Articles By All

Path: /nascar/7-amazing-nascar-stats-bristol-motor-speedway
Body:

Bristol Motor Speedway received a re-tooling of sorts following last spring’s race, so there will be a bevy of unknowns this weekend when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes to the high-banked half-mile oval.

What is known is that three races are in the books and two of the usual suspects, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, are running on all cylinders as others — and you’ll read of one below — are experiencing early-season struggles. We also know what we were able to learn from the Bristol race last August, an exciting caution flag-fueled event that paid dividends to those that had the ability to either move through the field or retain track position.

For PEER and other metrics in the following article with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on MotorsportsAnalytics.com.


3.7 and 0.6 Brad Keselowski is averaging a 3.7-place finish, grouped with a strong 0.6 finish deviation.

Holy Keselowski! The Penske Racing No. 2 team is really, really good right now. The act of them being good isn’t a shock; the extent of their goodness is what is amazing. Through three races, the championship-winning entry from 2012 has amassed a 3.7-place average finish. How legitimate is that? Their 0.6 finish deviation — and mind you, zero is perfectly consistent — tells us the team isn’t wavering much from that average. Keselowski and team are both staggeringly fast and pinpoint consistent. If the champs want to repeat, they’re off to a blazing start.


-42.1 percent   Jeff Gordon and team can’t hold onto positions late in races, suggested by their negative-42.1 percent position retainment difference.

What is going on with the No. 24? Averaging a 12.7-place running position at the 10 percent-to-go mark, a precipitous drop occurs in the final stages of races, in which they average an 18th-place finish. Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson were more balanced position retainers last year, with a plus-3.4 percent difference. Races like last weekend at Las Vegas, in which they dropped from 21st to a finish of 25th in the final 27 laps, can’t be tolerated for a team hoping to land a Chase spot.


17.0  Thanks to a 17.0-place average finish, Paul Menard is the highest ranked Richard Childress Racing driver in the Cup Series standings.

Who would have thought? It’s true. After three races, Menard and team are the lead dogs in the RCR yard, ranking 12th in Cup Series standings; however, that’s probably not something that will last. Both Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton crashed out of Daytona, while Menard’s team has finished in the top half of the field in all three events. Harvick’s No. 29 team doesn’t often leave races on the table, evident by the team’s 88-plus Relevance percentage (read: percentage of races in a season finished in the top half of fields) in each of the last three years.
 

Teaser:
<p> Seven amazing NASCAR stats for Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 18:49
Path: /mlb/best-mlb-free-agent-signings-2013
Body:

As spring training continues in Florida and Arizona, Athlon Sports offers its thoughts on all the offseason movement. Here are the best free agent signings in Major League Baseball for 2013:

Mike Adams, Philadelphia Phillies
2 years, $12,000,000
Last year Philadelphia’s set-up men blew 15 saves. Adams has blown just 11 in the last five seasons and should solve the Phils’ eighth-inning woes.
 

Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians
4 years, $48,000,000
The Indians certainly were the beneficiaries of a shrinking market late in the offseason. Bourn, one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, immediately makes the Cleveland pitching staff better. While his efficiency stealing bases has declined the past few years, he has a .346 OBP over the past three seasons and will be the catalyst for the Indians' lineup. With a vesting option for 2017, this contract will likely end up being a five-year, $60 million deal, which will make it look even better. It’s backloaded as Bourn will make just seven million this season.

 
Kyuji Fujikawa, Chicago Cubs
2 years, $9,500,000
It’s always difficult to project how Japanese pitchers will fare in the U.S. Hideki Irabu was not very good; Dice-K’s success was short-lived; Yu Darvish is off to a great start. But Fujikawa owns 510 Ks and only a combined 316 hits and walks in six seasons in Japan. By the end of this deal, he should be ranked fifth on the Cubs’ all-time saves list.
 
Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
6 years, $147,000,000
The former American League Cy Young winner will begin to understand the pressure that a $147 million contract brings, but he enters the best situation to succeed of his career. He should get solid run support and will make about half his starts in a terrific pitcher’s park. 
 
Dan Haren, Washington Nationals
1 year, $13,000,000
Haren was not fully healthy in 2012, the first season he logged fewer than 216 innings since becoming a full-time starter in 2005. He will round out one of the top rotations in baseball.
 
Roberto Hernandez, Tampa Bay Rays
1 year, $3,250,000
Performed under the stage name of Fausto Carmona for several years in Cleveland. He made just three starts last season and is 33–51 with a 5.06 ERA over the past five seasons. However, given some time with pitching coach Jim Hickey, perhaps Hernandez can rekindle his career.
 
Torii Hunter, Detroit Tigers
2 years, $26,000,000
In the Tigers’ lineup, his bat will be a bonus as he improves the outfield defense. Hunter is the type of player the city of Detroit will love.
 
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
2 years, $14,000,000
Iwakuma joined the Mariners’ rotation in July and made 16 starts. Over his last 13 starts he had a 2.16 ERA, and Seattle was 9–4 in those games.  
 
Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs
4 years, $52,000,000
This four-year deal may finally end the nomadic portion of Jackson’s career in which he played for six teams in the last five seasons. During that time, he’s averaged 32 starts, 199 innings, 12 wins and a 4.06 ERA. His record tends to reflect his team’s, so don’t expect him to be better than .500 for his first few seasons in Chicago.
 
Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees
1 year, $15,000,000
It’s surprising that Kuroda didn’t get a multi-year deal. He and CC Sabathia anchor the Yankees’ pitching staff.
 
James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays
1 year, $2,000,000
The slick-fielding first baseman could be the latest offensive reclamation in Tampa Bay. His defense alone at first base is worth the $2 million.
 
Hiroyuki Nakajima, Oakland Athletics
2 years, $6,500,000
The .300 hitter from Japan is a much cheaper (and better?) option than Stephen Drew if the A’s had picked up Drew’s $10 million option.
 
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
2 years, $26,000,000
Expect Big Papi’s production to drop. But he’s a fan favorite, and $11 million in 2014 isn’t going to hamstring the team. This is a good gamble.
 
Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants
4 years, $40,000,000
The fleet center fielder sparked the Giants’ offense during the pennant drive last season, including scoring 32 runs in August.
 
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
2 years, $29,000,000
Only five times last season did a pitcher throw nine or more innings, give up three runs or fewer and lose. That happened to Peavy twice. The righthander agreed to these terms in lieu of a $4 million buyout. 
 
Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
1 year, $12,000,000
The aging lefty made two quality starts in the postseason in 2012, giving the Yankees confidence that there’s one more season left in the old vet.
 
A.J. Pierzynski, Texas Rangers
1 year, $7,500,000
A catcher who can hit and answers the bell every day is worth $7.5 million.
 
Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians
1 year, $6,000,000
This is a low-risk, medium-reward play for Cleveland, and Reynolds’ right-handed raw power will probably make it pay off for the Tribe.
 
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
1 year, $10,000,000
Never bet against the Sandman.
 
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
6 years, $36,000,000
Even considering the $25.7 million posting fee, Ryu stands to be a good bargain as a No. 4 starter for the Dodgers making just $10 million over the next three seasons in addition to his $5 million signing bonus. With the Dodgers’ win-at-all-costs mentality, this is not an outlandish contract.
 
Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants
3 years, $20,000,000
It’s too much to expect Scutaro to continue to hit .362 as he did down the stretch for the Giants last season. But over the past four years, he has batted .290 with a .356 OBP. 
 
Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians
4 years, $56,000,000
In a free agent market short on outfielders, the Indians may have paid a little too much. But Swisher will be a big part of any success the Indians have under manager Terry Francona.
 

 

Want more baseball? Check out Athlon Sports' 2013 Baseball Annual for the most complete preview available. Order your copy now! 

Teaser:
<p> We run down the best bargains in baseball</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

After a 5-0 start last season, West Virginia was poised to be a contender for the Big 12 title, while quarterback Geno Smith was an early Heisman favorite. However, the season started to crumble after a 49-14 defeat at Texas Tech, which threw the Mountaineers into a five-game losing streak. Even though West Virginia rebounded with wins against Iowa State and Kansas to close the regular season, finishing 7-6 was a disappointment for a team loaded with offensive talent. Moving to the Big 12 was a step up in competition, but the defense was the primary culprit for the struggles. Fixing that side of the ball, along with reloading the offense are the top spring priorities for coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers will be picked near the bottom of the Big 12 in 2013, and this spring is crucial to finding the right answers on both sides of the ball.

West Virginia Mountaineers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (4-5)

Spring practice dates: March 10-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Paul Millard, 9 of 19, 87 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Andrew Buie, 179 car., 851 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Andrew Buie, 28 rec., 318 yards, 0 TD
Tackles: Karl Joseph, 104
Sacks: Kyle Rose and Shaq Petteway, 1.5
Interceptions: Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, 2

Redshirts to watch: QB Ford Childress, OL Tyler Orlosky, OL Tony Matteo, DL Noble Nwachukwu, WR Devonte Mathis, CB Brandon Napoleon

Early Enrollees to watch: LB Hodari Christian, S Malik Greaves, QB Chavas Rawlins, WR Daikiel Shorts, RB Wendell Smallwood, RB Dreamius Smith, WR Kevin White

JUCO Transfers to Watch: WR Mario Alford, WR Ronald Carswell, LB Brandon Golson, LB d’Vante Henry, DE Dontrill Hyman, P Nick O’Toole, RB Dreamius Smith, OL Stone Underwood, WR Kevin White

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 William & Mary
Sept. 7 at Oklahoma
Sept. 14 Georgia State
Sept. 21 Maryland (Baltimore)
Sept. 28 Oklahoma State
Oct. 5 at Baylor
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 Texas Tech
Oct. 26 at Kansas State
Nov. 2 at TCU
Nov. 9 Texas
Nov. 16 at Kansas
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 29 Iowa State

Offensive Strength: With just three starters returning, it’s hard to call any unit of West Virginia’s offense a strength. However, there’s some promising talent returning at running back, led by Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison. Junior college transfer (and all-name team selection) Dreamius Smith will also figure into the mix.

Offensive Weakness: After averaging 502 yards per game last season, West Virginia has some major question marks to answer in spring ball. Quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin won’t be easy to replace, while the offensive line loses three starters.

Defensive Strength: You have to look really hard to find a strength on West Virginia’s defense after a miserable 2012 season. If there’s a bright spot, it’s the play of youngsters Isaiah Bruce (LB) and Karl Joseph (S) last season. As sophomores in 2013, the Mountaineers need both players to be even better. 

Defensive Weakness: Everywhere. West Virginia’s defense allowed 40 or more points six times in Big 12 play and finished near the bottom nationally in pass defense.

Spring Storylines Facing the Mountaineers

1. Is Ford Childress the answer at quarterback? West Virginia opens spring practice with four quarterbacks vying for time under center, but the battle is expected to come down to sophomore Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress. Millard has thrown 34 passes in his career but does not have a start under his belt. Childress was regarded as one of the top 20 quarterbacks in the 2012 signing class and should be a good fit for West Virginia’s offense. Although Millard has the edge in experience, the redshirt freshman has more talent and should claim the No. 1 job. As with any new quarterback, there will be some ups and downs. However, Childress has the talent to post huge numbers in Dana Holgorsen’s offense.

2. Restocking the receiving corps. Losing Geno Smith is a huge blow to West Virginia’s offense, but that isn’t the only loss on this side of the ball. Gone are receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, J.D. Woods and Ryan Nehlen. Running back Andrew Buie is the team’s top returner in terms of catches, with the top receiver being Jordan Thompson at just 13 receptions. The Mountaineers are counting on Thompson to become one of the top playmakers in this offense, while junior college recruits Kevin White, Mario Alford and Ronald Carswell need to emerge as impact players. Redshirt freshman Devonte Mathis and true freshman Shelton Gibson are other names to watch this preseason, as West Virginia will likely spend a lot of time mixing and matching to find the best four starting options for Childress or Millard.  

3. Fixing the defense. Depending on how you view returning starters, West Virginia’s defense is in either good or bad shape. The Mountaineers return seven starters on that side of the ball, but this unit was horrendous last year. West Virginia ranked last in the Big 12 in points allowed, 118th nationally in pass defense and 108th in yards allowed. Ouch. Keith Patterson will call the plays on defense this season, and needless to say, he will have his hands full in spring practice. The Mountaineers need help at each level of the defense, but the secondary needs extra attention with the departure of cornerback Pat Miller and linebacker/safety Terence Garvin. Considering the passing offenses in the Big 12, West Virginia cannot afford to have a leaky secondary all year once again. Establishing a better pass rush is also crucial to addressing some of the holes in pass defense. Three junior college transfers will help add some competition to the defense, but the Mountaineers need some of their younger players, along with the returning starters to step it up in 2013.


Related College Football Content

Big 12 2013 Spring Storylines to Watch

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

Ranking the Big 12 Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Wide Receivers on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch for 2013

TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Preview

Baylor Bears 2013 Spring Preview

Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Preview

Teaser:
<p> West Virginia Mountaineers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-basketball/2013-mountain-west-conference-tournament-preview
Body:

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Mountain West.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
Starts: March 12
Final: March 16 in Las Vegas (CBS)
First-round games:
No. 8 Wyoming vs. No. 9 Nevada (Tuesday)
No. 3 UNLV vs No. 6 Air Force (Wednesday)
No. 2 Colorado State vs. No. 7 Fresno State (Wednesday)
No. 1 New Mexico vs. Wyoming/Nevada (Wednesday)
No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 5 Boise State (Wednesday)

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
Big East


THE FAVORITE: New Mexico
The Lobos won the regular-season title by two full games, an impressive feat considering that five of the nine teams in the league are expected to make the NCAA Tournament. Kendall Williams had the 46-point explosion against Colorado State, but Alex Kirk has been more consistent down the stretch (17.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg in the last five).

DARK HORSE: Boise State
The Broncos are playing their best ball of the season, with wins in five of their last six games. They are well-coached under former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice and have two outstanding scorers — Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks.

ATHLON’S PICK: UNLV
New Mexico had the best team during the regular season, but UNLV is blessed with the most talented roster. The Rebels didn’t always play like it, though. Perhaps losing at home to Fresno State in the regular season finale was a wake-up call. The Rebels also have to the advantage of playing the tournament on their home floor.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

NCAA TOURNAMENT LOCKS:
Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV

BUBBLE TEAM:
Boise State
The Broncos look pretty good for a bid after closing the season on a 5-1 run. During that span, Boise State defeated San Diego State and Colorado State at home. If the Broncos can add a second win over the Aztecs, this time on a neutral site, lock up their bid.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Mountain West Conference Tournament Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-cowboys-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Coming off a 12-1 season and the departure of a couple of key players, an 8-5 record in 2012 was about what most expected from Oklahoma State. The Cowboys finished with five victories in Big 12 play, with three of their four losses coming by a touchdown or less. With 12 starters back for 2013, Mike Gundy’s team is positioned for a run at the Big 12 title. There’s a new coordinator on offense (Mike Yurcich), but Oklahoma State shouldn’t miss a beat on that side of the ball. With a schedule that features home matchups against TCU, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma, the Cowboys have everything in place to make a run at 10 victories and a conference title. 

Oklahoma State Cowboys 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (5-4)

Spring practice dates: March 11-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Clint Chelf, 119 of 197, 1,588 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: Jeremy Smith, 70 car., 371 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Josh Stewart, 101 rec., 1,210 yards, 7 TDs
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe, 75
Sacks: Tyler Johnson, 4
Interceptions: Three players tied with 2

Redshirts to watch: OL Michael Wilson, LB Jeremiah Tshimanga, LB Seth Jacobs, WR C.J. Curry, DE Eric Davis, DE Victor Irokansi, OL Zac Veatch

Early Enrollees to watch: OL Brandon Garrett, DE Naim Mustafaa

JUCO Transfers to watch: OL Brandon Garrett, DT Ofa Hautau, DE Sam Wren

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Mississippi State (Houston)
Sept. 7 at UTSA
Sept. 14 Lamar
Sept. 28 at West Virginia
Oct. 5 Kansas State
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 TCU
Oct. 26 at Iowa State
Nov. 2 at Texas Tech
Nov. 9 Kansas
Nov. 16 at Texas
Nov. 23 Baylor
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 Oklahoma

Offensive Strength: Where should we start? The Cowboys have three proven quarterbacks, and one of the Big 12’s top running back duos in Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland. The receiving corps is one of the best in the conference, as Josh Stewart leads the way after catching 101 passes in 2012.

Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to find a weakness on the Cowboys offense, but the line must replace three starters, including first-team All-Big 12 performer Lane Taylor.

Defensive Strength: Despite losing Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State has to feel good about its linebacking corps for 2013. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last season, while there’s plenty of depth to replace Elkins with Lyndell Johnson, Joe Mitchell and Ryan Simmons returning.

Defensive Weakness: As mentioned above with the offense, it’s hard to find a glaring weakness for Oklahoma State’s defense. Sure, the Cowboys can play better than they did in 2012, but this unit returns seven starters, and the promotion of Glenn Spencer to coordinator assures continuity. Depth at defensive end and upgrading the performance in the secondary are two key areas to watch in spring practice.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cowboys

1. Who wins the quarterback battle? Having more than one starting quarterback is generally considered a bad thing. However, Oklahoma State has three proven options that could lead it to a Big 12 title this season. Wes Lunt began the year as the starter but suffered a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette and was forced to sit out the next three games. J.W. Walsh replaced Lunt and recorded three performances of at least 300 passing yards, while leading Oklahoma State to a 2-1 record. However, Walsh suffered a knee injury against Iowa State, which gave the job back to Lunt. And after Lunt was forced to leave the Kansas State game due to injury, Clint Chelf started the final five games and finished the season with 1,588 yards and 15 touchdown tosses. The Cowboys can win with any of the three quarterbacks under center, but they need to pick a No. 1 option. If Chelf is the starter, Walsh could play some time in a change-of-pace role. And considering Lunt is a true sophomore, he still has a redshirt season available. With the options and uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma State this spring, this is one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the nation.

2. Restocking the offensive line. Considering line coach Joe Wickline is one of the best in the nation, Oklahoma State isn’t too worried about replacing three starters up front. Gone are center Evan Epstein and guards Lane Taylor and Jonathan Rush. Taylor is the biggest loss out of the trio, as he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. The tackle spots should be in good shape with Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig, while Brandon Webb started the final five games at left guard last season. Jake Jenkins will get the first crack at replacing Epstein at center, while the coaching staff wants to get an extended look at tackle Devin Davis and junior college transfer Brandon Garrett.

3. Reloading at defensive end. Outside of replacing cornerback Brodrick Brown, the Cowboys biggest priority in spring practice will be finding contributors at defensive end. Cooper Bassett, Nigel Nicholas and Ryan Robinson all expired their eligibility after the bowl game, leaving Tyler Johnson (27 tackles) as the team’s top defensive end. Outside of Johnson, there’s very little in the way of depth. Sophomores Trace Clark and Jimmy Bean, along with three redshirt freshmen are under the spotlight to perform this spring. Junior college recruit Sam Wren and Naim Mustafaa will also figure into the mix and could jump to the top of the depth chart if the Clark, Bean or any of the redshirt freshmen fail to seize a starting spot. There’s a lot of names here, but Oklahoma State needs to settle on its starters, while figuring out its backup rotation for fall practice.

4. Cornerback question marks? Even though Oklahoma State’s secondary may not have lived up to its potential in 2012, replacing a three-year starter in Brodrick Brown is no easy task. Justin Gilbert will slide into the No. 1 cornerback role, while sophomore Kevin Peterson is expected to replace Brown. Peterson was solid in limited action last season, recording 20 tackles and two pass breakups in 13 games. While Gilbert and Peterson should be a solid duo, proven depth is a question mark. Cornerback coach Jason Jones left for Ole Miss in early March, so coordinator Glenn Spencer and new assistant Tim Duffie will be watching this unit closely in spring practice.

5. Who replaces Quinn Sharp? Kicker/punter Quinn Sharp was one of the best in the nation during his career at Oklahoma State and filling his shoes won’t be easy in 2013. Three kickers will vie for the starting gig in spring practice, including UCLA transfer Kip Smith, while senior Michael Reichenstein is the only punter listed on the roster. Incoming freshman Ben Grogan won’t compete until the fall, but he could be an answer at kicker or punter. Considering Sharp was the Big 12’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Year last season, replacing his production is no easy task. 


Related College Football Content

Big 12 2013 Spring Storylines to Watch
Ranking the Big 12 Coaching Jobs for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Wide Receivers on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Preview

Baylor Bears 2013 Spring Preview

Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Preview

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma State Cowboys 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:27
Path: /college-basketball/2013-big-east-conference-tournament-preview
Body:

March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Big East.

BIG EAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
Starts: March 12
Final: March 16 in New York (ESPN)
First-round games:
No. 12 Seton Hall vs. No. 13 USF (Tuesday)
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 14 DePaul (Tuesday)
No. 8 Providence vs. No. 9 Providence (Wednesday)
No. 5 Syracuse vs. Seton Hall/USF (Wednesday)
No. 7 Villanova vs. No. 10 St. John’s (Wednesday)
No. 6 Notre Dame vs. Rutgers/DePaul (Wednesday)

Byes to the quarterfinals:
No. 1 Georgetown
No. 2 Louisville
No. 3 Marquette
No. 4 Pittsburgh

Full Bracket: (.pdf)

Other conference tournament previews:
Mountain West


THE FAVORITE: Georgetown
The Hoyas, led by unanimous All-Big East first teamer Otto Porter, won 13 of their final 14 games — capped off Saturday’s 61–39 win over rival Syracuse. Georgetown’s prowess on defense will make it hard to beat at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas are also playing for a potential No. 1 seed if they can win their first Big East Tournament since 2007.

DARK HORSE: Villanova
Any team that can claim wins over Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette and Georgetown has to be considered a threat to win the Big East Tournament. A word of caution: Most of the Wildcats’ impressive wins this season have come at home.

ATHLON’S PICK: Louisville
The Cardinals have recovered from their puzzling late-January three-game slide. Louisville won 10 of its last 11 games, with the only setback coming at Notre Dame in five overtimes. Gorgui Dieng averaged 11.2 points and 10.8 rebounds in Big East play compared to 6.8 and 6.7 before his injury.

Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)

NCAA TOURNAMENT LOCKS:
Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse

BUBBLE TEAMS:
Villanova
The Wildcats are awfully close to lock territory with the marquee wins this season. Losses to Columbia, Providence (twice) and Seton Hall earlier this season mean Villanova needs to avoid a loss to 10th-seeded St. John’s in the first round.

Cincinnati
The Bearcats looked all but certain to be in the field to start February, but Cincinnati finished on a 3-6 slide. Cincinnati dodged a resume-killing loss to USF in the regular-season finale in overtime. Now the Bearcats have to prove they can defeat Providence. Through the Friars aren’t an at-large candidate, they have defeated Cincinnati already this season in addition to beating Notre Dame and Villanova.

Related: All 2013 postseason college basketball coverage

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Big East Conference Tournament Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:07
All taxonomy terms: 2013 March Madness, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-power-rankings-gonzaga-waits-no-1
Body:

Gonzaga may end up with the best seat in the house for the conference tournaments.

After defeating Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference finals, the Bulldogs will sit with their resume complete and their No. 1 ranking intact.

The only question is where Gonzaga will sit on Selection Sunday. With the nation’s best record, Mark Few’s team has a good chance to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If indeed Gonzaga gets one of those four coveted spots, the next questions is the other three teams on the top line of the bracket.

Conference tournaments will go a long way to determining those teams. The Big Ten, as it has been all season, is loaded, but Indiana may have a substantial edge with its win at Michigan on Sunday and an outright conference title.

Elsewhere, we’re curious to see how high Duke can climb. With Ryan Kelly back in the line up, the Blue Devils again look like a No. 1 overall team.

Related: Key stats from March 4-10

COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS: MARCH 12

1. Gonzaga (31-2, 16-0 West Coast)
Last week’s rank: 1
Last week’s results: Defeated Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament
Up next: NCAA Tournament
Buzz: Zags win WCC Tournament for 11th time since 1999. Does a No. 1 seed await?

2. Duke (27-4, 14-4 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Last week’s results: Defeated Virginia Tech 89-57, defeated North Carolina 69-53
This week: ACC Tournament
Buzz: Blue Devils could be the No. 1 overall seed in NCAAs despite not winning ACC regular season.

3. Indiana (26-5, 14-4 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 3
Last week’s results: Lost to Ohio State 67-58, defeated Michigan 72-71
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Hoosiers capitalize on Michigan’s missed FTs to earn hard-fought win.

Debate: Zeller or Oladipo for Indiana's MVP

4. Georgetown (24-5, 14-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 4
Last week’s results: Lost to Villanova 67-57, defeated Syracuse 61-39
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Hoyas outscore Syracuse by a combined 33 points en route to season sweep.

Related: Big East Tournament preview

5. Louisville (26-5, 14-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 8
Last week’s results: Defeated Notre Dame 73-57
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Only one the Cards’ last seven opponents have scored more than 60 points. 

6. Michigan (25-6, 12-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 5
Last week’s results: Defeated Purdue 80-75, lost to Indiana 72-71
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Wolverines will have trouble getting past the collapse against Indiana.

7. Miami (24-6, 15-3 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Last week’s results: Lost to Georgia Tech 71-69, defeated Clemson 62-49
This week: ACC Tournament
Buzz: Here’s a surprise: Hurricanes’ win ACC title in hoops before football.

8. Kansas (26-5, 14-4 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 7
Last week’s results: Lost to Baylor 81-58
This week: Big 12 Tournament
Buzz: KU loses at Baylor — must “settle” for a share of 12th straight Big 12 title with Kansas State.  

9. Michigan State (24-7, 13-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 9
Last week’s results: Defeated Wisconsin 58-43, defeated Northwestern 71-61
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Spartans win final two games as Gary Harris earnes Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

10. Ohio State (23-7, 13-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 15
Last week’s results: Defeated Indiana 57-58, defeated Illinois 68-55
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Buckeyes head to Big Ten Tournament riding a five-game winning streak. 

11. Florida (24-6, 14-4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Last week’s results: Defeated Vanderbilt 66-40, lost to Kentucky 61-57
This week: SEC Tournament
Buzz: Gators slog through final 10 with 6-4 record after 8-0 start in SEC play.

12. Marquette (23-7, 14-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 16
Last week’s results: Defeated Rutgers 60-54, defeated St. John’s 69-67 (OT)
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Golden Eagles share Big East title thanks to Vander Blue’s game-winner at MSG.

13. Oklahoma State (23-7, 12-5 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 12
Last week’s results: Lost to Iowa State 87-76, defeated Kansas State 76-70
This week: Big 12 Tournament
Buzz: Pokes close out regular season in style with a win over Kansas State. 

14. Kansas State (25-6, 14-4 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 11
Last week’s results: Defeated TCU 79-68, lost to Oklahoma State 76-70
This week: Big 12 Tournament
Buzz: Kansas State earns a share of Big 12 title — its first league crown since 1977.

15. New Mexico (26-5, 13-3 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 13
Last week’s results: Defeated Nevada 75-62, lost to Air Force 89-88
This week: Mountain West Tournament
Buzz: Lobos ranked No. 2 in the RPI even after closing season with a loss to Air Force.

Related: Mountain West Tournament preview

16. Saint Louis (24-6, 13-3 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 17
Last week’s results: Lost to Xavier 77-66 (OT), defeated La Salle 78-54
This week: Atlantic 10 Tournament
Buzz: VCU’s loss to Temple gives Saint Louis the outright Atlantic 10 title. 

17. Pittsburgh (24-7, 12-6 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 21
Last week’s results: Defeated DePaul 81-66
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Nice bounce-back season from Pitt; Panthers finish fourth in Big East. 

18. UCLA (23-8, 13-5 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 18
Last week’s results: Lost to Washington State 73-61, defeated Washington 61-54
This week: Pac-12 Tournament
Buzz: Bruins’ first win at Washington since 2004 earns them the outright Pac-12 title.

19. Notre Dame (23-8, 11-7 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 20
Last week’s results: Defeated St. John’s 66-40, lost to Louisville 73-57
This week: Big East Tournament
Buzz: Defensive issues could keep Irish from being much of a threat in postseason.

20. Arizona (22-7, 10-6 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 22
Last week’s results: Defeated Arizona State 73-58
This week: Pac-12 Tournament
Buzz: Wildcats stop the bleeding — two straight losses — by beating Arizona State.

21. North Carolina (22-9, 12-6 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 23
Last week’s results: Defeated Maryland 79-68, lost to Duke 69-53
This week: ACC Tournament
Buzz: One bad game vs. Duke doesn’t ruin Heels’ strong late-season showing.

22. Wisconsin (21-10, 12-6 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 24
Last week’s results: Lost to Michigan State 58-43, defeated Penn State 63-60
This week: Big Ten Tournament
Buzz: Badgers avoid disaster by beating Penn State on a three-pointer at the buzzer.

23. Creighton (27-7, 13-5 Missouri Valley)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Drake, Indiana State and Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Tournament
Up next: NCAA Tournament
Buzz: Arch Madness ends with Creighton cutting down the nets.

24. Colorado State (24-7, 11-5 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Wyoming 78-56, defeated Nevada 77-66
This week: Mountain West Tournament
Buzz: Larry Eustachy on verge of second NCAA bid in two seasons with two different teams.

25. VCU (24-7, 12-4 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 25
Last week’s results: Defeated Richmond 93-82, lost to Temple 84-76
This week: Atlantic 10 Tournament
Buzz: Rams’ frenetic defense is tough to prepare for in a tournament setting.

Out: No. 14 Syracuse, No. 19 Oregon

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Power Rankings: Gonzaga waits at No. 1</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 11:25
All taxonomy terms: free agents, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-free-agency-players-watch
Body:

The NFL’s new league year officially begins today. The more prominent indicator that business has begun for the 2013 season is the start of free agency at 4 p.m. ET. While some teams have already made several moves, with more than 500 players on the market, the activity will really pick up starting later today.

Some teams figure to be more active than others in free agency, and here are just some of the names that should draw plenty of attention from both teams and observers alike.

Related: 2013 NFL Free Agency: Teams to Watch

15 Players to Keep an Eye On

1. Wes Welker, WR
Welker has averaged 112 receptions over his six-year tenure with New England, leading the NFL in catches and ranking fourth in receiving yards (7,459) during this same span (2007-12). He will be 32 in May and probably realizes this is his last time to cash in on that sustained production. The Patriots have a history of not handing out exorbitant contracts (unless your name is Tom Brady), and there’s already been some bad blood between the front office and the receiver on the compensation front.

Welker is in an ideal situation when it comes to quarterback-wide receiver relationship and the Patriots have been contenders for years, but he wants to get paid and feel that he’s valued and appreciated. Who blinks first – the player or the team? Or does Welker move on to greener pastures?

Potential interested teams: There's no team that wouldn't want to add a 100-catch wide receiver, but let's throw out Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota, New England, and Tennessee as the ones most likely to pursue Welker in some form or fashion.

Comes down to: New England vs. the field.

Potential dark horses: Cincinnati, closely followed by Houston. The Bengals can pay and have been to the playoffs the last two seasons, while the Texans appear on the verge of establishing themselves as a perennial contender.

Where he ends up: In the end, Welker finds out the grass may not actually be greener on the other side of the fence, even if it means he takes a little less green to stay with Bill Belichick and company. NEW ENGLAND

2. Mike Wallace, WR
Wallace is similar to Welker in that he also wants to get paid like a true No. 1 wide receiver. Where they differ, however, is in age (Wallace will turn 27 in August) and production. Wallace averaged 1,225 yards receiving from 2010-11, but that dropped to just 836 yards last season. Still, he’s tied for 4th in the NFL with 26 touchdown catches over the past three seasons combined and has a four-year average of 17.2 yards per reception.

Potential interested teams: Pretty much any team looking for a No. 1 wide receiver or a legitimate deep threat that can afford Wallace – Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota, St. Louis and Tennessee all come to mind.

Comes down to: Depending on who you ask or what you read, the Dolphins seem to be the odds-on favorite to sign Wallace, who would be a nice complement to the re-signed Brian Hartline. A potential monkey wrench to the Dolphins’ plans, however, could be Minnesota trading Percy Harvin to Seattle on Monday, which puts the Vikings also in the market for a No. 1 wide receiver. If money is the prime motivator for Wallace, the Browns could be the Dolphins’ only true competition in that respect.

Potential dark horse: Indianapolis doesn’t “need” Wallace with Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton already on the roster, but the Colts do have the cap space to afford Wallace and he could serve as the heir apparent to Wayne, much like Marvin Harrison did for him years ago.

Where he ends up: Unless the Browns or Colts back up the Brinks truck, I think Wallace is taking his talents to South Beach. MIAMI

3. Jake Long, OT
It’s not often a 27-year-old All-Pro left tackle becomes available, but that’s the case with Long. Miami chose not to use the franchise tag on the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, as he was hampered by injuries the past two seasons, including a torn triceps in 2012. Still, some team is going to make a significant commitment in hopes that the four-time Pro Bowler still has several productive seasons in him.

Potential interested teams: Long is a hard one to peg because chances are he still would like to get paid like a former No. 1 overall pick, even though no one is really sure if he can still play like one. Still, there are plenty of teams for which Long would serve as an upgrade on its offensive line, including, but not limited to: Arizona, Chicago, Dallas, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Diego and Tennessee.

Comes down to: How many of these teams will pursue Long is hard to tell because he may simply be too cost-prohibitive for some. His overall market may be determined in large part by the size of his contract demands. I do think that Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Oakland, San Diego and Tennessee hang in there as long as they possibly can.

Potential dark horse: Even though they may not have as much cap space as some of the other teams listed, don’t rule out the Cardinals, Chargers or Raiders, who could use someone like Long to stabilize their line.

Where he ends up: I don’t think Long will be able to break the bank like he was hoping to, but in the end he lands with a team that can desperately use his pass-blocking skills, one of his strengths. CHICAGO

4. Ed Reed, S
The future Hall of Famer checked off the last thing on his Canton-worthy resume with Baltimore’s Super Bowl win in February. The Ravens would like to bring Reed back so he can finish his career with the team that drafted him, but another team may be able to offer Reed more money and the chance at a second Super Bowl ring. Should Reed leave, can Baltimore fans really harbor any ill will against him? Even if he ends up playing for another AFC North team?

Potential interested teams: If he doesn’t re-sign with the Ravens, Reed more than likely will look to land with a team that he feels gives him the best chance to win, and quickly. In the AFC that means Denver, Houston and New England could be potential destinations with Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco the most likely landing spots in the NFC.

Comes down to: With Ray Lewis retired and now Anquan Boldin traded to San Francisco, I would think the Ravens would do all they can to bring Reed back. If not Baltimore, then I say the 49ers, Packers and Patriots are next on the list.

Potential dark horse: Miami’s got the money and Reed is a former Hurricane. What better way to end your career than by playing in South Florida, right?

Where he ends up: Before the Boldin trade, I would have put the percentage of Reed returning to Baltimore at no worse than 80/20. Now, I’m not so sure as it looks like the Ravens are looking for ways to rebuild as quickly as possible. Even if Reed is in the team’s plans, he may not want to be a part of it. That said, I think he sees enough reasons and gets just enough money to stay with the only team he’s played for his entire pro career, unless he decides to join Boldin in San Francisco. BALTIMORE

5. Cliff Avril, DE
Avril has racked up 29 sacks over the last three seasons as he has been one of the more disruptive defensive ends in the league. Unlike Reed, Freeney and Harrison, Avril is still a relatively young pup who will turn 27 in April. His production in Detroit speaks for itself and his age only makes him even more appealing to teams in need of a playmaking defensive end.

Potential interested teams: Any team that’s looking to add an impact defensive end that has proven he can get to the quarterback. Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Tennessee all fit the bill. I also think Detroit would have no problem bringing Avril back, and don’t rule out a team like Denver, Green Bay or New England either, although cost could be a factor for these clubs.

Comes down to: Of the teams listed above the Buccaneers, Browns, Colts, Eagles and Jaguars appear to be the ones that can potentially offer Avril the most money. I expect the Falcons, Lions, Packers and Titans to hang around as long as they can afford to as well.

Potential dark horse: The Broncos have reportedly expressed an interest in Freeney, so why not Avril who’s younger and plays a position they seem to have a bigger need at?

Where he ends up: The Browns and Colts could get into a bidding war for Avril’s services and if that happens I would give the Colts the edge because they play on turf, just like he did in Detroit. In the end, I believe he will stay in the NFC and continue to play his home games indoors, albeit in another division. ATLANTA

6. Dwight Freeney, LB
Freeney has 107.5 career sacks, but has seen his production decline in that category four straight seasons. So while the 33-year-old may not be an every-down defender anymore, there should more than enough left in the tank to contribute as a pass-rush specialist for another team, especially a contender. Besides, a change of scenery did wonders for Peyton Manning’s career, so why can’t the same thing happen for another former All-Pro Colt?

Potential interested teams: Whether you believe the rumors or not, Denver does make a lot of sense and not just because of the Freeney-Peyton Manning ties. Other teams that could use Freeney’s talents include Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, New England and Tampa Bay.

Comes down to: Broncos or bust? Again, this just makes a lot of sense as the best situation for Freeney appears to be one where he can be used on a rotational basis and not as an every-down player.

Potential dark horses: If not Denver, I think it would have to be somewhere he thinks he can win, like Atlanta, Houston or New England. Freeney is a Connecticut native and played for Syracuse in college if that means anything.

Where he ends up: Not to repeat myself, but Freeney to Denver almost makes too much sense. So watch him end up in Arizona instead. DENVER

7. Greg Jennings, WR
Jennings wants to be paid like a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, but he hasn’t produced like one since 2010. Injuries have limited him to just 21 games and a total of 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He had 12 touchdown receptions in 2010 alone. With the right fit, and if he can stay healthy, Jennings still has more than enough talent to be an impact receiver, considering he has 53 career touchdowns in seven seasons.

Potential interested teams: Pretty much the same list as Wallace’s – Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota, St. Louis and Tennessee – but his market also could include some other teams since Jennings probably won’t come as expensive as Wallace.

Comes down to: If the Dolphins miss on Wallace, then I suspect they would turn their attention to Jennings. Otherwise, I look for the Bills, Browns, Rams and Vikings to gauge the most interest with the Titans hanging around for a bit.

Potential dark horse: Even though they are similar, who wouldn’t want to see Jennings and Andre Johnson lined up on opposite sides in Houston? I know Texans fans and Matt Schaub probably would.

Where he ends up: In my opinion, Wallace is Miami’s Plan A and Jennings is Plan B. Since I think the Dolphins reel in Wallace, that leaves the Browns and Vikings as Jennings’ most aggressive suitors. One of these teams plays indoors, which is nice, but it’s the same division as his former team and nowhere near the same level of quarterback. Besides, it’s not like Jennings hasn’t played outside in cold weather before. CLEVELAND

8. Dashon Goldson, S
Goldson earned first-team All-Pro honors last season, doing his part to fully maximize his value in a contract year. The secondary market is flooded, but it’s clear that Goldson is one of the more attractive options out there. He would probably like nothing more than to return to San Francisco and try and help the 49ers make it to a second straight Super Bowl, but will the lure of more money be too tough to pass up?

Potential interested teams: San Francisco has to be considered the lead dog, but the 49ers will have plenty of competition for the All-Pro safety’s services. Teams like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Green Bay, Miami, New England and Philadelphia have room in their secondary and/or salary cap.

Comes down to: The 49ers versus everyone else, but in particular the other contenders like the Broncos, Packers and Patriots. The Bengals could be a player too if they present him with a big offer.

Potential dark horse: Watch out for the Eagles. Brian Kelly may be new to the NFL, but he’s got plenty of cap space to work with and the team’s new brain trust would make a huge statement to the fans by signing Goldson. Kelly also should be somewhat familiar with Goldson since he played in college at Washington, one of Oregon’s Pac-12 rivals.

Where he ends up: This situation definitely bears watching. As much as the 49ers want to keep Goldson, I just have a hard time seeing how they can afford him, especially following the trade for Boldin. Even though San Francisco presents him with the best chance to win, I think he capitalizes on his prime position in the secondary market and maximizes his payday. CINCINNATI

9. Steven Jackson, RB
It may be hard to believe, but even though he’s produced eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, Jackson has yet to turn 30. Still there’s no denying that Jackson has lots of tread on the tires, as he’s logged nearly 2,400 carries in his nine seasons. The good thing for Jackson is that very few teams rely on just one main back to carry the load, which should only help his chances of landing with a new team.

Potential interested teams: While I suspect a lot of teams are interested in Jackson, my guess is he wants an opportunity that will allow him the chance to carry the ball a lot and win. These two factors taken together limit his market.

Comes down to: Atlanta or Green Bay. The Falcons have already cut Michael Turner, a role that Jackson could easily fill, while the Packers desperately could use more production out of their running game.

Potential dark horse: I don’t think there’s one, but for the sake of argument I’ll say Cincinnati just because the Bengals appear to be an up-and-coming team and they should be able to find a way to fit him in their roster and backfield, even though they already have a similar type of back in BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Where he ends up: The Falcons make a lot of sense, but I think they will go with a younger option, which leaves the Bengals and the Packers. In this case, it’s pretty clear to me that the best chance for carries is in Green Bay, where Jackson’s blocking and pass-catching skills would also be a good fit with Aaron Rodgers. GREEN BAY

10. James Harrison, LB
The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has not had the same impact on the field over the last two seasons. Injuries played a part in this, but in the end, Pittsburgh decided to sever its ties with the five-time Pro Bowler. Even with his age (35 in May) and diminishing production, Harrison will probably not lack for suitors, although my guess is he would prefer a situation that offers him his best chance at another Super Bowl ring.

Potential interested teams: Harrison’s market is another tough one to get a grasp of, but I’ll pick Baltimore, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New England, Oakland, Philadelphia and San Diego as the teams most likely to kick the tires.

Comes down to: How badly he wants to play for a contender versus possibly making more money. The Browns, Colts and Jaguars can probably pay him more, but do they want to? Harrison would probably prefer playing for the Eagles, Patriots or Ravens, which would allow him at least two shots against his old team, but it will have to be on the team’s terms and not his. I think the latter matters more to him.

Potential dark horse: Cincinnati for three reasons – 1) They have plenty of cap space 2) He’s from Akron, Ohio, and played in college at in-state school Kent State 3) Like the Browns they play in the AFC North.

Where he ends up: Wherever he goes, he should be plenty motivated, feeling like he has something to prove. Also, which head coach has a track record for taking on reclamation projects, if you will, and having success with them? That’s right, Bill Belichick. NEW ENGLAND

11. Brian Urlacher, LB
Unless he changes his mind, Urlacher will be playing a 14th NFL season this fall. Chicago would love nothing more than to keep the four-time first-team All-Pro and 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the fold, but the Bears also have to start looking towards the future at middle linebacker. If not the Windy City, Urlacher should have little trouble finding a new home. For one, there could be no better mentor and example to learn from for a young linebacker than the likely future Hall of Famer.

Potential interested teams: He may no longer be the dominant, every-down force he once was, but there are very few teams that Urlacher wouldn’t represent an upgrade for in their linebacking corps. Money is no doubt important, but I don’t think it’s the biggest driving force for Urlacher, who wants to win. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay all come to mind, as do contenders like Houston and New England, and of course there’s Chicago.

Comes down to: Urlacher’s agent has already presented the Bears with a contract proposal, so at least we know the two sides are talking. I think Urlacher’s side is willing to meet the Bears more than halfway on this one, so it’s up to Chicago to come the rest of the way. Otherwise, I think he goes to a team like the Browns, Bengals or Eagles, who all offer the same sort of climate as that of the Windy City.

Potential dark horses: I’ll give you two – Dallas because his former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is there now and St. Louis because he seems to fit the mold of a Jeff Fisher-type player.

Where he ends up: It may be the Bears fan in me talking, but I think the two sides work together to ensure that Urlacher finishes his career where he rightfully should. CHICAGO

12. Osi Umenyiora, DE
So why would a 31-year-old backup defensive end like Umenyiora be so attractive to other teams? For one, considering he played on the same team with the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, chances are Umenyiora would have started on most every other team in the league. Second, the three years he has started all 16 games (2005, ’07, ’10) he had at least 11.5 sacks in each season. Teams looking for a pass-rush specialist could do a lot worse than this Giant.

Potential interested teams: If the price is right, Umenyiora could up anywhere, including back with the Giants. However, I think he wants to capitalize on his free agent status and look to land somewhere he can be a full-time starter. I’ll put Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Tennessee into that category.

Comes down to: The Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Jaguars and Raiders appear to be the best options on the money and playing time front for Umenyiora, although I wouldn’t rule out Andy Reid trying to lure his former NFC East foe to Kansas City either.

Potential dark horses: Detroit and Philadelphia. For the Lions he could be a cheaper, albeit older, replacement for Avril while the Eagles could pay him and offer him a chance to hurt his former team.

Where he ends up: The Eagles are awfully tempting for the revenge factor, but I don’t think his age fits in with the team’s plans. Umenyiora played his college football at Troy, which is located in the deep south, so I’ll say he ends up in the same geographical region and in the NFC South, a division where getting to the quarterback is paramount to success. TAMPA BAY

13. Michael Bennett, DE
Bennett doesn’t have the track record or resume of Avril or even Umenyiora, but he did have a breakthrough 2012 season. He registered nine sacks, which was three more than he had collected in his first three seasons combined, and also forced three fumbles. Like Avril, Bennett will turn 27 in November, so the potential is there for a team to lock up a potential difference-maker on its defensive line for years to come.

Potential interested teams: Bennett is reportedly not a priority for Tampa Bay, which makes little sense to me unless his contract demands are outrageous. If that is the case, however, I don’t think he will lack for other suitors as teams like Arizona, Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tennessee among others would like nothing more than to add him to their roster.

Comes down to: Despite the seeming lack of attention from the Buccaneers to this point, Bennett has said he will give the team the opportunity to match any offers he receives. If anything, he should be able to find out just how much the team values him. I suspect the Jaguars, Eagles and Titans will be more than happy to test that theory as well.

Potential dark horse: Atlanta. The Falcons have seen this guy in person, so they fully know what he’s capable of, and his younger age is just a bonus.

Where he ends up: Some football observers think Bennett and not Avril or Umenyiora is the best defensive end on the market. If that’s the case, then I suspect a team will have no problem paying him like one. TENNESSEE

14. Reggie Bush, RB
It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Bush will be playing for his third NFL team in eight seasons this fall. While the No. 2 overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft has failed to produce along those lines, Bush is coming off of two productive seasons in Miami in which he rushed for a total of 2,072 yards. At just 28 years old, Bush may get another shot at proving he can be a premier back, but at the very least he should be a very productive, potentially dynamic weapon in the right offense.

Potential interested teams: Detroit is the team that’s been most associated with Bush already. I would add Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Indianapolis to it, with Green Bay and Philadelphia as more remote possibilities.

Comes down to: The situation that offers him the best fit and chance to maximize his talents and capabilities, along with getting paid a “fair” wage. Again the Lions meet the criteria, as do the Cardinals, Bengals, Eagles and Packers.

Potential dark horse: I’ll say St. Louis because the Rams play on turf and with Jackson pretty much out the door, their backfield is up in the air for the most part.

Where he ends up: Detroit and Bush seem tailor-made for each other, as he can team with Mikel Leshoure and potentially form a potent backfield. If not the Lions, watch for the Cardinals or Bengals. DETROIT

15. Charles Woodson, DB
The 15-year veteran and 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was limited to just seven games last season because of injuries. Combine that with the fact he will turn 37 in October and it’s clear that he’s nearing the end of a career that will more than likely result in enshrinement in Canton, Ohio. That said, Woodson could still either serve as a key contributor for a contending team that’s lacking something in its secondary or a valuable mentor for a team with young players in its defensive backfield.

Potential interested teams: At least four teams – Miami, New York Giants, New York Jets and Seattle – have reportedly already made overtures to Woodson, so it seems there is some sort of market for him. I would think Denver, Houston and possibly New England also may kick the tires a little bit at some point.

Comes down to: Does Woodson want to win or play a lot? For example, the Dolphins can probably pay him more, but Seattle is in much better shape to not only make the playoffs, but contend for a title next season. Unless a non-contender is willing to pay him a lot, I think winning trumps the number of snaps he gets on the field.

Potential dark horses: Cincinnati or Cleveland. Even though the Bengals offer the better chance at winning, both AFC North teams can pay and have room for him, albeit in different roles, in their respective secondaries. He also is no stranger to playing in cold weather.

Where he ends up: If he’s willing to play second fiddle, Woodson would be an awfully nice supporting piece in Seattle’s already stout secondary. The Seahawks have already showed the league that they are all in next season with the acquisition of Percy Harvin, so why not add another former NFC North All-Pro? SEATTLE

Others to Watch (in alphabetical order):

John Abraham, DE – A little older (35 in May) than some of the other options out there, Abraham should be able to find a role as a sack specialist for a team like Arizona, Cleveland or Tennessee. He could be an option for Denver if Dwight Freeney doesn’t end up with the Broncos.

Danny Amendola, WR – Wes Welker-lite in a lot of ways, Amendola could land in Cincinnati or Houston as a complementary receiver to A.J. Green or Andre Johnson. He also could stay with St. Louis or end up replacing Welker in New England.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB – Produces when healthy, but staying on the field has been easier said than done for Bradshaw. Just at just 27 years old, some team that needs a big back, like Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego or Tennessee, is sure to give him a look.

Jared Cook, TE – Tennessee chose not to tag its 25-year-old tight end for some reason. Don't be surprised if the Titans’ loss ends up being Chicago’s, and, more importantly, Jay Cutler’s gain. The Bears haven’t had a viable tight end target since Greg Olsen got traded.

Victor Cruz, WR – Cruz is a restricted free agent with a first-round tender, but Minnesota and St. Louis both have two first-round picks in April’s draft and could take a chance and force the New York Giants to have to match their offer. New England also could be lying in the weeds, especially if Welker doesn't come back. I don’t think Cruz goes anywhere else, but I also don’t believe the Giants want to have to match someone else’s offer to keep him.

Fred Davis, TE – Last season was basically a lost cause for Davis, but he has had two seasons with 48 or more catches. Teams in need of tight end help like Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, or possibly even Atlanta should Tony Gonzalez not return, could express interest.

Dannell Ellerbe, LB – With Ray Lewis retired and fellow linebacker Paul Kruger (see below) also a free agent, Baltimore can ill afford to let Ellerbe get away.

Shonn Greene, RB – He’s put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and won't turn 28 until August. His best fit would be as a complementary back. If Atlanta doesn’t get Steven Jackson, I think the Falcons will take a long look at Greene.

Brent Grimes, CB – If Grimes can prove he’s completely recovered from the torn Achilles tendon that he sustained in Week 2 last season, he should find a healthy market for his services. I think Atlanta does all it can to bring him back, but if not the Falcons the 2010 Pro Bowler would probably attract the attention of the likes of Cincinnati, Denver, the New York Giants, New York Jets, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.

Paul Kruger, LB – Came up big for Baltimore in the sack department last season (9.0), but don’t expect him to remain with the Ravens. Cleveland and Indianapolis could engage in a bidding war for Kruger’s services, and I’ll give the edge to the Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano, Kruger’s former coordinator in Baltimore.

Andy Levitre, OL – Levitre may not be flashy, but he’s one of the better offensive guards on the market and could be one of the safest options available. Chicago, Cincinnati, Green Bay, San Diego and Tennessee all could be players for him.

Phil Loadholt, OL – Adrian Peterson sure doesn’t want to see his big right tackle leave Minnesota, but the Vikings chose not to use the franchise tag on Loadholt to make sure he would stay. The Vikings won’t let him get away without a fight, I’m guessing, but Chicago, Oakland and San Diego may be willing to battle them for his services.

Rey Maualuga, LB – An under-the-radar type of player, Maualuga played a huge role in Cincinnati’s growth as a defense last season. The Bengals should make every effort to retain him, but Baltimore, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay could make their own bids for Maualuga.

Aqib Talib, CB – got his second chance in New England after getting traded from Tampa Bay last season. Patriots need him too much with so many free agent defensive backs to let him get away now. Washington could be a dark horse even with their cap troubles because Raheem Morris, Talib's former head coach in Tampa Bay, is now with the Redskins.

Sebastian Vollmer, OT – Similar to Levitre, Vollmer doesn’t get that much publicity, but he got the job done as New England’s starting right tackle the last three seasons. The Patriots have so many free agents and holes to fill, however, that they may not be able to compete in a bidding war with Arizona, Chicago, Jacksonville, Miami, Oakland, San Diego and/or Tennessee should it get to that point.

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Free Agency: Players to Watch</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Fans in Fayetteville (and some uninformed SEC media members) had no idea how important Bobby Petrino was to the Arkansas program. After a heart-breaking offseason, the Razorbacks did little during the fall to prove they could survive without their fired head coach. The offense plummeted to 89th nationally in scoring and 49th in total yards following Petrino's ouster. The end result was the worst football season — eight losses — since entering the SEC in 1992. Needless to say, the one-year John L. Smith experiment didn't work so Arkansas turned to three-time Big Ten champion Bret Bielema to rebuild the program. In the SEC West, he has his work cut out for him.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 4-8 (2-6)

Spring practice dates: March 10-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Brandon Allen, 21 of 49, 186 yards, 1 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: Jonathan Williams, 45 car., 231 yards, 0 TDs
Receiving: Mekale McKay, 21 rec., 317 yards, 2 TDs
Tackles: Rohan Gaines, 75
Sacks: Chris Smith, 9.5
Interceptions: Three tied with 1

Redshirts to Watch: OL Jeremy Ward, DE Taiwan Johnson, DE Brandon Lewis, CB Jared Collins, RB Donovan Roberts, DT Darius Philon

JUCO Transfers to Watch: LB Martell Spaight, OL Jonathan McClure, CB Carroll Washington, S Tiquention Coleman

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 7 Samford
Sept. 14 Southern Miss
Sept. 21 at Rutgers
Sept. 28 Texas A&M
Oct. 5 at Florida
Oct. 10 South Carolina
Oct. 19 at Alabama
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 1 Auburn
Nov. 9 at Ole Miss
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 Mississippi State
Nov. 30 at LSU

Offensive Strength: Pass catchers. Losing Cobi Hamilton will hurt, but five of the top seven receivers return this spring. Sophomore MeKale McCay and seniors Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton will be more than capable of filling the void left by Hamilton.

Offensive Weakness: Everyone else. Only three starters return to the offense and center (Travis Swanson) and tackle (David Hurt) are the only proven commodities. Quarterback, running backs, tight end and three-fifths of the line need replacing.

Defensive Strength: Defensive ends. Chris Smith and Trey Flowers are a solid duo coming off of the edge and will continue to get pressure on quarterbacks.

Defensive Weakness: Overall depth. Two solid ends return to the roster but the rest of the front seven needs replacing. Five of the top eight linemen are gone and four of the top six linebackers have departed. And the secondary underachieved last year.

Spring Storylines Facing the Hogs:

1. Be physical up front on offense. Bobby Petrino's system can be miscast as a high-flying spread offense. He always turned to the power running game to set up his quarterbacks, and the inability to run the ball was a huge factor in the Hogs' struggles a year ago. This team ranked last in the SEC in rushing and will face elite defenses in Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina in 2013. Three starters are gone from the O-line as is the backfield tandem of Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson so there are big holes to fill. Bielema made his money in the Big Ten playing physical, power football and he has a star in center Travis Swanson to build around. Finding blockers and ball-carriers to support him will go a long way this spring to setting the tempo for the fall.

2. Find a workhorse tailback. To quote Steven Lassan from the SEC Spring Storylines to Watch: The Razorbacks were the SEC’s worst rushing attack last season, averaging just 118.7 yards per game. And the cupboard is looking a little bare for spring practice, as Knile Davis left for the NFL and Dennis Johnson finished his eligibility. Jonathan Williams is expected to work as the No. 1 back this spring and is still largely an unknown after recording just 45 carries last year. The sophomore did show promise in limited work but needs to have a strong showing this spring, especially with touted freshman Alex Collins arriving this summer. With a new quarterback taking over, along with Bret Bielema’s run-first mentality, the spotlight is on Williams to show he can be a No. 1 back. I couldn't have said it better myself.

3. Develop the talent in the secondary. A big chunk of those 409.9 yards allowed were passing yards. Most of the talent is back in the secondary minus hybrid safety Ross Rasner. The talent is there in the form of Tevin Mitchell, Rohan Gaines and Will Hines, but the production isn't yet. Developing this area of the defense through the coaching and practicing of sound fundamentals should improve what was the SEC's worst passing defense (285.8 ypg).

4. Rebuild depth in the front seven. The good news is the top two sack artists return to the roster in the form of Chris Smith (9.5 sacks) and Trey Flowers (6.0) while Otha Peters and A.J. Turner return at linebacker. That said, there is little depth behind them at end, tackle and linebacker. In a league predicated on being physical up front, particularly on defense, depth is imperative. Arkansas allowed over 400 yards of offense per game last year (409.9) and were gashed up front by powerful rushing attacks like Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Finding a supporting cast for what could be a solid front seven will help keep Arkansas in games with a host of bigger, more powerful programs on the '13 slate.

5. Settle on a quarterback. Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson were two of the most productive quarterbacks in school history and Bielema's first big decision will come under center. Brandon Allen played five games a year ago with nondescript results as the backup to Wilson. Dual-threat athlete Brandon Mitchell got some garbage time as well. Knowing Bielema's run-heavy, pro-style attack, fans should expect Allen to earn the starting nod. The question then becomes is he ready to compete at an SEC level?

6. Get to know the new faces. The new coaching staff is just a part of the massive turnover taking place in Fayetteville. A host of new junior college transfers and redshirt freshmen will officially join the depth chart in an effort to ease Bielema into the SEC. Important voids at linebacker and offensive line could be filled by some of these new faces this spring.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the SEC Coaching Jobs for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch

Teaser:
<p> Arkansas Razorbacks 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-basketball/2013-march-madness-ncaa-tournament-schedule-and-key-dates
Body:

From the NCAA conference touranments to Selection Sunday to the Championship game, here are the key dates for 2013 March Madness:

NCAA Tournament 2013Conference championship games

Saturday, March 9: Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley
Sunday, March 10: Big South, Missouri Valley
Monday, March 11: Colonial, MAAC, Southern, West Coast
Tuesday, March 12: Horizon, Summit, Sun Belt
Wednesday, March 13: Northeast, Patriot
Saturday, March 16: America East, Big 12, Big East, Big Sky, Big West, Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, Pac-12, Southland, SWAC, WAC
Sunday, March 17: Atlantic 10, ACC, Big Ten, SEC

Selection Sunday
March 17

First Four
Dayton, Ohio
Tuesday, March 19 and Wednesday, 20

Round of 64 and 32
Thursday, March 21 and Saturday, March 23:
Auburn Hills, Mich.
Lexington, Ky.
Salt Lake City
San Jose

Friday, March 22 and Sunday, March 24:
Austin, Texas
Dayton, Ohio
Kansas City
Philadelphia

Sweet 16 and Elite Eight
Thursday, March 28 and Saturday, March 30
East Regional: Washington, D.C.
West Regional: Los Angeles

Friday, March 29 and Sunday, March 31
Midwest Regional:
Indianapolis
South Regional: Arlington, Texas

Final Four and National Championship Game
Saturday, April 6 and Monday, April 8

Atlanta

Teaser:
<p> 2013 March Madness: NCAA Tournament schedule and key dates</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-second-base
Body:

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Base

TIER 1
1. Robinson Cano, Yankees (A)
Unless Cano opens the season on the DL with a subluxation of the psyche after that 3-for-40 postseason abomination, he occupies a tier all his own. His .313-33-94-105 of 2012 has never been replicated by a non-steroid-implicated American League second baseman — and this was the fourth straight season he’s done something comparable.

TIER 2
2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Pedroia’s .300 AVG, 15 HRs and 20 SBs are a given, but his runs and RBIs fluctuate appreciably depending upon batting order nuances. Last year was his first with an OPS below .800. Then again, he was essentially the lone bastion of normalcy in Boston.

3. Jason Kipnis, Indians
Last year, we pegged Kipnis as the “second coming of Chase Utley,” and though his inability to solve southpaws bumped him slightly off track, we’ll stand by the assessment. Stolen bases in the 30s will tide you over while he smooths the wrinkles.

4. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Kinsler — a two-time 30-30 asset — took a step back, chiefly because his swings and misses rocketed from 102 to 166. Though retaining at least 20-20 prospects, he’s failed to break .260 three of the last four years. Homered three times in the first six games of both 2011 and 2012.

5. Ben Zobrist, Rays
Zobrist is precious defensively (he also qualifies at shortstop and in the outfield), and he’s put two strong offensive seasons back-to-back for the first time. A quantum upgrade in his SO/BB ratio from 1.66 (2006-11) to 1.06 suggests he still may have another level in him.

6. Brandon Phillips, Reds
Other than de-emphasizing the speed component of his game (as most 30-somethings do), Phillips has been astoundingly consistent. He’s the only keystoner besides Cano with a .275 AVG, 18 homers and 75 runs every year since 2009.

7. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks (E)
Hill is either the guy who averaged 29 homers in his three best seasons or the one who’s totaled 36 in his other five. He’s either the guy who’s topped .290 three times or the one who once batted .225 over a 275-game period. Enjoy the ride.

TIER 3
8. Jose Altuve, Astros
Altuve supplied the first-ever 160-hit/30-steal season by 5'5" player, but he’s no novelty act. An All-Star at 22, he’s got surprising pop and patience. Whether he can avoid wearing down is the long and “short” of it.

9. Dustin Ackley, Mariners (B)
He was once regarded as a future batting title contender, but Ackley’s first full season was a tire fire. His .226 AVG was one of the 11 lowest by a qualifying AL second sacker in the past half-century. That aside, his baleful .265 BAbip and amply evident ability make him an alluring post-hype play.

10. Danny Espinosa, Nationals
Espinosa is the lone National League second baseman with at least 15 swats and 15 swipes each of the last two seasons, but the price exacted from the fourth-most strikeouts in the game during that span was a .242 AVG.

11. Howard Kendrick, Angels
After years of guessing what Kendrick could be if he played full-time, we now know precisely what he is: his three-year average of .284-12-68-70-14. Recommended to those with low risk tolerance and realistic expectations.

12. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
By the time he rose above the Mendoza Line on July 26, Weeks had critically wounded many a fantasy season. A trio of 20-homer/75-run seasons in a row commands respect, but brace yourself for mixed messages.

13. Chase Utley, Phillies (F)
Chondromalacia sounds as if it ought to be somewhere in between Bangladesh and Phnom Penh, but it’s actually just this side of Utley’s right femur and tibia. The chronic condition has clouded his future — though the future even of healthy 34-year-old second basemen is limited. Nonetheless, he’s shown above-average productivity when ambulatory.

14. Neil Walker, Pirates (F)
Kendrick-like in his humdrum competence across all five categories. Has one home run in 320 plate appearances as a right-handed hitter since 2011. Non-surgical herniated disk that shelved him late last year bears monitoring.

15. Dan Uggla, Braves
Uggla is easily the position’s home run king since he debuted in 2006, but his 19 last year were a personal trough by eight. Having batted above .260 only twice in seven seasons and bottoming out at .220 in 2012, he’s threatening to run out of positive categories.

16. Emilio Bonifacio, Blue Jays
17. Gordon Beckham, White Sox (B)
18. Daniel Murphy, Mets (B)
19. Josh Rutledge, Rockies (C)
20. Marco Scutaro, Giants (E)

TIER 4
21. Jemile Weeks, Athletics
22. Omar Infante, Tigers
23. Logan Forsythe, Padres (C)
24. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (C)
25. Darwin Barney, Cubs
26. Brian Dozier, Twins
27. Donovan Solano, Marlins

TIER 5
28. Alexi Casilla, Orioles
29. Johnny Giavotella, Royals
30. Kelly Johnson, Free Agent (E)
31. Maicer Izturis, Blue Jays
32. Brian Roberts, Orioles (F)
33. Ryan Roberts, Rays
34. Steve Lombardozzi, Nationals
35. Chris Getz, Royals
36. Jedd Gyorko, Padres (G)
37. Daniel Descalso, Cardinals
38. Mark Ellis, Dodgers
39. Kolten Wong, Cardinals (G)
40. Skip Schumaker, Dodgers (E)

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Base</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-third-base
Body:

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Third Base

TIER 1
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (A)
The Triple Crown winner hasn’t actually hit a triple in his last 393 games. And Cabrera won only three-fifths of the AL Fantasy Quintuple Crown (runs and steals to Mike Trout). Guess we can live with those quibbles considering this four-category leviathan is the only player with a .320 AVG, 200 homers, 700 RBIs and 600 runs since 2007.

TIER 2
2. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (A,B)
Zimmerman continues to waft just a notch below his perceived upside. His best season to date has been .292-33-106-110 in 2009 for a 59-win team. Now 28 and swathed with his strongest lineup support ever, we’d gauge that as the lower end of his 2013 prospectus.

3. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (A)
Beltre claims his own version of the Triple Crown: He leads all players who’ve been primarily third basemen in AVG-HR-RBI-R since 2010. At 33, he continues to rake at an extraordinarily high level despite spitting on sabermatric spread sheets by collecting more home runs (68) than walks (61) the past two years.

4. Evan Longoria, Rays
Now that he’s healthy again and under contract until the game is being played with orbs and light sabers, the stage is set for Longoria to return to or exceed his .281-33-113-100 array of 2009. Lacks the batting average chops to be a genuinely elite fantasy force.

5. David Wright, Mets
Full-season average at Shea: .311-32-114-110-22. Four-season average at Citi: .284-26-86-95-23. The latter is now the template. In 2012, once his AVG fell below .400 on May 25, the $122 million man hit .273 the rest of the way. What a country.

6. Chase Headley, Padres (E)
The odds of Headley leading the NL in RBIs last year were about the same as the fastest man on Earth being named “Bolt.” Oh, he is? He did? Disregarding his stupid .308-23-73-56 second half, his career 150-game average is .268-11-60-62. Undoubtedly, he’s a better hitter now — but seriously?

7. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays (B)
Lawrie not only failed to take the next step, but he also staggered backwards. Regardless, we’re true believers. As a high-strung 23-year-old with sore ribs often miscast atop the order, he had plenty of pretexts for a so-so soph season. Toronto’s refortified lineup, which includes Jose Reyes to relieve him of leadoff chores, will unclutter his path.

8. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers (E)
A poor man’s Beltre — a little older, slightly less productive. Has had months, even years, when he appeared to be toast — but in the second half of 2012 (.990 OPS), he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Unrepeatable.

TIER 3
9. Martin Prado, Braves
Prado will hit fewer home runs than any third baseman in the top three tiers. Deal with it. If he splices all of his career highs together — not out of the question — he’ll provide a .307-15-70-100-17 line. Know how many players managed that in 2012? Three — names of Trout, Braun and McCutchen.

10. David Freese, Cardinals
Above-average in four categories, distinctive in none. Older than you think; turns 30 in April despite having played just one complete season.

11. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
A climactic postseason glossed over a vanilla regular slate diminished by his customary combat with injuries and calories. Tier 2 upside with low reliability.

12. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox
An up-and-comer whose fine 75-game body of work is, after all, just 75 games. A 5.4 SO-to-BB ratio insinuates caution at this early stage.

13. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
Low-contact lumberer whose value is concentrated in his 30-longball lumber, at least for the moment. Had .644 OPS and 31 strikeouts in September, so evidently he’s still searching.

14. Mike Moustakas, Royals
Clawed his way to 20 homers in his first full season, but batted .224 in his last 112 games — primarily because of indiscriminate pitch selection and an inclination to lob everything into the air. Possibly overhyped.

15. Todd Frazier, Reds
Later-blooming version of Moustakas with analogous glitches and a parallel late-season fade — but with a stat-twisting six-week torrid streak that may have cloaked a soft underbelly.

16. Kyle Seager, Mariners (E)
17. Manny Machado, Orioles

TIER 4
18. Kevin Youkilis, Yankees
19. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians (C)
20. Michael Young, Phillies
21. Jordan Pacheco, Rockies
22. Chris Nelson, Rockies (C)
23. Trevor Plouffe, Twins
24. Jeff Keppinger, White Sox (E)
25. Josh Donaldson, Athletics
26. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (E,F)

TIER 5
27. Ian Stewart, Cubs (F)
28. Matt Dominguez, Astros
29. Luis Cruz, Dodgers
30. Alberto Callaspo, Angels
31. Juan Francisco, Braves (C)
32. Pedro Ciriaco, Red Sox
33. Eric Chavez, Diamondbacks
34. Chris Johnson, Diamondbacks (E)
35. Placido Polanco, Marlins (F)
36. Greg Dobbs, Marlins (E)
37. Josh Vitters, Cubs (G)
38. Nate Freiman, Astros (G)
39. Danny Valencia, Orioles
40. Brent Morel, White Sox

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Third Base</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 07:10
Path: /nascar/early-season-favorites-emerge-nascar-hypes-gen-6-car
Body:

If Matt Kenseth were a betting man, he’d have bought a Play 4 ticket on the way out of Las Vegas.

The numbers? 3-3-3-3.

Kenseth, in the third race of the 2013 season, became career Sprint Cup driver number three to win a race on his birthday (joining Cale Yarborough and Kyle Busch). The new, third member of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable also has more career victories in Vegas (along with Auto Club Speedway) than any other track on the circuit: Three.

Too bad Richard Childress isn’t willing to part with that number, huh? To me, the number could also apply to something else we’re getting a sense of: the list of early title favorites. Has Kenseth snuck into that picture? Let’s find out while going “Through the Gears” after a weekend out in Sin City…


FIRST GEAR: The title is shaping up to be a Johnson-Keselowski affair
One driver was third, the other sixth. Neither was a factor for the win late at Vegas although they combined to lead a total of 78 laps. But a quick look at the first three races shows that Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, the same two men who battled down the stretch for the 2012 Cup Series title, are in cruise control up front.

Leading the points is the No. 48 team, with top-10 starting spots in every event, an average finish of 3.0 and a Daytona 500 trophy on the shelf. Crew chief Chad Knaus, who was lauded for being ahead of the curve with NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow chassis, was expected to do the same with the Gen-6. That’s what you expect from the best mechanic in the sport, and to his credit, Knaus has delivered.

Sitting five points behind Hendrick’s top team is Keselowski, who has battled through far more adversity but still has the same number of top-10 results (three-for-three). Considering the offseason changeover (new manufacturer, new teammate, new engines) the speed and versatility Penske Racing’s top team has shown is just as impressive. It’s driver’s confidence as reigning champ is palpable, retaining his outspoken nature while continuing a role as an emerging leader within the sport. While Denny Hamlin’s “slap on the wrist” from NASCAR caused him to be a bit off on Sunday, finishing 15th, Keselowski has had no such detours after his talking-to at Daytona. That’s what separates the good from the great: an ability to tune out distractions and fight through the pressure.

The Gen-6 car was supposed to provide a big opportunity for the other teams to catch up to this duo. But the standings three races in aren’t an indictment on those changes; instead, it’s a showcase of how this rivalry is elevating both drivers to remain head and shoulders above everyone else. Too bad we have to wait until the Chase in September for them to push down on the accelerator for good.


SECOND GEAR: Meanwhile, Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing sit as sleepers
No question, anyone with a brain and a pulse expected Kenseth to outpace Joey Logano in Joe Gibbs’ No. 20 Toyota. But even the most optimistic of souls has to raise an eyebrow on what this new combination is doing. Three races in, Kenseth is one-half way towards the total number of victories that car has had in the past four years. His 128 laps led, a NASCAR best, is well on its way to eclipsing Logano’s four-year total of 337 in a matter of several weeks. If not for a faulty engine in the waning laps of the Daytona 500 this team could be out in front of everyone — a point that’s not been lost on its pilot.

“All three races we had a car, if everything would have went right, that we could have won,” he said Sunday night. “And it feels pretty awesome to have this win here.”

Kenseth’s emotions during and after Sunday’s victory made it clear he’s a man on a mission to prove the choice to leave Roush Fenway was the right one. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff has worked out well; his pit strategy of a fuel-only stop was the winning call.

So can JGR catch the top two? The beauty of it is that there is six months left in the regular season to fine-tune on intermediates. But unlike Kenseth, the rest of the stable has to stop shooting itself in the foot. Case in point: Kyle Busch’s speeding penalty, which knocked him out of the top spot at Vegas and threatened to derail his day. Denny Hamlin, for all the fan support he has surrounding the Gen-6 criticism, caused a huge distraction by reacting emotionally to the situation. Add in the motor problems and that’s why this Toyota trio remains a step below for the time being. But the speed is there.
 

Teaser:
<p> Through the Gears: Four things we learned in the Kobalt Tools 400 in Las Vegas</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 22:18
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Even though Oklahoma finished 10-3 and made an appearance in the Cotton Bowl last year, coach Bob Stoops wasn’t satisfied. As a result, the Sooners had a shakeup on the coaching staff, with three new faces coming aboard for 2013. Bill Bedenbaugh was hired away from West Virginia to coach the offensive line, Jay Boulware was brought in to coach tight ends and special teams, while Jerry Montgomery comes from Michigan to coach the defensive line. With the new coaches coming aboard and the loss of a handful of key contributors, this spring is all about getting everyone on the same page. And with a wide-open Big 12 title picture in 2013, Oklahoma is still positioned to be a factor in the conference championship.

Oklahoma Sooners 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (8-1)

Spring practice dates: March 9-April 16

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Blake Bell, 9 of 16, 107 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Receiving: Damien Williams, 176 car., 946 yards, 11 TDs
Receiving: Jalen Saunders, 62 rec., 829 yards, 3 TDs
Tackles: Aaron Colvin, 61
Sacks: Chuka Ndulue, 5
Interceptions: Aaron Colvin, 4

Redshirts to watch: DL Jordan Wade, RB Alex Ross, DL Charles Tapper, WR Derrick Woods, TE Taylor McNamara, QB Trevor Knight

Early Enrollees to watch: P Jed Barnett (JC), WR Dannon Cavil, S Ahmad Thomas, DE D.J. Ward

JUCO Transfers to watch: P Jed Barnett, DT Quincy Russell, OL Dionte Savage, OL Josiah St. John

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 UL Monroe
Sept. 7 West Virginia
Sept. 14 Tulsa
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Notre Dame
Oct. 5 TCU
Oct. 12 Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 19 at Kansas
Oct. 26 Texas Tech
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 at Baylor
Nov. 16 Iowa State
Nov. 23 at Kansas State
Nov. 30 Bye Week
Dec. 7 at Oklahoma State

Offensive Strength: Outside of finding a new quarterback, there’s not much for the Sooners to be concerned about on offense. The backfield is deep and talented, led by Damien Williams and fullback Trey Millard. Jalen Saunders, Sterling Shepard and Trey Metoyer are a capable trio at receiver, while the offensive line returns four starters. 

Offensive Weakness: It’s only one position, but it’s a big one: Quarterback. Is Blake Bell the answer under center? We’ll find out this spring.

Defensive Strength: With only four returning starters on defense, the Sooners don’t have a glaring strength. Even with the loss of cornerback Demontre Hurst and safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris, the secondary should rank in the top half of the Big 12 next season.

Defensive Weakness: The front seven is easily the biggest concern for Oklahoma in 2013. There’s very little in the way of proven depth on the line, and Tom Wort must be replaced at linebacker.

Spring Storylines Facing the Sooners

1. The quarterback battle. All eyes in Norman will be on the Sooners’ quarterback battle this spring, as Blake Bell hopes to hold off Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson for the top spot. Bell has shown promise in limited work but most of his snaps have come on running plays. Can Bell consistently beat defenses with his arm? The Sooners have one of the Big 12’s top receiving corps returning for 2013, so if Bell proves he can be the No. 1 quarterback, this offense will be dangerous once again.

2. Who replaces Lane Johnson at left tackle? Oklahoma’s offensive line allowed just 1.2 sacks per game last season and led the way for rushers to average 4.8 yards per carry. With four starters back, this unit is in good shape for 2013. However, the one departure is left tackle Lane Johnson, a likely top-15 pick in the NFL Draft. The Sooners could turn to a couple of different players to replace Johnson, with junior college recruit Josiah St. John likely to get a long look from new line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. If St. John isn’t the answer on the left side, Tyrus Thompson, Daryl Williams or Derek Farniok will compete for the open job. Even though center Gabe Ikard suffered a hand injury in spring practice, Oklahoma isn’t worried about the interior of the line, especially with Tyler Evans returning from a torn ACL that caused him to miss all of 2012.

3. Restocking the defensive line. Just how thin is Oklahoma’s line this spring? Just three defensive tackles will participate in practice, and with more 3-4 looks likely to be implemented this spring, there will be an adjustment period for this unit. Chuka Ndulue is a solid end, but who will fill the voids at tackle? Is junior college recruit Quincy Russell one of the answers? How about redshirt freshman Jordan Wade? If the Sooners struggle to sort out the line, stopping the run could be an issue in 2013.

4. Addressing the holes in the secondary. In an offensive-minded league like the Big 12, it’s not easy to rank inside of the top 30 in pass defense. But that’s exactly what Oklahoma accomplished last season, finishing second in the conference in pass defense and 12th nationally in pass efficiency defense. The secondary suffered some hard hits through the draft and graduation, as cornerback Demontre Hurst and safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris all depart. Aaron Colvin will be the leader of the secondary after earning first-team All-Big 12 honors last season, but this unit needs a big year from Gabe Lynn, Kass Everett, Julian Wilson and Quentin Hayes. This unit isn’t as dire of a concern as the defensive line, but there could be some growing pains early in the year as the Sooners mix and match to find the right combination at cornerback and safety.

Related College Football Content

Big 12 Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch
Ranking the Big 12 Coaching Jobs for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Preview

Baylor Bears 2013 Spring Preview

Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Preview

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma Sooners 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 13:55
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-5-wide-receivers-rise-2013
Body:

With spring practice underway for many college football teams, the countdown to the 2013 season has officially started. With preseason predictions right around the corner, it’s never too early to start thinking about which players might be the next breakout stars.

While the final NCAA statistics featured plenty of familiar names atop the leaderboard, players like Arizona’s Austin Hill, New Mexico State’s Austin Franklin, Fresno State’s Davante Adams and Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart came off the radar to place inside of the top 20 in receiving yards per game.

Who will be those stars in 2013? TCU’s Brandon Carter, North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis, Notre Dame’s DaVaris Daniels, Louisville’s DeVante Parker and Washington’s Kasen Williams are Athlon’s early picks to be a rising star at receiver this season.

Defining who fits the rising star or breakout player label isn’t easy.  Although these five players might not be household names in March, it could be a different story by the end of the season.

College Football’s Top 5 Wide Receivers on the Rise for 2013

Brandon Carter, TCU
Due to Casey Pachall’s suspension, TCU’s passing attack never reached its potential last year. Trevone Boykin was a capable fill-in, but Pachall allows the Horned Frogs to stretch the field more. With Pachall expected back under center, TCU’s passing game is due to take off this year. Carter was regarded as one of the top athletes in Texas in the 2011 signing class and hasn’t disappointed in his first two years on campus. After catching 23 passes as a freshman, Carter recorded 36 receptions for 590 yards and six scores last season. The Trinity High School product has provided plenty of big plays during his two years at TCU, catching an 80-yard touchdown pass against Oklahoma and a 68-yard score against Virginia. And with Pachall firing passes in his direction in 2013, Carter is due to see an increase in catches and touchdowns.
 

DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
With Everett Golson dealing with the ups and downs in his first year as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, the Fighting Irish averaged only 222.7 passing yards per game in 2012. Expect those numbers to change in 2013, as Golson got better in the second half of the season and will improve with another spring practice to work as the starter. Despite missing two games due to injury, Daniels caught 31 passes for 490 yards and averaged 15.8 yards per catch. With the departure of tight end Tyler Eifert to the NFL, expect Golson to be looking more in Daniels’ direction in 2013.
 

Quinshad Davis, North Carolina
Davis was one of the top recruits in North Carolina's 2012 recruiting class and didn’t disappoint in his first year on campus. He played in all 12 games, recording 61 receptions for 776 yards and five touchdowns. Davis averaged only 12.7 yards per reception but had his best performances at the end of the year. The South Carolina native caught seven passes for 104 yards and one touchdown against Georgia Tech, followed by a monster 16 catches in a 37-13 victory over Virginia. Davis capped off the season with nine catches and two scores against Maryland. With quarterback Bryn Renner returning, and the Tar Heels having another offseason to pick up Larry Fedora’s offense, Davis’ numbers are sure to increase. And with tight end Eric Ebron returning, the Tar Heels will have one of the top receiving corps and passing attacks in the ACC for 2013.
 

DeVante Parker, Louisville
With Teddy Bridgewater back under center, Louisville is the heavy favorite to win the Big East in 2013. While Bridgewater gets most of the publicity, Parker has quietly emerged as one of college football’s top deep threats. As a freshman, he caught 18 passes for 291 yards and six touchdowns and improved those totals to 40 receptions for 744 yards and 10 scores in 2012. For his career, Parker is averaging 17.8 yards per catch. After earning first-team All-Big East honors in 2012, with another big season in Louisville, Parker could be an All-American candidate at the end of 2013.
 

Kasen Williams, Washington
Considering Williams earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season, he’s not a complete unknown to most around the Pac-12. However, the rest of the nation needs to take notice in 2013. After catching 36 passes as a freshman, Williams grabbed 77 receptions (third in Washington single-season history) for 878 yards and six scores in 2012. His best performance came in Washington’s upset win over Stanford, recording 10 catches for 129 yards and one touchdown. Williams also finished the year on fire, catching at least six passes in each of his final four games. The top spring priority for Washington is to get quarterback Keith Price back on track after a down 2012 season. If Price regains his 2011 form, Williams could have a monster year, which could be enough for him to make an early jump to the NFL.


Others to Watch in 2013

Nelson Agholor, USC
With Robert Woods leaving early for the NFL, Agholor is set to become USC’s No. 2 receiver. As a freshman last season, he caught 19 passes for 340 yards and two scores. Agholor’s best performance came against Oregon, which was his only 100-yard game of 2012. Even though USC has an unsettled quarterback situation, Agholor is a rising star and is due for a breakout year.
 

Michael Bennett, Georgia
A torn ACL ended Bennett’s 2012 season prematurely, as he finished with 24 receptions for 345 yards and four scores. Assuming he can quickly find his pre-injury form, Bennett will be a major factor in Georgia’s passing attack.
 

Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State
If the Spartans can sort out their quarterback issues, Burbridge could have a breakout season after catching 29 passes in 2012.


Damiere Byrd/Shaq Roland, South Carolina
With Ace Sanders leaving early for the NFL, the Gamecocks are looking for a new No. 1 target. Bruce Ellington caught 40 passes last season, but Byrd or Roland will figure prominently into the passing attack in 2013.
 

Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
With James Franklin at less than full strength last season, Missouri’s passing attack never managed to get on track. Green-Beckham finished the year with 28 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns and the five-star recruit should be even better in 2013 – provided Franklin finds his 2011 form. 
 

Deontay Greenberry, Houston
Greenberry was a huge catch on the recruiting trail for Houston and finished 2012 with 47 receptions for 569 yards and three scores. If the Cougars can get consistent quarterback play in 2013, Greenberry could be an All-Big East receiver.
 

Chris Harper, California
With Keenan Allen off to the NFL, California will have a new No. 1 receiver in 2013. And with the coaching change, the Golden Bears are expected to throw more, which should help Harper easily surpass last season’s totals – 41 receptions for 544 yards.
 

Robert Herron, Wyoming
Herron was a big-play threat for the Cowboys last season, averaging 21.2 yards per reception on 31 catches. With quarterback Brett Smith returning, Herron should build on his standout 2012 season and figures to be an All-Mountain West receiver in 2013.
 

Cody Latimer, Indiana
Led by Latimer and Shane Wynn, the Hoosiers quietly have one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. Latimer caught 51 passes for 805 yards and six scores last season, and with more stability under center in 2013, the Ohio native could make a run at first-team All-Big Ten honors.
 

Trey Metoyer, Oklahoma
Big things were expected of Metoyer in 2012, but he finished with just 17 receptions for 148 yards. With Kenny Stills off to the NFL, Metoyer could have his breakout season.


Charone Peake, Clemson
DeAndre Hopkins left early for the NFL, leaving the Tigers without a No. 2 target to pair with Sammy Watkins. Peake could be that receiver after catching 25 passes for 172 yards as a sophomore in 2012.
 

Jordan Thompson, West Virginia
With the Mountaineers’ top three receivers and quarterback Geno Smith gone from last season, West Virginia’s offense is essentially starting from scratch. However, Dana Holgorsen will keep the Mountaineers among the best offenses in the Big 12, even with a new quarterback under center. Thompson is expected to be one of the favorite targets for the new passer and should easily surpass last season’s totals – 13 receptions for 85 yards. 


Related College Football Content

Ranking All 125 College Football Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines for 2013

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 5 Wide Receivers on the Rise for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 13:32
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

This offseason marked the first time since the 1980s that Wisconsin had to go through a true coaching search. Athletic Director Barry Alvarez took his time and settled on a respected football mind in Gary Andersen. The former Utah State coach has stated he won't change the schemes too much in Madison, but this spring will be important as he looks to put his stamp on the program. This is a team that has been to three straight Rose Bowls and has high expectations once again in 2013.

Wisconsin Badgers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-6 (4-4)

Spring practice dates: March 9-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Joel Stave, 70 of 119, 1,104 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: James White, 125 car., 806 yards, 12 TDs
Receiving: Jared Abbrederis, 49 rec., 837 yards, 5 TDs
Tackles: Chris Borland, 104
Sacks: Tyler Dippel and Brendan Kelly, 5.0
Interceptions: Three tied with 1

Redshirts to watch: OL Dan Voltz, QB Bart Houston, DB Hugs Etienne, LB Vince Biegel, OL Jake Meador, DT Arthur Goldberg, OL Walker Williams, RB Vonte Jackson

JUCO Transfers to Watch: QB Tanner McEvoy, DB Donnell Vercher

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 UMass
Sept. 7 Tennessee Tech
Sept. 14 at Arizona State
Sept. 21 Purdue
Sept. 28 at Ohio State
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 10 Northwestern
Oct. 19 at Illinois
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 2 at Iowa 
Nov. 9 BYU
Nov. 16 Indiana
Nov. 23 at Minnesota
Nov. 30 Penn State

Offensive Strength: Offensive skill talent. Despite the loss of NCAA record-setting tailback Montee Ball, the Badgers aren't short on offensive talent. James White and Melvin Gordon will get the bulk of the carries while wideout Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen provide two extremely dependable targets.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback instability. There are a lot of bodies for Andersen to pick from but few proven commodities. Joel Stave is the best passer but is returning from injury. Curt Phillips is the best athlete but has never been healthy. Danny O'Brien is still around as well. Redshirt freshman Bart Houston might fit the scheme best of all.

Defensive Strength: Front seven depth. Only one member of 2012's starting front seven won't be back this fall. Mike Taylor was a great player but the top nine defensive linemen and six of the top seven linebackers return, including star tackler Chris Borland.

Defensive Weakness: The secondary. Three-fourths of the starting lineup is gone, including both starting cornerbacks. This team struggled to get turnovers and will need to develop pass defenders quickly this spring.

Spring Storylines Facing the Badgers

1. Stabilize the sideline. Bret Bielema had to deal with massive coaching defections prior to the 2012 season. And now, Madison welcomes just the third head coach to the sideline since 1990 when Alvarez was first hired. So for the second straight season, Wisconsin will have a totally new set of position coaches roaming the practice fields. Andersen needs to implement his process, establish his attitude for the program and bring stability to the sideline. This roster was young the last two seasons and growth can be stunted by constantly having to listen to new teaching voices. Andersen will set the entire tone for his tenure this spring.

2. Flesh out the quarterback situation. Stave was clearly the best passer on the roster a year ago until his broken clavicle caused him to miss the final quarter of the season. He is back healthy this spring but his pro-style, pocket-passing skills may not be exactly what Andersen wants under center. Phillips brings unique athletic ability and a knack for making big plays late in games, but he has dealt with multiple torn ACLs and is one hit from another injury. O'Brien was totally ineffective, both running and passing, and looked completely overmatched most of the time he was in the game. Houston could be the wildcard after redshirting last fall. The big passer ran the triple option at famed De La Salle High School and was one of the highest-rated QB recruits to ever sign at UW. Junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy will join the competition in the fall and is a good fit for coordinator Andy Ludwig's offense. The good news is Andersen has plenty of options. The bad news is none of them may be effective enough to win a fourth consecutive Big Ten title.

3. Fill the gaps left on the O-Line. There really isn't much talent departing this roster but two first-team All-Big Ten blockers have moved on to the NFL. Travis Frederick might be the best center in the draft and Ricky Wagner played the most important spot on the line. This position has been and will always be solid at Wisconsin, but filling two massive voids at left tackle and center will be key this spring. Ryan Groy, Kyle Costigan, Rob Havenstein and Zac Matthias will try to hold off a deep collection of young, highly touted players looking to earn a starting spot. Look for redshirts Dan Voltz, Jake Meador and Walker Williams to press for time.

4. Develop lockdown covermen. Both Marcus Cromartie and Devin Smith earned some sort of All-Big Ten honor last year and both are gone. As is safety Shelton Johnson. The trio was a solid group but didn't make big plays and wasn't overly talented. It feels like Bielema struggled to find lockdown covermen in his time at the helm (he was gifted Jack Ikegwuonu). So as the Big Ten begins to shift towards more spread passing attacks, including scheduled conference opponents Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Indiana, Andersen needs to rebuild and stabilize his secondary. An early trip to the desert to face Todd Graham, Taylor Kelly and Arizona State will provide a gaudy test for a new defensive backfield once the season starts.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Big Ten Coaching Jobs for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch

Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin Badgers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 13:30
Path: /golf/9-amazing-stats-pga-tour
Body:

Tiger Woods' weekend in South Florida produced a stunning slate of statistical nuggets. Here are 9 of the best stats from Tiger, Rory, et al.:

17 — Tiger's win in the WGC-Cadillac Championship was his 17th WGC win. If you counted only those 17 wins, Woods would rank 48th on the PGA Tour's career wins list, ahead of players like Jim Furyk, Fred Couples and Payne Stewart.

$24 million — Woods has won more than $24 million at WGC events alone — a number that taken by itself would rank him 25th in career earnings on the PGA Tour.

100 — After a tip from Steve Stricker, Woods needed only 100 putts during the four rounds at Doral. That's the lowest number of his career. His previous best was 101 at the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

76 — The win was the 76th of Woods career — one more than Phil Mickelson (41) and Vijay Singh (34) combined.

27 — Tiger had 27 birdies during his four rounds. That's one short of his career best, 28-birdie showings at the 2007 Tour Championship and 2006 Buick Open.

40-of-42 — Woods is now 40-for-42 in his career on the PGA Tour when he's held the outright 54-hole lead.

1 — Rory McIlroy's second-round 69 at Doral was his first under-par round of 2013.

4 — Brandt Snedeker has missed the last four tournaments of the season with a rib injury, but he still sits atop the FedExCup points standings. That's what a three-week run of T2, second and first will do.

19 — Nineteen-year-old Jordan Spieth finished tied for second behind Scott Brown at the Puerto Rico Open.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 12:37
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-sec-teams-baylor-stay-alive
Body:

Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: Key stats from March 4-10

MARCH 11 DAILY MARCH MADNESS TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

SEC teams clinging to hope
Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee could audition for roles as monsters in bad horror movies. Just when their NCAA Tournament hopes appear to be dead, they keep coming back. Alabama lost back-to-back games to Florida and Ole Miss, but got a midcourt desperation shot from Trevor Releford to avoid a loss to Georgia. The Bulldogs defeated Tennessee and Kentucky in the last week and half, but the Volunteers and Wildcats turned around to defeat the SEC’s top two teams (Missouri and Florida, respectively). After losing to SEC bottom feeders South Carolina and Mississippi State in a span of two weeks, Ole Miss won a head-to-head meeting with Alabama and defeated LSU on the road. Here’s a look at their resumes heading into the SEC Tournament:

  Alabama Kentucky Ole Miss Tennessee
SEC Record 12-6 12-6 12-6 11-7
RPI ranking 62 50 56 55
Kenpom.com ranking 69 35 45 62
Top-100 record 7-7 7-9 7-6 9-9
Best win Kentucky Florida Missouri Florida
Worst loss at Auburn at Georgia at Miss. State Georgia

Baylor not done yet
Baylor headed into its regular-season finale against Kansas riding a 1-5 streak that damaged the Bears’ NCAA hopes. An 81-58 win over the Jayhawks on Saturday alone won’t get Baylor into the field, but at least it hints at what Baylor can do when it plays to its potential. The Bears (3-10 against the top 50, ranked No. 62 in the RPI) open the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma State.

Big Ten bubble watch
Only a week or so ago, the Big Ten looked like it established clear tiers between the NCAA teams and the NIT teams. It remains to be seen if that has changed with Minnesota's recent struggles. At the very least, Minnesota’s seeding has taken a hit in the last week. The same team that defeated Indiana on Feb. 26 lost at Nebraska and at Purdue last week. The Gophers still have an 11-8 record against the top 100, which is a better mark than Iowa, for example. The Hawkeyes finished a game ahead of Minnesota in the Big Ten standings, but Iowa is 5-8 against the top 100. The difference in strength of schedule contributes to Minnesota’s RPI in the top 25 and Iowa’s at 75.

What’s going on in the Mountain West?
Saturday was drama-filled for the Mountain West with three of the four games potentially impacting the field. New Mexico started the day with a reasonable case for a No. 1 seed, but the Lobos lost 89-88 on the road to Air Force. Boise State further strengthened its case for an at-large with a 69-65 win over San Diego State to improve its record to 4-6 against the top 50. The Broncos’ signature win this season was on the road against Missouri Valley regular season and tournament champion Creighton on Nov. 28. The most puzzling result, however, was UNLV’s loss at home to Fresno State. The Bulldogs are 11-18 this season and 5-11 in the Mountain West, two of those wins coming against UNLV.

Temple picks up key win
Since a loss to RPI No. 219 Duquesne on Valentine’s Day, Temple has been fighting to stay in the field. The Owls ended its regular season with an 84-76 win over VCU that should be a a boost to their at-large hopes. Since the Duquesne loss, Temple has won seven in a row, including five top-100 wins (at UMass, La Salle, at Charlotte, Detroit and VCU). Fran Dunphy’s team earned the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and will catch either UMass or George Washington after a bye.

No guarantees in the Pac-12
UCLA clinched an outright Pac-12 title with a little help from Oregon, which lost to Colorado (without Andre Roberson) and Utah (which finished 5-13 in the league). A puzzling Saturday in the Pac-12 may hint at a wild conference tournament. For starters, Washington State started the week with two league wins but defeated the conference champion (UCLA) and then the hottest team in the league (USC). Colorado also found time to lose at home to Oregon State (4-14 in the league).

Cincinnati dodges one
The Bearcats have been on a slide to the NCAA bubble but avoided a problematic loss by defeating USF 61-53. The Bearcats needed overtime to defeat the 12-18 Bulls. Now, Cincinnati opens the Big East Tournament against a Providence team that defeated the Bearcats on Feb. 6 in addition to beating Villanova twice and Notre Dame.

Related: Video Slideshow: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13

KEY MONDAY GAMES
All Times Eastern

FIU vs. Western Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPN)
Sun Belt Championship

Davidson vs. Charleston (7 p.m., ESPN)
Southern Championship

Northeastern vs. James Madison (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
Colonial Championship

Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga (9 p.m., ESPN)
West Coast Championship

Iona vs. Manhattan (9 p.m., ESPN)
MAAC Championship

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED LOCKS (39)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, Saint Louis, VCU
Atlantic Sun (1): Florida Gulf Coast*
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big South (1): Liberty*
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Ivy (1): Harvard*
Missouri Valley (1): Creighton*
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Ohio Valley (1): Belmont*
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
*clinched NCAA Tournament bid

ONE-BID LEAGUES (15)
America East, Big Sky, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC, WAC
Note: Conference USA and the Sun Belt likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 14 teams

RELATED:
All 2013 NCAA Tournament Coverage

Teaser:
<p> Daily March Madness Tracker: SEC teams, Baylor stay alive</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 12:15
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-free-agency-teams-watch
Body:

While the 2013 NFL season may not start on the field for another six months, the off-the-field business begins in earnest on Tuesday when the new league year officially begins. More specifically, the action will really heat up when free agency commences at 4 p.m. ET.

The good news for NFL teams is that the salary cap for the upcoming season went up to $123 million, which is about $3 million more than the 2012 level of $120.6 million. The flip side of this, however, is the fact that there are more than 500 restricted and unrestricted free agents on the market this offseason, meaning every team has some work to do.

Every team has to be under the cap by the time the new league year begins, but there are clearly some teams who figure to be more active in free agency than others, if anything because they have so much cap space to work with. Pretty much every team did some maneuvering before the start of free agency to either clear more cap space or to get under the cap level, which in turn also created more personnel holes for teams to fill.

Related: 2013 NFL Free Agency: Position Primer

With these factors in mind, here is a list of teams who figure to be fairly active on the free agent market (in alphabetical order):

Atlanta Falcons
The defending NFC South champions made some tough decisions before free agency even started, as the Falcons cut running back Michael Turner, defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson on March 1 to improve its cap situation. This was somewhat necessitated by the fact that two other key members of its secondary — cornerback Brent Grimes and safety William Moore — along with starting left tackle Sam Baker and center Todd McClure are all free agents. Tight end Tony Gonzalez also is a free agent, but he first has to decide if he’s even playing next season. If he chooses to come back, it will be to play for the Falcons.

Atlanta wasted little time putting that extra cap space, a little more than $20 million, to work as the team reportedly agreed to a new five-year deal with Moore, one that could be worth as much as $32 million, during a new negotiating window allowed by the NFL this season before the official start of free agency on Tuesday. With Moore back in the fold, the Falcons can turn their attention to their other free agents and seeing what other options are on the market that their needs.

The other issue facing Atlanta is franchise quarterback Matt Ryan’s next contract. Ryan’s current deal expires following the 2013 season. There’s little question the team would like to do nothing more than to lock him up, which will not only take a lot of money, but also a fair amount of cap space. Joe Flacco’s deal (six years, $120.6 million, $52 million guaranteed) set the new standard for quarterbacks and even though Ryan doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring to his credit, there’s no reason to not expect his next contract to use the same framework as Flacco’s.
 

Baltimore Ravens
The reigning world champions took care of their most pressing piece of offseason business when the team locked up Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco for six more years. He didn’t come cheap, however, as he signed the richest contract in NFL history and there are several other key contributors who are free agents.

On defense alone, defensive end Arthur Jones, nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, cornerback Cary Williams and safety Ed Reed, all of whom started in the Super Bowl, are free agents. Add linebacker and emotional leader Ray Lewis, who has retired, to the mix and the Ravens’ defense could be in for a complete overhaul. The offense is a little more intact, although tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are both restricted free agents and on Monday, the Ravens traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin, their leading receiver last season, to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick in April's draft.

The Ravens have some, but not a lot of cap space to work with, so the reality is the team that will defend its Super Bowl title will look a lot different than the one that won it.
 

Cincinnati Bengals
Coming off of back-to-back playoff appearances, Cincinnati appears primed and ready to take that next step as a team. Helping matters is the Bengals’ projected cap space, which is estimated to be around $40 million once defensive end Michael Johnson’s franchise tag number is factored in.

The Bengals can be aggressive on the free agent market and look to make a big splash by signing one or more of the marquee names that are out there, but this also is a team that needs to keep an eye on the future. Players like wide receiver A.J. Green, quarterback Andy Dalton and other young building blocks will be coming to the end of their contracts in the next few seasons, so the team needs to make sure it protects to enough future cap space so it can be in position to keep its current core intact.

That said, don’t be surprised to see Cincinnati active in free agency, as it will look for the right fit to improve its young defense or add to the offensive pieces it already has in place, particularly in the backfield and along the offensive line.
 

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland is in the catbird seat when it comes to cap space, as the Browns are estimated to have nearly $50 million to work with. This is good news for new head coach Rob Chudzinski, who understandably has plenty of holes to fill considering the Browns finished 5-11 last season.

The cupboard isn’t exactly bare, as the Browns have a relatively young defense that showed signs of growth last season and drafted running back Trent Richardson last April. The jury is still out on fellow first-round pick quarterback Brandon Weeden, however, although getting him some weapons to throw to would certainly help his development. The Browns will be heard during free agency, it’s just a matter of how much noise they plan to make and which players will be willing to come to Cleveland to help the team become more competitive in an already loaded AFC North.
 

Denver Broncos
The Broncos, and their fans, are probably still smarting from the double-overtime AFC Divisional round home loss to Baltimore, but that doesn’t mean Denver's championship window is closed just yet. The team tagged left tackle Ryan Clady to make sure he didn’t go anywhere else, and still should have enough cap space to address other areas of need.

A decision has to be made on whether players like cornerback Tracy Porter, wide receiver Brandon Stokley and punter Britton Colquitt will be back, but the Broncos should also be an appealing potential destination for veterans who want a shot at winning the Super Bowl.
 

Green Bay Packers
As long as Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback, Green Bay can’t be counted out as a contender in the NFC North. That doesn’t mean the Packers don’t have some areas of weakness to address, starting with the offensive line and their backfield. The Green and Gold should have around $20 million in cap space to work with, which should leave them with some options in free agency.

There also are some holes that will need to be filled, either in free agency or through the draft, especially considering it appears that wide receiver Greg Jennings and defensive back Charles Woodson have played their final games in a Packer uniform.
 

Indianapolis Colts
The young Colts were the turnaround story of the 2012 season, going from two wins to 11 and a playoff spot thanks to No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck and the unity and resolve forged by first-year head coach Chuck Pagano’s battle with cancer. Pagano and interim head coach Bruce Arians, squeezed every single win they possibly could out of last year’s team, and the Colts look to have around $40 million in cap space to improve the roster.

Linebacker Dwight Freeney, wide receivers Donnie Avery and Austin Collie and cornerback Cassius Vaughn are some of the Colts’ key free agents, although it’s pretty much a given that Freeney won’t be back. His spot will definitely have to be filled, and look for the team to be most aggressive on the defensive side of the ball once free agency commences. In particular, don’t be surprised if Pagano targets some of the Ravens’ defensive free agents, since he was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator before taking over the Colts.
 

Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have already been busy this offseason, first applying the franchise tag to defensive end Randy Starks and then re-signing wide receiver Brian Hartline and quarterback Matt Moore. The team should still have a fair amount of cap space, possibly as much as $30 million, to make other moves through free agency and there’s no reason to think Miami will just sit on the sidelines and watch.

Retaining Hartline was a key move for the Dolphins, but there’s still room for another wide receiver, so expect them to be a player for one of the top names on the market, like a Wes Welker or Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. Offensive line also will have to be addressed at some point as the team decided against using the tag on former No. 1 overall pick left tackle Jake Long. Re-signing cornerback Sean Smith will probably be another priority for the front office.
 

New England Patriots
Tom Brady did his part by agreeing to a team-friendly three-year contract extension, now it’s up to the front office to provide him with a roster that can continue to contend for Super Bowl titles. The Patriots have a boatload of free agents, starting with wide receiver Wes Welker. Brady’s favorite target has already expressed his desire to test the market, so it may come down to if he thinks New England is the best option for him, or if the opportunity (i.e., money) is better elsewhere.

Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, running back Danny Woodhead and wide receiver Julian Edelman are some of the other free agents on that side of the ball, while the defensive group features seven defensive backs alone. The Patriots have an estimated $25 million in cap space to work with, but also have plenty of mouths looking to get fed. It’s going to take several more team-friendly deals like Brady’s to keep the 2012 roster even relatively intact.
 

Philadelphia Eagles
This will be new head coach’s Brian Kelly’s first go-around with NFL free agency, so we will see if the recruiting skills he honed at Oregon translate to the pros or not. Fortunately for Kelly, he is projected to have more than $33 million in cap space to assist with his efforts.

It’s a new era in Philadelphia, so it will be interesting to see how Kelly and the Eagles' new brain trust choose to build their roster. For example, will cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie be back with the team in 2013? With the right moves in free agency and the draft, the Eagles could be in a position to turn things around this season, much like the Colts did in 2012.
 

San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are in excellent shape to not only make another run at the Super Bowl in 2013, but for seasons to come. Many of the team’s core players are already signed to multi-year contracts, while quarterback Colin Kaepernick still has two years remaining on his rookie deal. This is good since the 49ers don’t have a lot of cap space to work with, as they had to trade former starting quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City and cut veteran kicker David Akers just to get to where they are now, around $12 million under.

Re-signing All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson is the team’s main priority in free agency, but San Francisco is also in the market now for a backup quarterback. The rest of the focus in free agency will be on looking for ways to improve the team's depth, especially in the secondary and on the defensive line. The 49ers also have a bunch of draft picks that they can use in April to either find new talent, or perhaps acquire other players. The latter is exactly what the team did on Monday when it acquired veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin from Baltimore, who beat them in Super Bowl XLVII, for a sixth-round pick in this year's draft.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Considering the Buccaneers were one of the most active teams in free agency last offseason, it’s somewhat surprising to see them in a position to do the same this go around. Tampa Bay committed more than $140 million last March when it signed a trio of free agents – wide receiver Vincent Jackson, left guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright.

Tampa Bay is projected to have more than $30 million in cap space, with Wright once again having a hand in this. He signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal last March, but was suspended four games during the 2012 season for his use of Adderall, which is on the NFL’s list of performance-enhancing drugs. The suspension nullified the guarantees contained in Wright’s contract, basically wiping out his base salary for 2013 and making him all but disposable.

Defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Roy Miller are two of Tampa Bay's free agents expected to draw plenty of attention. However, given what happened with Wright, not to mention that Nicks was limited to just seven games last season because of injury, will the Bucs proceed a little more cautiously with free agency this time around or be willing to spend once again? We should find out the answer fairly soon after the clock strikes 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Free Agency: Teams to Watch</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/tiger-woods-wins-his-17th-wgc-trophy
Body:

We all know about Tiger Woods' record in golf's major championships. For years now, we've been pounded over the head with Woods' pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record major championship haul. But Tiger has a record of his own that even the Golden Bear would envy.
Lumped together, Woods' assortment of World Golf Championship trophies and the million-dollar-plus payouts that come with them comprise perhaps the greatest individual accomplishment in golf history. He added another trophy yesterday with his drama-free stroll at the WGC-Cadillac Championship — his 17th World Golf Championship win. That's a staggering number.
The World Golf Championship series was conceived to bring the best players on all world tours together for a showcase of the elite-level golf that's played across the globe. The lure of some of golf's biggest purses ensures a field that represents the best that the game can muster. But all that the WGCs have done is to give Woods another high-profile platform to showcase his unprecedented dominance. His record in these tournament stands apart from anything the game has ever seen.
Tiger has participated in 41 WGC events, winning 17; no other player has won more than three. His winning percentage in these tournaments is .415. Yesterday's win was his seventh in the WGC-Cadillac; Ernie Els, with two, is the event's only other multiple winner.
And the Cadillac isn't event Woods' best WGC event. His unparalleled ledger at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational defies all logic. It's simply jaw-dropping. For a decade, Tiger put an MMA-style chokehold on storied Firestone, leaving competitors flailing and mouths agape.
Between 1999 and 2009, Woods played the Bridgestone 10 times, missing the 2008 tournament with injury. In those 10 years, he won the tournament seven times. That's an acceptable percentage for free throws. For golf tournaments, it's insane.
The three years Woods failed to win, he finished 4th, T4 and T2. Over a 10-tounament span, that's an average finish of 1.7.
Let all that sink in for a minute. The WGC events assemble the greatest fields in world golf. Woods has treated these tournaments, the courses and the fields like he was Steve Williams and they were pesky photographers.
Should golf's global presence continue to grow, historians may someday look back on Woods' record in the World Golf Championships as his greatest achievement — no matter how many majors he wins.

Million-dollar tip
Imagine Kobe giving LeBron a helpful hint on making more free throws. Wouldn't happen. But in a gentleman's game like golf, such behavior is expected. Steve Stricker dropped some putting knowledge on Tiger prior to the Cadillac Championship, and the result was one of the best putting weeks of Woods' career.
Tiger didn't mind sharing the credit with his pal. "I would like to say that I probably would have (putted just as well) but...there is a but there," he said. "I'd been putting at home and it just hadn't felt right. I still was a little bit off. But to have Stricks help me out like that...
"He's been a great friend. We tend to help each other out with our putting. I know what he looks like when he putts his best and vice versa," he said.




 

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 11:53
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Tennessee enters spring practice with its fourth different head coach since the 2008 season. Needless to say, it's impossible to compete for championships in Conference USA without stability on the sidelines much less the SEC. Erasing the Derek Dooley era from Volunteers' fans memories is now the job tasked to Butch Jones. He has a better roster of talent than UT's 2-14 conference record the last two seasons seems to indicate. Obviously, however, Jones has his work cut out for him in Knoxville.

Tennessee Volunteers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 5-7 (1-7)

Spring practice dates: March 9-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Justin Worley, 15 of 23, 134 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Rajion Neal, 156 car., 708 yards, 5 TDs
Receiving: Marlin Lane, 29 rec., 228 yards, 0 TDs
Tackles: A.J. Johnson, 138
Sacks: Three tied with 2.0
Interceptions: Byron Moore, 5

Redshirts to Watch: DE LaTroy Lewis, WR Jason Croom, WR Drae Bowles, TE Justin Meredith, QB Nathan Peterman, DL Danny O'Brien

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DB Riyahd Jones, TE Woody Quinn

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Austin Peay
Sept. 7 Western Kentucky
Sept. 14 at Oregon
Sept. 21 at Florida
Sept. 28 South Alabama
Oct. 5 Georgia
Oct. 10 Bye Week
Oct. 19 South Carolina
Oct. 26 at Alabama
Nov. 1 at Missouri
Nov. 9 Auburn
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 Vanderbilt
Nov. 30 at Kentucky

Offensive Strength: Offensive line. And more specifically, the running game. Four starters are back from one of the best O-lines in the SEC a year ago and both tailbacks — Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane — return as well.

Offensive Weakness: The passing game. Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, Zach Rogers and Mychal Rivera are all gone. That's the starting quarterback and the Vols' top four pass catchers from last season if you're scoring at home.

Defensive Strength: Linebackers. When healthy, this is a talented collection of hard hitters. A.J. Johnson, Curt Maggitt, Channing Fugate and Jacques Smith have loads of experience.

Defensive Weakness: The secondary. This unit was thrashed a season ago by opposing quarterbacks. There are plenty of bodies and even some upside (LaDarrell McNeil, for example) but improving the 111th-rated pass defense in the nation won't be easy.

Spring Storylines Facing the Vols:

1. Establish the process. The sideline in Neyland Stadium will welcome its fourth different head coach since the 2008 season when Jones debuts on August 31 against Austin Peay. The previous regime must be given credit for rebuilding the roster after it had eroded under Phil Fulmer. However, Dooley's staff did little to develop talent and even less in the way of motivation. If Jones wants to get the Vols back to the postseason, he needs to set the tone in spring practice. He needs to install his "process" and instill an attitude that's been lacking in Big Orange nation for years.

2. Who will replace Tyler Bray? Bray drove Vols fans insane during his time in Knoxville. He had all the talent in the world to be an All-SEC passer but couldn't get out of his own way — both on and off the field. Jones undoubtedly will be looking for a leader who can command a huddle and inspire those around him to play hard. His system has been QB-friendly at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati but it remains to be seen if UT's personnel fits his principles. Justin Worley will get the first crack with Nathan Peterman, Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson competing for reps as well. Worley has the experience and will likely start out of the gate but Dobbs will be the wildcard come summer as his combination of skills fits what Jones wants to do on offense. Obviously, he is the only signal caller on the roster that was recruited exclusively by the new coaching staff. 

3. Find some pass-catchers. No team in the nation lost more in its receiving corps than the Vols. Hunter and Patterson were special talents and Rogers overachieved regularly. Rivera was also an underrated player as well. No player returns to the roster with more than 13 receptions, but there is some intriguing talent to choose from. Alton Howard, Vincent Dallas and Jacob Carter will battle with two elite redshirt freshmen recruits in Drae Bowles and Jason Croom for starting spots this spring. Both Bowles and Croom were highly rated prospects and both should press for reps with the starters. Tight ends Brandan Downs and Justin Meredith will compete to replace Rivera, as will JUCO transfer Woody Quinn. Look for a lot of bodies to get into the rotation as Jones looks for ways to replace a star-studded receiving class.

4. Work on fundamentals on defense. Most spring practices across the nation are intended to help develop young players by teaching fundamentals and technique. Schemes and formations are usually saved for the summer months. This couldn't be more true than in Knoxville. There are a lot of talented pieces but this defense was so horrendous a year ago that simplifying the approach this spring would be intelligent. Form tackling, coverage drops, hand placement and recognition skills should be the focus for a team that allowed at least 37 points in all but one SEC game. This team was dead last in the SEC in total and scoring defense so there is only way way to go — up.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the SEC Coaching Jobs for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch

Teaser:
<p> Tennessee Volunteers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-catcher
Body:

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catcher

TIER 1
1. Joe Mauer, Twins
While it’s clear that much of Mauer’s over-the-fence power was left behind in his locker at the Metrodome, no one at this position approaches his body of work. Among active catchers, he has two more .300 seasons than any other, five of the eight 80-run campaigns and four of the seven 80-RBI efforts in the AL.

2. Buster Posey, Giants (E)
There have been less than a pocketful of Poseys in history (just two with catcher as their primary position who have matched his .336-24-103-78), but he ran rings around everyone in 2012. Antiquity and a bloated .368 AVG on balls in play (BAbip) conspire against anything approximating that, though. Discounting a 32-game conflagration immediately after the All-Star Game, he hit a mortal .286 with 15 homers.

TIER 2
3. Carlos Santana, Indians (B)
Santana has cheated expectations with a .247 career AVG, but don’t give up on him. Slow to adjust to a regimen of breaking balls, he improved as 2012 wore on by staying in the middle of the field. He finished with upgraded walk and strikeout rates, and led the AL by wrangling a hitter’s count in 75.2% of plate appearances. As with Mauer and Posey, first base eligibility is a little bonus.

4. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
Having stayed healthy in back-to-back seasons for the first time, Montero leads catchers in RBIs and is top five in AVG and runs over that period. Even while virtually cloning his 2011 line (.282-18-86-65) in 2012 (.286-15-88-65), he walked 26 more times.

5. Yadier Molina, Cardinals (E)
It evolved very gradually, but Molina is now Ivan Rodriguez reincarnated. He trumped his 2011 career year of .305-14-65-55-4 with an entirely unimagined .315-22-76-65-12. If he proves as durable as Pudge, he still has another decade on his docket.

6. Salvador Perez, Royals
Just 22, Perez has hit safely in more (90) of his first 115 career games than any catcher in history, and with more power than evidenced in the minors. He was first, second or third among AL receivers in all four fantasy hitting stats after beginning his 2012 season on June 22.

7. Matt Wieters, Orioles
Unless he gives up switch-hitting, Wieters has little upside beyond his current two-year average of .255-22-76-70. You’ll take that from your catcher all day, but he’s hit 104 points higher from the right side (.333) than the left since 2011.

8. Brian McCann, Braves (E,F)
Long-time Tier 1 guy who soldiered through a bum shoulder and, coming off surgery, likely won’t be full strength out of the chute. Leads all catchers in home runs and RBIs since 2006. He’s only 29, so in keeper leagues, seize the discount.

9. Jesus Montero, Mariners
Santana-in-training. Although his .260 AVG of last year might be a ceiling until he commands the zone, Montero will have more to show for his majestic power now that the M’s have moved in the left-center fence 17 feet. Liable to DH at least as much as catch.

10. Wilin Rosario, Rockies 
In only 117 games, the rookie Rosario topped all catchers with 28 homers. That number, unfortunately, is eight fewer than his shocking sum of passed balls-plus-errors — explaining why he played only 117 games. When and if he learns to catch the baseball as well as he hits it, he’ll be a force of nature.

TIER 3
11. Alex Avila, Tigers
When a .295-19-82-63 season comes as unexpectedly as Avila’s in 2011, it shouldn’t be expected to recur. It didn’t: .243-9-48-42. Knee problems were a contributing factor.

12. Ryan Doumit, Twins
He’s always had that .275-18-75-56 in him, but there had never been a convergence of health and opportunity until last year. Professional hitter with risk who also qualifies as an outfielder.

13. A.J. Pierzynski, Rangers (E)
Second 35-year-old catcher (with Carlton Fisk) ever to muster a 25-HR season. He ain’t no Fisk, and teams weren’t exactly hammering down his door in free agency. Owns .752 OPS in Arlington, .753 overall.

14. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays
Good Opening Day play; he’s homered in his first game all three of his seasons. Beyond that, he’s a 20-jack batting average virus.

15. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers (E)
He’s a .270 hitter who smoke-and-mirrored a .320 AVG in 2012, and racked up 24 percent of his RBIs in just two games. Solid, but not what he seemed to be.

TIER 4
16. Wilson Ramos, Nationals (C,F)
17. Yasmani Grandal, Padres
18. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox (E)
19. Jason Castro, Astros (B,C,F)
20. Russell Martin, Pirates (E)
21. Chris Iannetta, Angels
22. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies (E)
23. Derek Norris, Athletics
24. Ryan Hanigan, Reds
25. Rob Brantly, Marlins
26. A.J. Ellis, Dodgers (E)
27. Tyler Flowers, White Sox
28. John Jaso, Mariners (D)
29. Kurt Suzuki, Nationals (D)

TIER 5
30. Travis d’Arnaud, Mets (G)
31. Welington Castillo, Cubs
32. Devin Mesoraco, Reds (C,D,G)
33. Mike Zunino, Mariners (G)
34. David Ross, Red Sox
35. John Buck, Mets
36. Geovany Soto, Rangers
37. Dioner Navarro, Cubs
38. Eric Kratz, Phillies
39. Hector Sanchez, Giants
40. Austin Romine, Yankees (G)

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catcher</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/2013-fantasy-baseball-rankings-first-base
Body:

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.

Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"

Rankings Key
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.

Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: First Base

TIER 1
1. Albert Pujols, Angels (A)
Even after Pujols finally got off the longball schneid on May 6, he wasn’t quite the same: stats that would have extrapolated to .305-36-102-78 over 600 at-bats, compared to .328-42-126-123 previously in his career. His final .832 OPS in home games was by far his lowest ever, so this might be the new normal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

2. Joey Votto, Reds (A)
Votto’s season-ending skid of 147 at-bats without a home run (including playoffs) mirrored Pujols’ 110 to start it. Joey had an excuse: two summer surgeries on his knee. Mulligan taken, we expect a return to his traditional .310-30-100-100 terrain. After a year in which Cincy’s 1-2 hitters’ OBP was a pathetic .281, having Shin-Soo Choo atop the order will be big.

3. Prince Fielder, Tigers (A)
Batting directly behind a Triple Crown winner, Fielder theoretically should not have posted his lowest home run total since 2006 and fallen 33 shy of his RBI high. Still, both his walk and strikeout rates declined by more than 20 percent, and his .313 AVG was a personal best. Such counterintuitive outcomes send us to his full-season norm of .287-37-108-93 for predictive direction.

TIER 2
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
Gonzalez can still be a cornerstone hitter, but we’ve amputated his “A” code. Here are his last four HR/PA %s: 5.9, 4.5, 3.8, 2.6 (1.2 at Dodger Stadium). Here are his last four BB/PA %s: 17.5, 13.4, 10.4, 6.1. That data has devolved from disquieting to alarming, so just know that the Grade-A A-Gon might be A-Goner.

5. Allen Craig, Cardinals (B)
Craig is either the all-time opportunist or one of the game’s next great hitters. After missing April, he finished with 21 more RBIs (92) than anyone who played in fewer than 120 games and was the only qualifier to bat .400 with runners in scoring position. Naturally, we need to see this again before Tier-1’ing him.

6. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Two steals from going 20-20, Goldy was our featured first base sleeper last spring. There’s still a ton of upward mobility in his HR/RBI totals and walk rate, and we’d expect them to advance righteously in 2013.

7. Freddie Freeman, Braves (B)
Freeman still hasn’t settled on what type of hitter he wants to be. The one who ripped .323 with a 15-to-14 BB/SO ratio in July? The one with the 3/19 ratio in June? The one with a .216 AVG but 10 HRs in his last 167 at-bats? He’ll iron out those riddles soon and become an All-Star.

8. Mark Teixeira, Yankees
A fifth straight decline in OPS leads to the inevitable conclusion that Teixeira is, well, in decline. He’s the only regular first baseman other than Carlos “Hollow” Pena to hit below .260 each of the last three years. Yankee Stadium, the site of about 57 percent of his home runs since 2009, keeps him on the “able” side of “viable.” One thing to keep in mind with Tex, however, is that his 2013 season debut will be delayed until at least mid-May because of a wrist injury.

9. Mike Morse, Nationals
Back in 2009, Morse equated with Ryan Langerhans, for whom he was traded by Seattle even-up. His comparable since joining the Nats is more Ryan Zimmerman — .294-29-90 per 162 games versus Zim’s .292-29-100 in the same period. Likely won’t be in D.C. for long after the Nats re-signed Adam LaRoche, but he’s top-10 no matter where he lands.

10. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays (E)
Overhauled mechanics and a rededication to conditioning conjured an off-the-hook 42-homer lightning bolt from a previously oft-injured tease. What this Encarnacion incarnation might hold in store is as nebulous as the debt ceiling.

11. Eric Hosmer, Royals
A case of premature infatuation? Hosmer’s .232-14-60-65-16 was inexplicable after his rousing rookie year. But he oozes ability, and his .255 BAbip was absurdly low for someone who’s not a pure masher. Buy low. Unequivocally.

12. Corey Hart, Brewers
Mercifully relieved of leadoff chores, Hart saw his RBIs climb back into the 80s to go with what is now a three-year standard of 29 homers and 83 RBIs. Struggles to hit the league-average average, and his base-stealing days are over. He underwent surgery on his right knee in January, which will keep him out of the lineup until sometime in May.

13. Adam LaRoche, Nationals
The 2012 first base leader in home runs? Not Pujols, Fielder nor Teixeira, but LaRoche, with 33. Tends to top out around 100 RBIs (excellent), 75 runs (decent) and .270 AVG (neutral).

14. Ike Davis, Mets
There was not a millisecond of 2012 in which Davis’ AVG reached .230. It was a respectable .265 from June 9 on, though, and his 20 homers after the break led NL lefties. But Citi Field (.619 OPS there) just swallows him up.

15. Ryan Howard, Phillies (F)
Though Howard’s injury-delayed 2012 can be somewhat minimized, his 4-to-1 SO/BB ratio was appalling. We’d establish .250-30-75-90 as the upper limit of expectations.

TIER 3
16. Kendrys Morales, Mariners
17. Justin Morneau, Twins
18. Brandon Belt, Giants (C)
19. Yonder Alonso, Padres
20. Paul Konerko, White Sox (E)
21. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
22. Mike Napoli, Red Sox (F)
23. Garrett Jones, Pirates
24. Mark Reynolds, Indians

TIER 4
25. Tyler Colvin, Rockies
26. Logan Morrison, Marlins (F)
27. James Loney, Rays (C)
28. Mitch Moreland, Rangers
29. Brett Wallace, Astros (C)
30. Brandon Moss, Athletics (E)

TIER 5
31. Gaby Sanchez, Pirates (D)
32. Mike Olt, Rangers (D,G)
33. Chris Carter, Athletics
34. Jonathan Singleton, Astros (D,G)
35. Todd Helton, Rockies (F)
36. Justin Smoak, Mariners (D)
37. Carlos Lee, Free Agent (E)
38. Matt Adams, Cardinals (D,G)
39. Mat Gamel, Brewers (D,F)
40. Kyle Blanks, Padres (D,F)

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: First Base</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: free agents, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-free-agency-position-primer
Body:

The Baltimore Ravens and their fans are more than likely still basking in the glow of their Super Bowl XLVII win, but as far as the NFL goes, it’s pretty much ancient history.

The new NFL league year officially begins at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, which also marks the opening of free agency. About 550 players have been designated as either restricted or unrestricted free agents, so it goes without saying that all 32 teams, including the reigning champs, have plenty of work to do.

Similar to last year, this season’s class of free agents is heavy on the defensive side, especially in the secondary. Unlike last year, there is no marquee quarterback on the market, but the same can’t be said for wide receiver. While it may not be the biggest group of offensive free agents (that distinction belongs to the offensive line), it will more than likely be the one that garners the most attention.

Depending on available cap space, some teams figure to be more active in free agency than others, and there also are certain marquee names that bear watching. Whether or not your favorite team makes a big splash in free agency remains to be seen, but every team in the league has free agents, meaning there are holes to fill on rosters.

Related: 2013 NFL Free Agency: Teams to Watch

Here is a closer look at this year’s class of free agents, broken down by position.

Quarterbacks
Quarterback may be the marquee position in the NFL, but this year’s free agency class doesn’t serve as a good representation of this. Not only is there no Peyton Manning on the market, but the only other superstar signal caller that was eligible to be a free agent, Joe Flacco, never got to that point, as the Ravens locked up the Super Bowl XLVII MVP with the biggest contract (six-years, $120.6 million, $52 million guaranteed) in NFL history.

With Flacco off of the table, all that’s left is a host of backups, ranging from former Pro Bowler Derek Anderson to the likes of Jason Campbell and Brady Quinn, both of whom started games for their respective teams last season, but were anything but effective when they were on the field. There are a total of about 20 quarterbacks who are free agents, and while many of these will probably go unsigned, several veterans will either re-sign with their most recent team or go to a new club, if for any reason because this year’s quarterback draft class isn’t projected to be on the same level as last year’s.

Other notable free agent quarterbacks: Charlie Batch, David Carr, Kellen Clemens, Bruce Gradkowski, Rex Grossman, Caleb Hanie, Brian Hoyer (RFA)*, Josh Johnson, Byron Leftwich, Matt Leinart, Drew Stanton

Running Backs
This year’s running back free agency class, which includes fullbacks, numbers around 50 and offers a whole range of options. Steven Jackson has produced eight straight 1,000-yard seasons and has yet to turn 30. The veteran’s days as a workhorse are probably behind him, but he's still looking for a opportunity that will give him a fair share of carries as well as a chance to win.

Reggie Bush put two productive seasons together in Miami and figures to have no lack of potential suitors, provided he’s willing to serve as a complement and not the centerpiece of a team’s backfield. Shonn Greene is another intriguing option as he’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons. With just four seasons total under his belt, he probably has more tread left on his tires than some others in this group.

Michael Turner was cut by the Falcons earlier this month despite rushing for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, while the Giants released Ahmad Bradshaw even though he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2012 in just 14 games. Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant, Rashard Mendenhall and Beanie Wells are all similar to Bradshaw in that they each have at least one 1,000-yard season to their credit, but likewise dealt with injuries that severely limited their production last season too. There also are multi-dimensional options like Felix Jones and Danny Woodhead, who have shown they can contribute to an offense when put in the right role.

Other notable free agent running backs: Jackie Battle, Andre Brown (RFA), Ronnie Brown, James Casey, Jerome Felton (fullback), Justin Forsett, Peyton Hillis, Chris Ivory (RFA), Rashad Jennings, Isaac Redman (RFA), Kevin Smith, LaRod Stephens-Howling

Wide Receivers
Without question this is the “it” position in free agency this season. The class as a whole numbers less than 50, but it features three of the most sought-after names on the market — Wes Welker, Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings. And they are not the only appealing options out there.

Besides this distinguished trio, other free agent wideouts include Danny Amendola, Donnie Avery and Brandon Gibson. Randy Moss, one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game, is looking for a job, as is reliable veteran Brandon Stokley. There also are players like Josh Cribbs, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Ted Ginn, who also can help a team on special teams.

This class also features several key restricted free agents* that bear watching, most notably Victor Cruz, but also Danario Alexander and Emmanuel Sanders. In the pass-happy offenses of today’s NFL, it seems that a team can’t have enough wide receivers and there are certainly no lack of options in free agency.

Other notable free agent wide receivers: Ramses Barden, Deion Branch, Plaxico Burress, Austin Collie, Early Doucet, Braylon Edwards, Devery Henderson, Domenik Hixon, Donald Jones (RFA), Louis Murphy, David Nelson (RFA), Kevin Ogletree, Jordan Shipley (RFA), Jerome Simpson

Tight Ends
The biggest free agent tight end out there is Tony Gonzalez, but his outlook is pretty straightforward. The future Hall of Famer will either retire or go back to the Falcons. While there may not another tight end on the level of Gonzalez available, teams do have other options if they are looking to upgrade what is quickly becoming a key position as it relates to an offense’s success.

The Titans chose not to apply the franchise tag to Jared Cook, so the 25-year-old that appears to have a world of potential may be headed to a new team. Martellus Bennett had a breakthrough season of sorts with the Giants, and he is looking to cash in on that production. The same holds true for Brandon Myers, who exploded for 79 receptions for 806 yards and four touchdowns with the Raiders last season.

The Ravens have some work to do in this area as both Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are restricted free agents. Because of the team’s cap situation and the number of free agents on their roster, the world champions may not be able to keep both and could conceivably lose both to other teams.

There also are plenty of veteran tight ends in this year’s group, including Kevin Boss, Dallas Clark, Chris Cooley and Fred Davis.

Other notable free agent tight ends: Tom Crabtree, Jeff Cumberland (RFA), Anthony Fasano, Michael Hoomanawanui (RFA), Dustin Keller, David Thomas, Delanie Walker, Benjamin Watson

Offensive Line
Two of the most appealing potential free agent options along the offensive line never got close to the open market as Denver and Kansas City applied the franchise tags to their respective left tackles, Ryan Clady and Branden Albert.

While those two bookends aren’t going anywhere, a former No. 1 overall pick could be. Miami did not tag Jake Long, who was severely hindered by a triceps injury last season. Long isn’t the only tackle out there either with Phil Loadholt, Sebastian Vollmer, Jermon Bushrod and Andre Smith some of the other names.

Guards and centers are well represented in this class as well, with Andy Levitre, Todd McClure, Brad Meester, Brandon Moore and Chris Spencer figuring to be among some of the most sought-after targets at these two positions.

Other notable free agent offensive linemen: Sam Baker, Jammal Brown, Gosder Cherilus, Phil Costa (RFA), Evan Dietrich-Smith (RFA), King Dunlap, Leroy Harris, Winston Justice, Dan Koppen, Ryan Lilja, Sean Locklear, Bryant McKinnie, Jake Scott, Matt Slauson, Jason Smith, Max Starks, Eric Winston

Defensive Line
Three players — Michael Johnson (Cincinnati), Henry Melton (Chicago) and Randy Starks (Miami) — were tagged from this group, which numbers close to 80 total. While Johnson and Starks may be off the market, there are other defensive ends available including sack specialists like John Abraham and Osi Umenyiora, along with Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Glenn Dorsey.

The available tackles include nose tackle options Casey Hampton and Ma’ake Kemoeatu, and fellow interior space-eaters such as Sedrick Ellis, Richard Seymour and Isaac Sopoaga.

Other notable free agent defensive linemen: Chris Baker (RFA), Alan Branch, Shaun Cody, Mike DeVito, Dwan Edwards, Aubrayo Franklin, Robert Geathers, Israel Idonije, Arthur Jones, Terrance Knighton, Sen’Derrick Marks, Amobi Okoye, Mike Patterson, Matt Shaughnessy, Kevin Vickerson, Ty Warren

Linebackers
Dallas tagged Anthony Spencer for the second straight year, and he was the only linebacker who received the designation. James Harrison, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year and Dwight Freeney, who has 107.5 career sacks, headline the group of available linebackers. There already have been rumblings of a potential reunion for Freeney with former Indianapolis teammate Peyton Manning in Denver.

Brian Urlacher’s best days are behind him it appears, but it still seems unthinkable that the long-time Bear may play in another uniform. The Ravens already know that Ray Lewis won’t be coming back and have two other linebackers — Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger — who are free agents, while Cincinnati's Rey Maualuga, another linebacker who played in the AFC North last season, could end up in a new division as well.

There is no lack of veteran options in this year’s linebacker free agent class with Nick Barnett, Larry Foote, Daryl Smith, Bart Scott and Takeo Spikes just some of the names on the market.

Other notable free agent linebackers: Chase Blackburn, Jasper Brinkley, Dan Connor, Justin Durant, Scott Fujita, Geno Hayes, Erin Henderson, Leroy Hill, Bradie James, Manny Lawson, Paris Lenon, Rocky McIntosh, Calvin Pace, Shaun Phillips, Keith Rivers, Nick Roach, Demorrio Williams, Will Witherspoon

Defensive Backs
Jairus Byrd (Buffalo) was the only defensive back that received the franchise tag this season. Considering this group has more than 110 free agents in it, there figures to be a lot of movement in defensive backfields across the NFL.

Cornerbacks make up the majority of this season’s defensive back crop with Antione Cason, Chris Gamble, Brent Grimes, Quentin Jammer and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie believed to be among the top targets. Even though it’s smaller, the safety group probably has more name recognition associated with it as future Hall of Famer Ed Reed, former Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson, 2012 All-Pro Dashon Goldson and 12-year veteran Adrian Wilson lead the way.

Other notable free agent defensive backs: Kyle Arrington, Ronde Barber, Yeremiah Bell, Sheldon Brown, Chris Carr, Louis Delmas, Drayton Florence, DeAngelo Hall, Chris Houston, Adam Jones, LaRon Landry, Keenan Lewis, Rashean Mathis, Quintin Mikell, Captain Munnerlyn, Terence Newman, Kenny Phillips, Tracy Porter, Glover Quin, Aaron Ross, Sam Shields (RFA), Sean Smith, Aqib Talib, Cary Williams, Madieu Williams

Kickers/Punters
Who says punters aren’t important? Indianapolis used its franchise tag on punter Pat McAfee. There still are about 10 other punters, including All-Pro Shane Lechler, on the market for teams looking for one. There also are about a dozen kickers, including David Akers, Phil Dawson, Nick Folk, Shayne Graham, Jason Hanson, Steven Hauschka and Lawrence Tynes.

And not be left out, there are about a dozen long snappers who are free agents, although half of them are of the restricted variety. If anyone can recite the qualifying offer for a long snapper, you are a bigger football fan than me.

*RFA strands for restricted free agent. A restricted free agent is a player that received a qualifying offer (predetermined by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the players association) from his current club. The player can negotiate with any team and sign an offer sheet. However, his old team has “right of first refusal,” which gives them a seven-day window in which it can match the offer sheet and retain that player or choose not to match it, in which case the team may receive some form of draft compensation from the player’s new team. If the player does not receive an offer sheet from another team, his rights revert back to his old club, per the terms of the qualifying offer, at the end of free agency.

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Free Agency: Position Primer</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Coming off an 11-2 season with a victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, optimism is running high at Clemson. The Tigers are the early favorite to win the ACC in 2013 and will likely be a top-10 team in most preseason polls. With quarterback Tajh Boyd returning to campus for his senior year, Clemson will have one of college football’s top offenses. The Tigers averaged 41 points a game last season, and despite the departure of receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the NFL, this offense can keep that pace going in 2013. While the offense is one of the best in the nation, the defense is still a work in progress. Clemson made some gains in the first season under coordinator Brent Venables, but the Tigers still have some work to do in 2013.

Clemson Tigers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 6-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Tajh Boyd, 287 of 427, 3,896 yards, 36 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Tajh Boyd, 186 car., 514 yards, 10 TDs
Receiving: Sammy Watkins, 57 rec., 708 yards, 3 TDs
Tackles: Spencer Shuey, 93
Sacks: Vic Beasley, 8
Interceptions: Five players tied with 1

Redshirts to Watch: QB Chad Kelly, WR Germone Hopper, C Jay Guillermo, OL Patrick Destefano

Early Enrollees to Watch: DB Jadar Johnson, DE Shaq Lawson, TE Jordan Leggett, DE Ebenezer Ogundeko

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Georgia
Sept. 7 South Carolina State
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 19 at NC State
Sept. 28 Wake Forest
Oct. 5 at Syracuse
Oct. 12 Boston College
Oct. 19 Florida State
Oct. 26 at Maryland
Nov. 2 at Virginia
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 14 Georgia Tech
Nov. 23 Citadel
Nov. 30 at South Carolina

Related Content: 2013 ACC Schedule Analysis

Offensive Strength: The unquestioned strength of Clemson’s offense is quarterback Tajh Boyd and one of the ACC’s top receiving corps. Boyd is the ACC’s No. 1 quarterback for 2013 and should be in the mix for All-American honors.

Offensive Weakness: The Tigers have few weaknesses on offense, but they must find replacements for running back Andre Ellington and center Dalton Freeman.

Defensive Strength: Even though the Tigers will miss defensive end Malliciah Goodman, there’s a lot to like about the front seven. Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes are back at end, while the Tigers have a handful of contributors ready at tackle. The linebacking corps should be solid, especially if Stephone Anthony can live up to his recruiting hype in 2013.

Defensive Weakness: There’s plenty of room to grow on the defense, but the secondary probably needs the most attention in spring practice. Defensive backs Rashard Hall, Jonathan Meeks and Xavier Brewer are gone, which leaves a void in the secondary. Getting Martin Jenkins back after missing all of 2012 due to an injury will help this unit.  

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers

1. Get Sammy Watkins back on track. After a standout freshman season, Watkins was a major disappointment in 2012. Watkins caught 82 passes in 2011 but watched his numbers dip to just 57 receptions in 2012. An illness and an off-the-field incident played a huge role in Watkins’ struggles last season, and with all of that behind him in spring practice, the junior is ready to rebound back to All-American status. Getting Boyd and Watkins back on the same page will be crucial for Clemson’s passing attack in 2013.

2. Replace Andre Ellington at running back. The Tigers seem to have some capable replacements for Ellington, but a pecking order needs to be established. Roderick McDowell rushed for 450 yards and five touchdowns last season and is the likely frontrunner to lead Clemson in yards this season. McDowell had a couple of impressive performances late in 2012, rushing for 83 yards against Duke and NC State, along with 47 yards against South Carolina. Also joining in the competition is junior D.J. Howard and sophomore Zac Brooks. If the rotation isn’t settled by fall camp, incoming freshman Tyshon Dye could get an extended look. The Tigers may lack a 1,000-yard back in 2013, but McDowell, Brooks and Howard should be a capable trio.

3. Who backs up Tajh Boyd? Considering Boyd has made every start in his two years as Clemson’s No. 1 quarterback, durability isn’t a question mark. However, Boyd has just one season of eligibility remaining, and the Tigers have to start thinking about 2014. This spring will be the first opportunity for redshirt freshman Chad Kelly and junior Cole Stoudt to stake their claim to the backup spot, which would setup the winner of this battle in a position to build on that lead in spring practice next season.

4. Find the right mix on the offensive line. With three new starters taking over on the line last season, it was no surprise Clemson allowed 2.4 sacks a game in 2012. This unit returns four starters for 2013, including first-team All-ACC tackle Brandon Thomas. Guards Tyler Shatley and David Beasley are back as returning starters, but the unit must replace center Dalton Freeman. Thomas could slide to guard if Isaiah Battle can claim the left tackle spot, while the coaching staff also hopes to see progress from Giff Timothy after making 11 starts in 2012. The pieces are there for Clemson’s offensive line to be one of the best in the ACC. Can the Tigers find the right mix this spring?

5. Finding more improvement on defense. After finishing 2011 ninth in the ACC in yards allowed and 10th in scoring defense, the Tigers showed solid improvement in the first season under coordinator Brent Venables. Clemson ranked third in the ACC in points allowed and registered 2.6 sacks a game last year. The Tigers held five of their last seven opponents under 25 points and allowed just 219 yards to LSU in the bowl game. If Clemson is going to be a factor in the national title picture, the defense has to take another step forward this spring. Seven starters are back for 2013, and linebacker Kellen Jones is eligible after transferring from Oklahoma, while defensive back Martin Jenkins returns after missing all of 2012 due to injury. Even though this unit needs to replace defensive end Malliciah Goodman and safety Rashard Hall, there’s enough returning to expect more improvement on the stat sheet.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the ACC Coaching Jobs for 2013
ACC's Top Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013
Clemson 2013 Recruiting Breakdown
College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Clemson Tigers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 11, 2013 - 08:00

Pages