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All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /college-football/athletes-recall-impact-tennis-great-arthur-ashe
If the athletic record were our only method of judging Arthur Ashe’s impact on U.S. history and culture, it would be pretty impressive.
His life, however, was much more than that.
Ashe won three Grand Slam tennis titles — Wimbledon, U.S. Open, Australian Open — and was the first African-American to capture each. He was the first black man to be named to the U.S. Davis Cup team and reached the second spot in the ATP computer rankings in 1976. 
But Ashe was so much more than a trailblazing athlete, and his legacy goes far beyond the courts. He crusaded against apartheid in South Africa and the cruel treatment of Haitian refugees. His efforts raised millions for the United Negro College Fund and for inner-city tennis programs. Ashe established the African-American Athletic Association. As his friend, former Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador Andrew Young said, “He took the burden of race and wore it as a cloak of dignity.”
Ashe died in 1993 of AIDS-related pneumonia after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. Though his life ended too early, Ashe’s impact on society was enormous and is celebrated below by athletes who remember his great influence.
Andrew McCutchen, outfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates: Arthur Ashe was a pioneer in athletics for African-Americans, breaking down barriers by being the first African-American to win a singles title in a Grand Slam. His accomplishments led to a great level of acceptability for African-American athletes throughout the entire sports world. He also persevered off the tennis court, battling HIV and AIDS, while using his platform to help toward treatment and cures for the deadly disease.
Ozzie Newsome, GM, Baltimore Ravens; Hall of Fame tight end, Cleveland Browns: Arthur Ashe was a champion both on and off the tennis court. He inspired a generation of athletes who otherwise would not have tried tennis to get on the courts. He used the notoriety he gained in tennis to improve the world, especially in education and toleration. His dignity was evident throughout his life, including handling a debilitating illness until he passed. While I did not know him, you could see he was a man of tremendous character, courage, intelligence and a role model for many of us.
Adam Jones, outfielder, Baltimore Orioles: His career as a tennis player speaks for itself. I think he is the greatest African-American tennis player that ever lived. But what sticks out to me is how much he did for others, when he could have done nothing. Through no fault of his own, he acquired a horrible disease, but instead of doing nothing, he raised awareness for HIV and AIDS research and started foundations that would carry on his legacy long after he had passed. To me, what he did after his tennis career is more important than what he did during it, and we should all strive to make the kind of impact Mr. Ashe did.
Tyrone Wheatley, coach, Buffalo Bills; running back, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders: Arthur Ashe picked up where Althea Gibson left off but did not settle for just breaking down barriers. He took it to another level. He wanted South Africa banned from the tennis federation. A lot of athletes who were at the peaks of their careers did not want to make trouble. They just wanted to collect their money. Arthur Ashe said, “This is who I am, and I am going to bring to light what’s going on.” His accomplishments for civil rights were not publicized, but he did a lot. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in team sports, but tennis wasn’t trying to include black athletes. It was trying to keep things the way they were. When you think about the strength it took every day to go through that, it did more than what he did publicly. I don’t know if I would have had the mental toughness to do that.
Mike Singletary, Hall of Fame linebacker, Chicago Bears: I think Arthur Ashe was before his time. He allowed a lot of African-American athletes and people of color to get interested in a sport that was very non-traditional for them. To bring the class that he brought and to play the way he played and to overcome the things he overcame in a sport that was not traditional for African-Americans speaks volumes about him. I’m very proud of what he was able to accomplish and what he was able to do.
Isiah Thomas, Hall of Fame point guard, Detroit Pistons: Arthur Ashe impacted America on the tennis court with his groundbreaking championship play. He not only shattered racial barriers with his play, but he inspired us with his dignity and grace – sometimes against amazing odds. He made us better and bigger people because of the way he handled the racial prejudices and social injustices he faced. He was often quoted as saying, “My potential is more than can be expressed within the bounds of my race or ethnic identity.” Today, we salute his memory. I thank him for not only opening doors to a level playing field in tennis and sports but for using his celebrity status to promote a more educated and just society.
Tom Jackson, ESPN analyst, linebacker Denver Broncos: Arthur Ashe was one of the greatest athletes ever, not only for what he did on the court, but off the court as well. The courage and class he showed when he was HIV positive, and the stigma attached to it back then, we should all aspire to be so courageous.
Keyshawn Johnson, ESPN analyst, wide receiver, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers: Arthur Ashe is somebody who achieved greatness against major odds. He showed me and many young people like me who grew up in the inner city, that with courage and perseverance, you can succeed in any sport or career you choose.
—by Michael Bradley
Main Photo Credit: Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo Item number 927-7839
Athletes Recall the Impact of Tennis Great Arthur Ashe
Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 15:08
Path: /college-football/michigan-te-jake-butt-suffers-torn-acl-winter-workouts

Michigan tight end Jake Butt suffered a torn ACL during winter conditioning drills and is out indefinitely. The news of Butt’s injury was announced through the team’s website on Thursday.

As a true freshman last season, Butt caught 20 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Eight of his receptions came over the final two games, including a touchdown catch in the 42-41 loss to Ohio State.

Butt has seven months to heal until the season opener, but it’s uncertain if he will be at full strength by late August.

In order for Michigan to improve off its 7-6 record from last season, the Wolverines have to give quarterback Devin Gardner more help. Unfortunately for Gardner, Butt’s injury is a setback for the receiving corps, especially with the departure of Jeremy Gallon. The cupboard is far from bare at tight end with Devin Funchess returning. However, Butt appeared to be on his way to being a significant piece of Michigan’s passing attack in 2014.

Michigan TE Jake Butt Suffers Torn ACL in Winter Workouts
Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 13:36
All taxonomy terms: Olympics
Path: /olympics/2014-sochi-olympics-what-watch-feb-13

Today's Highlights


8-11:30 p.m. Eastern

Matt Lauer is starting to get comfortable in the anchor's chair, as Bob Costas spends a third night tending to his eye infection. Normal spoiler alert: By tonight, all of this will have already happened, so if you want to go in fresh, avoid the usual sports sites today.


1. Freestyle Skiing — Men's Slopestyle
The U.S. men — Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nicholas Goepper — are attempting to make history in this event, and even if you already know the outcome, you'll want to tune in.


2. Short Track Speed Skating — Women's 500m

It's not a spoiler to say that this event lives up to its reputation for chaos and unpredictability. Sometimes, it's the last skater standing who skates away with gold.


3. Figure Skating — Men's Short Program

Count on Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko to make news, whatever he does. American Jeremy Abbott is out for redemption after a disappointing showing in the team event.

Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 12:12
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-13-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 13.

• As anticipation builds for SI Swimsuit 2014, here's a rundown of top Swimsuit rookies for each year since 1999, including Class of 2011 standout Kate Upton.

• I found this amusing: What celebrities would look like if they were normal suburbanite schlubs like us.

Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy is tackling the Sochi stray problem all by himself.

Two American medal favorites have crashed and burned in Sochi.

• Short track speed skating strategy 101: Be patient and wait for everybody else to crash.

One blogger is already nauseated in anticipation of Derek Jeter's syrupy, schlocky farewell tour this season. I see his point, especially when I see a headline like this

It was Disco Demolition Night at the Warriors game.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner suspended a player for cussing. If that's the standard, a lot of people are in trouble.

• Reminder: Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. If you forget to give your honey something, make her forget that you forgot by mixing some of these Valentine-themed cocktails.

Buzzer-beater of the year so far comes to us from Washington high school hoops.

• Of a little more national significance was Tyler Ennis' buzzer-beater to beat Pittsburgh.


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

Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 10:31
Path: /college-football/big-ten-team-recruiting-consensus-rankings-2014
Body:,, ESPN and are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.

But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.

After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus Big Ten team rankings for 2014.

• If the rest of the Big Ten isn’t careful, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will leave them all behind. Ohio State landed the best class in the Big Ten for the third straight season and the sixth time in seven years (2010, Michigan). Meyer's team is the only one in the league even attempting to compete with the SEC on the recruiting trail. The rest of the league finished outside of the top 20 and well behind the Bucknuts in the national rankings. There is a clear vacuum behind Ohio State on the recruiting trail in the Big Ten.

• So who will fill that void left in the wake of Meyer? Enter James Franklin. The new Penn State coach only had a few weeks to work his magic on the trail this year and it paid off in a big way as Penn State jumped to No. 3 in the Big Ten following a flurry of commitments. With a full season to recruit and now playing games every year in both Maryland/DC and New Jersey, the Nittany Lions have a chance to become the top challenger to Ohio State. Franklin’s ability to sell his program is uncanny — just ask the folks in Nashville. The recruiting battles — both on and off the trail — between Franklin and Meyer should be intriguing to watch for as long as both remain in place in Columbus and Happy Valley.

• Brady Hoke and Michigan were noticeably absent from the national conversation on National Signing Day. There is no shame in landing the Big Ten’s No. 2-ranked class or the nation’s No. 22-ranked group. But this team expects more, and losing five out of their last six games this past season clearly killed any momentum the Wolverines might have had on the trail. The Maize and Blue can do better than 22nd and if they want to compete with that school down South, Hoke will have to improve in recruiting as well as on the field.

• What to do with Michigan State? If five-star defensive lineman Malik McDowell wants to go to Michigan State without his parents' consent, he can. Eventually, when he turns 18, there is nothing to stop him from attending Michigan State. However, for the time being, his parents will not sign his Letter of Intent and he remains in recruiting purgatory. With McDowell, this is a Top 25 class nationally and one of the better groups in the Big Ten. Without him, this class drops 8-10 spots and lands near Wisconsin and Nebraska in the 33-35 range. Mark Dantonio needs to get this issue resolved in a timely fashion.

• For the second year in a row, Kevin Wilson and Indiana had an excellent class. After finishing 38th nationally a year ago, the Hoosiers once again landed inside the top 50 nationally. Prior to 2013, however, Indiana wasn’t accustomed to recruiting at this level. Indiana ranked 66th (‘12), 59th (‘11), 92nd (‘10), 59th (‘09) and 78th (’08) over the last five cycles. That stretch ranked the Hoosiers 10th in the Big Ten on average but Wilson now has back-to-back upper-half finishes in the conference.

• Maryland and Rutgers finished the recruiting cycle in two totally different ways. Kyle Flood and the Knights finished 12th in the Big Ten and 59th overall after a record 12 decommitments throughout the process. The Terrapins landed a five-star stud in offensive lineman Damian Prince and had three other four-star signings. This class was small (17) and that resulted in a ninth-place finish in the Big Ten. However, this group has excellent quality. How these two programs do in their own regions in their first few seasons in the Big Ten will be critical to the survival of the current coaching regimes.

• Illinois and Purdue have two embattled coaching staffs after two really bad seasons and both did very poorly on the recruiting trail. Not only were both classes small (18 signees) but the quality wasn’t impressive either. In fact, Purdue ranked dead last among all Big 5 conference schools while Illinois ranked ahead of only the Boilermakers and Colorado from the Pac-12. Tim Beckman and Darrell Hazell have two major uphill battles ahead of them and these two classes didn’t help with that process whatsoever.

1.Ohio St231154th3357
3.Penn St250524th24242524
4.Michigan St*231325th25222129

* - This ranking reflects the addition of five-star defensive lineman Malik McDowell. This group falls back near Wisconsin and Nebraska without McDowell in the fold.

Big Ten Team Recruiting Consensus Rankings for 2014
Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-running-backs-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

Being a running back in the SEC isn't easy. Generally, the defenses are the fastest and most physical in the nation. And the legacy set forth by two greats in the 1980s by the name of Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson is nearly impossible to live up to. But that doesn't mean the SEC didn't have some of the nation's best carrying the rock during the BCS Era.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas (2005-07)
Stats: 785 att., 4,590 yds, 41 TDs, 46 rec., 365 yds, 2 TDs

When it comes to pure breakaway speed and big-play ability, few can match Run-DMC’s talent. The North Little Rock prospect finished second in Heisman balloting in back-to-back seasons, coming up just short to Troy Smith and Tim Tebow in 2006 and '07 respectively. McFadden won the Doak Walker and SEC Offensive Player of the Year awards in both consensus All-American seasons. His 4,590 yards is No. 2 all-time in SEC history to only the great Herschel Walker. He helped lead Arkansas to the SEC Championship Game in 2006 but came up short against the eventual national champion Florida Gators.

2. Trent Richardson, Alabama (2009-11)
Stats: 540 att., 3,130 yds, 35 TDs 68 rec., 730 yds, 7 TDs, 720 ret. yds, TD

T-Rich is one of the most physically imposing running backs to ever play the game. The Pensacola product only started for one season but became the only SEC running back to rush for 20 touchdowns in a season until Tre Mason scored 23 times in 2013. Richardson won two national titles and is one of the rarest combinations of size, speed and agility. His 1,679 yards in the 2011 national title season are second to only McFadden (1,830) among all SEC backs during the BCS Era and is an Alabama single-season record. He was the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and finished his collegiate career by earning consensus All-American recognition, winning the Doak Walker Award and SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting in '11.

3. Mark Ingram, Alabama (2008-10)
Stats: 572 att., 3,261 yds, 42 TDs, 60 rec., 670 yds, 4 TDs

Ingram is the only Heisman Trophy winner in Alabama’s storied history and he might not have been the best back on his own team. From Flint, Michigan, originally, Ingram led Bama to the national championship in 2009 with 1,658 yards and 17 scores. It was his only 1,000-yard season while in Tuscaloosa. No Bama player has scored more rushing touchdowns than Ingram and his 2009 Heisman Trophy campaign was the third-best among all SEC backs during the BCS Era (McFadden, Richardson). The SEC Offensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American was a first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints when he left school early in 2010.

4. Shaun Alexander, Alabama (1996-99)
Stats: 727 att., 3,565 yds, 41 TDs, 62 rec., 798 yds, 8 TDs

Alexander was a steady performer for four years at Alabama. The Florence, Ky., talent is the all-time leading rusher in Alabama history and he capped his career with an SEC Offensive Player of the Year season when he scored 23 total touchdowns and a career-high 1,383 yards rushing in 1999. Alexander is 12th all-time in rushing in SEC history and his 41 career rushing touchdowns trails Ingram by only one for seventh all-time in SEC history and tops at Alabama.

5. Kevin Faulk, LSU (1995-98)
Stats: 856 att., 4,557 yds, 46 TDs, 53 rec., 600 yds, 4 TDs, 1,676 ret. yds, 3 TDs

From an all-purpose standpoint, few can match the production of Faulk. He posted the No. 4- and No. 5-best all-purpose seasons in SEC history when he totaled 2,109 yards in 1998 and 2,104 in '96. Those are still the best two seasons per game in SEC history (191.7 ypg and 191.3 ypg). His 46 rushing touchdowns are third all-time to Tebow and Walker and Faulk is third all-time in SEC history in rushing. He is fifth in rushing attempts and scored a total of 53 times while at LSU. 

6. Cadillac Williams, Auburn (2001-04)
Stats: 741 att., 3,831 yds, 45 TDs, 45 rec., 342 yds, TDs, 911 ret. yds

He never got the ball all to himself and that likely keeps him from being in the top five. He topped out in 2003 with 1,307 yards and 17 touchdowns before his second 1,000-yard season during the unbeaten 2004 campaign. He has scored more rushing touchdowns than anyone in school history and is No. 2 to only Bo Jackson in rushing yards. Williams is 11th all-time in rushing in SEC history and is fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns before becoming the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He’s 10th all-time in all-purpose yards in SEC history (5,084).

7. Tre Mason, Auburn (2011-13)
Stats: 516 att., 2,979 yds, 32 TDs, 19 rec., 249 yds, TD, 1,107 ret. yds, 2 TDs

Mason’s numbers speak for themselves. His 1,816 yards rushing in 2013 are third-best all-time in the SEC behind only McFadden and Walker. His 23 rushing touchdowns tied Tebow for the most in a single season in SEC history. He carried his team to an SEC championship and berth in the BCS title game while finishing sixth in the Heisman voting. He was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year and posted the second-best all-purpose season in SEC history with 2,374 yards (Randall Cobb, 2,396). His record 46 carries for 304 yards and four touchdowns in the SEC title game win over Missouri will go down as one of the greatest single-game performances in league history.

8. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (2010-12)
Stats: 555 att., 2,677 yds, 38 TDs, 74 rec., 767 yds, 3 TDs

What could have been for the star from South Carolina? Lattimore, in just 29 career games over just three seasons, finished 12th in rushing touchdowns (38) and averaged 118.8 yards from scrimmage per game throughout his time in Columbia. He rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as just a freshman in his only full season in college. Both his sophomore (seven games) and junior (nine) campaigns were cut short with major injuries. His numbers would be among the league’s greatest had he even just played three full seasons.

9. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (2007-08)
Stats: 498 att., 2,734 yds, 30 TDs, 53 rec., 645 yds, 2 TDs

As far as a two-year run goes, few have been as productive as Moreno. He carried 248 times for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns in 13 games in 2007 as a redshirt freshman. He came back the following season and rushed 250 times for 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. Moreno averaged 131.1 all-purpose yards per game during his two-year career, good for eighth in SEC history — with only 30 career return yards. He was a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2009 and could have posted four straight 1,000-yard seasons had he stayed in school.

10. Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State (2006-09)
Stats: 910 att., 3,994 yds, 42 TDs, 56 rec., 449 yds, 4 TDs

Dixon finished second all-time only to Walker in SEC history with 910 carries during his career in Starkville. He is eighth all-time in SEC history in rushing (third to only McFadden and Faulk during the BCS Era) and is tied with Mark Ingram for seventh all-time with 42 rushing touchdowns. Dixon had two 1,000-yard seasons and never scored less than seven times in a season. The burly ball-carrier was one of the most consistent in the history of the league after playing 48 career games for the Bulldogs. 

Just missed the cut:

11. Jamal Lewis, Tennessee (1997-99)
Stats: 487 att., 2,677 yds, 17 TDs, 39 rec., 475 yds, 4 TDs

Lewis never scored 10 times in a season and isn’t near the top 10 in most career rushing lists. But few backs in SEC history have ever been as talented right from the get go. Lewis rushed for 1,364 yards as a true freshman in 1997 and then helped lead the Vols to a BCS National Championship and perfect record in 1998. After a modest junior year (and injuries over his last two seasons), Lewis left school early and was the fifth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. His NFL career speaks for itself.

12. Ronnie Brown, Auburn (2000-04)
Stats: 513 att., 2,707 yds, 28 TDs, 58 rec., 668 yds, 2 TDs

He was supremely talented but his best year was 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2002. He took a slight back seat to Williams on the unblemished ’04 squad, but still managed to produce 1,226 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns en route to an SEC and Sugar Bowl championship. He was the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

13. Deuce McAllister, Ole Miss (1997-00)
Stats: 633 att., 3,181 yds, 37 TDs, 66 rec., 671 yds, 3 TDs, 1,276 ret. yds, 2 TDs

A touchdown scoring machine, McAllister is 13th all-time in SEC history with 37 rushing touchdowns. He is Ole Miss’ leading rusher in every major category: carries, yards, touchdowns and 100-yard games (13). He only had one 1,000-yard season (1998) but averaged 5.0 yards per carry for his career and was unstoppable around the goal line. The Saints took him in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

14. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (2009-12)
Stats: 581 att., 3,143 yds, 30 TDs, 46 rec., 415 yds

Simply put, he is the best, most productive running back in school history. And he helped get the Commodores to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. He owns every major school rushing record after back-to-back seasons with at least 200 carries, 1,140 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011-12.

15. Travis Henry, Tennessee (1997-00)
Stats: 556 att., 3,078 yds, 26 TDs, 20 rec., 99 yds

An excellent producer for three full seasons, Henry helped lead Tennessee to a national title in 1998 before capping his career with a 1,314-yard, 11-TD season in 2000. The Volunteers went 41-9 during Henry’s time on campus. He was a second-round pick of the Bills in 2001.

16. Felix Jones, Arkansas (2005-07)
Stats: 386 att., 2,956 yds, 20 TDs, 39 rec., 383 yds, 3 TDs, 1,760 ret. yds, 4 TDs

Few players have the resume that Jones has in just three seasons… as a back up. He posted back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons and scored 27 total times in his career. His 1,990 all-purpose yards in ’07 is good for 11th all-time in SEC history. He was a consensus All-American and a first-round pick while helping Arkansas to an SEC title game.

17. Rudi Johnson, Auburn (2000)
Stats: 324 att., 1,567 yds, 13 TDs, 9 rec., 70 yds

Johnson played just one season in the SEC after winning two straight junior college national championships. But it was a good one. No back carried the ball more (324) in any one BCS season in the SEC than Johnson did in 2000. His 1,567 yards that season are second only to Jackson’s 1,786 in school history. He was named SEC Player of the Year and finished 10th in the Heisman voting.

18. Travis Stephens, Tennessee (1997-01)
Stats: 488 att., 2,336 yds, 21 TDs, 27 rec., 200 yds, TD

After biding his time behind both Lewis and Henry, Stephens posted one of the great single seasons in Vols history in 2001. He ran for 1,464 yards and 10 touchdowns on 291 carries and single-handedly beat No. 2-ranked Florida to win the SEC East title.

19. Ben Tate, Auburn (2006-09)
Stats: 678 att., 3,321 yds, 24 TDs, 53 rec., 336 yds

A few years after the Williams-Brown tandem, Tate posted three quality seasons in Auburn with at least 159 carries. But his final year was his best as he posted career highs in carries (263), yards (1,362) and touchdowns (10) to go with 20 receptions.

20. Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss (2006-09)
Stats: 304 att., 1,955 yds, 15 TDs, 130 rec., 1,703 yds, 7 TDs, 431 ret. yds

He wasn’t really a running back or a wide receiver and that may hurt his perception, but few players were as difficult to stop as McCluster was in his final season. He posted 1,689 yards from scrimmage and 11 offensive touchdowns while leading Ole Miss to their second straight nine-win season. The across-the-board production makes him one of the SEC’s best.

Best of the rest:

21. Eddie Lacy, Alabama (2010-12): 355 att., 2,402 yds, 30 TDs, 35 rec., 338 yds, 2 TDs
22. Todd Gurley, Georgia (2012-pres.): 387 att., 2,374 yds, 27 TDs, 53 rec., 558 yds, 6 TDs, 243 ret. yds, TD
23. Joseph Addai, LSU (2001-05): 490 att., 2,576 yds, 18 TDs, 66 rec., 641 yds, 6 TDs
24. Henry Josey, Missouri (2010-13): 395 att., 2,771 yds, 30 TDs, 24 rec., 175 yds, TD
25. Arian Foster, Tennessee (2005-08): 650 att., 2,964 yds, 23 TDs, 83 rec., 742 yds, 2 TDs
26. Earnest Graham, Florida (1998-02): 609 att., 3,085 yds, 33 TDs, 59 rec., 402 yds
27. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (2012-pres.): 382 att., 2,343 yds, 26 TDs, 31 rec., 314 yds, TD
28. Kenneth Darby, Alabama (2003-06): 702 att., 3,324 yds, 11 TDs, 70 rec., 340 yds, 2 TDs
29. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ole Miss (2003-07): 920 att., 3,869 yds, 25 TDs, 39 rec., 316 yds, TD
30. Jeremy Hill, LSU (2012-13): 345 att., 2,156 yds, 28 TDs, 26 rec., 254 yds
31. Rafael Little, Kentucky (2004-07): 580 att., 2,996 yds, 16 TDs, 131 rec., 1,324 yds, 4 TDs, 1,023 ret. yds, 2 TDs
32. Jerious Norwood, Mississippi State (2002-05): 573 att., 3,222 yds, 15 TDs, 43 rec., 186 yds, 2 TDs, 313 ret. yds
33. Artose Pinner, Kentucky (1999-02): 438 att., 2,105 yds, 17 TDs, 58 rec., 407 yds, 2 TDs
34. Stevan Ridley, LSU (2008-10): 306 att., 1,419 yds, 19 TDs, 17 rec., 94 yds
35. Montario Hardesty, Tennessee (2005-09): 560 att., 2,391 yds, 26 TDs, 38 rec., 405 yds, TD

ORV: Cedric Cobbs, Knile Davis, Kenny Irons, Glen Coffee, Mike Davis, Thomas Brown, Cedric Houston

Top 10 SEC Running Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-which-team-has-you-flip-flopping-your-opinion

This regular season has been unusually unpredictable, especially when it comes to the top teams from back in November.

Athlon Sports isn’t above changing it’s opinions based on more games and more of the season. For better or worse, three teams have caused us to recalibrate what we think of each program this season.

We asked our editorial staff which teams, for better or worse, have caused them to change their opinions the most in the last few weeks.

Weekly Tipoff: Name a team that you have changed your opinion of (either good or bad) in the past few weeks.

David Fox: Oklahoma State
I’m going to steal the thunder of my colleagues and pick Oklahoma State. This stretch has been coming long before the Marcus Smart suspension. Even before the fateful shove in Lubbock, the Cowboys already were on the way to their fourth consecutive loss and fifth in six games. The Michael Cobbins injury set Oklahoma State back just as the Cowboys entered Big 12 play. The dismissal of backup point guard Stevie Clark essentially gave the Pokes as six-man rotation. In Big 12 play, Oklahoma State is middle of the pack in almost every way, but especially on the glass — the Cowboys are sixth in defensive rebound rate and eighth in offensive rebound rate. And now this team won’t have Smart for two more games. Oklahoma State caught a break in Smart’s first game out, facing Texas without its star forward Jonathan Holmes. Texas still won by 19. If Oklahoma State can’t beat Oklahoma or Baylor without Smart, this team will be 4-9 in the Big 12 and 16-10 overall when Smart returns. That’s a bubble team. A far cry from a team we thought could win the Big 12 title back in November.

Mitch Light: St. John's
St. John’s, left for dead after an 0–5 start in the Big East, is now looking like a team capable of winning a few games in the NCAA Tournament. Led by guard De’Angelo Harrison, the Red Storm have won five of their last six league games, with the only loss coming by three points at Creighton on Jan. 28. On Sunday, Harrison scored 19 points and hit some key free throws late to secure a 70–65 win in the rematch with Creighton. With an RPI of 63 and only one win against a top-50 opponent, St. John’s still has some work to do, but this team clearly has the talent to play its way into the NCAAs.

Braden Gall: SMU
This is a team that was picked in the middle of the pack in the American Athletic Conference. The Mustangs showed some progress early in the season but didn’t exactly warrant much national attention. That, however, has changed. After beating both Memphis and Cincinnati at home in convincing fashion over the last two weeks, Larry Brown’s team is now in the national rankings and appears headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993. The only five losses for SMU? At Louisville, at Cincinnati, at Arkansas, Virginia on a neutral court and at, gulp, South Florida. The loss to the Bulls is the only real head-scratcher, and the Mustangs are perfect at home at renovated Moody Coliseum. Rematches with UConn, Louisville and Memphis in the final two weeks could be for more than just seeding in the conference tourney.

Weekly Tipoff: Which Team Has You Flip-Flopping Your Opinion?
Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-media-roundtable-jimmie-johnsons-reign-comparable-any-sport-has-seen

Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?

While drivers may toe the company line — keeping sponsors happy and staying in the sanctioning body’s good graces are important to their livelihood — it’s the job of these journos to provide news, insight and opinion in a sport that has no shortage of any.

In this nine-part feature, Athlon Sports sits down with seven media professionals from different outlets to get a healthy cross-section of ideas, opinions and feedback on the biggest issues alive and well in the sport of NASCAR, circa 2014.

Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team has won six of the last eight Sprint Cup championships. In a day when parity in professional sports is not merely encouraged but is the norm, is this team’s sustained success comparable to anything ever seen in NASCAR?

Pete Pistone (Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio; @PPistone): I was a kid through Petty’s reign and covered some of Earnhardt’s as a reporter, but what Johnson is doing to rewrite the record book is simply spectacular. Fans of other drivers might not like it, but Johnson has already established himself as the greatest driver in NASCAR history.

Nick Bromberg (Yahoo! Sports; @NickBromberg): No. This is the greatest streak of domination in NASCAR history. While NASCAR is closer than it’s ever been, you could make the argument that close doesn’t always equal competitive. In an NFL where a 2–14 team quintuples its win total the following year, the same turnarounds don’t and can’t happen in NASCAR’s climate.

But that’s not taking anything away from what the No. 48 team has done. That closeness leaves less margin for error. For example, a bobble on pit road under green can create a deficit that’s impossible to make up. And in the Chase format, that can be fatal. But through the 10 Chase seasons, six of these titles have been won by this bunch. That’s simply incredible.

Nate Ryan (USA Today@nateryan): It’s best compared to an NBA dynasty. The Chicago Bulls also won six championships in eight seasons, and its common thread is a dynamic troika. Just as the Bulls’ core of Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen remained mostly constant (aside from MJ’s sabbatical) through roster churn and varied opponents, the No. 48 trio of Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec also has been in place for all six championships. Malec somehow hasn’t left despite plentiful offers for greener pastures via a crew chief promotion, and that might be one of the most underreported stories in Sprint Cup.

Bob Pockrass (The Sporting News@bobpockrass): No. Jimmie Johnson is a great driver. Chad Knaus is a great crew chief. They have a great team and organization behind them. For those who hate the fact he has won six titles in the last eight years, there is one good thing — the chances of another driver achieving such a feat is extremely slim.

Mike Mulhern (; @mikemulhern): Jimmie Johnson may be a great driver, one of the best ever, but such a run is not good for the sport. Sustained success in NASCAR history? Check out Richard Petty, the Wood brothers and Junior Johnson. In my opinion it is long past time for Brian France to do the rest of the job he started a few years ago — limiting the number of Cup teams any one man can run. Break up the mega-teams; limit owners to no more than two Cup teams; and drastically modify these “engineering” operations.

Mike Hembree (Athlon Sports; @mikehembree): The only real comparison is the extended success of the old Petty Enterprises team, which was obnoxiously dominant in its day. But the No. 48’s run is more impressive, given the ability of more teams to be competitive in the modern era.

Ryan McGee ( The Magazine@ESPNMcGee): No. Teams like Holman-Moody, Petty Enterprises, Junior Johnson & Associates, or even Richard Childress Racing did their greatest damage in eras when only the top handful of cars could realistically win races. Now we’re seeing double-digit winners each year and rules designed to keep as many cars as possible on the lead lap. They’ve changed the cars, the championship format, everything … and Hendrick keeps on winning. Yes, they have a big budget. But so do the other superteams. The difference is the right people in the right places and a willingness to take risks when it comes to new processes. Oh, and that Johnson guy is pretty good.

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team has won six of the last eight Sprint Cup championships. In a day when parity in professional sports is not merely encouraged but is the norm, is this team’s sustained success comparable to anything ever seen in NASCAR?
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 23:58
All taxonomy terms: Carl Edwards, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-driver-profile-carl-edwards

By the close of last year’s Daytona 500, Carl Edwards had already wrecked four of his Fords five times in the 2013 calendar year.  Carl Edwards

It wasn’t exactly the auspicious start Edwards had hoped for as he tried to snap a winless streak that reached 70 races over the course of the prior two seasons. And it wasn’t the start his team needed during the early period of NASCAR’s transition to its Gen-6 car, in a shop already working overtime to fine-tune the new pieces.

But good track position and horrible passing conditions rectified that a week later at Phoenix International Raceway, where Edwards drove the No. 99 to Victory Lane after leading 122 laps. He snapped that winless streak — the longest of his 10-season Sprint Cup career — and seemed to make a statement that Roush Fenway Racing had corrected the issues that kept him out of the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“I think we have a lot of great things to look forward to,” Edwards said days later. “A win right off the bat is really, really good for us.”

Alas, it was a bit of a mirage in the desert.

Yes, Edwards did improve in 2013 on his personal-worst 2012. He did return as a qualifier for the Chase. He also saw an increase in important statistical averages.

In 2012, Edwards finished 15th in points, without a win, and with just three top-5 finishes while racing only 56.2 percent of the season inside the top 15. Last year, he nabbed two wins — you’ll excuse most fans who forgot about the fact that he was the winner of the oh-so-controversial regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway — while pushing his top-5 finishes to nine and piling on a 12.7 percent increase in his laps run inside the top 15.

All told, Edwards’ driver rating jumped to 92.5 after a dismal 84.2 in 2012. The cumulative effect of Edwards’ strength was most notable after that second Richmond race. Without the Chase format causing a reshuffle of the point standings, Edwards would have left Richmond one point ahead of Jimmie Johnson with 10 races left.

It was those final 10 races, however, that ultimately left Edwards in a non-speaking role at last season’s Las Vegas awards banquet. In fact, he was dead last in the Chase when the checkered flag flew on the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. An average finish of 16.9 in the Chase will do that to a driver.

But the way Edwards came about that horrible, no-good finish to an otherwise nice season of team improvement is exactly why it makes sense to believe that he’ll do better this season.

No, Edwards was never really championship material — his strength all year was consistent finishing, not necessarily overpowering wins. However, his Chase run was marred by two mechanical failures. First, he suffered a wheel hub issue at Dover that left him 15 laps down in 35th after starting fourth and leading. Later, he lost an engine at Texas Motor Speedway, a track where Edwards is traditionally a favorite.

Those failures were combined with an uncharacteristic shortage of Chase top-10 finishes — Edwards had only three. There was also a blown opportunity for a Phoenix sweep, but he ran out of gas and was ultimately relegated to 13th in the point standings.

If his team can just put its bad luck behind him, Edwards figures to improve his position this year. He’ll also be in his second season with crew chief Jimmy Fennig, personally requested after a tumultuous 2012 left Edwards searching for a team leader.

The relationship between Fennig and Edwards was easily the biggest question mark before last season, but the Type-A personalities seemed to mesh amazingly well. Fennig, despite his military style, managed to avoid stepping on the toes of his driver, while Edwards managed to align to Fennig’s straight-and-narrow style of team leadership.

All told, it’s a relationship with a minimal amount of unicorns, rainbows and butterflies, but one that seemed to work without fireworks in 2013. That’s exactly what team owner Jack Roush was hoping for. But as Ford’s No. 1 wheelman, signed to a multi-year extension in 2011, Edwards needs to step it up one more notch. Since the signing, he’s won only twice, finished outside the top 10 in points the last two years and fallen outside the marketing limelight. There’s too much money getting paid out here for executives to be satisfied with that.

With a year of fine-tuning under their belts, Edwards and Fennig should improve. But 2014 can be no mirage.

What the Competition is Saying
Anonymous quotes from crew chiefs, owners and media
There may have been behind-the-scenes questions about Carl Edwards’ personality in the past, but none of his rivals currently question his desire.

“He is a very consistent driver who is truly passionate about the sport,” one crew chief says. “He’s driven for performance and physical fitness. When he was in contention for the title, he was so competitive, almost to a fault.”

“The tide of success with the Gen-6 car seemed to be against Edwards and the Ford camp,” another rival notes. “They’re making some crew chief changes and moving some stuff around over there that will probably make them better. He needs to have success early and then ride the wave to the Chase next year.”

From a media perspective, one member values Edwards’ insight and honesty: “I don’t always personally agree with Edwards’ opinion on every topic, but I sincerely appreciate the fact that he’ll lay it on the line with you. Carl isn’t gonna BS you. And he really takes ‘this side’ of his job seriously — not all drivers are as willing to give an honest effort in communicating with the media like he does.”

Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers:
His 2013 wins came on a three-quarter-miler and a one-miler, but 11 of his 16 triumphs in the CoT/Gen-6 era have come on the intermediates.
Pretty Solid Pick: See that 6.6-place average finish at Homestead in the chart above? He’s in the zone when others are mentally on a beach in the Caribbean.
Good Sleeper Pick: We’ve covered his intermediate prowess, so how about that 7.9-place average showing in the seven races at Watkins Glen in the CoT/Gen-6 era?
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Has averaged a 17th at Talladega dating back to that scary catchfence-tumble in 2009, cracking the top 10 only twice.
Insider Tip: We love Jimmy Fennig, and Edwards is a fascinating thinker, but is the 99 team still a feared unit?

No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Owners: Jack Roush/John Henry
Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig
Years with current team: 11
Under contract through: 2015+
Best points finish: 2nd (2008, ’11)
Hometown: Columbia, Mo.
Born: Aug. 15, 1979



Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro



Previewing the season of Car Edwards on the NASCR Sprint Cup circuit.
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 23:55
All taxonomy terms: Greg Biffle, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-driver-profile-greg-biffle

Greg Biffle earned his sixth berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year, and it’s not lost on the Ford driver just how important making the sport’s postseason actually is. In fact, he believes the Chase is what offers the sport’s top drivers and teams a sense of legitimacy.  Greg Biffle

“What makes up the face of this sport is the Chase, and the Chase guys,” Biffle says. “That’s what everybody talks about from the Daytona 500 on is the 12 or 13 cars that are gonna be in the Chase. It’s really important, and that’s been our focus. Let’s face it, you can’t win the championship unless you’re in the Chase.”

This season, Biffle should expect to earn his seventh appearance in the NASCAR championship format and sixth in a row. While making a legitimate run at the title seems unlikely, it will be another postseason berth based on Biffle’s sterling consistency and strong ability to find a way to Victory Lane. Of his 11 full-time seasons, Biffle has failed to win a race just twice.

Last year, Biffle notched just one victory — he held off a hard-charging Jimmie Johnson in the June race at Michigan International Speedway — but he ultimately didn’t need it for his Chase qualification effort. Still, Biffle knew at the time that the insurance was awfully nice.

However, making the show is one thing; succeeding is another task altogether. Biffle ultimately finished ninth last season in points due in large part to a Chase effort that garnered only three top-10 finishes, one of which was a top 5. As it so often is with Biffle, his No. 16 was good enough to be within the select group of drivers, but not quite good enough to make a legitimate title run. He hasn’t been a serious candidate down the stretch since 2005.

That’s a crucial point, because Biffle enters 2014 at age 44 in the midst of a contract year with longtime Roush Fenway prospect Trevor Bayne waiting in the wings. Bayne’s progress has been tediously slow, but he has driven for Biffle’s sponsor, 3M, and has been searching for a full-time Cup opportunity since winning the 2011 Daytona 500. As we saw with Kenseth two years ago, Roush has a history of going younger as a way of doing business. Biffle’s job this year is to show that he’s still the best option.

It’ll take improvement on Biffle’s part to make that happen, despite a solid history of regular-season success. Consider that, overall, Biffle’s 2013 was a one-win affair with just four top-5 finishes and 13 top 10s. Those numbers were substantially off from the prior season and similar to 2011, a year that found him outside the Chase picture.

Even if Biffle does not improve, he’ll likely breeze into a 16-team Chase this season, though once there may be surpassed by a competitive slate of drivers who weren’t in Chase competition last fall (Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart). It’s a hungry trio, backed by the off-track PR hype that has never quite seemed to attach itself to Biffle.

A good note is that Biffle’s crew chief relationship survived some offseason reshuffling at RFR. Biffle and Matt Puccia will now work their third full season together, although you have to wonder what kind of production Roush will require early in the season’s slate. He has to have concerns that Biffle’s average start dropped more than six spots last year, the worst result in years for a driver who struggles in traffic.

Some of that problem may also be attributable to the Fords Biffle drove. While consistent (Biffle finished every race last year), he often talked about how the team was playing catch-up. Ford drivers won just six times overall and didn’t finish higher than eighth in series points.

However, the Ford camp did spend time last season lobbying NASCAR for some undisclosed concessions. The manufacturer was primarily concerned that some of NASCAR’s in-season car modifications across all makes had unfairly caused a disadvantage among the Blue Oval brigade. No direct evidence was ever made available, though.

NASCAR never made any public announcement about new allowances for the Ford teams, but at the very least, a new grille molding will be used. If it did — or if Ford found some speed through good old-fashioned research and development — then Biffle and RFR could stand an improved chance.

Otherwise, it’s difficult to envision Biffle being more than another mid-level Chase competitor in 2014. Does that mean free agency’s next up?

What the Competition is Saying
Anonymous quotes from crew chiefs, owners and media
“Biffle knows how to win — he’s a proven champion in the Truck and Nationwide series,” one crew chief says. “And he can win on any type of track, although he hasn’t won on a road course. Biffle runs a street stock race on his farm every year and builds the car himself. That knowledge helps him share pertinent information with his race team.”

Another crew chief points to some inhibiting factors that could derail any hopes for a NASCAR “title trifecta” — at least in 2014: “While he can win, he can be very inconsistent. His personality can be a drawback, too. He is a rather dry individual. And he’s in Roush equipment, which — if you look at the success that Matt Kenseth had this season — appears to be an inhibiting factor.”

A media member who has watched Biffle his entire NASCAR career still believes in the Washington native’s talent: “I’ve always thought Biffle was a helluva wheelman. He really came out of nowhere — like, literally, the Great Northwest — to win his two championships (NNS and CWTS), but the Cup level is something entirely different. I think he has the ability, but the Roush program has been a step off since Edwards’ missed title bid in 2011.”

Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers:
We all know the “intermediate” story on Biffle, who has recorded 16 of his 19 career Cup wins at seven tracks: Auto Club, Darlington, Dover, Homestead, Kansas, Michigan and Texas.
Pretty Solid Pick: In the CoT/Gen-6 era, Biffle has managed to score five top 10s in six starts — with two third-place runs in the last four years — at Indy.
Good Sleeper Pick: Hey, have we mentioned Biffle’s success on seven specific tracks?
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Martinsville is the obvious choice, but strangely enough, Biffle has bucked the intermediate trend at Kentucky, where he’s averaged a 25.3-place finish.
Insider Tip: He’s not an A-lister, but he makes a fine selection out of the B-list when the circuit visits seven very specific tracks.

No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
3M/American Red Cross/Fastenal/American Dental Association
Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry
Crew Chief: Matt Puccia
Years with current team: 12
Under contract through: 2014
Best points finish: 2nd (2005)
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
Born: Dec. 23, 1969

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Previewing the 2014 season of NASCR Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle.
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 23:52
All taxonomy terms: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-driver-profile-ricky-stenhouse-jr

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. concluded what most would consider a typical rookie season at 19th in the final Sprint Cup standings in 2013. While many expect continued gains, the rising sophomore is caught square in the muck of mid-major teams that will fight tooth and nail to gain footing in the points range just outside of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Stenhouse won the 2013 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year award after predictably edging out girlfriend and competitor Danica Patrick. With each of his three top 10s scored in the year’s final 11 races, it appeared that driver development was right on track. Yet based on the reaction of Roush Fenway Racing team officials following the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November, Stenhouse’s team underachieved to the point of necessary change.

Just two days after 2013’s final checkered flag, Stenhouse’s crew chief, Scott Graves, was demoted — RFR coined it a reassignment, but don’t be misled as to what it actually was — to Nationwide Series duty on Chris Buescher’s No. 60 car in 2014. Moving to Stenhouse’s Cup pit box is Mike Kelley from RFR’s Nationwide Series program. It was a familiar move — most likely made at Stenhouse’s request — as Kelley worked with him during his two Nationwide titles in 2011 and ‘12.

“As with any season,” says Jack Roush, “we always sit down at the end of the year and evaluate where we are, what we have and what we think are the best options to put our teams in the best position to compete for wins and championships.”

Roush never revealed what exactly led to the end-of-season upheaval, but Stenhouse’s season-long statistics may help with the why. Still, the No. 17 was showing improvement with those three top 10s and its jump from 23rd to 19th in points during the final 12 races.

Stenhouse cited past success with Kelley and improved chemistry as two reasons he was excited about the move away from Graves after only one season. It’s a move that also begs the question: Why wasn’t Kelley hired in the first place?

The crew chief change is one that certainly leaves Stenhouse in a bit of a sticky situation should he not show marked improvement. After all, a driver only gets so many management changes before the finger of blame starts to point at the guy behind the steering wheel. But the move also seems to indicate that the team expects much more from the 26-year-old driver.

Stenhouse admirably finished every race in 2013, but he lagged far, far behind teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle in critical statistical areas. Stenhouse had only three top-10 finishes compared to Biffle’s 13 and Edwards’ 16. He only could muster a single top-5 run and struggled with the sport’s 26th-best average running position.

Those numbers played a large role in why Stenhouse was the only one of the three RFR drivers not to make the Chase. In fact, he really was never close, despite running a program that ran top seven in points the previous year with Matt Kenseth at the helm.

Expect Stenhouse’s best chance for success this season to come on the sport’s 1.5- and 2-mile tracks. During his Nationwide career, 17 of his 39 career top-5 finishes came at those ovals as well as five of his eight wins in that series.

Stenhouse didn’t win in his first season, and he rarely ever came close. For Roush, that had to be a bit of a surprise considering Stenhouse’s runaway success against the sport’s second tier. After all, the last RFR driver to win rookie honors — Kenseth in 2000 — went to Victory Lane in his 12th start of his first full-time season.

Is it fair to compare Kenseth, the sport’s champion in his fourth full-time season, to the still new Stenhouse? Of course not, and it’s also important to note that the Roush organization is down a few pegs from its late 1990s to early 2000s heyday.

But Jack Roush didn’t hire Stenhouse just to wear cowboy hats, date another driver and run mid-pack.

If driver-crew chief chemistry yields fruit, paired with the typical improvement that comes with experience, Stenhouse will take steps forward this year. Just don’t expect those steps to be big enough to launch the No. 17 into title contention.

What the Competition is Saying
Anonymous quotes from crew chiefs, owners and media
“He is the Rookie of the Year, he’s a two time champion in a national touring series, and he went through his turmoil at Roush and it turned him into a better driver,” a rival team member points out. “He gradually improved over the course of last season with his average finish climbing over the second half of the year consistently.”

Another says: “He is still dating Danica, so there is always going to be that cloud over his head even though it seems to have died down. He’s in a Ford, which was a bit of a curse last season. Roush seems to be behind the rest of the power teams, so it may take some time before he can run with the Hendrick cars.”

“It’s my understanding that the crew chief change was Stenhouse’s call,” a media member says. “I think he wanted (Jimmy) Fennig two seasons ago, but Carl (Edwards) pulled rank — and I imagine Ford wanted its best driver paired with its best coach. That said, Stenhouse has a guy (Mike Kelley) he’s enjoyed a lot of success with in the Nationwide Series. And Roush will give them all the time in the world to make it work on the Cup level. I’m looking forward to seeing what the duo can do at the premier level, to be honest.”

Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers:
It could happen. He seems to have an affinity for those ’tweeners like Richmond and Phoenix.
Pretty Solid Pick: Like a good little Roushian, he looks at home on the intermediates — and he certainly has the teachers in Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.
Good Sleeper Pick: We’ll refrain from making a Danica joke and call your attention to his third-place run at Talladega last fall.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Still learning (and earning respect) on the shorter, more physical tracks like Loudon, Martinsville and the roadies.
Insider Tip: Will Mike Kelley’s return to his pit box ignite a six-win season, which the duo accomplished on the Nationwide circuit in 2012? Not immediately, but you will see some near-misses this year — and possibly a breakthrough.

No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Nationwide Insurance/Zest/Fifth Third Bank Ford
Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry
Crew Chief: Mike Kelley
Years with current team: 2
Under contract through: 2015+
Best points finish: 19th (2013)
Hometown: Olive Branch, Miss.
Born: Oct. 2, 1987

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro


Previewing the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and Roush Fenway driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 23:50
Path: /college-football/cincinnati-qb-munchie-legaux-granted-extra-year-eligibility

Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux has been granted an eligibility extension, and the Louisiana native will return to the Bearcats’ team in 2013.

The extra year was granted to Legaux after he missed nearly all of 2013 due to a leg injury. Prior to the season-ending injury against Illinois, Legaux threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns.

Legaux will have one season of eligibility remaining, and he is expected to compete with Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel to be Cincinnati’s starting quarterback in 2014. However, as a result of his leg injury, Legaux is not expected to return to practice until this summer.


Cincinnati QB Munchie Legaux Granted Extra Year of Eligibility
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 18:22
Path: /college-football/rutgers-reaches-agreement-leave-american-athletic-conference

Rutgers and the American Athletic Conference have reached an agreement to allow the Scarlet Knights to depart for the Big Ten in time for the 2014 football season.

There was little doubt Rutgers would play in the Big Ten next year, but there was a question about how much the school would have to pay to leave the American Athletic Conference.

On Wednesday, Rutgers announced it will pay $11.5 million to leave for the Big Ten.

According to the Star-Ledger, the Scarlet Knights have already paid $5 million of the exit fee and the rest will be paid over the next four years.

The Scarlet Knights (along with Maryland) will officialy join the Big Ten on July 1.

Rutgers Reaches Agreement to Leave American Athletic Conference
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 17:56
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /33-best-two-sport-athletes-all-time

Some of the world's greatest athletes weren't just one-sport players; instead, they excelled in two (and sometimes in several). Of course, some athletes probably should have stuck with their main sport. Here's a look at the top 33 two-sport athletes of all time, ranked in order of their second best sport.

1. Jim Thorpe, track (Best sport: football)

One of the all-time great athletes, Thorpe is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and has been immortalized via the Jim Thorpe Award — given annually to the top defensive back in college football. But Thorpe was also a gold medalist in both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.

2. Jim Brown, lacrosse (Best sport: football)

Arguably the greatest running back in history, Brown is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. The 6’2”, 230-pounder is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and is considered by many to be the best athlete to ever play the sport.

3. Bob Hayes, football (Best sport: track)

“Bullet Bob” Hayes won the fastest man in the world, winning gold medals in the 100 meters and 4x100 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Hayes then strapped on a helmet for the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl VI and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

4. Bo Jackson, baseball (Best sport: football)

Only Bo knows what might have been. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner was a Pro Bowl running back for the L.A. Raiders and an All-Star outfielder for the Kansas City Royals — hitting 32 HRs and 105 RBIs in just 135 games in 1989 — before a hip injury derailed the out-of-this-world athlete.

5. Charlie Ward, football (Best sport: basketball)

Sure, Ward played 11 seasons in the NBA — starting at point guard for the New York Knicks’ Eastern Conference champs in 1999. But most know him as a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion quarterback at Florida State in 1993.

6. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, track (Best sport: golf)

A 10-time LPGA major champion and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Mildred Ella — better known as “Babe” — won gold medals in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw as well as a silver medal in the high jump at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

7. Duke Kahanamoku, surfing (Best sport: swimming)

The Big Kahuna won three Olympic medals in the 100-meter freestyle — taking gold at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and 1920 Antwerp Olympics, and silver at the 1924 Paris Olympics — as well as a gold (1920) and silver (1912) in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. But Mr. Hawaii was also the “Father of Surfing,” popularizing the longboard en route to becoming a member of the Surfing, Swimming and U.S. Olympic Halls of Fame.

8. Deion Sanders, baseball (Best sport: football)

A member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Prime Time is considered the greatest cornerback in NFL history. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Sanders also played with the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series and played parts of nine lightning-fast seasons in MLB.

9. Gene Conley, basketball (Best sport: baseball)

A four-time MLB All-Star and 1957 World Series champion with the Milwaukee Braves, the 6’8”, 225-pound Conley also won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics — becoming the only athlete in history to win world titles in two of the big four pro leagues.

10. Danny Ainge, baseball (Best sport: basketball)

The Wooden Award winner at BYU, Ainge won two NBA championships with the Celtics and was an All-Star in 1988. He also had a cup of coffee with the Toronto Blue Jays, playing three seasons from 1979-81.

11. Brian Jordan, football (Best sport: baseball)

A one-time MLB All-Star who played in the bigs for 15 years, Jordan played three seasons (1989-91) as a safety in the NFL before making his debut in The Show in 1992.

12. Jackie Robinson, track (Best sport: baseball)

The 1949 NL MVP and 1955 World Series champ is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a civil rights pioneer. But he was also the 1940 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Long Jump champion at UCLA.


13. Lolo Jones, bobsled (Best sport: track)

A pair of Summer Olympic heartbreakers in the 100-meter hurdles — including a fall at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a fourth-place finish at the 2012 London Olympics — led to Lolo joining Team USA's bobsled team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.


14. Jonathan Ogden, shot put (Best sport: football)

The 6’9”, 345-pound Ogden was the 1996 NCAA Men’s Indoor Shot Put champion at UCLA, before becoming an 11-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XXXV champion left tackle with the Baltimore Ravens.

15. Jeff Samardzija, football (Best sport: baseball)

The Shark was an All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist, finishing his Notre Dame football career as the Irish’s all-time leading receiver prior to becoming a right-handed pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

16. Darin Erstad, football (Best sport: baseball)

The 1995 Golden Spikes Award winner was also the starting punter on Nebraska’s 1994 national championship football team before going on to play 14 seasons in MLB.


17. Joe Mauer, football (Best sport: baseball)

Before Mauer was the 2009 AL MVP and three-time batting champion for the Minnesota Twins, the 6’5” athlete with a cannon for a right arm was USA Today’s High School Player of the Year as a quarterback.

18. Dave Winfield, basketball (Best sport: baseball)

A 22-year MLB veteran and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Winfield played college basketball at the University of Minnesota — where he helped lead the Golden Gophers to the 1972 Big Ten title.

19. Kenny Lofton, basketball (Best sport: baseball)

A six-time All-Star, five-time stolen base champ and four-time Gold Glove center fielder, Lofton’s first love was basketball. He played point guard for the University of Arizona, making the Final Four in 1988.

20. Tony Gwynn, basketball (Best sport: baseball)

A first-ballot member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Gwynn was a 15-time All-Star and eight-time batting champ with a career .338 batting average and 3,141 hits. But Gwynn was also a solid point guard, setting San Diego State records for assists in a season and career.

21. Marion Jones, basketball (Best sport: track)

Once a golden girl, Jones’ reputation has since been tarnished by PED use and jail time. Before the fall, Jones won three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after a standout hoops career at the University of North Carolina — where she was a member of the 1994 NCAA champion Tar Heels.

22. Antonio Gates, basketball (Best sport: football)

Led Kent State to its first MAC championship and a trip to the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Tournament before becoming an eight-time Pro Bowl tight end for the San Diego Chargers.

23. Jimmy Graham, basketball (Best sport: football)

Played four years of basketball at the University of Miami but just one season of football at The U. No big deal, the 6’6”, 260-pound power forward has evolved into one of the NFL’s best tight ends (or wide receivers, if you're his agent lobbying for more franchise tag money).

24. Tony Gonzalez, basketball (Best sport: football)

Gonzalez round-balled at Cal-Berkeley before becoming a 14-time Pro Bowl tight end with 1,325 catches, 15,127 yards and 111 TDs over 18 seasons (playing 238-of-240 games) for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.

25. Julius Peppers, basketball (Best sport: football)

The pass-rusher was a glass-crasher at University of North Carolina, where he came off the bench for the Tar Heels’ 2000 Final Four squad.

26. Walter Ray Williams Jr., horseshoes (Best sport: bowling)

The seven-time PBA Player of the Year also owns six Men’s World Horseshoe Pitching titles.

27. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, football (Best sport: wrestling)

The WWF wrestler was a member of the University of Miami’s 1991 national championship team, where he played with future NFL stars like Warren Sapp.

28. Ed “Too Tall” Jones, boxing (Best sport: football)

A three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman and Super Bowl XII champion, the 6’9” Jones had a scary 88-inch reach as a boxer — going 6–0 with five KOs in 1979.

29. Herschel Walker, mixed martial arts/bobsled (Best sport: football)

Known for always being in peak condition, Walker started his MMA career as a 48-year-old. The fifth-degree Taekwondo black belt is 2–0 with two TKOs on punches. Years before that he participated in the two-man bobsled competition at the 1992 Winter Olympics, finishing seventh. Oh yeah, Walker, who played several years in the NFL, also won the 1982 Heisman Trophy at Georgia and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

30. Scott Burrell, baseball (Best sport: basketball)

The only athlete selected in the first round of two of the big four sports’ drafts — Burrell went No. 20 overall to the Charlotte Hornets in the 1993 NBA Draft and No. 26 overall to the Seattle Mariners in the 1989 MLB Draft.


31. Chris Weinke, baseball (Best sport: football)

The BCS national champion and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Florida State hit 69 HRs and drove in 402 runs as a minor league baller after being a second-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school.


32. Jameis Winston, baseball (Best sport: football)

Another BCS national champion and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Florida State, Winston will also serve as the Seminoles baseball team's 90-plus-mph flame-throwing closer.

33. Michael Jordan, baseball (Best sport: basketball)

His Airness is undeniably the greatest basketball player of all-time and arguably the greatest athlete ever. However, in 127 games playing for the Chicago White Sox’s Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons, Air Jordan hit just .202 with three HRs, 51 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.

The greatest two-sport athletes, ranked by their second sport
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 15:45
All taxonomy terms: Olympics
Path: /olympics/2014-sochi-olympics-what-watch-feb-12

Today's Highlights


8-11:30 p.m. Eastern

Eye Watch 2014 rages on: Bob Costas is sidelined again by pinkeye, and he's being Wally Pipp'ed for a second night by Matt Lauer, who has his own facial weirdness happening with a scraggly beard. Normal spoiler alert: By tonight, all of this will have already happened, so if you want to go in fresh, avoid the usual sports sites today.


1. Alpine Skiing — Women's Downhill
You'll want to watch this event, as history has been made today in Sochi. Mild spoiler alert: That history does not involve top American Julia Mancuso.


2. Speed Skating — Men's 1000m

American Shani Davis, a heavy favorite, tries to make Olympic history with his third consecutive gold medal in this event. Stefan Groothuis of the Netherlands stands in his way.


3. Snowboarding — Women's Halfpipe

American Kelly Clark is the headliner here, as she tries to win a third career medal in her fourth Olympic Games. She's joined in a strong field by Australia’s Torah Bright and U.S. contenders Hannah Teter, Arielle Gold and Kaitlyn Farrington.


4. Figure Skating — Pairs Free Skate

Medals are on the line as the pairs take the ice in the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 13:27
Path: /nascar/30-funny-fantasy-nascar-team-names

The NASCAR Sprint Cup season is getting closer by the day, which means it’s time to plan your spring and summer road trips and to name your 2014 Fantasy NASCAR team. While it may be tough to win your league each season, it’s not as difficult to have the best team name. Here’s our list for 2014, in no particular order of awesomeness:

Cloyd Rivers would be proud. Might not want to use the “Team America” distress signal during the race if something goes awry, though, I think Danica does when the car gets out of shape.

Clearly he was being railroaded and was innocent of all charges, right? After all, most people usually have a tenth of a million dollars in stolen guns, gear and tools at their crib, and have been seen sneaking around semi-truck garages in the wee hours of the morning. Kind of sad when you think about it. If he had just went AJ and said, “I dunno what it was … I thought it was a vitamin,” he’d probably have been back in the sport and sponsored by Octane 93. Oh yeah.

Sounds like somebody was having a $hitty day. Pretty sure that’s what they could have called most of the drivers’ shorts at Michigan last summer when they were barreling into Turn 1 at 220 mph.

And there it is. The requisite homage to the late legend of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc. What’s cooler than a 48-year-old Rookie of the Year who burned heaters under caution and is recognized as the all-time leader in short track wins in North America? Keep in mind that while it may have been Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt who helped bring NASCAR into the national consciousness, it was Dan Patrick on Sportscenter updating the casual fan as to where Dick Trickle finished each week. RIP, DT.

I’m going to be honest here: I don’t think this one is funny. I think it’s awesome. Reminds me of the classic, “I’m droppin’ the hammer, Harry!” line from everyone’s favorite racing movie.

That would be a pretty easy one. One. As in, the number of races he’s won (Charlotte, 2007). Kyle Petty finished third in that race. No, it was not 1987. 2007.

The Brad Abides – that Sprint Cup really ties the room together. It would be funny if he starts addressing Joey Logano as “Donny.”

Not sure how Trevor would take being tied to a Mormon, which in itself probably conjures up unwholesome imagery. Mitt Romney and Trevor both have something in common: genuinely decent guys who have achieved, yet still haven’t quite got that dream day job.

I will not win one with Mike Ford, I will not drive a Honda Accord;
A black Camry will bring me luck, a bottle of Dasani you’ll see me chuck;
Sometimes my back hurts me bad, if only I had a crew chief named Chad!
Okay, some of the content is dated and the rhymn is annoying. The name, however, is clever.

Unless they have a topical ointment. Or penicillin. And by the way, I don’t think this head game is going to work, either.

I may have to join the “Gas Holes” league on principle, as it is both irrelevant and ironic. Or coincidental. Either way, these guys most certainly know their heads from their gas … and know well enough to never trust a road course ringer at Watkins Glen or Sonoma. And no, Marcos is not a road course ringer just because he excels there. He’s a full-time driver in the series and Richard Petty Motorsports’ most prolific wheelman since Kasey Kahne bailed after his brakes failed in Charlotte. Speaking of which …

If only all guys followed this advice. Though we’d understand if Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rejected this notion, as he has done quite nicely for himself of late. Not that DP is of questionable morals. Ugh, we’re already getting sidetracked here and in a topsy-turvy world — which would make sense since Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere. Or is it Tasmania that Marcos is from? Hold on, can hemispheres go north and south, too, or just east and west? Because road courses go left and right … right? I smell waffles.

The shear number of Fantasy NASCAR team names devoted to the boyish good looks of one Kasey Kenneth Kahne only reaffirms the volume of anonymous cougars lurking on the ‘net.

This had to have been created in the Dale Jarrett days. Why on earth did UPS wait until the very end of its run to paint the cars totally brown — particularly during its “Big Brown Truck” marketing campaign? UPS may run the tightest ship in the shipping business, but its car’s paint job was so uninspired that they should have just colored it beige. When it finally did go brown, UPS saw fit to throw yellow on it, too … and that didn’t help matters. So sad that the once-iconic No. 6 car — which had some of the best paint schemes ever during the Valvoline/Mark Martin era — went into mothballs clad in doo doo brown.

Another classic double entendre that, at its core, was created by a couple guys sitting on the couch saying, “Dude, don’t bogart those Dale Jr. Carolina Barbeque chips.”

Combining “Top Gun” and NASCAR?! Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Oh wait …

So long as Steven Tyler isn’t asked to perform the National Anthem prior to a race, we're OK with the Aerosmith/NASCAR cross-reference — although it couldn’t get any worse than Scott Stapp or Brett Michaels. That said, Joe ’Effin’ Perry going Hendrix on the Anthem? There’s potential there.

Hey ohh!!! Now it’s a party! What, “Slipping In a Rubber” didn’t want any of that? We should probably just quit while we’re ahead on this one.

“Mikey, you may have been the worst driver in NASCAR, but you were the best brake pad salesman in Sandusky!”

“Are they built for speed or comfort? What'd you do with them? Motorboat? You play the motorboat? Blrlrlrlbbb … You motorboatin' son of a bitch. You old sailor, you!” I’d bet $20 this guy isn’t really into Unlimited Hydroplane, and would be disappointed to find out who Miss Budweiser really is.

This might be my favorite name on the list from the Big Island … or anywhere else, Brah. The name is appropriate on many levels. I think Dog, Leland and Bobby Brown stopped being relevant about the same time Bobby Labonte exited the No. 18 car. At least we don’t have to worry about Texas Terry or BLab sprouting an Aqua-Net saturated pompadour of feathered magnificence. Or exposing taco meat from his firesuit following a race. Labonte’s coming stint in the No. 52 car will be about as dangerous to Victory Lane as Dog and Beth are to armed felons with their array of paintball guns, pepper spray and Beth’s fingerless Lady Classics. That said, they are some of the last ties to NASCAR’s past. Best of luck this season, guys. Go with Christ, Brah.

This one is definitely an old school NASCAR fan well-versed in the Gospel according to Gant and his Skoal Bandit. Harry Gant’s No. 33 was as iconic of a machine during the mid- ’80s as the Coors Thunderbird or that yellow and blue Wrangler Monte. Mr. September rewrote the record books when he reeled off a record-tying four in a row at the tender age of 51. It’s doubtful that Handsome Harry would ever suffer such a condition, though. After all, what other driver do you know that keeps in shape by running bundles up a ladder all day in the Carolina summer heat?

Wow. Way to keep it classy, although expertly executed at staying timely and relevant. I’m 99 percent sure that isn’t a girls’ team, despite the obvious attempt at subterfuge. Hopefully they’ll be going up against “Stew(art) Let The Dogs Out” during the Chase later this year.

Oh hi, Ingrid.

This one is fantastic. It was created nearly five years ago, but stands the test of time — a true testament to its subtle genius and nod to Kubrick’s Vietnam War classic. Or 2 Live Crew. Either way, by the time you have finished reading this, “Oh me so Hoooornish, Oh-oh me so Hornish …” will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

AND THE REST: Mears for Fears; Marcos Polo; Hello…Newman!; Shaking the Busch, Boss; Magic Johnson

by Vito Pugliese and Matt Taliaferro
Follow the guys on Twitter: @VitoPugliese and @MattTaliaferro

<p> Thirty of the funniest Fantasy NASCAR team names you're likely to find.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-february-12-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Feb. 12.

This Bar Refaeli Instagram gallery will tide you over until the SI 50th anniversary Swimsuit Issue hits newstands and interwebs.

• Occupational hazard of the day: Skiers have big butts, making it hard to buy clothes.

This Canadian beer machine at the Olympics is amazing. We're falling behind, America.

A Slovenian gold medal skier also made a video for her pump-up jam.

Conan chronicles the story of these Games: Bob Costas' eye funk.

So when people tie for the gold medal, where does the extra medal come from?

LeBron puts himself on the NBA Mt. Rushmore.

Some young girls got fooled by a Dwight Howard impersonator. Is there money in Dwight Howard impersonation?

Grizzlies mascot Super Grizz powerbombed a "fan" in a Gilbert Arenas jersey.

• For Michigan's visit, Ohio State handed out a roster guide that omitted all the "m's" except for one that they forgot.

Michael Jordan and wife Yvette just had twins. Mazel tov. Too bad MJ will be the lame, embarrassing old dad when the kids get older.

• When the Duke and Carolina managers get together for hoops, there will be blood.


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

Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 10:46
All taxonomy terms: college baseball, Preseason, top 25, MLB
Path: /mlb/college-baseballs-preseason-top-25-2014
The 2014 college baseball season gets underway Friday. To prep readers, Athlon Sports looks at college baseball's preseason Top 25.
1. Oregon State (52–13 overall, 24–6 Pac-12)
Head coach Pat Casey got a gift when LHP Ben Wetzler (Phillies, fifth round) and reliever Scott Schultz (Marlins, 17th round) chose to return to campus. They’ll join weekend starters RHP Andrew Moore (14–2, 1.79) and LHP Jace Fry (5–3, 2.45 in 2012) in possibly the nation’s best pitching staff. The top four hitters return, led by All-Americans Michael Conforto (.328-11-47) and Dylan Davis (.335-5-61).
2. NC State (50–16, 19–10 ACC)
This team can go far on star power alone. LHP Carlos Rodon (10–3, 2.99) and 3B Trea Turner (.368, 30 SBs) could be the two top picks in this year’s MLB Draft. Also, RHP Logan Jernigan (1–1, 1.56) and C Brett Austin (.251, 13 SBs) aren’t far behind but need to live up to their potential. The Pack stole 110 bases last year, and their speed makes them fun to watch. 
3. South Carolina (43–20, 17–12 SEC)
Folks, 2013 was an aberration. You see, the Gamecocks actually missed Omaha. Yikes! Their return is based on strength up the middle with C Grayson Greiner (.298-4-38), SS Joey Pankake (.311-11-42) and fleet CF Tanner English (.283), all three All-America types. Incoming RHP Wil Crowe will bolster returnees Jordan Montgomery (6–1, 1.48) and Evan Beal (2–1, 4.78) on the hill.
4. Indiana (49–16, 17–7 Big Ten)
Pick your jaw up off the floor: A Big Ten team is No. 4. And why not? IU finished last year in Omaha and got top hitter Dustin DeMuth (.377-5-41) and RHP Ryan Halstead (11 saves) back after they were high MLB draftees last summer. All-America power-jack Kyle Schwarber (.366-18-54) will catch for a staff that returns 40 wins and had a team ERA of 2.64.
5. Kansas State (45–19, 16–8 Big 12)
The Cats won their first conference title in 110 years last season. This year, five players who hit .324-plus return, including SS Austin Fisher (.361), 2B Ross Kivett (.360, 26 SBs) and 1B Shane Conlon (.341-7-28). Freshman All-American Jake Matthys (9–2, 9 saves) leads a talented staff, but coach Brad Hill is high on RHPs Nate Griep and Colton Kalmus, who both are coming off redshirt years.
6. Oregon (48–16, 22–8 Pac-12)
Pitch. Pitch. Pitch. That’s all these Ducks do. But great gosh-a-mighty, they do it well. Youthful weekend starters Cole Irvin (12–3, 2.48), Tommy Thorpe (7–5, 2.16) and Jake Reed (6-6, 3.50) are all a year older and better. Also watch for sophomore LHP Garrett Cleavinger (9–0, 1.24) and incoming LHP Matt Krook, the 35th overall pick of last June’s draft. The only hang-up? That .258 offense must improve.
7. Cal State Fullerton (51–10, 23–4 Big West)
Okay, we’ll admit that losing a planetary superstar like Michael Lorenzen and four other field starters isn’t easy. But the Titans were a deep squad in 2013, so plenty of serviceable talent is still around. Plus, nearly every pitcher of note returns, including Freshman All-Americans Thomas Eshelman (12–3, 1.48) and Justin Garza (12–0, 2.03). The seventh-ranked recruiting class features 10th overall draft pick RHP Phil Bickford.
8. Florida State (47–17, 20–10 ACC)
You know the Seminoles are top-10 material every year, so no surprise here. The Noles have an embarrassment of riches on the mound with all three weekend starters back in Luke Weaver (7–2, 2.29), Brandon Leibrandt (10–4, 3.44) and Peter Miller (6–2, 3.55), and All-America RHP Mike Compton (12–2, 2.87 in ‘12) returns after redshirting. DJ Stewart (.364-5-59) leads an offense capable of bettering that .287 average.
9. Clemson (40–22, 18–12 ACC)
That putrid 1–7 finish still casts a pall over the Tigers. But they’ll have plenty of teeth this year with the duo of LHP Matthew Crownover (7–3, 2.19) and RHP Daniel Gossett (10–4, 2.56) back on the bump. Exciting and steady, the Tigers finished 16th nationally with 111 stolen bases (led by Shane Kennedy’s 22), and eight starters return from a defense that fielded at .972.
10. LSU (57–11, 23–7 SEC)
Lots of senior leaders flew the coop after the trip to Omaha, but c’mon, it’s LSU. No freefall here. All-Americans like staff ace Aaron Nola (12–1, 1.57) and SS Alex Bregman (.369-6-52) will keep them relevant in June. All seven of the returning pitchers have a 2.95 ERA or better, and four of the five returning starters in the order hit .305 or higher. 
11. Virginia (50–12, 22–8 ACC) 
Don’t make them angry. You won’t like them when they’re angry. Returnees like 1B Mike Papi (.381-7-57), SS Branden Cogswell (.346), 3B Nick Howard (.323-3-38), OF Brandon Downes (.316-10-59) and OF Derek Fisher (.293-7-48) are all linebacker-sized, making for the nation’s most intimidating 1-thru-9. Losing ace Scott Silverstein and closer Kyle Crockett is tough, but the nearly everyone else from the arms corps is back.
12. Vanderbilt (54–12, 26–3 SEC)
Okay, so there were heavy losses for the Dores. Still, this could be a top-5 team if recent hyper-talented recruiting classes jell quickly. Only two starters return, but part-timers Chris Harvey (.250), Rhett Wiseman (.289) and Zander Wiel (.305) are potential studs. Kevin Ziomek moved on, but RHPs Tyler Beede (14–1, 2.32) and Brian Miller (16 saves) will assure almost no drop-off. 
13. Mississippi State (51–20, 16–14 SEC)
Anyone want to doubt these guys now? Didn’t think so. A pitching-heavy No. 2-ranked recruiting class will join CWS vets like Ross Mitchell (13–0, 1.53), Jacob Lindgren (4–3, 4.18) and Brandon Woodruff (former 5th-round pick) to reload the mound staff. Don’t forget the two hulking wild men: 1B Wes Rea (.291-7-40) and relief ace Jonathan Holder (21 saves).
14. TCU (29–28, 12–12 Big 12)
The wildly talented Frogs underachieved but will make amends with a junior-heavy team. Most of the 2.78 ERA arms staff is back, led by Preston Morrison (7–3, 1.51) and Alex Young (7–4, 2.66, 5 saves). The offense hit a boney-armed .246, so OFs Boomer White (.314), Cody Jones (.269) and Jerrick Suiter (.186) and 1B Kevin Cron (.208) need to play to potential.
15. Florida (29–30, 14–16 SEC)
Look for a big Gator rebound. Although ace Jonathon Crawford and saves-man Johnny Magliozzi will be missed, 10 of the 13 pitchers return, including former first-round pick Karsten Whitson (injured 2013). Three .300-plus hitters are also back in Harrison Bader (.312), Justin Shafer (.300) and Richie Martin (.300). Coach Kevin O’Sullivan also brought in the No. 1 recruiting class, so the rich get richer.
16. UCLA (49–17, 21–9 Pac-12)
Don’t shed any tears for the winners of the brass ring. The top four hitters are back, led by Eric Filia (.281), Kevin Kramer (.278) and stolen base specialist Brian Carroll (.258, 32 SBs). Look for Grant Watson (9–3, 3.01) and Cody Poteet (4–6, 4.84) to blossom. All-Americans David Berg (24 saves) and James Kaprielian (0–0, 1.55) lead the best bullpen in the country.
17. Miami (37–25, 14–16 ACC)
The Hurricanes could be on the rise again. Fifty-nine of 62 starts on the mound return, including stud lefties Chris Diaz (7–5, 1.64) and Bryan Radziewski (9–3, 1.78), who led a 3.38 ERA staff. But offensively, hitting .258 with 14 home runs won’t fly. The No. 4-ranked recruiting class comes in, led by four MLB draftees and strapping 6'6" 1B Brad Zunica. 
18. North Carolina (59–12, 21–7 ACC)
Losing seven MLB draftees and having only four seniors — this is as close as it gets to “rebuilding” for the Heels. Super sophs Landon Lassiter (.358), Skye Bolt (.321-6-51) and RHP Trent Thornton (12–1, 1.37) will be building blocks, and RHP Benton Moss (8-1, 3.77) is an All-America candidate. Freshmen such as pitchers A.J. Bogucki and Chris Oakley and 1B Joe Dudek will be leaned on immediately.
19. Oklahoma State (41–19, 13–10 Big 12)
Josh Holliday is building a monster in Stillwater. The incoming class (ranked No. 5 nationally) is described as being “better than great.” A trio of solid pitchers — Vince Wheeland (8–2, 1.97), Mark Robinette (6–1, 3.58) and Tyler Nurdin (5–3, 1.89) — all showed flashes of greatness last season. The offense will need a jump-start, but leading hitter Tanner Krietemeier (.314-4-45) is a lead-by-example type.
20. Texas (27–24, 7–17 Big 12)
Look who’s back. Coach Augie Garrido needs to plant a flag this year, and he’ll have the rotation of Dillon Peters (6–3, 1.97), Nathan Thornhill (3–6, 2.21) and Parker French (4–5, 2.68). Yes, the pitching pulled its weight, with a 2.53 ERA, but the offense? Oof! Mark Payton (.393) and C.J. Hinojosa (.309) did their part, but the team hit just .260 overall. 
21. Cal Poly (40–19, 17–10 Big West)
Larry Lee’s program benefited big time when All-Big West talents Reed Reilly (14 saves) and 3B Jimmy Allen (.299) turned down MLB. Joining Allen on the infield is SS Peter Van Gansen (.253) and 1B Tim Wise (.308 in 2012) in a strong defense. Pitching-wise, Matt Imhof (7–3, 2.74), Casey Bloomquist (6–2, 5.02) and Bryan Granger (5–4, 5.37) combined for 39 starts.
22. Louisiana-Lafayette (43-20, 19-11 Sun Belt)
After going to the Regional Finals, the Cajuns are ready for their close-up. The experience-heavy rotation of Austin Robichaux (9–2, 3.05), Ryan Wilson (6–4, 3.25) and Cody Boutte (8–4, 5.30) returns, along with closer Matt Hicks (11 saves). Also, six batters who hit .319-plus come back to the order, led by SS Blake Trahan (.319, 13 SBs), 3B Tyler Girouard (.360-7-41) and power-stick Caleb Adams (.339, 16 HRs).
23. Alabama (35–28, 14–15 SEC)
The Tide made the NCAAs despite being brutally young last year. Expect more consistency from super sophs SS Mikey White (.287), 2B Kyle Overstreet (.271) and CF Georgie Salem (.269), who are all outstanding gloves. Eight of the nine pitchers back have ERAs under 3.66, including ace RHP Spencer Turnbull (4–3, 3.70) and saves specialist Ray Castillo (12 saves), who is, of course, another sophomore.
24. Washington State (23–32, 9–21 Pac-12)
The Cougars are loaded for Northwest noise as 95 percent of their innings pitched and 85 percent of their at-bats return. Olerud Award candidate Jason Monda (sixth round, Phillies), RHP J.D. Leckenby (14th round, Mets) and SS Trace Tam Sing (26th round, Royals) return despite their draft overtures. As freshmen, Nick Tanielu and Trek Stemp were the best hitters on the team before being lost to mid-season injuries. 
25. Mercer (43–18, 20–7 A-Sun)
The uber-experienced Bears have five of six starters in the field and two of three weekend pitchers as returning seniors. RHPs Brandon Barker and DJ Johnson are four-year leaders. Junior bullpen stud Dimitri Kourtis went 5–3 with nine saves. Leadoff man Sasha La Garde (.308), 3B Chesny Young (.401) and power-bat Nick Backlund (.326-13-68) pace a dangerous offense.
—Written by Eric Sorenson. This is just one of the features that can be found in Athlon Sports' 2014 MLB Preview magazine, which is available on newsstands and online now. Starting with 21 unique covers to choose from, Athlon covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between. Order your copy now!
The 2014 college baseball season gets underway Friday. To prep readers, Athlon Sports looks at college baseball's preseason Top 25.
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-15-impact-juco-transfers-2014

College football’s national signing day is essentially the start of a new season for every coaching staff. With the recruiting class officially in place, all coaches can turn the page to the next season and have a clear view of the roster for the upcoming year. But while most of the talk on national signing day centers around which true freshman can make the biggest impact for a program for that upcoming season, don’t overlook junior college recruits. While recruiting a JUCO prospect is risky, they are solid stop-gap solutions and a short-term answer for a team that might be short on depth at a particular position.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham dipped into the junior college ranks for help in defending the Pac-12 South title. The Sun Devils return only two starters on defense, which is where Graham looked for immediate help. Linemen Dalvon Stuckey and Edmond Boateng will help replace Will Sutton, while defensive back Kweishi Brown should factor into the mix to replace Robert Nelson, Osahon Irabor and Alden Darby in the secondary.

Arizona State was just one of a handful of programs looking for immediate help, as Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State all signed potential instant impact players. The Crimson Tide signed two potential standouts for the defensive line, while the Cowboys added Tyreek Hill, a potential gamebreaker on offense.

Identifying which junior college prospects will make the biggest impact is no easy task. Athlon has compiled a list of 15 impact junior college transfers, as well as a list of other players to watch in 2014. 

15 Impact Junior College Recruits for 2014

Dontavius Blair, OL, Tennessee
Blair is just one recruit in Tennessee’s whopping 35-man class, but the Alabama native is one of the most important signings for 2014. The Volunteers lose all five starters on the offensive line, including standout tackles Antonio Richardson and Ja’Wuan James. Blair ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the 247Sports Composite junior college ratings and comes to Knoxville after a two-year stint at Garden City Community College. Adjusting to life in the SEC is no easy assignment for a junior college lineman, but Blair played his high school ball in Anniston, Ala., so he’s no stranger to the expectations within the conference. At 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, Blair has the necessary size to start at one of the tackle spots for Tennessee in 2014.

Terrell Clinkscales, DL, Kansas State
Clinkscales is one of nine incoming junior college recruits for Kansas State, ranking No. 10 in the 247Sports Composite ratings. Clinkscales played in 2011 at Grand Rapids Community College, recording only 13 tackles in six games. After Grand Rapids disbanded its program, Clinkscales sat out 2012 before landing at Dodge City Community College. In 2013, the Illinois native was a second-team NJCAA All-American and recorded 7.5 tackles for a loss in 10 games. Kansas State isn’t in dire need of talent on the line, as end Ryan Mueller will contend for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Travis Britz returns after earning honorable mention all-conference honors last season. However, Clinkscales should be a key piece in the line rotation up front and could earn a starting spot before the first game.

Jermaine Eluemunor/Avery Gennesy, OL, Texas A&M
Even with first-team All-SEC tackle Jake Matthews departing, the Aggies should still have a formidable offensive line. Guards Jarvis Harrison and Germain Ifedi and center Mike Matthews are back, while tackle Cedric Ogbuehi turned down an opportunity to leave early for the NFL. But you can never have enough talent or depth on the offensive line in the SEC, so Kevin Sumlin and his staff landed two top-10 offensive linemen this signing class. Eluemunor is rated slightly higher by scouting services, checking in as the No. 7 player in the 247Sports Composite, while Gennesy is No. 9. According to Texas A&M’s signing day release, Eluemunor could play tackle or guard, while Gennesy is mentioned just as a tackle. While those positions could change in spring practice, both players are likely to factor prominently into the Aggies’ offensive line this year.

Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State
Hill is listed as an athlete in Oklahoma State’s signing day release, and the Georgia native is expected to be an all-purpose threat for the Cowboys’ offense in 2014. How Hill will be utilized by coordinator Mike Yurcich isn’t exactly certain, but the 5-foot-9 speedster is a key piece of the rebuilding effort on offense next year. Hill ranks as the No. 3 junior college prospect per 247Sports' Composite ratings and he averaged 16.6 yards per reception in 2013. Speed is one of Hill’s best assets, as evidenced by his 20.14 seconds mark in the 200 meters. Desmond Roland should be set as Oklahoma State’s starting running back, but the coaching staff will find ways to get the ball in Hill’s hands out of the backfield or as a receiver.

Skyler Howard, QB, West Virginia
Quarterback play is usually an automatic strength in a Dana Holgorsen-coached offense. But that wasn’t the case last season, as the Mountaineers started three different players under center, and the offense finished with just 16 touchdown passes. Ford Childress is no longer on the team, leaving Paul Millard and Clint Trickett as the most experienced options heading into 2014. Trickett is not expected to play this spring due to shoulder surgery, which leaves Millard and Howard battling for the starting role. The Texas native played only one season at Riverside City College (coached by former San Diego State coach Tom Craft), throwing for 3,151 yards and 33 touchdowns. Howard also displayed nice mobility, rushing for 343 yards on 108 attempts. Considering he has only one year of starting experience on the collegiate level under his belt, Howard will need some time to adjust to playing in the Big 12. However, he was rated as the No. 89 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and shows good timing and anticipation on his junior college film. Howard is listed at 5-foot-11, but he is a good fit for West Virginia’s spread attack.

Kenny Iloka, S, TCU
Defense is always a strength for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, and TCU should have one of the best units in the Big 12 next season with the return of eight starters. The secondary is Patterson’s biggest concern with the departure of standout cornerback Jason Verrett and safety Elisha Olabode. Iloka is the brother of former Boise State safety George Iloka and ranked as the No. 61 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. At Tyler Junior College in 2013, Iloka recorded 126 tackles and 3.5 sacks. At 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, Iloka has the size to be an impact safety and should have an easy transition into TCU’s 4-2-5 scheme.

Dominick Jackson, OL, Alabama
With left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio leaving early for the NFL, and guard Anthony Steen expiring his eligibility, Alabama has two significant holes on its offensive line. Spring practice is a key period for this unit, as the Crimson Tide once again has all of the pieces to win the national championship. However, the offensive line and quarterback play will determine how far this team can go in 2014. Kouandjio is a huge loss at tackle, but the cupboard is far from bare for line coach Mario Cristobal. Leon Brown was listed as Kouandjio’s backup and played in nine games last season. Talented sophomore Grant Hill and incoming freshman Cameron Robinson could all compete for time at left tackle. But Jackson also is squarely in the mix for snaps after a successful stop at the College of San Mateo. The 6-foot-7 tackle ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 247Sports Composite junior college rankings and was a member of the PrepStar JUCO All-America Team. Jackson will have a tough transition from the junior college ranks to playing on the SEC level. However, he appears to have the size and skill set necessary to play a big role in Alabama’s offensive line next year.

Abu Lamin, DT, South Carolina
South Carolina’s defense ranked second in the SEC by holding opponents to just 20.3 points per game. Repeating that number in 2014 will be a challenge, especially as the line looks to replace ends Chaz Sutton and Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles. The Gamecocks still have talent in the trenches, led by sophomore end Darius English and senior tackle J.T. Surratt, but Clowney, Sutton and Quarles leave big shoes to fill. Lamin is expected to be a part of the solution up front next year. The North Carolina native redshirted in his first season at Fort Scott Community College and recorded 34 tackles with 1.5 sacks in 2013. At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, Lamin already has the required size to be a factor in the SEC. And with the Gamecocks returning a few experienced options in the trenches, Lamin can serve as a rotation player until he is ready to push for a starting spot.

Derrick Moncrief, S, Auburn
Improving the defense is one of the top priorities this spring for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, and the Tigers brought in three junior college recruits to provide competition with the returning options on the roster. Defensive linemen DeVonte Lambert and Devaroe Lawrence will play a lot, but Moncrief could have the biggest impact on the defense. The Alabama native spent two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and recorded seven interceptions during that span. Moncrief ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is expected to play a significant role in the secondary. 

Claude Pelon, DL, USC
Steve Sarkisian has a few holes to fill next year, but the Trojans could rank as a top 10-15 team in most preseason polls. The defense returns nearly intact, starting up front with ends Leonard Williams and J.R. Tavai and nose tackle Antwaun Woods. Pelon was a key pickup on the recruiting trail for Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, as he will help with depth right away in the trenches. The Florida native was a Prep Star JUCO All-American and recorded 9.5 tackles for a loss last season. Pelon ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is likely headed for a spot on the interior of USC’s line. Even with Woods returning at nose tackle, Pelon is due for a role on USC’s defensive front in 2014.

D.J. Pettway/Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama
If you are signed as a junior college prospect at Alabama under Nick Saban, you certainly aren’t brought in to sit on the bench. Pettway and Reed will help replace Ed Stinson and Jeoffrey Pagan and will also add to an embarrassment of riches that Saban has assembled up front, including A’Shawn Robinson, Brandon Ivory, Darren Lake, Jonathan Allen and incoming freshman D’Shawn Hand. Pettway was dismissed from Alabama last February after an off-the-field incident, but he returned to Tuscaloosa after spending 2013 at East Mississippi Community College. Reed was a teammate of Pettway’s last season and ranks as the No. 13 prospect in the 247Sports Composite ratings. With Pettway and Reed poised to make an immediate impact, Alabama should have one of the top defensive lines in the SEC next year.

Dalvon Stuckey, DT, Arizona State
The Sun Devils lost a plethora of talent on defense, including standout defensive tackle Will Sutton, linebacker Carl Bradford and both starting cornerbacks (Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor). To help with the rebuilding effort, coach Todd Graham is bringing in four junior college transfers to help on defense. Stuckey is one of the key recruits in the 2014 signing class, ranking as the No. 34 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. The Florida native checks in at 6-foot-3 and 308 pounds but can be explosive at the point of attack. At Pearl River Community College, he recorded 23 tackles for a loss as a freshman and posted two sacks as a sophomore in 2013. Stuckey should help Arizona State replace the production lost by Sutton and ends Davon Coleman and Gannon Conway.

Tui Talia, DL, Oregon
New defensive coordinator Don Pellum returns a solid core for 2014, but the Ducks have a significant need for players to emerge at defensive tackle. Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli expired their eligibility after the Alamo Bowl, leaving Alex Balducci and Sam Kamp as the team’s top tackles for next season. Talia is the No. 22 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite after spending two years at Diablo Valley College. The California native recorded 19 sacks over the last two years and is expected to be a key piece of the Oregon defensive line next year. Talia’s 270-pound frame suggests he will likely end up on the outside, but the Ducks could play him on a handful of snaps on the inside.

D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn
Even though running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson left early for the NFL, Auburn’s offense should once again be among best in the SEC. But 2014 could signal a slight shift in play calling for Gus Malzahn, as Nick Marshall should be more comfortable in his second year under center, and the Tigers return one of the SEC’s top receiving corps. This group got even deeper during the offseason with the addition of Williams from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The Louisiana native ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite after catching 51 passes for 733 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Williams is a big target at 6-foot-3 and should be another valuable weapon for Marshall.

Rika Levi/Keland McElrath/Marcus Smith/Brandon Thorpe, DL, Texas Tech
We generally list one player in this spot, but let’s cheat a little and cover all of Texas Tech’s junior college signings on the defensive line in this space. The Red Raiders are bringing in four junior college prospects up front, with Levi rated the highest as the No. 119 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. As evidenced by the four incoming prospects, the defensive line is a significant need for coach Kliff Kingsbury. Texas Tech has to replace Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and this unit struggled to stop the run last year (98th nationally). Even if none of these four players become impact performers for Texas Tech, the defense has more options to rotate in the trenches and the overall depth seems to be improved.


Other Names to Watch in 2014

Geronimo Allison/Tyrin Stone-Davis, WR, Illinois
The Fighting Illini desperately need receivers to emerge for quarterback Wes Lunt. The top three targets from last season are gone, leaving Allison and Stone-Davis with a chance to play right away.

Kareem Are/Chad Mavety, OL, Florida State
Neither player is expected to start, but Are and Mavety will bolster Florida State’s depth in the trenches.

Devante Averette, LB, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys need to overhaul their linebacking corps with Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey expiring their eligibility.

Tarow Barney, DL, Penn State
Barney is a rare junior college prospect headed to Happy Valley. He’s a key pickup for a Penn State defense that needs more depth on the defensive line and has to replace DaQuan Jones.

Edmond Boateng, DL, Arizona State
Boateng should help Arizona State’s need for talent on the defensive line. The Virginia native will participate in spring practice.

Kweishi Brown, DB, Arizona State
Brown is due for a significant role in Arizona State’s secondary with the departure of Robert Nelson, Osahon Irabor and Alden Darby.

Jarell Broxton, OL, Baylor
The Bears tapped into the junior college ranks to help replace three starters on the line. Broxton could play at tackle or guard.

Jamie Byrd, DB, South Florida
Rated as the No. 85 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Expected to push for a starting role in a young South Florida secondary this preseason.

Darrius Caldwell, LB, Arizona State
Another junior college player likely to make an impact at Arizona State. Caldwell will help the Sun Devils replace Carl Bradford and Chris Young at linebacker.

Fahn Cooper, OL, Ole Miss
Has some work to do in order to get eligible, but Cooper would be a key pickup for Hugh Freeze’s rebuilding effort on the offensive line.

Andre Davis, WR, Kansas State
Averaged 20.5 yards per reception at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2013. Wildcats need another receiver to team with Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton after Tramaine Thompson expired his eligibility after the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Kenya Dennis, CB, Missouri
Dennis is rated as the No. 100 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and is the only junior college prospect signed by Missouri in this year’s class. He should help fill the void left behind by departing senior E.J. Gaines.

D’Vonta Derricott, LB, Kansas State
Kansas State is in need of impact players at linebacker with Blake Slaughter out of eligibility. Jonathan Truman is settled in at one spot, but the other two positions are up for grabs.

Dominique Harrison, CB, Oregon
Harrison is a cousin of Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch and will help the Ducks replace Terrance Mitchell in 2014.

De’Chavon Hayes, RB, Arizona State
D.J. Foster should be Arizona State’s go-to back, but there will be carries available for Hayes.

David Hedelin/Miguel Machado, OL, Michigan State
Hedelin and Machado help bolster the depth in the trenches for Michigan State, as the Spartans lost three starters from last season.

Calvin Heurtelou/Michael Wyche, DL, Miami
Hurricanes need more depth and talent on the defensive line. Heurtelou and Wyche will help both of those areas in 2014.

Cory Johnson, DT, Kentucky
Johnson could team with incoming freshman Matt Elam to anchor Kentucky’s defensive tackle spots in 2014.

Jonathan Johnson/Trevor Kelly, DL, California
With a new coordinator (Art Kaufman) and the return of a few players from injury, California’s defense should show improvement in 2014. Adding players like Johnson and Kelly will only help improve the talent and depth for next season.

Akeem Judd, RB, Ole Miss
Rated as the No. 31 prospect in the 247Composite, averaging 5.9 yards per carry at Georgia Military College in 2013. Judd should factor into Ole Miss’ backfield rotation, which returns I’Tavius Mathers, Mark Dodson and Jaylen Walton.

Joe Keels, DE, Nebraska
Keels is listed as the No. 29 prospect in the 247Composite and will help fill the void created by the departure of Avery Moss.

Josh Keys, DB, Texas Tech
Another key pickup for Texas Tech on the recruiting trail. Could factor into the mix at safety or cornerback.

Nick Kurtz/Devon Blackmon, WR, BYU
BYU’s receiving corps is set for a major makeover next season, as Cody Hoffman, JD Falslev and Skyler Ridley have all expired their eligibility. Kurtz and Blackmon – and UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie – will head the rebuilding effort in Provo.

Davonte Lambert/Devaroe Lawrence, DL, Auburn
Lambert and Lawrence will help the line replace the production lost by the departure of Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae.

Devin Lauderdale, WR, Texas Tech
Red Raiders need a few targets to emerge with the departure of Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro.

Eric Lauderdale, WR, Arizona State
Sun Devils need a No. 2 receiver to emerge to pair with Jaelen Strong. Is Lauderdale the solution?

Jeremy Liggins, ATH, Ole Miss
Massive 6-foot-4, 295-pound prospect could play tight end, defensive end or even quarterback for the Rebels.

Haniteli Lousi, OL, Oregon
Lousi is rated as the No. 20 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and will compete for one of the starting guard spots this offseason.

DeAndre Mann, RB, Kansas
Should help the Jayhawks replace 1,000-yard rusher James Sims.

Von Pearson, WR, Tennessee
The Volunteers had success in the junior college ranks with former receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, and Butch Jones hopes Pearson can provide the same type of impact. The Virginia native caught 93 passes at Feather River College in 2013.

Jerrard Randall, QB, Arizona
Expected to battle Jesse Scroggins, Anu Solomon and Texas transfer Conner Brewer for the starting job in Tucson.

Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
Another weapon for Texas A&M’s high-powered offense.

Chris Sanders, DB, Baylor
Former Georgia defensive back comes to Baylor after two years at Eastern Arizona College. Sanders picked off three passes last season.

Drew Sarvary, OT, Florida
Gators need immediate help in the trenches. Sarvary is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports and will have a chance to earn snaps this spring.

Justin Scott/Sylvester Townes, OL, West Virginia
Scott and Townes should compete for a spot on West Virginia’s line this preseason, which returns only two starters in 2014.

Tee Shepard, CB, Ole Miss
Former Notre Dame commit was a late flip to Ole Miss. Shepard should help upgrade the overall depth and talent in the secondary for the Rebels.

Sebastian Tretola, OL, Arkansas
The Razorbacks must replace standout center Travis Swanson, but there’s reason for optimism with young linemen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper back after each started eight games in 2013. Tretola should factor into the mix at tackle next year.

Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois
The defense was a huge liability in Champaign last year. The Fighting Illini ranked 104th in scoring defense and 110th in yards allowed. Ward ranked as the No. 26 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and will have a chance to start or make an immediate impact next year.

Chris Weatherd, LB, Tennessee
Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. Weatherd is expected to help Tennessee’s pass rush next year.

Kenderius Whitehead, DE, Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets need help on the defensive line with the departures of Jeremiah Attaochu, Emmanuel Dieke and Euclid Cummings.

Blake Whiteley, TE, Texas
Whiteley is a native of Vancouver and ranks as the No. 51 product in the 247Sports Composite.

Owen Williams, DL, Tennessee
Rebuilding both lines will be a priority for coach Butch Jones this offseason. Williams was the No. 113 prospect in the 247Sports Composite.

Jeff Worthy, DT, Arizona
Former Boise State lineman was a key pickup for Rich Rodriguez as Arizona looks to upgrade its defense.

College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/sec-team-recruiting-consensus-rankings-2014
Body:,, ESPN and are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.

But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.

After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus SEC team rankings for 2014 — with the Crimson Tide once again dominating the stage.

• The SEC as a whole reigned supreme on National Signing Day yet again. Seven of the top nine classes in the nation hailed from the SEC, including the league’s third straight No. 1-ranked class. In fact, with Alabama’s third straight recruiting championship, the SEC can boast the No. 1 class in the land for the sixth time in seven years. Only Florida State in 2011 has been able to knock the SEC from the top slot. In addition, the SEC also claimed 10 of the top 19 classes in the nation. This league signed 117 four-star recruits and 19 five-star prospects in this class.

• Nick Saban landed his third straight recruiting national championship by landing six five-stars and 15 four-stars. All four major recruiting services agree (which isn’t an easy task) that Bama’s haul was the No. 1 group in the land. Alabama’s six five-star signees are more than the entire ACC (5), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (3) and Big 12 (2) conferences. This is how Saban maintains a dynasty in Tuscaloosa. He lands recruiting classes that an entire conference would be lucky to sign.

• Tennessee is one of three teams to land a top 25 class in 2014 and had a losing record in '13. Kentucky and Florida are the other two. The Vols landed one of the largest groups in the nation at 35 signees and already has 14 of those players enrolled in class. The Vols actually led the SEC with 16 four-star prospects. The Gators finished eighth in the nation while the Wildcats finished 19th nationally. These three teams combined to go 11-25 and finished as the bottom three teams in the SEC East last season. This only further illustrates the ability coaches have to sell the SEC to recruits.

• Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M continue to prove that they belong in the dangerous shark-infested waters that is SEC recruiting. The Aggies landed more five-star prospects (3) than the entire Big 12 conference combined (2), only rubbing more salt into the gaping wound that was the Aggies' departure two years ago. More importantly, Sumlin targeted needs with this class. Yes, he landed a five-star wide receiver (Speedy Noil) and quarterback (Kyle Allen) but he got the defensive help he needed. Five-star end Myles Garrett is joined by four defensive backs, two defensive tackles, two other four-star defensive ends and a four-star linebacker. Of the 21 signees in this class, A&M inked 11 highly touted defensive players. Sumlin ignored running back and tight end in this group.

• There are three tiers of quality in this conference. The top tier includes the top seven classes and the next few SEC champions are likely to come from this group. You don’t have to beat Bama on the trail to beat Bama on the field but you have to be close. The second tier is South Carolina, Ole Miss and Kentucky. All three have outstanding hauls but all three are behind the top seven. Finally, the bottom tier appears to be in rough shape relatively speaking. Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt actually signed excellent classes. However, all four are significantly behind the rest of the league when it comes to attracting talent in 2014.

• Derek Mason, the SEC’s only new coach in 2014, worked some minor miracles in the final weeks to move his class into the top 50. This group was in the 80s or 90s nationally when he took over after James Franklin swiped five commitments for Penn State. But Mason landed Nifae Lealao, arguably the highest-rated player in the history of the program, as well as nearly a dozen other new faces that Franklin had not offered before leaving. By flooding the market with offers, Mason was able to rebuild a top-50 class for a program unaccustomed to closing strong on Signing Day.

• It feels lackluster, but LSU, Auburn and Georgia cruised right along with elite top-10 classes nationally. Again. Les Miles used a huge year in the Pelican State to land four five-stars and both Gus Malzahn and Mark Richt closed very well with big commitments at the end of the cycle. All three classes will get lost in the shuffle but all three should be capable of competing for SEC titles.

4.Texas A&M213116th5674
8.Ole Miss250616th16191818
9.South Carolina2101018th15162419
13.Mississippi St230340th38413936


SEC Team Recruiting Consensus Rankings for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-running-backs-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

The ACC has gone through many changes during the BCS Era with multiple rounds of expansion. This is why some of the greatest players of the BCS Era won't be found in the ACC ranks. Names like Kevin Jones from Virginia Tech, William Green from Boston College, Michael Bush from Louisville or the long list of elite backs from Miami (James, Portis, Gore, McGahee) won't be found below. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004, Boston College joined in '05, Syracuse and Pitt played for one season last fall and Louisville enters the league in '14. It leaves the league lacking for playmakers at the running back position. But a few schools have carried the banner.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. C.J. Spiller, Clemson (2006-09)
Stats: 606 att., 3,547 yds, 32 TDs, 123 rec., 1,420 yds, 11 TDs, 2,621 ret. yds, 8 TDs

Versatility and explosiveness are the words that come to mind when describing Spiller. With elite burst and big-play ability, Clemson used Spiller in every aspect of the game to great success. He is No. 2 in ACC history in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns and is the NCAA’s all-time leader with seven kickoff return touchdowns. His 2,680 all-purpose yards in 2009 are a single-season ACC record and his 7,588 all-purpose yards are the all-time career record in the ACC by almost 2,000 yards (Leon Johnson, 5,828). No ACC player has scored in more games (34) than Spiller did while at Clemson.

2. Thomas Jones, Virginia (1996-99)
Stats: 823 att., 4,065 yds, 37 TDs, 72 rec., 578 yds, 3 TDs

Until 2013, Jones boasted a long list of illustrious ACC rushing records. His 334 carries and 1,798 yards in 1999 were both single-season ACC records until Andre Williams broke both this past season. His six 200-yard games are an ACC record still (Williams has five) and he is seventh all-time with 18 100-yard games. Jones is sixth all-time in the ACC in rushing, leading the league twice in 1998-99, and is tied for 12th all-time with 40 total touchdowns. Jones finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 1999 and was one of two consensus All-American running backs during the BCS Era (Spiller).

3. Andre Williams, Boston College (2011-13)
Stats: 704 att., 3,739 yds, 28 TDs, 10 rec., 60 yds

From a single-season perspective, no player in ACC history can match what Williams accomplished in 2013. Williams set the ACC single-season rushing record for carries (355) and yards (2,177) when he rolled up five 200-yard games and 18 touchdowns en route to a fourth-place Heisman Trophy finish. He is the only ACC player to win the Doak Walker Award during the BCS Era and he was named an All-American in the process. He is 11th all-time in the conference in rushing yards.

4. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (2011-12)
Stats: 423 att., 2,481 yds, 25 TDs, 92 rec., 852 yds, 6 TDs, 263 ret. yds, 2 TDs

It’s a shame fans in the ACC only got two seasons of Bernard because he could have been really special. No player in the history of the league has averaged more rushing yards per game than Bernard’s 107.9 per game. His 1,253 yards in 2011 were the third-best season by a freshman in ACC history and then he led the ACC in rushing as a sophomore with 1,228 yards despite missing three games. He scored 33 total touchdowns in just 23 career games while at Chapel Hill and he was the first running back taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. His 198.1 all-purpose yards per game in 2012 are an ACC single-season record, topping even Spiller.

5. Lamont Jordan, Maryland (1997-00)
Stats: 807 att., 4,147 yds, 36 TDs, 76 rec., 737 yds, TD

No player in the ACC ran for more yards during the BCS Era than Jordan. His 4,147 yards are third all-time in ACC history and his 18 100-yard games are tied for seventh all-time. He rushed for 1,632 yards on 266 carries for a 6.1 yard per carry average in 1999 — good for second-best in ACC history at the time and currently sixth-best all-time. He is one of just fix players in league history to top 300 yards in a single-game (306, Virginia, 1999) and he is seventh all-time with 4,960 all-purpose yards. He is tied with Peter Warrick for 17th all-time with 37 total touchdowns.

6. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
Stats: 517 att., 3,226 yds, 35 TDs, 15 rec., 263 yds, TD 

The burly ball-carrier was a freight train in Paul Johnson's option attack. In just three seasons, Dwyer averaged 6.2 yards per carry on just 517 attempts, landing eighth all-time in ACC in yards per attempt (min. 1,000 yards). He won ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors when he led the ACC in rushing in 2008, posted 17 career 100-yard games and was virtually impossible to tackle one-on-one. He posted back-to-back 1,395-yard seasons and scored at least nine times in all three seasons. Some may think the option inflated his numbers, however, Dwyer averaged only 12.9 carries per game for his career. Imagine what he could have done with 800-900 attempts?

7. James Davis, Clemson (2005-08)
Stats: 753 att., 3,881 yds, 47 TDs, 51 rec., 441 yds, 2 TDs

Davis’ career didn’t end with a bang as his senior year was slightly disappointing, but few reached paydirt and were as consistent as Davis was for Clemson. Davis never rushed for fewer than 751 yards (2008) and his 17 rushing touchdowns in 2006 are tied for eighth-best all-time. Davis finished second all-time in ACC history with 47 rushing touchdowns, fifth all-time with 49 total touchdowns and ninth all-time in rushing.

8. Chris Barclay, Wake Forest (2002-05)
Stats: 840 att., 4,032 yds, 40 TDs, 62 rec., 381 yds, 517 ret. yds

Few players were as consistent as Barclay was for Jim Grobe. He never scored fewer than nine rushing touchdowns in any of his four seasons and finished his career with back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Barclay is the ACC’s No. 5 rusher all-time and is one of just five to top 4,000 yards rushing. His 840 attempts are fifth all-time and he led the ACC in rushing in 2005, earning ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors. Barclay's 40 total touchdowns are 12th in league history.

8. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech (2009-10)
Stats: 403 att., 2,132 yds, 30 TDs, 26 rec., 289 yds, 2 TDs

Few players have posted a single year like Williams did… especially, considering he was a freshman. His 1,655 yards in 2009 are an ACC freshman rushing record and is good for the fifth-best rushing season in ACC history. Williams is the only player in ACC history to score 20 touchdowns in a season as his 21 rushing scores in ’09 are a single-season record. An injury slowed him during his sophomore season and then he departed for the NFL after his redshirt sophomore season leaving fans in Blacksburg to wonder what could have been.

10. Wali Lundy, Virginia (2002-05)
Stats: 742 att., 3,193 yds, 43 TDs, 114 rec., 895 yds, 9 TDs, 409 ret. yds

Lundy never topped 1,000 yards in any one season but he was wildly consistent and no one in the history of ACC football has scored more touchdowns. His 52 total touchdowns top Ted Brown (1975-78) and Spiller by one. Lundy burst onto the scene with 1,261 yards from scrimmage and 10 total scores as a freshman — in fact, his 58 receptions are third-best all-time among all ACC freshmen. Lundy posted three straight seasons of at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 17 times in 2004 as a junior. He never scored fewer than 10 times in any season for Virginia and the Wahoos went to a bowl game all four seasons — something that has happened just twice since Lundy graduated in 2005.

Just missed the cut:

11. David Wilson, Virginia Tech (2009-11)
Stats: 462 att., 2,662 yds, 18 TDs, 37 rec., 363 yds, 5 TDs, 1,324 ret. yds, 2 TDs

Wilson earned ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2011 when he finished with 1,709 yards (fourth all-time in ACC history) and 2,253 all-purpose yards (third all-time in ACC history). He was a first-round NFL Draft pick and led his team to the ACC title game two years in a row. His seven straight 100-yard games that year is the fifth-best streak in ACC history.

12. Montel Harris, Boston College (2008-12)
Stats: 973 att., 4,789 yds, 39 TDs, 59 rec., 467 yds, 3 TDs

After three full seasons and an injury-shortened fourth, Harris transferred to Temple. Taken in full, his rushing numbers would be the best in ACC history. His 4,789 would rank first but his 3,600 in the ACC are still 16th. He led the ACC in rushing as a junior and set the sophomore rushing record with 1,457 in 2009. He rushed for 1,054 and 12 scores for the Owls in 2012.

13. Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech (2005-07)
Stats: 697 att., 3,465 yds, 28 TDs, 41 rec., 288 yds

Like Harris, Choice played one year elsewhere (Oklahoma). Unlike Harris, Choice didn’t produce at all at his other school. He came to the ACC and was a star, leading the league in rushing in both 2006 (1,473) and '07 (1,379). He scored 28 times and posted an ACC-record nine consecutive 100-yard games.

14. Andre Ellington, Clemson (2009-12)
Stats: 621 att., 3,436 yds, 33 TDs, 59 rec., 505 yds, 2 TDs, 645 ret. yds, TD

Even though he battled nagging injuries throughout his career, Ellington still finished in the top 20 in rushing all-time in ACC history. He scored 36 total touchdowns and led Clemson back to its first ACC championship in 20 years in 2011. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in two years that Clemson played in the ACC title game.

15. Travis Minor, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 664 att., 3,218 yds, 28 TDs, 106 rec., 831 yds, 3 TDs

Like Lundy, Minor never topped 1,000 yards rushing but he was a huge contributor all over the field for a team that won a lot of games. He helped lead his team to three ACC titles and three straight BCS title games, including the 1999 national championship. Few players have this resume: 3,000 yards rushing, 100 receptions and a national title.

Best of the rest:

16. Travis Zachery, Clemson (1998-01): 686 att., 3,043 yds, 41 TDs, 104 rec., 1,032 yds, 11 TDs
17. P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech (2002-05): 707 att., 3,346 yds, 23 TDs, 56 rec., 369 yds, 3 TDs
18. Bruce Perry, Maryland (1999-03): 468 att., 2,491 yds, 17 TDs, 55 rec., 478 yds, 2 TDs
19. Alvin Pearman, Virginia (2001-04): 500 att., 2,394 yds, 19 TDs, 138 rec., 1,398 yds, 8 TDs
20. Chris Douglas, Duke (2000-03): 695 att., 3,122 yds, 21 TDs, 89 rec., 867 yds, 5 TDs, 1,759 ret. yds
21. Branden Ore, Virginia Tech (2005-07): 617 att., 2,776 yds, 31 TDs, 43 rec., 399 yds, 2 TDs
22. T.A. McLendon, NC State (2002-04): 542 att., 2,479 yds, 33 TDs, 93 rec., 858 yds, 3 TDs
23. Devonta Freeman, Florida State (2011-13): 404 att., 2,255 yds, 30 TDs, 47 rec., 475 yds, TD
24. Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (2008, '10): 438 att., 2,119 yds, 22 TDs, 26 rec., 217 yds
25. Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech (2006-10): 546 att., 3,036 yds, 33 TDs, 33 rec., 401 yds, 5 TDs

ORV: Duke Johnson, Greg Jones, Andre Brown

Top 10 ACC Running Backs of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/or-out-ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch

Even in the last few days, bubble season has taken an unexpected turn.

A week ago, a bubble watch would have had West Virginia and St. John’s on the outskirts of the NCAA Tournament. A few big wins later, and one of those teams is projected in our field.

By our count, 32 teams are “feeling good” for an at-large bid. Barring a major collapse, these teams should be in the NCAA Tournament field. With 22 teams accounting for automatic bids settled in conference tournaments, that leaves 14 spots for the bubble.

These are the teams in contention for those final spots along with projections for who is in or out of the field.

NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Feb. 12
All RPI figures from Monday’s official release

Feeling good: Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia

Clemson (15-6, 6-5, RPI No. 64)
Most of the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament case rests on a 72-59 home win over Duke on Jan. 11. Clemson went 9-3 against a lackluster non-conference schedule, so the Tigers will need to start defeating some of the upper echelon ACC teams (Virginia on Feb. 15, Pittsburgh on March 8).
Prediction: Out

Florida State (14-10, 5-7, RPI No. 54)
After a 77-73 home loss to Miami, Florida State is sinking fast. Neutral court wins over UMass and VCU won’t be enough to overcome six losses in the last eight games.
Prediction: Out

NC State (16-8, 6-5, RPI No. 59)
NC State did not need a double overtime loss to Notre Dame on Tuesday. A road win over Tennessee is nice, but the Wolfpack also have to atone for a home loss to North Carolina Central. NC State will face Syracuse, Clemson and Pittsburgh on the road and North Carolina at home, giving the Wolfpack the most opportunities of any ACC bubble team to pick up ground before the conference tournament.
Prediction: Out

Feeling good: Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, SMU, UConn

Atlantic 10
Feeling good: George Washington, Saint Louis, UMass, VCU

Richmond (15-8, 5-3, RPI No. 45)
Wins over UMass and St. Joe’s at the end of January piqued interest in Richmond, a team that faced Florida, North Carolina and Minnesota in the non-conference schedule. The Spiders catch VCU and George Washington at home before the A-10 Tournament.
Prediction: Out

St. Joseph’s (16-7, 6-3, RPI No. 46)
The Hawks have played their way into consideration just since the start of February with home wins over UMass and VCU. A road trip against George Washington on March 5 could be critical for both teams as they enter the A 10 Tournament.
Prediction: Out

Big 12
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas

Baylor (14-8, 2-9, RPI No. 61)
A team with a losing Big 12 record could make the field, but Baylor is pushing it. The Bears’ only two Big 12 wins are over league doormat TCU and an Oklahoma State team in a tailspin.
Prediction: Out

Oklahoma State (16-8, 4-7, RPI No. 35)
The Pokes had problems before Marcus Smart was suspended for three games. Losing their top player for Oklahoma and Baylor only hastens the Cowboys drift to the bubble. The Cowboys already lost their first game without Marcus Smart by a lopsided margin against a shorthanded Texas.
Prediction: In

West Virginia (15-10, 7-5 RPI No. 74)
A 3-8 record in against the top 50 isn’t great, but the Mountaineers are on a roll, defeating Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Iowa State all since Jan. 28. The Mountaineers’ worst losses were to Virginia Tech (Nov. 12) and Purdue (Dec. 22). Bet they’d like to play both again.
Prediction: In

Big East
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova

Georgetown (15-9, 6-6, RPI No. 57)
The Hoyas appeared to be sinking before a win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1 to give Georgetown three good neutral site wins (VCU and Kansas State are the others). An early season loss to Northeastern and a home loss to Seton Hall is a bad look, however.
Prediction: In

Providence (16-9, 6-6, RPI No. 49)
The Friars reeled off five consecutive wins in January, including an 81-68 rout of Creighton, to get into the conversation. Road games, though, have halted the Friars progress since Jan. 30. Two winnable road games loom against Butler and Seton Hall.
Prediction: In

St. John’s (15-9, 5-6, RPI No. 63)
Even with Sunday’s win over Creighton, St. John’s has work to do to erase the 0-5 start to conference play. That slump included a loss to DePaul, but that might not hurt as much as the non-conference schedule.
Prediction: Out

Xavier (17-7, 8-4, RPI No. 37)
The Musketeers lost three in a row after starting 5-1 in the league. Xavier may have the toughest stretch before the conference tournament with road trips to Georgetown and St. John’s and home dates with Creighton and Villanova.
Prediction: In

Big Ten
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Indiana (14-9, 4-6, RPI No. 78)
A home loss to Northwestern and road losses to Nebraska and Illinois still overshadow the good things Indiana has done in Big Ten play.
Prediction: Out

Minnesota (16-8, 5-6, RPI No. 41)
True, Minnesota also lost to Northwestern and Nebraska, but the Hoosiers loaded up on teams ranked 200th or worse in the RPI in the non-conference schedule. The Gophers’ edge in the non-conference schedule, which included a game against Syracuse, accounts for the disparity in the RPI.
Prediction: In

Missouri Valley
Feeling good: Wichita State

Indiana State (18-6, 9-3, RPI No. 55)
With Wichita State’s sweep of the Sycamores, the only way the Missouri Valley is a two-bid league is if the Shockers lose in the conference tournament.
Prediction: Out

Feeling good: Arizona, UCLA

Arizona State (18-6, 7-4, RPI No. 40)
The Sun Devils picked up three critical bubble wins in the last five games with wins over Colorado, Cal and Oregon (only Cal was on the road). That run also included a road loss to Stanford. Saturday’s home date against a struggling Arizona team will be huge.
Prediction: In

Cal (15-8, 6-4, RPI No. 51)
If a bubble team is going to go 1-4 in the middle of the conference season, the one win might as well be over previously undefeated Arizona.
Prediction: In

Colorado (18-6, 7-4, RPI No. 25)
Losing Spencer Dinwiddie on Jan. 12 was a major blow, but the Buffaloes have started to show signs they can win without him. Granted, every win during this three-game streak was at home and two over over the Washington schools. This week’s road trips to UCLA and USC could be a turning point.
Prediction: In

Oregon (15-8, 3-8, RPI No. 42)
At 3-8 in the Pac-12, Oregon has little room for error. A close call with Arizona and turning a 20-point deficit against Arizona State into a mere 2-point loss could signal a team starting to recover ... or it could be the last blow to a season that has fallen apart since the New Year.
Prediction: Out

Stanford (15-7, 6-4, RPI No. 44)
Road wins are important for bubble teams, and Stanford has them over UConn, Oregon and Cal. The rival Golden Bears returned the favor with a win in Palo Alto, but the Cardinal have no losses worse than Oregon State on the road.
Prediction: In

Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky

LSU (15-7, 6-4, RPI No. 62)
Every good LSU win has been followed within a week by a momentum-sapping loss. A loss to Alabama followed the Missouri win. A loss at Georgia followed the Kentucky and Arkansas wins. Not a great look for a team with a home loss to Rhode Island already on the resume.
Prediction: In

Missouri (16-7, 4-6, RPI No. 50)
Few teams are more pleased to see West Virginia surging as Missouri is. The Tigers are short on good wins with only one RPI top 50 victory (UCLA), but Missouri defeated West Virginia two days earlier. The Tigers' only SEC wins are over Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas.
Prediction: In

Ole Miss (16-8, 7-4, RPI No. 56)
The Rebels’ win over Missouri on Saturday was key to getting Ole Miss on the bubble. The next three games will be crucial. Georgia is a tough out in Athens, and then Kentucky and Florida visit Oxford.
Prediction: Out

Tennessee (15-9, 6-5, RPI No. 47)
The Volunteers have the most interesting non-conference resume of any SEC bubble team with a win over Virginia, a split with Xavier and losses to Wichita State, NC State and UTEP. Defeating fellow SEC bubble foes Ole Miss at home and LSU on the road could be a determining factor.
Prediction: In

West Coast

BYU (17-9, 9-4, RPI No. 43)
The Cougars’ best wins are over Texas on a neutral court and Stanford on the road, both of which seem much stronger than they were back in November. Three WCC losses to teams ranked 130th or worse in the RPI (Pepperdine, Portland, Loyola Marymount) are as bad as ever. Beating Gonzaga at home or in the WCC Tournament may be the only way in as an at-large.
Prediction: Out

Gonzaga (21-4, 11-1, RPI No. 21)
Mark Few’s team needed Saturday’s game at Memphis, but the that game slipped away. Even though the Bulldogs’ RPI is worthy, Gonzaga lacks the non-conference resume we usually see from the Bulldogs.
Prediction: In

In or Out: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-media-roundtable-what-was-learned-nascars-visit-eldora

Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?

While drivers may toe the company line — keeping sponsors happy and staying in the sanctioning body’s good graces are important to their livelihood — it’s the job of these journos to provide news, insight and opinion in a sport that has no shortage of any.

In this nine-part feature, Athlon Sports sits down with seven media professionals from different outlets to get a healthy cross-section of ideas, opinions and feedback on the biggest issues alive and well in the sport of NASCAR, circa 2014.

The Camping World Truck Series’ visit to Eldora Speedway seemed to be a breath of fresh air for many fans. What, if any, lessons can be taken from this “experiment” that may be applicable to other series?

Pete Pistone (Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio; @PPistone): Eldora reminded everyone that NASCAR racing used to be a lot more fun than it sometimes is these days. The sanctioning body should do whatever it can to capture the electricity, anticipation and good old-fashioned entertainment Eldora created and sprinkle it liberally across all three national divisions.

Nick Bromberg (Yahoo! Sports; @NickBromberg): Don’t be afraid to try something new with the on-track product. That race was a leap for NASCAR, but it paid off in a big way and instantly became the most popular event in Truck Series history. And it also proved that the best storylines are organic and happen via good racing. Just look at Norm Benning and the attention that he and his team received for the battle with Clay Greenfield in one of the heat races.

While I’m not ready to say that the Cup Series needs to jump on a dirt track as soon as possible, it’s more fuel for the thought that the Truck Series should be closer to how it started at local short tracks than where it is now at a majority of tracks where the Cup Series races.

Nate Ryan (USA Today@nateryan): If the show is compelling, it doesn’t matter who the stars are. That’s the major lesson from any event that turns Norm Benning into a social media folk hero. The other major takeaway is that nothing should be sacred in stock-car racing. Because the racing was so memorable, there were no complaints about heat races, a segmented competition and a surface that doesn’t seem conducive to such heavy vehicles. In weighing enhancements to Sprint Cup, Eldora’s anti-idolatry vibe should be the template.

Also, transfer ownership of any other troubled tracks with promise to Tony Stewart and his management team. His street-smart savvy and force of will to produce success is unmatched.

Mike Hembree (Athlon Sports; @mikehembree): Eldora proved that “old school” still has a place in stock car racing. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to consider dirt-track racing for the Sprint Cup or Nationwide series, but the automatic drama created by a different sort of event can’t be denied. Could be a hint that fans want shorter races with more levels of entertainment. Heat races, anyone?

Ryan McGee ( The Magazine@ESPNMcGee): I think it would work with the other series, but only once a year. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesome. And to me, that’s exactly what the Truck Series should be doing — going to different markets and trying out new ideas. But when the next two series follow it onto dirt, which will happen eventually, NASCAR needs to be careful not to kill the golden egg-laying goose like racetracks have with night racing. That novelty wore off a long time ago.

Bob Pockrass (The Sporting News@bobpockrass): Heat races. But NASCAR needs to pay dollars to those who compete in the heats.

Mike Mulhern (; @mikemulhern): The Eldora race played to less than 20,000. Nice marketing gimmick, but nothing long-term. Nice made-for-TV show. And where were the softwalls, by the way?

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

As part of the 2014 NASCAR season preview, Athlon Sports sits down with seven of the sport's leading journalists to discuss what NASCAR learned when its Camping World Truck Series visited Eldora Speedway in 2013.
Post date: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 23:56
All taxonomy terms: Kyle Busch, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-driver-profile-kyle-busch

Kyle Busch experienced a new side of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup last season. More accurately, he was able to find out what it’s like to finish fourth in series points, the best postseason performance of his nine-year career to date.

The reward for such improvement? For one thing, a bigger prize check and a later spot on the agenda of the annual postseason awards banquet in his hometown of Las Vegas.  Kyle Busch

“I actually made it past dinner,” Busch said, cracking a smile during his December acceptance speech. “I didn’t even know this event lasted this late.”

It was at once both a clever way of noting his improvement in the Chase — a format that had been decidedly unkind to Busch’s driving style (and frankly, maturity) in years past — plus a way to signal that those who want a championship in the sport will have to dispatch his No. 18 this season. There’s little doubt that Busch’s 2013 season, after several up-and-down years, will be a launching pad for the 28-year-old going forward.

Busch at once tied his best career mark for races finished on the lead lap (29) and scored his most top 10s in a single season (22). He also qualified better than ever before, posting a sizzling 9.1 average start that trailed only teammate Matt Kenseth. It’s a talent that serves him well in a track-position world, where it’s much easier to start up front these days than work through traffic.

Those gaudy statistics, while impressive, are also par for the course with Busch. After all, he’s averaging a top-5 finish for every three Sprint Cup starts in his career. But the real difference in Busch last year was an ability to contain his driving style and volatile emotions when the Chase kicked in.

Thanks to striking out in some pretty awful ways in recent appearances — remember that his last go in the title fight, in 2011, included a suspension by NASCAR for actions he took against Ron Hornaday Jr. during a Camping World Truck Series race at Texas — Busch had gained the dubious label of being unable to close when it came time for the chips to be counted. It wasn’t a mistake, either: Busch had finished eighth or worse in his three previous Chases.

But last season proved different. After leading off the Chase with consecutive second-place finishes to Kenseth, Busch only faltered in a big way during the Chase’s fourth race, at Kansas Speedway. Those issues, though, were less about Busch’s on-track attitude than they were about his team’s failure to have a setup that gave him the necessary comfort. Busch DNF’d that day — his second at Kansas last season — and was understandably frustrated.

For once, however, Busch was able to rise above, nailing down five top 5s and nine top 15s in the Chase. With the Kansas issue, the title was out of reach. But optimism for 2014 was fully in place.

Busch remains paired with crew chief Dave Rogers this season. It was once an unenviable role, but Rogers has found a groove with Busch where the tenacity and competitiveness of his driver meshes well with the setups he can dial in. Such synchronicity should guide Busch into the Chase again this season with ease.

Can he turn that fourth-place finish into something brighter? Thanks to the arrival of Kenseth as Busch’s teammate in the JGR camp, his struggle to win a first title has gotten harder. But at the same time, Kenseth’s stabilizing style has seemed to bring a consistent rudder to a team that just two years ago featured 30-ish Denny Hamlin as its senior driver.

Busch’s biggest concern last year was engine troubles. Those bit his JGR team as a whole early in the season, including one failure when Busch was running neck-and-neck with Kenseth for the lead of the Daytona 500. After substantial changes in both Toyota Racing Development leadership and technological practices, most of the problems seemed to disappear altogether in the season’s second half.

Despite the encouraging shift, that brush with failure in reliability has forced us to question what we can really expect from JGR and Toyota going forward. Hendrick Motorsports, historically, has never really had such issues.

It seems Busch has finally reached a point mentally where he can perform and contend for the sport’s highest award. Expect to see that this season — as long as everything else around him can hold up.

What the Competition is SayingAnonymous quotes from crew chiefs, owners and media

“Busch has made strides toward winning a title after years of struggles. Between (Matt) Kenseth and Busch the JGR team is still one of the best in the business,” a rival crew chief says. “If (Denny) Hamlin gets physically better, the power of three drivers succeeding could be what it takes to push Busch over the top. He’s becoming more popular with fans, too. The adulation of fans can go a long way toward making a driver better. Plus, he’ll be running Nationwide again and that always makes him stronger in the Cup Series.”

Another warns: “He’s still Kyle Busch. He can blow up at some point in time and ruin all of the work of a season. Matt Kenseth’s success can put pressure on Busch to keep up within his own organization. Also, the tracks in the Chase are some of Busch’s weaker tracks on the schedule. And he still has to deal with the backlash of his continual abuse of the drivers in the Truck and Nationwide series from fans and media.”

“A crew chief once described Kyle Busch to me as being ‘the Fourth of July’ — just fireworks everywhere,” a media member says. “I don’t know if I can describe him any better.”

Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers:
Busch has won at more tracks (15) than not (eight) in the CoT/Gen-6 era, for a total of 25 victories. It can happen on any given weekend.
Pretty Solid Pick: His favorites? Bristol and Richmond, where he has scored four wins apiece since 2007.
Good Sleeper Pick: The Charlotte win is coming. He has nine top 5s in the last 13 points-paying races in the heart of NASCAR country.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Kansas, where he’s crashed out of the last three consecutive races. Too much time in the casino, Kyle?
Insider Tip: We refuse to insult your racing IQ. Busch is as dynamic a wheelman as there is and thus is capable of winning in droves. Last season’s strong Chase results (finally!) may be the last piece to his title puzzle.

No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Mars/M&M’s/Interstate Batteries
Owner: Joe Gibbs
Crew Chief: Dave Rogers
Years with current team: 7
Under contract through: 2016+
Best points finish: 4th (2013)
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev.
Born: May 2, 1985

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Kyle Busch and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team charge into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Post date: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 23:54
All taxonomy terms: Matt Kenseth, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-driver-profile-matt-kenseth

Matt Kenseth blew away most expectations in his first go-round with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.  Matt Kenseth

His series-leading seven race wins and runner-up finish in the point standings were simply outstanding. They made Kenseth’s preseason nerves about the switch — he said in December 2012 that he actually got nervous about hopping in the new Toyotas after spending his entire Sprint Cup career at Roush Fenway Racing, later kicking himself for causing an engine problem during a test — seem almost laughable.

Kenseth was sensational from the start, looking like a good bet to win the Daytona 500 before his engine gave way just past halfway, and he held an edge on Jimmie Johnson through much of the Chase. Only a whiffed setup in the penultimate race kept him from going head-to-head with Johnson in the season finale. Otherwise, Kenseth very easily could have been walking away from NASCAR’s December awards banquet in Las Vegas with the sport’s largest haul of all. It was a career year in every sense of the word.

It leaves us with little doubt that Kenseth will vie for the title again this year.

However, his strength in 2013 should bring a new set of nerves for the 2003 Sprint Cup champion. The dynamite campaign has launched him from an interesting hire at JGR to presumed leader of both that team and the Toyota brigade in general. A run deep into the Chase for the Sprint Cup and the season title will be expected. Taking the championship wouldn’t be a surprise.

It’s an interesting place for the soon-to-be 42-year-old, who didn’t handle that role well when anointed RFR’s leader in 2007. But it’s a role that Kenseth is well-suited for now based both on his personal career progression and the unrelenting nature of JGR.

Kenseth’s seven wins in 2013 were a career peak, putting him at 13 total victories in the last three seasons. Last year also featured the best average starting position of the Wisconsin driver’s career — 8.7, a number that led the series. Not bad for a guy whose lifetime average is a mediocre 18.5. Not only was Kenseth starting closer to the front than ever before, but he also had, on average, a better pit road selection as a result of his strengthened early-weekend performances. That’s crucial for the track position he earned and must maintain in NASCAR’s hyper-competitive new world. Kenseth was both holding and picking up spots on pit road more than ever — a key difference in a race’s final throes.

JGR itself remains just a break or two from scoring its first title since Tony Stewart last won one for the organization in 2005. Kenseth’s teammate, Kyle Busch, put together the most splendid season he’s had in terms of consistency and Chase legitimacy. It produced Busch’s best-ever finish (fourth) in the Chase standings.

Kenseth’s other teammate, Denny Hamlin, likely would have been a Chase contender had he not suffered a back injury at Auto Club Speedway in the spring that forced him to the sidelines for five races.

Hamlin’s setback could be pivotal for the JGR group going forward, however. Once it was clear that Hamlin wasn’t going to be a Chase participant, he became little more than an experimental pilot for the team. There were days when it showed — Hamlin spent much of the back half of the season battling an out-to-lunch race car with little fanfare — but then there was also the terrific season finale for No. 11 that resulted in a win.

We’ll never know the full impact of Hamlin’s experimental work for JGR, at least not yet. However, engineers are the lifeblood of fast cars in today’s NASCAR, and engineers live on data. The more they have, the more accurate shock adjustment or front-end geometry can be. As long as NASCAR’s offseason changes to the Gen-6 car don’t throw all that completely data out the window, expect them to come out of the box full speed ahead.

However, even major changes from NASCAR should not impact Kenseth terribly this year. We know how good the organization is, and 2013 showed just how good a driver with a fresh perspective could be with great equipment.

Perhaps there’s a small mental hurdle for Kenseth to clear in that, as he turns 42 this year, last season’s run might have been his last, best chance for a title. His even-keeled personality makes that unlikely, though. A seven-win campaign will be tough to duplicate, but don’t be surprised if he and the No. 20 team are in the hunt in Homestead once again.

What the Competition is Saying
Anonymous quotes from crew chiefs, owners and media

Matt Kenseth answered any questions about his new gig at Joe Gibbs Racing with a resounding debut season in the No. 20 Toyota.

“When the door shuts, he is always there,” one crew chief shrugged matter-of-factly. “He’s a closer. He’s sneaky. He’s sly, but he’s very clean. Kenseth is a very productive race car driver.”

“He needs to work on Phoenix, though!” another joked. “Look, except for that one race he was always there last year. He was ‘game on’ and even his qualifying efforts were good. I don’t know if there is anything else they need — put a fourth coat of wax on it and he’s good.”

A media member points out that Kenseth may have actually found a deeper level of maturity last year: “Remember when he and Vickers went at it in Martinsville in 2011 during the Chase? Kenseth still had a title shot that year, and he shot himself in the foot by stooping to (Brian) Vickers’ level. There was no self-inflicted wound last year. Yeah, the Phoenix race will haunt that team, but sans that one race, they went toe-to-toe with the 48. … There’s this myth about a championship runner-up hangover, but I don’t expect that out of Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff. They’re too solid.”


Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers: It took 10 Cup seasons to notch a win on a plate track, but he’s been as reliable as any driver at Daytona and Talladega ever since.
Pretty Solid Pick: Ten of his 15 CoT/Gen-6 era victories — and 22 of his 31 career Cup triumphs — have come on the intermediates. This isn’t just the product of the Roush years, either.
Good Sleeper Pick: With the Loudon win out of the way, we’re guessing that Martinsville is the next supposed Achilles' heel where Kenseth cashes in.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Kenseth has totaled five top 10s in 28 career road course starts. Bob Bondurant he is not. Heck, he’s not even a Paul Newman.
Insider Tip: Save for the road courses, Kenseth is able to post wins most anywhere. He’s smart enough not to overdrive in the pursuit, though.

No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Dollar General/Home Depot-Husky Tools
Owner: Joe Gibbs
Crew Chief: Jason Ratcliff
Years with current team: 2
Under contract through: 2015+
Best points finish: 1st (2003)
Hometown: Cambridge, Wis.
Born: March 10, 1972

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

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For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro


After a stellar 2013 debut with Joe Gibbs Racing, Matt Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff set their sights on the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Post date: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 23:52