets to that next level he’s going to take in coaching so fast that it’s going to blow the college players away,” Harris says.
“The thing that’s exciting to me is to see him leading. I saw the fact that he was leading without even trying to. He practices and works out so hard that he’ll stop other players from goofing off around him.”
Endorsements like Harris’ have countless programs clamoring for Hand’s services. The combination of size, power and speed is unique in its own right, but adding work ethic and “coachability” could eventually make Hand stand above even the best blue-chip defensive ends in the college game.
Not that he’s lost in the hype.
“Oh, I know how to control it,” Hand says, laughing. “It’s hectic for sure, but I’m lucky to have the right people around me, people that influence me positively. It’s about not making this process your whole entire life. I know it’s a serious decision, but I’m still a kid. I still go out and have fun.
“Well, hang on,” he says, interrupting himself. “You have to cut out things when the time comes, having fun with friends and things like that. When there’s serious training to be done, you do it.”
Hand is “just” a kid, except that unlike the garden-variety pressure facing a high school senior, Hand also contends with phone calls, texts, emails and virtually every other form of digital communication from the best (and most diligent) college coaches in the nation.
In June, Hand narrowed a long list of schools down to Michigan, Florida and Alabama (though don’t be surprised if Virginia Tech remains in the hunt).
“I love the campus visits I’ve been on. It’s great — the people you meet, the food, seeing new places. … When you meet current players, the natural conversation is about the pressure and the decision you have to make. (Current college players) are great to talk with. They’ve already been in my shoes, been through the process and understand the pressure. They always wish me well.”
Hand is in the midst of visiting a variety of campuses nationwide, a vacation that always comes with a hard and sometimes uncomfortable sell at the end of each trip.
“The worst part is the next morning, when you wake up. Before you leave you have to go in and talk to the coaches about stuff. Sometimes chilling with the coaches is boring and I’m just like ‘Ughh.’ You have to, though; it’s part of the job.”
Certainly every coaching staff is a little different, and Hand already has his favorites.
“The Michigan coaching staff. That is the staff,” he enthuses. “They’re great. That staff is so cool, so easy to talk to. Also I’d say the one coach is (Virginia Tech defensive coordinator) Bud Foster.”
Hand shies away from questions about leans or leaders, but his comments about staff personalities reflect what’s considered to be the real race, according to Simmons.
“It opened up as a very national recruitment,” Simmons says. “He got 50-something offers and he was open to all of them at first. His is a different scenario because he’s a high academic kid, and schools that wouldn’t normally have a shot because of admissions do.”
About that baby blue suit and his childhood dream, Hand is repeatedly clear about one thing: His dream isn’t a “hat ceremony.” He doesn’t want a national press conference, despite the fact that it seems unavoidable. He wants to make the announcement at his high school, with his friends and family.
“I’m going to have one hat, that’s all. The hat of the school I’m attending. That’s me, and I just want to be myself,” Hand says.
Despite the fact that he has yet to enter the truly crazy months of recruitment as the nation’s top defensive end prospect, Hand already seems a little exhausted by the weirder and more deceptive aspects that come with the territory. He famously told CBS’ Bruce Feldman about a coach promising him that he’d meet Michael Jackson, despite the fact that the pop star has been dead for years.
“Honestly, I don’t know who I really would want to meet,” he says, laughing.
“If it was a girl, I’d say the goalie from the U.S. Soccer team… what’s her name? Hope Solo. If it was a guy, I would have to say … Justin Tuck.”
It’s no small coincidence that despite being born near Philadelphia, and living in the suburbs of Washington D.C., that Hand goes against local NFC East loyalties as a diehard New York Giants fan. He doesn’t mention Clowney or Nkemdiche when talking about players he models himself after, but rather the Big Blue trio of Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Lawrence Taylor.
“That’s the main reason I grew up a Giants fan, because of all those great defensive players. That’s the kind of player I want to be.”
But what about that three- or four-year stint before the NFL?
“Ah … wait and see, man,” he says, laughing. “Wait and see.”
Here's a look at the top-rated defensive ends from previous signing classes, and how they've fared.
Robert Nkemdiche, Loganville, Ga. (Grayson)
Rating: No. 1 overall
Signed With: Ole Miss
A game-changing pass-rusher who has been compared to former North Carolina All-American Julius Peppers. He’ll join his older brother, linebacker Denzel, on the Rebels’ defense this fall.
Jonathan Bullard, Shelby, N.C. (Crest)
Rating: No. 6 overall
Signed With: Florida
Saw increased action in his freshman season due to an injury to Ronald Powell (see below) and made the most of it. Bullard played in all 13 games, racking up 27 tackles (five for a loss) and earning SEC All-Freshman honors.
Jadeveon Clowney, Rock Hill, S.C. (South Pointe)
Rating: No. 1 overall
Signed With: South Carolina
With 21 sacks and counting, he’s considered the best player in college football entering the 2013 season. He’s also already regarded as the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Ronald Powell, Moreno Valley, Calif. (Rancho Verde)
Rating: No. 1 overall
Signed With: Florida
As a hybrid LB/DE, he led the Gators in sacks in 2011, but attitude issues and two ACL tears in his left knee sidelined him before the start of the 2012 season. Currently rehabbing for a full return in 2013.
Devon Kennard, Phoenix, Ariz. (Desert Vista)
Rating: No. 8 overall
Signed With: USC
Played three seasons for the Trojans, bouncing between end and linebacker (135 tackles, 13 sacks and 1 INT) before a chest injury forced him to redshirt in 2012. He’ll return this season as a starting hybrid LB/DE in Clancy Pendergast’s 3-4 scheme.
Da’Quan Bowers, Bamberg, S.C. (Bamberg-Erhardt)
Rating: No. 2 overall
Signed With: Clemson
A unanimous All-American in 2010 for the Tigers, Bowers led the nation in sacks (15.5) his junior year before concerns about his knees caused him to drop to the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, where Tampa Bay took him with the 51st overall pick. Through two NFL seasons, he’s recorded 38 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Carlos Dunlap, North Charleston, S.C. (Fort Dorchester)
Rating: No. 5 overall
Signed With: Florida
In three seasons with the Gators, he recorded 84 tackles, 19.5 sacks and three blocked kicks, as well as being named Defensive MVP of the Gators’ national title win over Oklahoma in 2009. Drafted 54th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010, he has 87 tackles and 20 sacks in three seasons.
by Steven Godfrey
Order your copy of Athlon Sports High School Football Annual today!
The start of the college football season is less than a month away and the offseason didn’t contain any new realignment or any coach motorcycle/coed scandals (fingers crossed).
That doesn’t mean it was a quiet offseason, certainly not for the sports most visible player down in College Station.
The offseason is long and new falls through the cracks. Here’s everything you need to know to get caught up.
1. Johnny Manziel: The important stuff
Johnny Manziel’s offseason activities are well-established, and we’re still not sure if any of it really matters to the product on the field. If anything is going to jeopardize Manziel's season, it may be the news that broke Sunday evening. The NCAA is investigating if Manziel was paid for signing autographs and memorabilia during a trip to South Florida in January. If the NCAA finds a violation, Manziel could be ineligible for all or part of the 2013 season. Before that, the Texas A&M quarterback faced the media barrage at SEC Media Days where he was neither apologetic nor defiant about being a 20-year-old Heisman winner with (parental) money in his pocket. Also, ESPN’s Wright Thompson gave us the definitive profile of what it’s like within the Manziel family right now as the family and the player attempt to cope with the pressures of being a college football superstar. And for the one bit of Manziel news that actually entered the legal system, Manziel pleaded guilty for failing to identify himself to police following a dispute prior to the 2012 season when he was still anonymous enough to do such things.
2. Running backs on the move
As if Louisville didn’t need another edge over its American Athletic Conference opponents, the Cardinals added a former five-star running back and BCS Championship Game MVP. Bringing in Michael Dyer (right) isn’t without risk, though. He hasn’t played football since 2011 when he left Auburn amid a drug suspension. He was also dismissed by Arkansas State before landing at Arkansas Baptist College where he was mentored by former San Jose State coach Fitz Hill. ... In a less controversial move, West Virginia added former Houston running back Charles Sims, who will be eligible immediately. Sims gives Dana Holgorsen an intriguing new toy: Sims has accounted for 1,672 rushing yards, 948 receiving yards and 27 total touchdowns in 22 games. West Virginia also added Rushel Shell, one of Pittsburgh’s top signees before last season. Shell visited UCLA and asked about returning to Pittsburgh, but landed in Morgantown.
3. Quarterback transfers
There will be more quarterback transfers after training camp starts to determine starters and backups, but two already felt the squeeze. Connor Brewer left Texas for Arizona, and Wes Lunt left Oklahoma State for Illinois. The latter drew attention after Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy forbade his 2012 opening day starter from transferring to the SEC, Pac-12, Central Michigan or Southern Miss in addition to the Big 12. Both will be eligible in 2014.
4. The Eddie Vanderdoes saga ends
Notre Dame has had most of the summer to prepare for a 2013 season without starting quarterback Everett Golson, but he’s not the only key personnel departure. Freshman defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, expected to play a major role for the Irish this season, had a change of heart after signing to play in South Bend, but coach Brian Kelly attempted to block the lineman from leaving and playing immediately for UCLA. The NCAA appeals process favored Vanderdoes, and he’ll suit up for the Bruins.
5. Suspension season
Two of the top games in the first week of the season will be impacted by suspensions. TCU defensive end Devonte Fields (10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for a loss) is suspended for the first two games, knocking him out of the LSU game (and Southeastern Louisiana). ... Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended in the opener against pass-happy Clemson. ... Florida suspended linebacker Antonio Morrison, a potential breakout player, for the first two games (Toledo, at Miami) even though charges for resisting arrest were dismissed for reasons evident on the police dashcam video. ... Ohio State suspended running back Carlos Hyde for at least the first three games (Buffalo, San Diego State, at Cal) for his role in an altercation in a Columbus night club, though he won’t face charges. Star cornerback Bradley Roby is also facing a suspension following misdemeanor battery charges.
6. Also around the police blotter
Potential starting Virginia Tech running back Michael Holmes was “permanently separated” from the university after he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery. ... Four Vanderbilt players, none starters, were dismissed and banned from campus amid a sex crimes investigation. ... Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett and safety Floyd Raven were charged with misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief after an apartment altercation, but coach Kevin Sumlin has not announced any disciplinary action. ... LSU's top running back, Jeremy Hill, was reinstated thanks to a convenient team vote to bring him back despite his second arrest as a Tiger. ... Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a Mackey Award contender, pleaded guilty to a DUI in July, but he may not be suspended for the opener against Boise State.
7. Tragedy at Texas A&M, Utah
Three football communities were devastated when Texas A&M’s Polo Manukainiu, Utah’s Gaius Vaenuku and Euless (Texas) Trinity High’s Lolo Uhatafe were killed in a rollover crash in New Mexico. Manukainiu and Vaenuku were Trinity graduates. Two other passengers — Utah signee Salesi Uhatafe and his father — survived the crash. Manukainiu’s final Tweet before his death indicated he was driving back to Texas on “no sleep.”
8. Oregon gets NCAA closure, Miami does not
The most serious penalty Oregon faced as a result of the Willie Lyles scandal impacted the coach who’s gone to the NFL anyway. Chip Kelly (right) was slapped for a an 18-month show cause, making him unhirable in the college ranks during that time. Also making him unhirable: Coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. Oregon got off light despite paying $25,000 for Lyles’ quesitonable scouting services — no bowl ban and only the loss of one scholarship in each of the next three seasons. ... Miami hasn’t been quite as lucky. The Hurricanes are starting their third season with the cloud of NCAA sanctions over the program, self-imposing bowl bans the last two seasons in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
9. And behind the scenes...
Gordon Gee stuck one foot too many in his mouth. The Ohio State president, who once joked he hoped Jim Tressel wouldn’t fire him, retired after comments about Notre Dame and Catholics. “The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week ... You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday,” Gee said during a meeting of Ohio State’s athletic council. ... Elsewhere, Colorado hired Rick George as its new athletic director. For a program needing a lift, the Buffaloes looked outside the box by hiring George, the president of business operations for the Texas Rangers. ... Florida State is also in the market for a new athletic director after Randy Spetman stepped down in June.
10. Active players join O'Bannon lawsuit
Six active players agreed to join former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of athletes' names and likenesses in video games. Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer, Arizona kicker Jake Smith, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate and Minnesota wide receiver Victor Keise all joined O'Bannon's class action lawsuit. The NCAA also ended its contract with EA Sports effective after the NCAA Football 2014 video game, though the move effectively turned licensing to the Collegiate Licensing Company and individual schools and conferences for future video games.
11. The Summer of Stoops
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was one of the most vocal coaches during the offseason. He told The Sporting News he didn’t think players should be paid. He said the perception of SEC dominance is based on “propaganda.” He complained about Northern Illinois going to the BCS instead of Oklahoma. And just so we’re clear that he didn’t spend the entire summer as a cranky football coach, he tried to quietly participate in tornado cleanup in Moore, Okla. It took about 30 minutes before he was recognized.
12. And finally, FIU is the gift that keeps on giving
FIU, the school that hired Isiah Thomas to coach its basketball team, fired Mario Cristobal from coaching its football team and replaced him with one of the worst coaches in Illinois history, gave us the best press release of the offseason:
Early this morning, our football team had a workout and barbecue on Crandon Park Beach to conclude our summer conditioning program under the supervision of our strength and conditioning staff. Following the workout, some of our athletes went to rinse off at a designated public shower area and a few of them made a poor decision and changed their clothes in public. I want to apologize to the community and anyone who was at the beach this morning for this unfortunate incident. We are committed to helping our student athletes grow as gentlemen while preparing them for their careers. We are looking into this incident, and if appropriate, will take disciplinary action.
Head Football Coach
FIU also dismissed it starting running back for discharging a weapon on school property earlier that week.
NFL training camps are in full swing with league-wide preseason action ready to commence later this week. Better still, the official start of the regular season is a little more than a month away, which means this is a perfect time to update Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Big Board.
If there's any early headline for training camp action so far, it's been the number of significant injuries that have already occurred, several of them being season-ending. Injures were already a factor before training camps even began with Michael Crabtree tearing his ACL and Rob Gronkowski undergoing back surgery, and this trend has continued.
Jeremy Maclin and Dennis Pitta are already lost for the season, while Percy Harvin will miss a significant chunk of it after undergoing hip surgery. Not only do these injuries impact these players' respective offenses, the ripple effect carries over to the fantasy world too.
There also are other early injuries that bear watching, such as Arian Foster's calf and back issues that held the Texans' workhorse out of training camp so far. Neither issue is expected to be serious or linger into the start of the season, which is why Foster remains No. 2 on our big board. Still, this is certainly a situation worth keeping an eye on, as is things like Robert Griffin III's return from his knee injury, Ben Roethlisberger's recovery form offseason knee surgery, Maurice Jones-Drew's comeback from foot surgery, and others.
Fantasy Football 2013: Preseason Big Board (Top 250)
Last updated Aug. 7
|2||Arian Foster||HOU||RB||8||Keep an eye on calf injury.|
|5||Jamaal Charles||KC||RB||10||Could be in for huge season.|
|6||Calvin Johnson||DET||WR||9||Top fantasy WR had just 5 TDs.|
|7||Doug Martin||TB||RB||5||Sophomore slump coming?|
|10||LeSean McCoy||PHI||RB||12||Is he Kelly's No. 1 weapon?|
|17||Peyton Manning||DEN||QB||9||More weapons for No. 18.|
|22||Tom Brady||NE||QB||10||Really needs a healthy Gronk.|
|29||Larry Fitzgerald||ARI||WR||9||New QB should help.|
|31||Wes Welker||DEN||WR||9||New team, same results.|
|33||Chris Johnson||TEN||RB||8||Can he be elite again?|
|35||Maurice Jones-Drew||JAC||RB||9||Will he return to old form?|
|41||Darren McFadden||OAK||RB||7||New scheme, same RB?|
|42||Montee Ball||DEN||RB||9||Golden opportunity for rookie.|
|43||Mike Wallace||MIA||WR||6||Will he miss Big Ben?|
|44||Danny Amendola||NE||WR||10||Is he Welker-esque?|
|45||Hakeem Nicks||NYG||WR||9||Groin injury keeping him off field.|
|46||Colin Kaepernick||SF||QB||9||The stage is all his.|
|47||Matthew Stafford||DET||QB||9||Hoping to bounce back.|
|48||Andrew Luck||IND||QB||8||New OC, same Luck?|
|49||Dwayne Bowe||KC||WR||10||Could he break out in '13?|
|53||Tony Romo||DAL||QB||11||No excuses now.|
|55||Antonio Brown||PIT||WR||5||Big Ben's new No. 1.|
|58||DeSean Jackson||PHI||WR||12||Clear-cut No. 1 after Maclin's injury.|
|59||Tony Gonzalez||ATL||TE||6||Can he do it again?|
|60||Torrey Smith||BAL||WR||8||It's his time to shine.|
|62||Reggie Bush||DET||RB||9||Back on turf in DET.|
|63||Vernon Davis||SF||TE||9||Could see snaps at WR.|
|64||Anquan Boldin||SF||WR||9||No. 1 option w/o Crabtree.|
|65||Stevie Johnson||BUF||WR||12||Dealing with hamstring issue.|
|68||Russell Wilson||SEA||QB||12||Harvin's injury is huge blow.|
|69||Robert Griffin III||WAS||QB||5||Will he be ready by Week 1?|
|70||Rob Gronkowski||NE||TE||10||Probably start season on PUP list.|
|75||Greg Jennings||MIN||WR||5||Needs to let his play do the talking.|
|77||Ben Roethlisberger||PIT||QB||5||Knee shouldn't be an issue.|
|80||Sidney Rice||SEA||WR||12||Will his knee hold up?|
|83||Le'Veon Bell||PIT||RB||5||Is he the answer for Steelers?|
|86||Vick Ballard||IND||RB||8||Bradshaw changes outlook.|
|87||Ahmad Bradshaw||IND||RB||8||Who's No. 1 - him or Ballard?|
|90||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||CIN||RB||12||Could see less touches.|
|91||Shane Vereen||NE||RB||10||Versatility could increase role.|
|92||Rashard Mendenhall||ARI||RB||9||Knee tendinitis already an issue.|
|96||Michael Vick||PHI||QB||12||How long will he keep job?|
|99||Jared Cook||STL||TE||11||Is this his year?|
|105||Josh Gordon||CLE||WR||10||Will miss first two games.|
|108||Andre Brown||NYG||RB||9||If Wilson slips, he's ready.|
|109||DeAngelo Williams||CAR||RB||4||Current No. 1 b/c of Stewart injury.|
|110||Giovani Bernard||CIN||RB||12||Could pounce if BJGE falters.|
|113||Daryl Richardson||STL||RB||11||No. 1 on Rams depth chart.|
|118||Michael Floyd||ARI||WR||9||Ready to break out?|
|119||San Francisco 49ers||SF||DST||9|
|121||Denver Broncos||DEN||DST||9||Von Miller's appeal one to watch.|
|122||Kendall Wright||TEN||WR||8||Could end up No. 1 in TEN.|
|126||Carson Palmer||ARI||QB||9||So far, so good with new team.|
|127||Alex Smith||KC||QB||10||No QB controversy in KC.|
|129||Golden Tate||SEA||WR||12||Opportunity arises with Harvin's injury.|
|132||Ryan Tannehill||MIA||QB||6||Struggled in Hall of Fame game.|
|133||Jake Locker||TEN||QB||8||Could be make or break year.|
|134||Christian Ponder||MIN||QB||5||Ditto for Ponder.|
|137||Ryan Williams||ARI||RB||9||Setback with knee has delayed his training camp debut.|
|139||Jonathan Stewart||CAR||RB||4||Not off to good start health-wise.|
|141||Justin Blackmon||JAC||WR||9||Out first four games.|
|142||Ed Dickson||BAL||TE||8||Becomes No. 1 w/ Pitta injury.|
|144||Isaiah Pead||STL||RB||11||Suspended for opening game.|
|146||Ronnie Hillman||DEN||RB||9||Sits atop depth chart, for now.|
|147||St. Louis Rams||STL||DST||11|
|149||Ryan Broyles||DET||WR||9||Looking strong in camp so far.|
|152||Fred Davis||WAS||TE||5||If healthy, he could have big season.|
|153||Coby Fleener||IND||TE||8||Asserting himself in second training camp.|
|156||Green Bay Packers||GB||DST||4|
|159||Geno Smith||NYJ||QB||10||Already making noise in camp.|
|160||Matt Flynn||OAK||QB||7||May be his last chance.|
|161||Brandon Lloyd||FA||WR||Will veteran find a job?|
|162||Santonio Holmes||NYJ||WR||10||Foot continues to be an issue.|
|166||Kevin Kolb||BUF||QB||12||EJ Manuel is lurking.|
|170||EJ Manuel||BUF||QB||12||Can he unseat Kolb?|
|178||New England Patriots||NE||DST||10|
|180||Jake Ballard||NE||TE||10||Could emerge as No. 1 TE in NE.|
|185||Joseph Randle||DAL||RB||11||Strong showing in Hall of Fame game.|
|187||Rob Housler||ARI||TE||9||Sleeper candidate at TE.|
|188||Mark Sanchez||NYJ||QB||10||Geno already applying the pressure.|
|196||Kirk Cousins||WAS||QB||5||Value tied to RGIII's knee.|
|200||Michael Turner||FA||RB||Will he find a team?|
|203||New York Giants||NYG||DST||9|
|206||Jarius Wright||MIN||WR||5||MIN needs a No. 2 WR.|
|215||Austin Pettis||STL||WR||11||Could be a factor for Rams.|
|216||Nate Washington||TEN||WR||8||Don't forget about old vet.|
|218||Brent Celek||PHI||TE||12||No lack of TEs in PHI.|
|221||Nick Foles||PHI||QB||12||His job if Vick struggles.|
|222||Jason Avant||PHI||WR||12||Maclin injury opens door.|
|223||Nate Burleson||DET||WR||9||Coming back from broken leg.|
|227||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB||DST||5|
|228||San Diego Chargers||SD||DST||8|
|232||Eddie Royal||SD||WR||8||Moves up b/c of Alexander's injury.|
|233||Josh Morgan||WAS||WR||5||No. 2 WR spot in WAS there for taking.|
|236||LaMichael James||SF||RB||9||Could win KR/PR job.|
|244||A.J. Jenkins||SF||WR||9||Crabtree injury opens door wide.|
|249||T.J. Graham||BUF||WR||12||Open battle for Bills' No. 2 WR.|
|250||Heath Miller||PIT||TE||5||Most likely will start season on PUP list.|
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:
NFL training camps are in full swing and while no significant injuries have yet to befall any quarterbacks, they have still had an impact on Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings. For example, Seattle's Russell Wilson has already been dealt a big blow with new wide receiver Percy Harvin expected to be out until at least sometime in November after undergoing hip surgery.
Wilson, who tied Peyton Manning's rookie record with 26 touchdown passes a year ago, is still a viable starting option, but the loss of his presumed No. 1 option does impact his value and has caused him to fall a few spots in our rankings below. Philadelphia's Michael Vick also has already lost a key target with Jeremy Maclin's season-ending ACL injury. Vick's case, however, is a little different in that the veteran's fantasy value was already in question due to his contract status (one year) and a new coaching staff leading the Eagles.
Tom Brady has plenty of question marks of his own as it relates to weapons give the turnover the Patriots have seen at wide receiver and the current state of their tight end depth chart. However, Brady's track record speaks for itself, which is why we have him ranked as a top-five fantasy QB.
Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!
Fantasy Football 2013: Preseason Quarterback Rankings
Updated Aug. 5
|13||Robert Griffin III||WAS||5|
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
Additional Fantasy Football Rankings: