Articles By All
Fax machines aren’t the only thing dusted off and put to use on national signing day.
After the letters had been signed and the faxes sent, 125 FBS coaches headed to their press conferences and all were in agreement: This year’s class is great, it fills needs, and it will be best judged later, and not by star rankings.
"Every coach around the country says they like their class, but I really do like our class,” East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeil said.
Or was it Nick Saban? Or Lane Kiffin? Or Charlie Weis? Or Chris Petersen?
“This is always like Christmas to me,” new Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Yep, a Christmas with no coal, neckties or socks. We’re all getting that video game system or drum kit or bicycle we wanted.
Here, we've compiled a sampling of the signing day coaching cliches from yesterday’s press conferences. A few caveats, though: We didn’t count coaches thanking assistants and support staff (really, you’d have to kinda be a jerk not to). We also didn’t count coaches who talked about “filling needs.”
Also, many coaches used multiple signing day cliches, sometime within the same sentence. We applaud their efficiency, but we’re only taking one cliche per coach.
BEST CLASS EVER
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: “I think today has the possibility of being a program changer.”
James Franklin, Vanderbilt: “This is our best class.”
Doc Holliday, Marshall: “There’s no doubt we’re better personnel-wise than we’ve been since I’ve been here.”
June Jones, SMU: "We think as coaches this is our best-looking class physically, along with our best athletically at all positions, since coming to SMU.”
Curtis Johnson, Tulane: "This is a special class, a dream class for us."
Bob Davie, New Mexico: “I think the word is out. You go around and it's kind of amazing ... that New Mexico and Albuquerque are kind of hidden gems.”
Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette: “It will grade out as the most-talented class in school history, but the true test of their quality will be determined on the field in two or three years.”
Dennis Franchionie, Texas State: “This is the best class that we have been able to sign here.”
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Lane Kiffin, USC: “This is certainly a class of quality over quantity.”
Larry Fedora, North Carolina: “Quality over quantity is the way I like to talk about it.”
JUDGE THIS CLASS LATER
Nick Saban, Alabama: “We had a good recruiting year, but again I think it's hard to make predictions about the guys you recruited today, and where they are going to be two or three years from now.”
Will Muschamp, Florida: You can pull out your tape recorders from the previous two years and we will know about this class in two or three years.”
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: “It's not really where you come in at, it's where you finish.”
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: “I think this will go down as an outstanding recruiting class. Time will tell, but I really like the athletic ability in this class and the size in our linemen.”
Tony Levine, Houston: “We redshirted about 20 freshmen last season and when you speculate a recruiting class, you can't fairly answer who I going to stand out until a few years down the road. You need to let the class play out.”
Bill Snyder, Kansas State: “As we've always maintained, it takes several years to accurately assess the quality of a recruiting class and the young men who represent it.”
Mack Brown, Texas: “We need to evaluate this class four or five years from now and see who is playing. A lot of times perception is not reality with these guys.”
Norm Chow, Hawaii: “We need to temper our enthusiasm and reserve judgment on this class until 2-3 years from now.”
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: “You definitely need to wait a few years before you can evaluate a recruiting class.”
REFERENCES TO THE STAR RANKINGS
Brian Polian, Nevada: “These guys are what we are looking for here. The star system and the rankings mean nothing to us.”
Todd Graham, Arizona State: “A team is not just about talent. It's not just about how many stars a person has and what you see out there.”
Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky: “We don’t go out placing an emphasis on rankings or stars, but we go out trying to find the right guys that will fit our system, and I believe that we were able to do that.”
P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan: “I think all of these kids are football players, period. You take all of the rankings and the ‘stars’ out of it and you look at the tape and we needed to find football players. That is what we found.”
PLAYERS WHO FIT OUR PROGRAM
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: “I think for the most part we fit most of the needs that we felt were important. And most importantly I think we found players that we feel are going to fit our program.”
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: "We as a staff are confident we've signed a group of young men who are tremendous fits for our program athletically, academically and socially.”
Jim Grobe, Wake Forest: “Lots of guys who love to play football and are really good football players who fit at Wake Forest.”
Justin Fuente, Memphis: “I think it's another step in the right direction to building our football program.”
Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut: “What we're trying to do in building the program, and it's hard to do it overnight, we're trying to recruit pro-type size guys.”
Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: “These coaches wanted to be here and these players wanted to be here. That's what it's going to take to build this program - a bunch of guys that want to chase greatness."
Paul Haynes, Kent State: “We wanted to get our kind of guys. And that's what we got."
Sonny Dykes, Cal: "We made a concerted and successful effort to sign both the best players we could and also the student-athletes that we thought would be the best fits at Cal.”
KIDS WITH CHARACTER
Les Miles, LSU: "I think it has quality and players with good character and integrity.”
Tim Beckman, Illinois: “We were able to add quality depth at several positions and upgraded the total athleticism of the team across the board.”
Bo Pelini, Nebraska: “I’m excited about this class, I think it adds a lot to our football team, not only with talented football players but tremendous young men, a lot of character type of kids that I want to coach, and kids we want to represent our university, the state and our fans.”
Bill O’Brien, Penn State: “This is a group of high character kids who are tough, go to class and do things the right way.”
Sean Kugler, UTEP: “We feel like we not only added some outstanding football players, but some outstanding student-athletes with strong character.”
Charlie Strong, Louisville: “It is key that we recruit character – young men that want to be a part of something special – height, speed, football awareness, toughness – that’s what’s critical when we go out to recruit.”
Scott Shafer, Syracuse: "I'm really excited about this class because it represents high character men who really love that game of football and treat it with respect.”
Pete Lembo, Ball State: ”We have added a lot of talent to our roster with this class, but perhaps more importantly, we are surrounding ourselves with some terrific leaders and charismatic personalities.”
Jeff Quinn, Buffalo: “What stood out most to me with the entire signing class of 2013, was the fact that these are tremendous leaders and winners.”
Dan Enos, Central Michigan: “It is a group of gifted, high character, and hard-working individuals that will contribute to our program on the football field.”
Matt Campbell, Toledo: “From top to bottom, this is a class of high-caliber players who have high-caliber character.”
GETTING MORE ATHLETIC, FASTER, BIGGER, STRONGER
David Shaw, Stanford: “When you look at our 2013 class, you will see size. You will see athleticism. You will see toughness.”
Kyle Whittingham, Utah: “We definitely feel we became a bigger, faster football team with this recruiting class.”
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: “With this class, we are excited about getting more athletic and just recruiting really good football players. Overall, we felt like we needed to continue to get bigger and faster, and when I say bigger, I really mean taller and longer. Those athletes with length have an opportunity to grow into being much bigger players."
George O’Leary, UCF: “The three key elements that we looked for was obviously range, speed and versatility”
Rod Carey, Northern Illinois: "Overall, when you look at this class, it's dominated by skill, which it should be. The skill has power and speed and that's what I love about it. Every guy that's fast is powerful and every guy that's powerful has good speed."
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: “Without everyone pulling together and without the use of airplanes it would be difficult to put a class like this together.”
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: “We really addressed some of the major needs that we needed.”
Garrick McGee, UAB: “They were recruiting guys that were very highly recruited. There were teams in our area that were after these players and our coaching staff had to stay firm on the things that we believe in. There was a lot of negative recruiting going on, and I want to give our coaching staff credit for sticking to our principles.”
MOMENTS OF CANDOR
Urban Meyer, Ohio State: “Our first year together as a coaching staff last year did not count because that was not a coaching staff. That was a bunch of guys coming together like a bunch of gypsies trying to find players anywhere we could find them. We did pretty good.”
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: “The only thing I know, back in 2008, I think Florida had the No. 1 class, and two years later that No. 1 class drove Urban Meyer to retirement. Of course, he came back a year later and he's an excellent coach, but I know later there were comments that that No. 1 class just didn't pan out. Of course, it usually pans out at Alabama every year. But, again, recruiting is extremely important, but after they get there is really what's most important.
Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati: “I’m going to start teaching a class on how to sign a recruiting class in 30 days. I think I’ve done it three or four times now, but it doesn’t get any easier.”
Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football. Without good players, winning championships is nearly impossible. But there is much debate as too just how much recruiting rankings matter.
Here is something for doubters to consider: Alabama has claimed the No. 1 class in the nation three of the last six years and their average national recruiting ranking of 1.8 (by Rivals) over the last five seasons prior tops the nation. The Tide has subsequently won three BCS titles in four years because, in large part, it has the best players in the nation.
That said, not all scouts agree on how touted any given prospect or class should be. This is why Athlon Sports has taken the four major online recruiting websites and averaged their team rankings together to give the fans the truest and most accurate look at the best recruiting classes of 2013.
Scout likes the Big Ten
Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN awarded Alabama as the national recruiting champion. Scout ranked Nick Saban's class No. 3 in the nation behind both Ohio State and Michigan. Scout has the highest opinion of Brady Hoke's haul and clearly doesn't appreciate the record 15 Athlon Consensus 100 signings by the Crimson Tide. Although the Wolverines and Buckeyes have elite classes with loads of talent, it is hard to argue with what Alabama did this year on the trial.
Everyone agrees on the Sooners, Big 12
Rivals and Scout have Oklahoma ranked as the 15th-best class in the nation while ESPN has the Sooners ranked 16th and 247Sports has OU at 13th. All four consider this the best class in the Big 12 but all agree that it isn't a top 10 group. Few teams have this much agreement across all websites. The only two teams to get a top 25 vote from any of the four recruiting sites are Texas and Oklahoma.
Nebraska's class is polarizing
Scout thinks Bo Pelini landed the No. 11-ranked class in the nation. Both 247Sports and ESPN, however, have the Huskers ranked outside of the top 20 at 21st and 23rd respectively. The composite rankings agree with Rivals, who has the Big Red ranked at No. 17. Few teams in the top 20 provided as much disagreement as Nebraska.
Frank Beamer is in the same boat
Just like Pelini at Nebraska, the experts do not agree on Virginia Tech's class. Scout doesn't think nearly as high of the Hokies haul, ranking them 35th nationally. 247Sports, however, loves Tech's 18-man signing class ranking it 14th nationally. In fact, 247 likes this group so much that it ranked VT's group the No. 2 signing class in 2013 behind only Florida State.
USC's quality didn't matter
Based on sheer numbers, most sites agree that USC didn't belong in the top 10 nationally. However, with nine AC100 prospects in 13 total signees, it is hard to argue that the Trojans don't have the best quantity-to-quality ratio in the nation. Their nine top-100 recruits trails only Alabama and Michigan and likely means this group deserves to be a bit higher than 16th.
19th is about right for Texas
247Sports (18th) and ESPN (15th) ranked the Longhorns smallish 15-man class higher than Rivals and Scout, both of which rank Texas 23rd nationally. So Athlon's composite median ranking of 19th is just about right. It is a talented class with plenty of quality but the sheer size of the class keeps Mack Brown's haul outside of the top 15. And gives the Horns one of their worst overall national rankings in recent memory.
Where should the state of Tennessee rank?
James Franklin and the Commodores have one of the best classes in memory. But some (247Sports) don't believe it is a Top 25 class while others (Rivals, Scout) have the Dores inside of the top 20 nationally. There is disagreement with the Volunteers as well. Scout (32nd) and ESPN (29th) were not nearly as impressed with Butch Jones' class as Rivals (25th) apparently was. It appears that 247Sports got this one right.
Athlon Sports 2013 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings:
Best of the Rest:
26. Miami, Fla., 27. West Virginia, 28. North Carolina, 29. Arkansas, 30. Oklahoma State
Selection Sunday is about six weeks away, but the picture for who’s in and who’s out of the NCAA Tournament is starting to take shape.
In general, most of the 68 spots are fairly certain. Of the 32 conferences, we’ve tabbed 20 as being one-bid leagues, determined solely by conference tournaments. On the other end of the spectrum, at least 30 teams are safely in the field barring a total collapse between now and March 17.
That leaves the bubble, where every win and loss is magnified and every result from November and December takes on a renewed significance.
Here’s our look at the NCAA Tournament field for 2013. This is not intended to be a prediction, per se, but a snapshot at how the field may look right now.
We looked at RPI, strength of schedule, good wins and bad losses in our projections. You will also see references to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The selection committee does not use them as a reference, but we include them as an added resource.
NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET PROJECTIONS: FEB. 6
TOP FOUR SEEDS
In: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, NC State
Worth a mention: Florida State, Maryland, Virginia
Bubble notes: Maryland remains on the outside looking in. The Terps' RPI is 66, and their only good win is vs. NC State at home. Virginia had a four-game winning streak snapped at Georgia Tech last weekend. That was a troubling loss — the Cavs' sixth to team ranked 100th or worse in the RPI. North Carolina has only one top-50 RPI win, vs. UNLV at home. Florida State already has nine losses and only has one top-50 win (BYU).
Atlantic 10 (5)
In: Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Worth a mention: UMass, Xavier
Bubble notes: Saint Louis is new to the field this week. The Billikens crushed Butler last Thursday and followed up with a convincing win over Dayton. SLU's RPI is 57 and it has two top-50 wins. The loss at home to Rhode Island is the biggest blemish on the resume. La Salle bounced back from a loss at home to UMass on Thursday by winning at George Washington over the weekend. The Explorers have a strong RPI (27) and two top-50 wins. Barring a late-season slide, Temple should remain in the field thanks in large part to its win over Syracuse at MSG. The Owls have a couple of bad home losses — vs. Canisius in December and St. Bonaventure last week. UMass is in the discussion because of a realtively solid RPI (52) and that road win over La Salle last week. The Minutemen have a lot of work ahead of them.
Big 12 (5)
In: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Worth a mention: None
Bubble notes: Baylor remained in the field this week despite losing three straight — vs. OU, at Iowa State and at Oklahoma State in a heartbreaker Wednesday night. The Bears have some solid wins (at Kentucky, vs. Oklahoma State), and their RPI is a respectable 49. Iowa State padded its resume with wins over Baylor and Oklahoma to improve to 6–3 in the Big 12. The Cyclones' RPI is 36. With a win at Kansas in its back pocket, Oklahoma State should have nothing to worry about down the stretch — barring an implosion.
Big East (7)
In: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Worth a mention: St. John’s, Villanova
Bubble notes: Villanova followed up its two wins at home vs. top-10 RPI foes (Louisville and Syracuse) by losing at Notre Dame and at home vs. Providence. The Wildcats (RPI 65) bounced back with a win at DePaul, but their resume has too many stains at this point. St. John’s beat UConn Wednesday night to improve to 7–4 in the league. The Red Storm (RPI 55) have one really good win (at Cincinnati) and several bad losses (at San Francisco and at home vs. UNC Asheville. Pittsburgh put itself in great position by beating Syracuse on Saturday (and not losing to Seton Hall on Monday).
Big Ten (7)
In: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue
Bubble notes: Iowa is good enough to play in the NCAA Touranment, but the Hawkeyes lack an NCAA Tournament resume. They dropped to 3–7 in the Big Ten with a loss on Wednesday at Wisconsin. They do have a home win vs. the Badgers, but their other two wins in the league came against Northwestern (on the road) and Penn State. Illinois is still in the field despite a 2–7 record in the league — but the Fighting Illini are on the thin ice. They have three top-20 RPI wins, including two away from home (Butler on a neutral court, at Gonzaga). Illinois hosts Indiana this weekend and then visits Minnesota. Winning one of those two would really help. Northwestern has a bad RPI (85) and a lot of losses (10), but the Wildcats are hanging around. Baylor's struggles have weakened Northwestern's resume (the Cats won in Waco). Purdue is 5–5 in the league with an RPI of 119 and only one top-80 win.
Related: Key stats from Jan. 21-27
Conference USA (1)
Worth a mention: Southern Miss
Bubble notes: Southern Miss lost at UCF on Wednesday night, the Golden Eagles' first defeat in league play. It was enough to knock them out of the field. They are 16–4 against Division I opponents but have no wins against top-100 RPI teams. That is just tough to overlook. USM hosts Memphis this weekend. Memphis is 19–3 but lacks quality wins — but also has no bad losses.
Missouri Valley (3)
In: Creighton, Indiana State, Wichita State
Worth a mention: None
Bubble notes: The Valley is a mess. Indiana State sandwiched huge wins over Wichita State (on the road) and Creighton (at home) around a loss at Drake (RPI 147). The Sycamores have eight losses, including four to teams ranked 130 or worse in the RPI, but they also have four top-50 RPI wins. Their profile is very interesting. Wichita State has lost three straight games but still has a solid RPI (38) and three top-60 wins. The Shockers, however, must start playing better ball.
Mountain West (4)
In: Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: Boise State, Wyoming
Bubble notes: Boise State is out this week after losing three of its last four — including by one point at San Diego State on Wednesday night— to drop to 3–5 in the league. The Broncos' RPI is 53 and they have two top-40 RPI wins (at Creighton, 34; vs. UNLV, 20). A very weak non-conference schedule has hurt their profile. Wyoming has lost four straight in the league and its RPI is down to 63. The Cowboys also don't have a top-125 RPI win away from home. UNLV has been a disappointment, but the Rebels aren't in any danger of missing the field — yet.
In: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
Worth a mention: Washington
Bubble notes: Colorado is 4–5 in the league and lost at Utah over the weekend, but the Buffaloes still have a strong RPI (26) and five wins vs. top 70 RPI teams. They probably can't afford get swept this weekend by Oregon and Oregon State. Arizona State has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises. The Sun Devils are 6–3 in the Pac-12 and only have one bad loss, vs. DePaul at home. They might need to sweep Cal and Stanford at home to remain in the field next week. Washington is barely in the discussion. The Huskies are 5–4 in the league with an RPI of 69. They have lost four of five and play at UCLA on Thursday night.
In: Florida, Kentucky Ole Miss, Missouri
Worth a mention: Alabama, Arkansas
Bubble notes: Kentucky is playing very well of late. The Wildcats have won four straight to improve to 7–2 in the SEC. The RPI is solid (43), but they are lacking in qaulity wins. UK still has two games with Florida, a home date with Missouri and a visit to emerging Arkansas on the slate. Alabama's resume took a huge hit Wednesday night with a loss at Auburn. The Crimson Tide also have three damaging losses at home — to Dayton (RPI 103), Tulane (166) and Mercer (173). Also, they have only one top-60 win, vs. Kentucky (46). Arkansas's RPI is up to 77 after Tuesday's big win over Florida. The Hogs have the talent to get on a roll in the month of the season, but they can't afford any bad losses to remain in the picture.
West Coast (2)
In: Gonzaga, Saint Mary's
Worth a mention: BYU
Bubble notes: Saint Mary’s has decent computer numbers (60 RPI, 24 KenPom), but only one win vs. a top-90 RPI team (at BYU). The Gaels also have lost two games, on a neutral court, to teams ranked lower than 100th. They are in the field this week — barely. BYU only has two top-100 wins, both against Santa Clara (RPI 84).
One-bid conference projections
|Conference||Projected winner||Conference||Projected winner|
|America East||Stony Brook||MEAC||Norfolk State|
|Atlantic Sun||Florida Gulf Coast||Northeast||Bryant|
|Big Sky||Montana||Ohio Valley||Belmont|
|Big South||Charleston Southern||Patriot||Bucknell|
|Big West||Long Beach State||Southern||Davidson|
|Colonial||Northeastern||Southland||Stephen F. Austin|
|Horizon||Valparaiso||Summit||South Dakota State|
|Ivy||Harvard||Sun Belt||Middle Tennessee|
Middle linebackers are the quarterbacks of the defense, the nerve center of a stop-unit. Many of the game’s greatest players have been the man in the middle who called the shots in the huddle before turning into tackling machines and splash-playmakers from sideline-to-sideline once the ball was snapped. Keeping all aspects of the job in mind, we rank the top 25 greatest middle linebackers in NFL history.
2000 Defensive Player of the Year
2003 Defensive Player of the Year
7-time first-team All-Pro
13-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXV MVP
Super Bowl XXXV champion
Super Bowl XLVII champion
It’s hard to argue with No. 52 — whose off-the-charts football IQ, spiritual leadership and on-field accomplishments are unmatched. Along with his overflowing trophy case, Lewis posted 41.5 sacks, 31 INTs returned for 503 yards and three TDs, 19 forced fumbles, 20 fumble recoveries and one safety in the regular season; and six forced fumbles, two INTs returned for 54 yards and one TD, and two sacks in the playoffs. And that dance. Don’t forget Ray’s dance.
2. Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-84)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1990
1976 Defensive Player of the Year
1974 Defensive Rookie of the Year
6-time first-team All-Pro
9-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl IX champion
Super Bowl X champion
Super Bowl XIII champion
Super Bowl XIV champion
The foreman of the “Steel Curtain” defense, Lambert expanded the job description of the middle backer — dropping into pass coverage as smooth as a safety while remaining the sledgehammer enforcer of an old-school middle man. Lambert hauled in 28 INTs and scooped up 17 fumble recoveries. But it was his leadership in four Super Bowl wins that moves Lambert ahead of Dick Butkus — as sacrilegious as that may seem.
3. Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears (1965-73)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1979
1969 Defensive Player of the Year
1970 Defensive Player of the Year
5-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
The best high school, college and NFL linebackers are annually presented with the Butkus Award, named in honor of arguably the greatest linebacker — possibly the best defensive player — to ever put on a helmet. Butkus punished ball carriers and crushed spirits. But for all his individual success, he never made the playoffs.
4. Mike Singletary, Chicago Bears (1981-92)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1998
1985 Defensive Player of the Year
1988 Defensive Player of the Year
7-time first-team All-Pro
10-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XX champion
“Samurai Mike” had crazy eyes that struck fear into an opposing offense even before he laid the smack down. The on-field brains behind Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan’s famed 1985 Bears defense, Singletary is undeniably one of the greatest to ever play the position.
5. Ray Nitschke, Green Bay Packers (1958-72)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1978
2-time first-team All-Pro
1-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl I champion
Super Bowl II champion
5-time NFL Championship Game winner
NFL Championship Game MVP (1962)
Before becoming a pop culture reference in Brian’s Song and an actor in The Longest Yard and Head, Nitschke was one of the most feared men in football. Vince Lombardi’s leader on defense, Nitschke (No. 66) and Bart Starr (No. 15) are the only Lombardi players whose numbers were retired.
6. Bill George, Chicago Bears (1952-65), Los Angeles Rams (’66)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1974
8-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
George is credited by many as being the first-ever true middle linebacker, creating a legacy that future Bears like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher would cement in history.
7. Junior Seau, San Diego Chargers (1990-2002), Miami Dolphins (’03-05), New England Patriots (’06-09)
1992 Defensive Player of the Year
1994 Walter Payton Man of the Year
6-time first-team All-Pro
12-time Pro Bowler
Arguably USC’s most notable No. 55, Seau went on to become a legend in San Diego. A notorious freelancer, Seau notched 56.5 sacks, 18 INTs returned for 238 yards, 11 forced fumbles, 18 fumble recoveries and one TD while winning two AFC titles with the 1994 Chargers and 2007 Patriots.
8. Chuck Bednarik, Philadelphia Eagles (1949-62)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1967
5-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
2-time NFL Championship Game winner
A two-way player who also played center on offense, Bednarik was in the middle of the action on both sides of the ball — ask Frank Gifford.
9. Nick Buoniconti, Boston Patriots (1962-68), Miami Dolphins (’69-76)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2001
5-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl VII champion
Super Bowl VIII champion
The most famous member of the “No Name Defense,” Buoniconti is alleged to be the ringleader of the 1972 Dolphins’ annual champagne toast when the last undefeated team loses each season.
10. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears (2000-12)
2005 Defensive Player of the Year
2000 Defensive Rookie of the Year
4-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
The latest in an historic line of Hall of Fame caliber Bears middle linebackers, Urlacher has produced 41.5 sacks, 22 INTs returned for 324 yards and two TDs, 11 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries returned for 177 yards and one TD during his career. Urlacher’s legacy was secure after leading Chicago to the NFC title in 2006
11. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers (2007-12)
2009 NFL Butkus Award winner
2007 Defensive Rookie of the Year
5-time first-team All-Pro
6-time Pro Bowler
12. Joe Schmidt, Detroit Lions (1953-65)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1973
8-time first-team All-Pro
10-time Pro Bowler
2-time NFL Championship Game winner
13. Willie Lanier, Kansas City Chiefs (1967-77)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1986
1972 NFL Man of the Year
3-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
14. Sam Huff, New York Giants (1956-63), Washington Redskins (’64-69)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1982
2-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
15. Harry Carson, New York Giants (1976-88)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2006
9-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXI champion
16. Lee Roy Jordan, Dallas Cowboys (1963-76)
1973 Defensive Player of the Year
1-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl VI champion
17. Zach Thomas, Miami Dolphins (1996-2007), Dallas Cowboys (’08)
5-time first-team All-Pro
7-time Pro Bowler
18. Randy Gradishar, Denver Broncos (1974-83)
1978 Defensive Player of the Year
2-time first-team All-Pro
7-time Pro Bowler
19. Les Richter, Los Angeles Rams (1954-62)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2011
1-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
20. Karl Mecklenburg, Denver Broncos (1983-94)
3-time first-team All-Pro
6-time Pro Bowler
21. Ken Norton Jr., Dallas Cowboys (1988-93), San Francisco 49ers (1994-2000)
1-time first-team All-Pro
3-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXVII champion
Super Bowl XXVIII champion
Super Bowl XXIX champion
22. James Farrior, New York Jets (1997-2001), Pittsburgh Steelers (’02-11)
1-time first-team All-Pro
2-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XL champion
Super Bowl XLIII champion
23. Hardy Nickerson, Pittsburgh Steelers (1987-92), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (’93-99), Jacksonville Jaguars (2000-01), Green Bay Packers (’02)
2-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
24. London Fletcher, St. Louis Rams (1998-2001), Buffalo Bills (’02-06), Washington Redskins (’07-12)
3-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXIV champion
25. Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots (1996-2008)
2005 Comeback Player of the Year
1-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXVI champion
Super Bowl XXXVIII champion
Super Bowl XXXIX champion
College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the some of the best classes in the nation.
Recruiting championships led to national championships, which have led to more recruiting championships. See a pattern for Alabama? The 2013 recruiting national championship is the third recruiting title in six seasons and each of the last six signing classes rank in the top five nationally. Nick Saban also set an Athlon Sports record with 15 Athlon Consensus 100 signees. The previous record was set by Florida in 2010 (13). The Process has become The Machine.
No. 1: Alabama Crimson Tide
SEC Rank: First
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 15
National Signees: 18
Total Signees: 25
Where They Got 'Em:
Nick Saban continues to recruit nationally after his fourth BCS Championship and third in four years at Alabama. He used 13 different states to land his 25 new faces in 2013. The Southeast remained his primary focus as Alabama (seven), Georgia (three), Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas (two each) and Arkansas (one) provided the majority of the class. He landed the top five players in the state of Alabama.
But it wasn't the just the SEC footprint that provided Alabama with elite talent. Saban continued his remarkable ability to recruit the Northeast by landing a star player from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. He also went out west to snag an AC100 quarterback from Utah and long snapper from California.
Areas of Focus:
Alabama's 2013 haul is a balanced group with elite level skill at nearly every position. The offensive skill positions, however, appeared to be a major area of focus for Saban and his staff. The Tide brought in two scholarship quarterbacks and one walk-on in this group. Cooper Bateman is the highest rated of the bunch, landing in the AC100 as the No. 4-rated QB prospect in the nation. He will be pushed by three-star Parker McLeod and walk-on Luke Del Rio. All three have enrolled early and have a chance to learn under A.J. McCarron before he leaves for the NFL following the 2013 season.
The running back corps in this class is downright nasty. Alabama signed four of the top 13 running backs in the nation. Derrick Henry (No. 1), Alvin Kamara (No. 7), Altee Tenpenny (No. 10) and Tyren Jones (No. 13) form what has to be one of the best running back classes in the history of recruiting. Each brings something different and unique to the offense as Henry and Jones bring big, physical frames while Kamara and Tenpenny bring speed and elusiveness.
A three-man pass-catching class wraps up one of the best offensive skill classes in the nation. Robert Foster is the No. 2-ranked wide receiver in the nation while tight end O.J. Howard is considered the top player at his position nationally. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has plenty of new toys to utilize. And with two athletes signed — Anthony Averett and ArDarius Stewart — this class could actually get deeper should they land on the offensive side of the ball as receivers.
The offensive line didn't get much focus as just three blockers signed in this group. Grant Hill is an AC100 talent and leads the small class that includes a junior college transfer and prep school recruit.
On defense, the front seven was clearly the area of focus. Three true defensive linemen, two of which were AC100 prospects, add elite depth to the most important position in the SEC. The appropriately named Dee Liner and A'Shawn Robinson were both top-50 players nationally while Darius Page was a four-star national recruit in his own right. All three were ranked in the top 25 nationally at their position.
The linebacker class is similar to the running backs in how scary good it could be in a few years. Reuben Foster is a prototype middle linebacker and was the No. 2 LB in the nation. Jonathan Allen is a hybrid end/outside backer who was the No. 4 LB in the nation. Tim Williams was ranked as the No. 9 linebacker in the nation. Toss in Walker Jones and the Tide has its next elite wave of linebackers. This group is versatile and can play all four positions in Kirby Smart's defense.
Saban signed three defensive backs, for now, with AC100 talent Maurice Smith leading the way. The wide receiver and secondary classes overall depth hinge on where the two "athletes" end up playing.
Offense: QB: 2, RB: 4, WR: 2, TE: 1, OL: 3, ATH: 2
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 3, DB: 3, LS: 1
|6.||Reuben Foster||LB||No. 2||Auburn, Ala.||6-1||244|
|12.||Derrick Henry||RB||No. 1||Yulee, Fla.||6-3||242|
|17.||Jonathan Allen||DL/LB||No. 2||Leesburg, Va.||6-3||264|
|19.||O.J. Howard||TE||No. 1||Prattville, Ala.||6-6||235|
|23.||Robert Foster||WR||No. 2||Monaca, Pa.||6-3||187|
|34.||A'Shawn Robinson||DL||No. 7||Fort Worth, Texas||6-4||320|
|42.||Alvin Kamara||RB||No. 7||Norcross, Ga.||5-10||195|
|47.||Dee Liner||DL||No. 10||Muscle Shoals, Ala.||6-3||281|
|54.||Altee Tenpenny||RB||No. 10||North Little Rock, Ark.||6-0||207|
|62.||Grant Hill||OL||No. 6||Huntsville, Ala.||6-6||301|
|65.||Tyren Jones||RB||No. 13||Marietta, Ga.||5-9||215|
|76.||Cooper Bateman||QB||No. 4||Murray, Utah||6-3||215|
|83.||Tim Williams||LB||No. 9||Baton Rouge, La.||6-3||235|
|84.||ArDarius Stewart||ATH||No. 4||Fultondale, Ala.||6-0||190|
|89.||Maurice Smith||DB||No. 17||Sugar Land, Texas||6-0||180|
|129.||Darius Page||DL||No. 24||Foley, Ala.||6-4||314|
|191.||Anthony Averett||ATH||No. 11||Woodbury, N.J.||6-0||170|
|229.||Jonathan Cook||DB||No. 33||Daphne, Ala.||6-0||186|
|Cooper Bateman||QB||Murray, Utah||6-3||205||No. 76|
|Leon Brown||OL||Riverdale, Md.||6-6||310||--||3-star|
|Luke Del Rio||QB||Highland Ranch, Colo.||6-2||200||--||Walk-on|
|Raheem Falkins||WR||New Orleans, La.||6-4||195||--||4-star|
|Derrick Henry||RB||Yulee, Fla.||6-3||240||No. 12|
|Brandon Hill||OL||Chatham, Va.||6-6||340||--||Prep School|
|O.J. Howard||TE||Prattville, Ala.||6-5||225||No. 19|
|Parker McLeod||QB||Marietta, Ga.||6-3||190||--||3-star|
|Jai Miller||DB||Valley Grande, Ala.||6-3||210||--||Walk-on|
The 2012 NFL season may have just ended, but that doesn't mean it's too early to starting thinking about next season. Even though teams have just started adjusting their rosters, free agency has yet to begin and the draft is still more than two months away, here's Athlon Sports' early fantasy football rankings for 2013.
As it stands now, Arian Foster and not NFL MVP Adrian Peterson tops our rankings, while Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco comes in at No. 89. Fifteen quarterbacks are ranked higher than Flacco, including Robert Griffin III, who falls in at No. 37 (eighth at his position). Griffin, who was the AP's Offensive Rookie of the Year, is without a doubt the biggest question mark at this point, since his return timetable from his January knee surgery is still unknown. Griffin is the prime example as to why this list will go through many changes between now and the fall.
As for how things currently look, a few early observations. Quarterback appears to be rather deep and the same could be said to a degree for wide receiver. Once you get past the 15 or so running backs it is anyone's guess and tight end is another intriguing position to watch as the offseason plays out.
|1||Arian Foster||RB||HOU||Edges out A.D. b/c of less tread on the tires.|
|2||Adrian Peterson||RB||MIN||Be wary of 2,000-yard "curse."|
|4||Doug Martin||RB||TB||Can he avoid sophomore slump?|
|5||Calvin Johnson||WR||DET||Top fantasy WR had just 5 TDs.|
|6||Jamaal Charles||RB||KC||Is he Reid's McCoy in KC?|
|7||Aaron Rodgers||QB||GB||Still had 39 TDs despite WR injuries.|
|8||Drew Brees||QB||NO||Led NFL in INTs and fantasy points.|
|9||Tom Brady||QB||NE||Could be in market for new No. 1 WR.|
|10||Ray Rice||RB||BAL||Pierce's touches went up at season's end.|
|11||LeSean McCoy||RB||PHI||Interesting to see how Kelly uses him.|
|12||C.J. Spiller||RB||BUF||Should get lion's share of carries over FJax.|
|14||Brandon Marshall||WR||CHI||If Bears fix OL, watch out.|
|15||Trent Richardson||RB||CLE||Needs more support from passing game.|
|17||Demaryius Thomas||WR||DEN||Big target should continue to improve.|
|18||Dez Bryant||WR||DAL||Really came on late in the season.|
|19||Alfred Morris||RB||WAS||Will Griffin's injury/absence impact him?|
|21||Maurice Jones-Drew||RB||JAC||If healthy, he should get lots of touches.|
|24||Rob Gronkowski||TE||NE||Health starting to become an issue.|
|25||Percy Harvin||WR||MIN||Is he long for Minny?|
|26||Vincent Jackson||WR||TB||Delivered in his first year as Buc.|
|27||Andre Johnson||WR||HOU||A reliable No. 2 WR would help him and team.|
|32||Frank Gore||RB||SF||Finished with strong postseason.|
|33||Demarco Murray||RB||DAL||Foot injury plagued him last season.|
|35||Larry Fitzgerald||WR||ARI||All hinges on who his QB is.|
|36||Matthew Stafford||QB||DET||Don’t forget he posted 5,000-40 in 2011.|
|37||Robert Griffin III||QB||WAS||The No. 1 question mark in fantasy.|
|38||Victor Cruz||WR||NYG||Will the Giants pay him?|
|40||Randall Cobb||WR||GB||His role should only increase in '13.|
|41||Wes Welker||WR||NE||If not Patriots, where will he end up?|
|42||Marques Colston||WR||NO||When healthy, he produces.|
|43||Darren McFadden||RB||OAK||Will he ever stay healthy?|
|44||Hakeem Nicks||WR||NYG||Another one who's been held back by injuries.|
|45||Andrew Luck||QB||IND||Reunited with Stanford OC.|
|46||Mike Wallace||WR||PIT||His 2013 team will dictate potential value.|
|47||Michael Crabtree||WR||SF||Kaepernick's clear-cut No. 1 target.|
|49||Russell Wilson||QB||SEA||What can he do for an encore?|
|51||Darren Sproles||RB||NO||Different player in '11 when Payton was HC.|
|55||Pierre Garcon||WR||WAS||Foot injury sidetracked first season in WAS.|
|56||Greg Jennings||WR||GB||Where will he end up?|
|59||Ryan Mathews||RB||SD||His collarbone was not his friend last season.|
|60||David Wilson||RB||NYG||Came on strong late in the season, no more Bradshaw.|
|62||Steven Jackson||RB||STL||Won't turn 30 until July.|
|64||Reggie Bush||RB||MIA||Will he be his (new) team's No. 1 back in '13?|
|69||Tony Gonzalez||TE||ATL||Will he back for another year?|
|75||Antonio Brown||WR||PIT||Becomes No. 1 if Wallace doesn't stay.|
|76||Dwayne Bowe||WR||KC||Potential tied to 2013 team.|
|77||Brandon Lloyd||WR||NE||His role only increases should Welker leave.|
|82||Danny Amendola||WR||STL||Another free agent who could be in new uni.|
|85||Kyle Rudolph||TE||MIN||Established himself after Harvin's injury.|
|89||Joe Flacco||QB||BAL||Don't overrate SB MVP's fantasy value.|
|92||Shonn Greene||RB||NYJ||His time is running out to prove he's a No. 1 back.|
|93||Jacquizz Rodgers||RB||ATL||Should see even more touches in '13.|
|94||Jeremy Maclin||WR||PHI||Which Eagle WR benefits most from Kelly's system?|
|97||Knowshon Moreno||RB||DEN||Effective after McGahee went down until he got hurt too.|
|98||Kenny Britt||WR||TEN||Could be running out of time/chances w/ Titans.|
|101||Philip Rivers||QB||SD||Can McCoy/Whisenhunt turn him around?|
|102||Ahmad Bradshaw||RB||NYG||Will be looking for new team after Giants released him.|
|103||Jay Cutler||QB||CHI||Can Trestman make him better?|
|105||Vernon Davis||TE||SF||He and Kaepernick started clicking late.|
|106||Antionio Gates||TE||SD||Days as elite option are well pas him.|
|107||Michael Vick||QB||PHI||Won't know for sure until '13 team is determined.|
|108||Jonathan Dwyer||RB||PIT||Steelers have to figure backfield out.|
|109||Jonathan Stewart||RB||CAR||If he or Williams is traded, their ranks change.|
|112||Michael Turner||RB||ATL||Veteran no longer a viable every-week starter.|
|113||Vincent Brown||WR||SD||Broken ankle wiped out last season.|
|114||Bilal Powell||RB||NYJ||Could get No. 1 job if Greene doesn't return.|
|116||Carson Palmer||QB||OAK||His weapons couldn't stay healthy last season.|
|117||Martellus Bennett||TE||NYG||Free agent, keep eye on where he lands.|
|120||Bernard Pierce||RB||BAL||Got his number called often late in the season.|
|121||Daryl Richardson||RB||STL||He and Pead will fight for carries if SJax leaves.|
|123||Kendall Wright||WR||TEN||Can he build off of respectable rookie season?|
|126||Heath Miller||TE||PIT||How quickly can be bounce back from ACL injury?|
|131||Ryan Fitzpatrick||QB||BUF||May not even be the Bills' starter in Week 1.|
|132||Cincinnati||DST||CIN||Young Bengals should only get better.|
|134||Anquan Boldin||WR||BAL||Veteran may have played his last game for Ravens.|
|139||Chicago||DST||CHI||Don't count on repeat of last year's fantasy output.|
|142||Jarius Wright||WR||MIN||He and Harvin could be dangerous combo.|
|143||DuJuan Harris||RB||GB||Took advantage of injuries to be a factor late.|
|146||Beanie Wells||RB||ARI||Never has proven he can stay healthy.|
|147||Ryan Williams||RB||ARI||Still not sure what he's capable of.|
|150||Pittsburgh||DST||PIT||Veteran unit starting to show its age.|
|152||Nick Foles||QB||PHI||Will be he Kelly's guy?|
|153||Jake Locker||QB||TEN||Can he take that next step in '13?|
|155||Jared Cook||TE||TEN||Where will he play in '13?|
|157||Mohamed Sanu||WR||CIN||Opportunity knocks for someone to pair w/ Green.|
|161||Jon Baldwin||WR||KC||If Bowe leaves, Baldwin becomes No. 1?|
|166||Bryce Brown||RB||PHI||Kelly used two backs at Oregon.|
|169||LaMichael James||RB||SF||Has he replaced Hunter as 49ers' No. 2?|
|174||Coby Fleener||TE||IND||Somewhat of a disappointment in his rookie season.|
|177||Andre Brown||RB||NYG||Probably been passed by Wilson on depth chart.|
|179||Blair Walsh||K||MIN||Rookie's big leg made big first impression.|
|182||Baltimore Ravens||DST||BAL||This unit will look different in '13.|
|184||Shane Vereen||RB||NE||Had big game against Texans in playoffs.|
|187||Fred Davis||TE||WAS||His tenure w/ Redskins may be over.|
|189||New York Jets||DST||NYJ|
|192||Mark Sanchez||QB||NYJ||No Tebow, no more excuses in '13.|
|193||St. Louis Rams||DST||STL|
|198||Matt Flynn||QB||SEA||Will he be with a new team in '13?|
|200||Matt Cassel||QB||KC||Will Reid even give him a chance?|
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
National Signing Day 2013 has come and gone. Fans, coaches and players alike rode a yearlong roller-coaster to the first Wednesday in February and it all ended with over 3,000 new college football players.
While coaching and leadership is still the No. 1 factor in winning and losing games, recruiting and the subsequent rankings are a close No. 2. Having better players than the next guy will go a long way in winning. What happens when you have both? How about three BCS national championships in four years.
Some programs spent NSD ’13 celebrating thousands of hours of work with deep and talented signing classes that point to future success on the field. Others’ dreams were dashed when players flip-flopped in the 11th hour or simply decided to go elsewhere.
Who were National Signing Day’s biggest winners and toughest losers?
Ole Miss Rebels
There is only one place to start this Signing Day and it’s Oxford, Miss. The momentum leading into NSD was tangible in The Grove after the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver, Laquon Treadwell (No. 14), committed two weeks ago. Then the first Wednesday in February got started in the best possible way for the Rebels when the top player in the nation, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, picked Mississippi over LSU. He was then followed by the nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (No. 4) and four-star blocker Austin Golson (No. 108). Finally, one of the nation’s elite safeties in Antonio Conner (No. 32) shunned Alabama for the in-state Rebels as well. To put into perspective the job Hugh Freeze did with this class, Ole Miss has signed four total AC100 — or Top 100 — recruits in the five classes. No player ranked in the top 35 of the AC100 had previously signed with Ole Miss, as 2012 signee Channing Ward ranked the highest at No. 38 nationally. In this class, Freeze signed two of the top four, three of the top 15 and four of the top 32 players in the nation.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Urban Meyer has a reputation on the trail as one of the most cut-throat closers in the business. Coaches all over the Midwest will attest to that as he sliced and diced through the region a year ago. What did he do for an encore in 2013? He snagged former Oregon commit and AC100 running back Dontre Wilson (No. 71) from Texas. He pulled four-star wide receiver James Clark from the state of Florida. And dipped into Georgia for an elite AC100 safety prospect in Vonn Bell (No. 27). The Buckeyes entered National Signing Day battling Michigan for the Big Ten recruiting title, but left the day with not only the best class in the conference but the only group that came close to challenging Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the nation. Meyer is simply a beast on the recruiting trail.
Florida State Seminoles
The day started well for the Seminoles as star AC100 linebacker and top-10 player in the nation Matthew Thomas (No. 8) picked FSU over Alabama, Georgia, Miami and USC. Next came confirmation that long-time USC commit Jalen Ramsey (No. 15) did, in fact, switch in the 11th hour to Florida State. Both Thomas and Ramsey rank in the Top 15 nationally of the AC100 and are two of the top gets on NSD. Last but not least, nationally ranked defensive tackle Keith Bryant picked the Noles over Alabama, Miami, Tennessee and South Carolina. In true Bobby Bowden fashion, Jimbo Fisher closed extremely well and added three more superstar defensive prospects.
When Chip Kelly told the Ducks he would return, potential signees all across the nation breathed a sigh of relief. But two weeks later when Kelly bolted for the NFL, those same recruits started looking elsewhere. And while star tailback Dontre Wilson did land at Ohio State, new head coach Mark Helfrich did an excellent job to stabilize the 2013 haul. Twin two-sport athletes Tyree and Tyrell Robinson were reportedly leaning towards Washington after a last-second visit to Seattle, but Helfrich calmed their nerves and got the four-star tandem to sign with Oregon. Additionally, he stole four-star defensive end Torrendy Prevot from USC and Texas A&M while inking Cameron Hunt away from the Cal Golden Bears. This was a tenuous class to watch the last month but all signs are positive after a strong showing on NSD ’13.
Alabama Crimson Tide
It’s good to be Nick Saban. How many teams can miss out on top-40 prospects like Laremy Tunsil, Matthew Thomas, Montravius Adams, Vonn Bell and Tony Conner and still consider the day a huge success? That is where Alabama and Saban are in the recruiting world. National Signing Day got started two nights earlier when the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker Reuben Foster (No. 7) picked the Tide over archrival Auburn. Alabama then stole long-time Texas commit and AC100 defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson (No. 34) late in the process. Saban also won the battle for AC100 running back Alvin Kamara (No. 42) with Georgia. And 'Bama defeated Miami head-to-head for the appropriately named AC100 defensive lineman Dee Liner (No. 47). This is the best class in the nation for the third time in six years and it is a top-five class for the sixth consecutive season.
Across the state, new Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn put together his own top-ten recruiting class. Convincing elite prospect Carl Lawson (No. 21) to honor his commitment was the first big step while an 11th hour swipe of AC100 defensive end Elijah Daniel only furthered the excitement on the Plains. The biggest get of the day for Malzahn, however, came when the No. 10-rated player in the nation picked the Tigers. Montravius Adams picked Auburn over Alabama, Clemson, Florida and Georgia. The day was then capped by four-star tailback Johnathan Ford officially becoming a War Eagle. There is some excellent offensive talent in this class, but it’s the defensive line that makes this group special. Three AC100 prospects give Auburn one of the most talented D-line classes in the nation.
The Bruins, like many other programs out west, have capitalized on the struggles across town by USC. Entering NSD, Jim Mora had picked up pledges from former Trojans commit and four-star offensive lineman Kylie Fitts on Tuesday. He also had a stellar month of January, landing four total commitments, including AC100 prospects Priest Willis (No. 39) and Tahaan Goodman (No. 65) just a two weeks before Signing Day. The momentum was there for Mora and he closed strong by landing star dual-threat quarterback Asianti Woulard all the way from Florida and AC100 linebacker and former Stanford commitment Isaac Savaiinaea. It was a huge day for UCLA as the Bruins claimed the top class in the Pac-12.
Few teams elicit a response nationally like the Lane Kiffin-led Trojans. With a poor showing on the field and coaching instability, USC watched its consensus No. 1 overall class wilt before their eyes. This group is still a solid haul with an impressive nine AC100 signees, but elite AC100 stars Jalen Ramsey and Eddie Vanderdoes decided to sign elsewhere on Wednesday. Their decisions capped a horrible stretch run for the Men of Troy who watched upwards of six or seven players decommit and sign with arch rivals like Notre Dame and UCLA. This class is still stacked with talent as the nine top 100 prospects indicate, however, the bleeding in L.A. only stopped because the cycle came to an end.
Much like USC, Mark Richt signed an excellent class that is highly regarded in the national rankings. However, Georgia missed on every major target it had left on the board entering Signing Day. Not only did the Dawgs not land Tunsil, Foster, Thomas, Adams, Kamara or four-star lineman Tyrone Crowder, but all of them signed with SEC or Southern arch-rivals. There are 10 players in the AC100 from The Peach State and the Bulldogs missed on eight of them, including the top seven players in the state. Again, with 13 early enrollees and a deep roster returning, this class is still extremely solid, but this team did absolutely nothing on Wednesday while their direct competition took major steps forward.
There weren’t a lot of targets on the board for Charlie Strong but the Cardinals missed on all of them. Denver Kirkland, Jermaine Grace and Jason Hatcher signed with Arkansas, Miami and Kentucky respectively and all were high on Strong’s wish list. This is a roster without many holes so a deep class wasn’t expected, but finishing outside of the top 50 in the national rankings has to be disappointing considering the monumental success on the field in 2012.
Texas limped to the finish line and has one of its worst classes in recent memory. Oklahoma signed a typically strong group but sits well outside the top ten in national team rankings. No other team will finish in the top 25 in recruiting and not one major recruit picked a Big 12 team on Signing Day. The fact that Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M signed an elite class and that Bo Pelini inked his best group at Nebraska only rubs salt in the open recruiting wound in the Big 12.
Steve Sarkisian has a great class coming in this cycle, but his National Signing Day wasn’t as fruitful as expected. The Robinson twins were rumored to have been leaning towards the Huskies after long being committed to Oregon. The Huskies failed to flip them at the last moment. Talented defensive end prospect Daeshon Hall also decommitted from Washington at the last minute and signed with Texas A&M. This class is still very strong, especially at wide receiver and along the defensive line, but what could have been a top ten class looks more like a top 20 group instead.
Crazy recruiting parents
Every year there is at least one bizarre incident with a mother, father, uncle or grandparent of a big-time recruit and this season was no different. Elite AC100 running back Alex Collins hails from Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) South Plantation High School in South Florida. He made his decision on Wednesday to play for Arkansas and Bret Bielema over Florida State, South Florida and Miami. He signed his Letter of Intent and was ready to take the next step in his football life. His mother, Andrea McDonald, had other ideas. She wanted her son to play close to home so badly that she confiscated the paperwork — which she has to sign for Kamara to play anywhere as his guardian — and left the building. She refused to sign the paperwork, which means her son's destination for the fall has yet to be decided.
Here is a complete list and ranking of SEC early football enrollees for the Class of 2013:
1. Georgia Bulldogs (13):
Few teams have ever brought in a bigger early enrollee class than this year's Georgia Bulldogs. Three or four potential defensive backs get to campus just as Shawn Williams, Sanders Cummings and Baccari Rambo depart for the NFL. A pair of star linebackers in Reggie Carter and Ryne Rankin show up just as Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree also leave for the pros. A pair of defensive tackles signed early as well. With upwards of nine or 10 starters departing from this defense, it was huge for Mark Richt to get so many fresh faces on campus a semester early. Top it off with the quarterback of the future, Brice Ramsey, getting an extra spring under his belt before Aaron Murray enters his final season, and the Bulldogs inked one of the best early enrollee classes in history.
|Johnathan Atkins||DT||Chatham, VA||6-4||310||--||4-star Prep School|
|Aulden Bynum||OL||Valdosta, GA||6-5||260||--||3-star|
|Josh Cardiello||OL||Buford, GA||6-3||280||--||3-star|
|Reggie Carter||LB||Snellville, GA||6-1||225||--||4-star|
|J.J. Green||ATH||Kingsland, GA||5-9||190||--||3-star|
|Tray Matthews||DB||Newnan, GA||6-0||195||No. 82|
|Quincy Mauger||DB||Marietta, GA||6-0||200||--||3-star|
|Chris Mayes||DT||Perkinston, MS||6-4||315||--||JUCO|
|Brice Ramsey||QB||Kingsland, GA||6-3||205||No. 86|
|Ryne Rankin||LB||Orlando, FL||6-1||230||--||3-star|
|Jonathon Rumph||WR||Goodman, MS||6-4||215||--||4-star JUCO|
|Tramel Terry||ATH||Goose Creek, SC||6-0||190||No. 117|
|Reggie Wilkerson||DB||Ocala, FL||5-11||165||--||4-star|
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (9):
The No. 1 running back in the nation, Derrick Henry, and the No. 1 tight end in the nation, O.J. Howard, were on campus a few weeks ago to watch the Crimson Tide's domination of Notre Dame in the BCS title game. Both could contribute right away and fans should be excited about such elite talents getting a head start on the rest of the 2013 class. The replacement for star quarterback A.J. McCarron joined them as well — in one form or another. Nick Saban signed two quarterbacks in the 2013 class and both — as well as a third walk-on — have a chance to step into the limelight once McCarron finishes his eligibility next season. Cooper Bateman is the highest rated as an AC100 player while Parker McLeod and walk-on Luke Del Rio are willing to battle to prove himself. It cannot be overstated how important it could be for Saban to have two quality QB options already in the fold. Toss in a pair of OL — to help replace three stud starters along the line — a four-star wide receiver and talented defensive back and the Tide has a big chunk of its No. 1-rated class already on campus.
|Cooper Bateman||QB||Murray, UT||6-3||205||No. 76|
|Leon Brown||OL||Riverdale, MD||6-6||310||--||3-star|
|Luke Del Rio||QB||Highland Ranch, CO||6-2||200||--||Walk-on|
|Raheem Falkins||WR||New Orleans, LA||6-4||195||--||4-star|
|Derrick Henry||RB||Yulee, FL||6-3||240||No. 12|
|Brandon Hill||OL||Chatham, VA||6-6||340||--||Prep School|
|O.J. Howard||TE||Prattville, AL||6-5||225||No. 19|
|Parker McLeod||QB||Marietta, GA||6-3||190||--||3-star|
|Jai Miller||DB||Valley Grande, AL||6-3||210||--||Walk-on|
3. Florida Gators (8):
Few teams in the nation will have as much freshman talent on the field this spring as the Gators. Four Athlon Consensus 100 prospects, including the No. 3 running back in the nation, and five total national recruits will be ready to compete in spring practice for Will Muschamp. Getting three elite linebackers on campus early could be huge for Florida, as Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic have moved on to the NFL. And these aren't "average" linebackers either, as Alex Anzalone (No. 5), Daniel McMillian (No. 6) and Matt Rolin (No. 19) are all among the top 20 LB prospects in the nation. With workhorse Mike Gillislee moving on as well, Kevlin Taylor will have a chance to build on his mythical prep resume early on in Gainesville.
|Alex Anzalone||LB||Wyomissing, PA||6-3||230||No. 54||Rivals 5-star|
|Trenton Brown||OL||Milledgeville, GA||6-7||350||--||JUCO|
|Darious Cummings||DT||Scoba, MS||6-3||300||--||JUCO|
|Joey Ivie||DE||Dade City, FL||6-3||270||--||4-star|
|Daniel McMillian||LB||Jacksonville, FL||6-2||220||No. 55||AC100|
|Demarcus Robinson||WR||Fr. Valley, GA||6-2||200||No. 81||AC100|
|Matt Rolin||LB||Ashburn, VA||6-3||210||No. 152||4-star|
|Kevlin Taylor||RB||Belle Glade, FL||5-10||215||No. 22||AC100|
4. LSU Tigers (6):
Les Miles has loads of important pieces to replace from his 2012 team as nearly a dozen juniors declared early for the NFL Draft. A trio of offensive junior college prospects will help provide immediate depth at wide receiver, tight end and along the offensive line. Star AC100 offensive lineman Ethan Pocic will also benefit greatly from an extra semester of practice. Nationally rated quarterback Anthony Jennings has a chance to start once Zach Mettenberger leaves campus and getting into the program early will prove to be invaluable for the young signal caller.
|John Diarse||WR||Monroe, LA||6-0||210||--||4-star|
|Fehoko Fanaika||OL||San Mateo, CA||6-6||340||--||JUCO|
|Anthony Jennings||QB||Marietta, GA||6-2||205||No. 231|
|Christian LaCouture||DE||Lincoln, NE||6-4||260||No. 206|
|Ethan Pocic||OL||Lemont, IL||6-6||285||No. 57|
|Logan Stokes||TE||Booneville, MS||6-4||240||--||JUCO|
5. Texas A&M Aggies (8):
Four of the Aggies' starting front seven on defense has moved on while a pair of talented defensive backs have departed as well. This is why Kevin Sumlin has enrolled three linebackers, a defensive end and a cornerback early in his 2013 class. Star wide receiver Ja'Quay Williams was an AC100 prospect a year ago and initially signed with Auburn. He ended up in prep school at Fork Union Military Academy and instead signed with Texas A&M. He will be a part of one of the best pass-catching classes in the nation. One that former Tennessee Vols tight end Cameron Clear will be a part of as well.
|Reggie Chevis||LB||Houston, TX||6-2||235||--||3-star|
|Cameron Clear||TE||Yuma, AZ||6-5||270||--||JUCO|
|Jordan Points||DL||Rockwall, TX||6-4||255||--||3-star|
|Tommy Sanders Jr||LB||El Dorado, KS||6-2||215||--||JUCO|
|Alex Sezer||CB||Orange, TX||5-10||170||--||2-star|
|Jeremiah Stuckey||OL||San Francisco, CA||6-5||280||--||JUCO|
|Brett Wade||LB||Kennedale, TX||6-2||220||--||3-star|
|Ja'Quay Williams||WR||Fork Union, VA||6-3||195||--||4-star Prep School|
6. Tennessee Volunteers (5):
The Vols have seen Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Da'Rick Rogers leave the program in one fashion or another over the last nine months. So bringing in four-star wide receiver Paul Harris as well as two other potential pass-catchers in athletes Lemond Johnson and Jalen Reeves-Maybin was huge for new head coach Butch Jones. Reeves-Maybin could also grow into the linebacker position and join fellow early enrollee Corey Vereen at the position. Any help on defense is welcome in Knoxville. Junior college defensive back Riyahd Jones could compete for playing time at a position of need right away.
|Paul Harris||WR||Accokeek, MD||6-4||195||--||4-star|
|Lemond Johnson||ATH||Cooper City, FL||6-1||190||--||3-star|
|Riyahd Jones||DB||Garden City, KS||6-0||185||--||JUCO|
|Jalen Reeves-Maybin||ATH||Clarksville, TN||6-1||200||--||4-star|
|Corey Vereen||LB||Winter Garden, FL||6-2||230||--||3-star|
7. Arkansas Razorbacks (5):
Bret Bielema will get some instant help at some positions of need with five junior college prospects. There are no elite stars in this group, but the back seven of the defense will get some interesting depth with two defensive backs and two linebackers. This should help ease the loss of Alonzo Highsmith, Ross Rasner and Terrell Williams off of the linebacking corps. And, yes, Weed, Calif. is a real place.
|Tiquention Coleman||DB||Milledgeville, GA||5-10||200||--||JUCO|
|John McClure||OL||El Dorado, KS||6-4||320||--||JUCO|
|Martrell Spaight||LB||Coffeyville, KS||6-1||220||--||JUCO|
|Myke Tavarres||LB||Weed, CA||6-2||220||--||JUCO|
|Carroll Washington||DB||Salinas, CA||6-0||180||--||JUCO|
8. Ole Miss Rebels (4):
Nothing could overshadow what Hugh Freeze did on the recruiting trail on National Signing Day, however, four talented names have already hit campus in Oxford. Mark Dodson is the star of the group as a nationally rated running back prospect in what is considered to be one of the deepest RB classes in recent history. Freeze also lured a pair of junior college prospects and tight end Christian Morgan into the fold early. The group that shows up in August will steal the headlines but look for some of these names to contribute the earliest.
|Mark Dodson Jr.||RB||Memphis, TN||5-10||195||No. 217|
|Lavon Hooks||DT||Booneville, MS||6-4||290||--||4-star JUCO|
|Quadarus Mireles||ATH||Raymond, MS||5-11||185||--||JUCO|
|Christian Morgan||TE||Plano, TX||6-4||255||--||3-star|
9. South Carolina Gamecocks (3):
This isn't a deep or nationally elite class for Steve Spurrier, but a trio of early enrollees will try to make an early impact in Columbia. The name to watch of the group is star quarterback recruit Connor Mitch. The 6-3, 210-pounder hails from North Carolina and could push for playing time as early as 2014.
|Ronnie Martin||CB||Milledgeville, GA||5-10||180||--||Prep School|
|Connor Mitch||QB||Raleigh, NC||6-3||210||--||4-star|
|D.J. Park||DT||Dillon, SC||6-5||330||--||4-star|
10. Auburn Tigers (3):
A pair of four-star junior college prospects and one three-star are joining the Auburn fold this spring. On a very young team with a large portion of the roster returning, one would normally think there aren't too many position battles up for grabs this semester. However, the Tigers were 3-9 and had major issues on both sides of the ball. Is Cameron Artis-Payne ready to carry the load? He rushed for 3,412 yards and 43 touchdowns in two seasons in JUCO ball out west and could push for early playing time.
|Cameron Artis-Payne||RB||Santa Maria, CA||5-11||210||--||4-star JUCO|
|Ben Bradley||DT||Hutchinson, KS||6-2||315||--||4-star JUCO|
|Devonte Danzey||OL||Hutchinson, KS||6-3||285||--||JUCO|
11. Vanderbilt Commodores (2):
The quarterback position is really the only position on the offense that is up in the air for the Dores heading into 2013. And while it is a longshot that Johnathon McCrary is the starter next fall, getting him into the fold was huge for James Franklin's team. He is one of the biggest quarterback recruits to sign with Vanderbilt in the history of the program. Sean Dowling is a three-star prospect who joins McCrary early in Nashville.
|Sean Dowling||OL||Fallbrook, CA||6-6||260||--||3-star|
|Johnathon McCrary||QB||Ellenwood, GA||6-3||190||--||4-star|
12. Missouri Tigers (2):
Neither of these recruits are elite, top flight prospects, but both play the most important position on the field. Hosick is a dual-threat prospect who brings the athleticism that Gary Pinkel normally demands of his signal callers. Printz is a pro-style passer who has a bigger, more traditional frame and will play in the pocket. James Franklin is returning for another year under center, but with his injury history, it's smart to get a couple of backups into practice early.
|Trent Hosick||QB||Kansas City, MO||6-1||220||--||3-star|
|Eddie Printz||QB||Marietta, GA||6-3||200||--||3-star|
13. Mississippi State Bulldogs (4):
The state of Mississippi is arguably the best junior college state in the nation and both Ole Miss and Mississippi State have milked these programs for talent for decades. Dan Mullen brings in three JUCOs in his early signing class and one prep schooler to help with losses in the starting lineup — especially in the defensive backfield.
|Jeremy Chappelle||WR||Tyler, TX||6-2||210||--||JUCO|
|Kivon Coman||DB||Chatham, VA||6-0||195||--||Prep School|
|Justin Cox||DB||Scooba, MS||6-3||190||--||JUCO|
|Artimas Samuel||TE||Chatham, VA||6-2||225||--||JUCO|
14. Kentucky Wildcats (3):
Mark Stoops did a great job injecting excitement into Wildcats recruiting in short order in Lexington. A potential future starter under center, Reese Phillips, is already on campus and working to get accustomed to the college game. A pair of junior college prospects will offer some immediate help in terms of depth at tight end and defensive end.
|Steven Borden||TE||Waxahachie, TX||6-3||250||--||JUCO|
|Reese Phillips||QB||Signal Mountain, TN||6-2||225||--||3-star|
|Za'Darius Smith||DE||Scooba, MS||6-4||250||--||4-star JUCO|
The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season will be revving up this month, so we decided to give you a look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule in 2013, along with the previous year's winners and our predictions for the 2013 race winners. As you know, nothing’s harder to handicap than a NASCAR race; especially 38 NASCAR races before the season even starts. But we're giving it a shot.
Is it time to start celebrating or time to start worrying?
Those are the questions fans of a handful of teams will start asking over the next month or so of the season. Are NCAA bids or conference contender status being locked up? Or for other teams, are the wheels to a satisfying season starting to fall off?
Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon had much to celebrate after he continued his good fortune against Syracuse, but he has plenty of reasons to avoid getting too comfortable. His team has won six of seven, the exception being a three-point loss to Louisville on the road. With three of the next four on the road, including Saturday at Cincinnati, he’ll have a good idea where his team stands in the next two weeks.
And only at Kansas would the second loss of the season -- in early February, no less -- be cause for concern. Kansas is still a title contender, but the loss to Oklahoma State caught everyone by surprise, including Bill Self. His team will have a warm-up game against TCU before facing Oklahoma on the road.
For this week, there’s no marquee game similar to last week’s Big Ten showdown between Indiana and Michigan, but this could shape up to be a critical week for conference races and the NCAA bubble watch.
All times Eastern.
FEB. 6 NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET UPDATE
MOST IMPORTANT GAME:
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN)
The Big East standings are a jumble with four teams with in a game of first-place Syracuse at 7-2. That doesn’t include Pittsburgh at 7-4 in the Big East. Both Pitt and Cincinnati are on hot streaks, yet their potential as top-flight Big East teams and top-five seeds in the NCAA Tournament remains in question. Both teams are perimeter-oriented, but Pitt's 7-foot freshman Steven Adams has come on of late with 8.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in the last four.
Related: Feb. 5 Power Rankings
ALL EYES ON: New Mexico
Air Force (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ROOT Sports)
at UNLV (Saturday, 9 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
The Lobos are looking more and more like the class of the Mountain West, but this will be a tough week. First, the Lobos catch Air Force, which has worked its way into the NCAA Tournament conversation with three top-100 wins in the last five games (Boise State, Wyoming, San Diego State). Later this week, a road trip to Vegas will be tough against a talented Rebels team. This is a big week for New Mexico, but the same could be said of UNLV: Should we start to worry about the Rebels if they struggle through another week?
UNDER PRESSURE: Kansas
at TCU (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPNU)
at Oklahoma (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
Kansas remains in the Big 12 lead and in the running for a No. 1 seed, but the Jayhawks stumbled a bit last week. First, Kansas slipped past a bad West Virginia team by 5 and then lost to Oklahoma State at home to end a 33-game win streak in Lawrence. TCU (8-12) will be an easy trip, but Oklahoma will not. Kansas needs some answers, especially at point guard where Elijah Johnson has had trouble in recent games.
Related: Key stats from the weekend
North Carolina (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
The Hurricanes have gone from a surprise team to a possible ACC contender to now threatening for a conference title and a top seed in the Tourney. The Hurricanes have nine wins against the top 50 in the RPI. Only Kansas has more with 10. A win over North Carolina at home wouldn't be a huge resume boost, not that the Hurricanes will let that dampen a chance to sweep the Tar Heels. A win over No. 32 North Carolina on the road is merely the fourth-best win of the year for Miami as far as the RPI is concerned.
at Oregon (Thursday, 10 p.m., ESPNU)
at Oregon State (Saturday, 9 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Colorado still has the RPI (25th) and strength of schedule (16th) to stay in the field, but it may be time to start worrying about the Buffaloes after a 58-55 loss to Utah (RPI No. 159) on Saturday. Colorado is 2-5 on the road heading into a pair of games against the Oregon schools -- Oregon, too, needs a win after being swept by Stanford and Cal last week. Colorado was 10-2 before the controversial finish to regulation against Arizona. The Buffaloes are 4-5 since.
Related: NCAA Tournament Report Card: Villanova
MID-MAJOR TO WATCH:
Belmont at Murray State (Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPNU)
Time to get familiar with Belmont as the NCAA Tournament draws closer. In their first season in the league, the Bruins are running all over the Ohio Valley Conference. Belmont is outscoring league opponents by 18.6 points per game heading into a road trip against last year’s conference champion. Bruins 6-foot-3 junior Ian Clark leads the nation in effective field goal percentage and is the only guard averaging better than 70 percent in that category. Against Murray, he’ll have to contend with Isaiah Canaan.
Baylor at Oklahoma State (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
Baylor’s rough week (losses to Oklahoma and Iowa State) showed the hot start in Big 12 play may have been a mirage. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State looks a little more dangerous with guards Marcus Smart and Markel Brown leading a win at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
Minnesota at Michigan State (Wednesday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Minnesota ended its four-game losing streak with home wins over Nebraska and Iowa. The Gophers will revisit opponents from their signature wins from earlier this season when the face the Spartans and Illinois this week.
NC State at Duke (Thursday, 9 p.m., ACC syndication)
Duke has figured out how to play without Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils are shooting 54.8 percent from the field in the last three games since the lopsided loss to Miami. Now, a rematch with erratic NC State minus Lorenzo Brown.
Michigan at Wisconsin (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
A bizarre week for Wisconsin started with the Badgers not reaching the free throw line against Ohio State and then going 28 of 42 from the line against Illinois.
Ole Miss at Missouri (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Ole Miss’ time in the spotlight skidded to a halt with losses to Kentucky and Florida where Nerlens Noel, Kyle Wiltjer and Erik Murphy were the stars of the show and not Marshall Henderson. Missouri’s getting stronger with Laurence Bowers healthy, but a loss to LSU last week is embarrassing.
Iowa State at Kansas State (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has done it again in Ames, but can the Cyclones win on the road? The Cyclones lost their last two road games to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and now face a tougher test in K-State.
Louisville at Notre Dame (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
The Cardinals are back to winning again after a three-game losing streak, but are they title contenders? Peyton Siva was 6 of 9 from the field with seven assists against Marquette. But he’s still struggling to get to the line, and he’s had more turnovers in a two-game span (10) than he’s had all year.
Indiana at Ohio State (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Ohio State is still having trouble getting production from someone other than Deshaun Thomas against good teams. He can’t do it alone against an offensive juggernaut like Indiana.
St. John’s at Syracuse (Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN)
Syracuse is down a starter and its third leading scorer, but C.J. Fair had a breakout game against Notre Dame on Monday. St. John’s is 6-4 in the Big East and inching onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. Winning in the Carrier Dome would go a long way for the Red Storm’s Tournament hopes.
The nation's No. 1 player in the nation for 2013 has been compared to Reggie White numerous times.
Loganville (Ga.) Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche is the consensus overall top prospect in the Athlon Consensus 100, but instead of playing for the Tennessee Volunteers like White, he is headed to Oxford, Miss., to play for the Ole Miss Rebels. Nkemdiche got National Signing Day 2013 started in style when he ended a long and circuitous recruitment by signing his national Letter of Intent for the Rebs.
It is the single biggest recruiting coup for Ole Miss since it signed a star quarterback prospect by the name of Eli Manning over a decade ago.
The story began with the Clemson Tigers, however. Nkemdiche, along with a handful of high school teammates, appeared poised to move to Death Valley when the top prospect committed to the ACC program in the middle of 2012. Yet, his family wanted him elsewhere. Nkemdiche's older brother, Denzel, excelled this season as a redshirt freshman linebacker at Ole Miss and their mother never hid that she wanted her boys to be on the same field together.
So after de-committing from Clemson, his final decision came down to LSU and Ole Miss. Les Miles put on the full-court press during the 11th hour in an effort to lure the top player into what is considered the top defensive line class in the nation. But the power of Hugh Freeze tugging on Nkemdiche's family heart strings was too much to overcome.
Like many of the nation's No. 1 players in the nation — many of whom have recently waited until well after NSD to officially sign — Nkemdiche's recruitment had its fair share of dramatic storylines. However, it is somewhat refreshing to see the top prospect not only sign on the day he is supposed to but to do it right out of the gate in the early morning and with few superfluous bells and whistles. There were no live props or bait-and-switch hat games. He stepped to the podium and announced he would sign with "the University of Ole Miss." (Okay, maybe there was one Freudian Slip).
Nkemdiche has an elite blend of size (6-foot-4, 285 pounds) and speed (4.7-second 40-time) to go with a motor that never stops. He is a slightly different prospect than former No. 1 overall end Jadeveon Clowney, but has a similar upside. He is an instant impact prospect who will compete right away for playing time. He is physically prepared to rush the passer, but what makes him special will be his ability to stay on the field in running situations. Few players are ready to line up against SEC offensive lines and hold their own in the ground game right out of high school, but Nkemdiche might be one of them.
He is a versatile prospect who will start on the outside as an up-the-field edge player but could easily develop and grow into an interior stopper by the end of his career. Needless to say, he has rare physical skills.
Ole Miss fans have been been buoyed by Freeze's presence on the recruiting trail of late, landing elite AC100 names like the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation Laquon Treadwell. Nkemdiche makes this group a top 10 class nationally and it makes the Rebels one of the biggest stories this year in recruiting. It's an exciting day to be a part of The Grove, but come this fall, the focus will shift to see if Nkemdiche, Freeze and the rest of the Rebels can put it together and win at a much higher level than Ole Miss has in the last few years.
Most of the dust has settled on the Class of 2013, however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of fireworks to come on National Signing Day 2013. Five of the top ten players in the nation are still left on the board and those decisions will undoubtedly influence the national team rankings in a big way.
Additionally, 12 of the top 50 are still left uncommitted and more than two dozen total national — or four-star — recruits have yet to make their final college decision. Here is a complete list of the National Signing Day announcments:
View the complete Athlon Consensus 100
Note: Updated Feb. 6, 4:00 p.m. CT
No. 1: Robert Nkemdiche, DE (6-4, 285)
Loganville (Ga.) Grayson
Choices: LSU, Ole Miss
SIGNED: Ole Miss
No. 4: Laremy Tunsil, OL (6-6, 295)
Lake City (Fla.) Columbia
Choices: Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Ole Miss
SIGNED: Ole Miss
No. 6: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT (6-3, 300)
Placer (Calif.) High
Choices: Alabama, Notre Dame, UCLA, USC, Washington
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
Farrell’s Prediction: UCLA
No. 7: Reuben Foster, LB (6-1, 250)
Auburn (Ala.) High
Choices: Alabama, Auburn, Washington, Georgia
No. 8: Matthew Thomas, LB (6-3, 210)
Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington
Choices: Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, USC
SIGNED: Florida State
No. 10: Montravius Adams, DT (6-4, 310)
Vienna (Ga.) Dooly County
Choices: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia
No. 15: Jalen Ramsey, DB (6-1, 200)
Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy
Choices: Florida, Florida State, USC
SIGNED: Florida State
No. 26: Vonn Bell, DB (5-11, 190)
Rossville (Ga.) Ridgeland
Choices: Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee
SIGNED: Ohio State
No. 30: Mackensie Alexander, DB (5-10, 175)
Immokalee (Fla.) High
Choices: Florida, Florida State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Clemson
No. 32: Tony Conner, DB (6-1, 205)
Batesville (Miss.) South Panola
Choices: Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas A&M
SIGNED: Ole Miss
No. 34: A’Shawn Robinson, DL (6-5, 300)
Ft. Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights
Choices: Alabama, Texas
No. 42: Alvin Kamara, RB (5-10, 195)
Norcross (Ga.) High
Choices: Alabama, Georgia
No. 47: Dee Liner, DL (6-3, 275)
Muscle Shoals (Ala.) High
Choices: Alabama, Miami
No. 64: Stacy Coley, WR (6-1, 175)
Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Northeast
Choices: Florida State, Clemson, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, UCF
No. 93: Isaac Savaiinaea, LB (6-3, 230)
Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou
Choices: UCLA, Texas A&M, Stanford
No. 99: Marquez North, WR (6-3, 210)
Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
Choices: Clemson, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee
No. 108: Austin Golson (6-6, 285)
Prattville (Ala.) High
Choices: Ole Miss, Florida State
SIGNED: Ole Miss
No. 131: Tyrell Robinson, ATH (6-3, 195)
San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln
Choices: Oregon, Washington
No. 135: Tyrone Crowder, OL (6-1, 330)
Rockingham (N.C.) Richmond Senior
Choices: Clemson, Georgia
No. 136: Daeshon Hall, DE (6-5, 220)
Lancaster (Texas) High
Choices: Texas A&M, TCU, Washington
SIGNED: Texas A&M
No. 153: Aslantli Woulard, QB (6-3, 205)
Winter Park (Fla.) High
Choices: Clemson, Kentucky, UCLA
No. 159: Yannick Ngakoue, LB (6-3, 235)
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
Choices: Florida State, South Carolina
No. 165: Joshua Dobbs, QB (6-3, 190)
Alpharetta (Ga.) High
Choices: Arizona State, Tennessee
No. 174: Quinton Powell, LB (6-2, 195)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Choices: Florida, USC
No. 182: Jordan Cunningham, WR (6-1, 175)
Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Nova South
Choices: Alabama, Miami, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Stanford
No. 183: Denver Kirkland, OL (6-5, 330)
Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington
Choices: Florida State, Louisville, Miami, Rutgers, USF
No. 202: Torrodney Prevot, DE (6-3, 210)
Houston (Texas) Alief Taylor
Choices: USC, Texas A&M, Oregon
No. 211: Tyree Robinson, ATH (6-3, 195)
San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln
Choices: Oregon, Washington
No. 212: Tashawn Bower, DE (6-5, 240)
Sommerville (N.J.) Immaculata
Choices: Auburn, Florida, LSU
No. 216: Keith Bryant, DT (6-2, 305)
Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic Community
Choices: Alabama, Florida State, Miami, South Carolina, Tennessee
SIGNED: Florida State
No. 220: Jermaine Grace (6-1, 200)
Miramar (Fla.) High
Choices: Bowling Green, Florida State, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse
View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100
AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey
AC100 On Campus: Max Redfield
AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic
AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes
AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall
AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson
AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows
AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson
AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton
AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I
AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II
AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I
AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II
Teenagers are complicated, fickle, naive creatures who seldom have any perspective on the trappings of adult life. It’s why uniform colors, shoes, weather, license plates and even a coin flip have been used to select a university in the recent past. Don’t expect National Signing Day 2013 to be much different.
Auburn (Ala.) linebacker Reuben Foster is one of the nation's elite prospects and his recruitment has been a wild ride back and forth across the state of Alabama. Once an Alabama verbal pledge, Foster decommitted from the Crimson Tide and picked the Auburn Tigers, getting a War Eagle tattoo to prove his dedication. There is only one problem, however, as Foster decommitted again. He is now poised to picked between Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Washington and South Carolina.
Consensus No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche may have potential for Signing Day drama, too. He committed to Clemson early, but he's considering Ole Miss, where is brother plays linebacker. All the while, his parents have been vocal through the recruiting process.
National Signing Day is an exciting time for coaches, recruits and fans, but it also ends up being one of the most bizarre days of the year in college football. Here's why:
The forged signature
Mothers and sons don't always see eye to eye in the recruiting process, though few moms would have gone as far as Floyd Raven's. Reserve (La.) East St. John defensive back Floyd Raven had decided Texas A&M was the right school for him. Only one issue: his letter of intent had already been sent to Ole Miss. The Rebels admissions department couldn’t read the signature and asked for a second copy. Raven’s mother wanted him to go to Ole Miss so badly she forged the signature and sent it to Oxford without her son’s knowledge. Eventually, Floyd learned of his mother’s forgery and sent the appropriately signed paperwork to Texas A&M.
The coin flip
It takes thousands of hours of labor and thousands of dollars to recruit athletes at the highest level. But in 2009, Atco (N.J.) Winsow Township linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud trimmed the entire process to a few cents. After taking five school-funded official visits, Glaud had narrowed his list to West Virginia and Rutgers. But the linebacker was still so torn he couldn’t make up his mind. So naturally, he decided to let chance decide his fate as he literally flipped a coin between the two programs. Heads he goes to WVU, tails he goes to Rutgers. He has posted 47 total tackles in three seasons for the Scarlet Knights.
Deontay Greenberry's cold shoulder
Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union wide receiver Deontay Greenberry was the No. 52 player in the nation last season. He was a long-time Notre Dame commitment whose best friend and cousin, fellow Athlon Consensus 100 talent Tee Shepard, had already enrolled in class in South Bend weeks prior to NSD. All signs pointed to the duo continuing their friendship on the football field as Irish teammates. But after a very late visit to the Houston Cougars, Greenberry pulled the biggest shocker of National Signing Day '12 by signing with the Conference USA program. The 6-3, 190-pound wideout is the first AC100 signee in Cougars’ program history and the Twittersphere gasped when his LOI arrived in Houston.
There was just one problem, Greenberry never told Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly or anyone in South Bend his faxed LOI had been sent to Houston. Kelly was as shocked as anyone at the news. Kelly may regret letting his emotions get the better of him with this commentary on Greenberry: "I used to have a saying about players like that, and that was I'd rather play against him for four games than with him for four years." Sounds an awful lot like message board trolls who scream sour grapes when star recruits sign elsewhere.
Landon Collins boisterous Mom
The 2012 cycle provided one of the most bizarre public announcements ever witnessed. Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety Landon Collins, the No. 21-rated player in the Athlon Consensus 100, announced on national television for Alabama much to the chagrin of his mother, April Justin. Justin, moments after her son committed to the Tide, was not only visibly upset but openly cheered for LSU:
"I feel like LSU is a better place for him to be," Justin said at the time. "LSU Tigers, No. 1. Go Tigers.”
But Mama didn't go down without a fight as she has accused Nick Saban and Alabama of a recruiting violation, claiming that Collins' girlfriend at the time was given a job at the University.
The imaginary scholarship
As bizarre as the Collins’ girlfriend-mother feud is, nothing compares to Kevin Hart’s story. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman at Fernely (Nev.) High wanted so badly to play college football he wrote his own fairytale ending complete with press conference. On Feb. 1, 2008, Hart held a press conference at his high school complete with hats lined up on a table in which he picked Cal over Oregon. “Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind gave me that real personal experience,” Hart said at the announcement.
There was only one problem: Jeff Tedford had never spoken to, visited or contacted Hart. Neither had Oregon, Washington or Oklahoma State, his other finalists, for that matter. Eventually, Hart admitted the entire recruitment was fictitious and apologized to all parties involved.
The announcement props
Commitment announcements tend to be more spectacle than substance. Rarely does a recruit offer any pertinent news or information other than his college of choice. Every now and then, however, if done with style, an announcement can be fun – or infuriating. Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell made fans coo when he pulled out a live Bulldog puppy in 2011 to signify his decision to play for Mark Richt in Athens. Andre Smith sent the Crimson Tiders into hysterics when he pulled out the houndstooth hat at his announcement for Alabama.
But Antonio Logan-El’s live announcement in 2006 was met with a slightly harsher response. The Forestville (Md.) High offensive lineman had been committed to Maryland for the better part of a year. While dressed in Maryland red in front of a Terps crowd at the ESPN Sportszone in Maryland — including head coach Ralph Friedgen’s wife — Logan-El first pulled out a Florida hat before tossing it to the ground. He then pulled out a Tennessee hat. That, too, was tossed aside before picking up the Terps black and red headgear. After a few nice words, Logan-El threw his Maryland hat to the ground and held up a picture of Joe Paterno and announced he would be heading to Penn State. The decision was met with screams of “traitor” and violence nearly resulted. Logan-El, much to the pleasure of Terps fans, washed out at Penn State after only one redshirt year.
At least he actually made a decision, however, as the worst recruiting press conference in history belongs to Greg Little. The peculiar wide receiver held a press conference in October of his senior year to announce what school he would be attending. Fans waited with anticipation while Little huddled with his family and coaches for a long period of time. He emerged from the mini-summit to announce that he had narrowed his list to Notre Dame and North Carolina. It’s the rare news conference where a recruit officially announced that there was nothing to announce.
The five-minute flip-flop
Flip-flops happen in recruiting all the time – especially, as National Signing Day draws near. The recruiting picture gets clearer for all parties involved, while schools get desperate to fill needs with late scholarship offers. The nation’s No. 2 player in 2011, however, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, made heads spin in record time last year. Kouandjio, whose older brother was/is a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, announced on ESPN he would be attend Auburn. Yet, five minutes after the bright TV lights had gone out, the younger Kouandjio, recanted his pledge to Auburn. He never sent in his letter of intent to the Tigers and three days later it was revealed he had officially signed with Alabama via Twitter. Longtime commitments are snaked away at the last minute every season, but never has a kid committed on national television only to decide to sign with someone else five minutes later. The venom of the Yellow Hammer rivalry only added to the drama of the Kouandjio signing.
What Fred wanna do?
A kid referring to himself in third person and taking liberties with the English language is always radio gold. On Sirius Satellite Radio, five-star wide receiver recruit Fred Rouse he was asked: Where are you going to college? Rouse responded with “You know, a lot of people want me to go here or there. But I had to think, you know, 'what Fred wanna do?' And Fred want to go to Florida State.” Unfortunately, his career wasn’t nearly as entertaining on the football field as it was on the radio.
The slimy mentor
The most recent trend for elite recruits is to wait until after National Signing Day to make a decision. Terrelle Pryor, Orson Charles, Latwan Anderson, Vidal Hazelton, Seantrel Henderson, Kouandjio and 2011 top prospect Jadeveon Clowney all signed their LOIs well past signing day. But Wichita (Kan.) East running back Bryce Brown, and his handler/mentor/coach Brian Butler, set a new low for recruiting sludge.
Brown, whose older brother Arthur was enrolled at Miami, had been committed to the Hurricanes from the early stages. He did not sign on Signing Day and instead took extra visits to Tennessee and LSU after Signing Day. While Brown watched the calendar flip to March without a decision, Butler, who pleaded guilty to a felony charge for forgery in 1997, set up a website in order to charge $9.99 per month for recruiting updates on his protégé.
Threats from Butler about Brown potentially skipping college for the Canadian Football League only further exemplified how ridiculous the handler’s influence was over Brown. Meanwhile, Miami (and others) stopped recruiting the troubled tailback until halfway through March, when Brown got “a sign from God” to sign with Tennessee. Arthur left Miami for Kansas State (where he became a star for two seasons) shortly thereafter. Bryce lasted one year in Knoxville before transferring back to Kansas State as well. He played in two games in 2011, got three carries and then declared for the 2012 NFL Draft.
Who knows what National Signing Day 2013 will bring. Will Foster stay in the Yellowhammer State or go 2,000 miles to Seattle? Will Robert Nkemdiche sign with Ole Miss to be with his brother? Will Jalen Ramsey stay put with the Trojans or make a last second flip?
Love or hate the press conferences and high-profile visibility of high school students, National Signing Day has become appointment viewing for all college football fans and NSD 2013 should be just as exciting as all the rest.
See the complete Athlon Consensus 100
AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey
AC100 On Campus: Max Redfield
AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic
AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes
AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall
AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson
AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows
AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson
AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton
AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I
AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II
AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I
AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II
The "modern" recruiting era is tied directly to the online recruiting websites. Rivals and Scout began the explosion around 2001 and ESPN and 247Sports have powerfully entered the market since. The rankings databases only go back 10 or 11 years, so it is difficult to evaluate historic recruiting classes. But since the turn of the millennium, fans and analysts alike have a tremendous amount of data to evaluate recruiting rankings, talent development and scouting evaluations.
Studying recruiting rankings can highlight coaching deficiencies as well as the overachievers. That said, the best recruiting classes of the modern era are more about salesmanship, brand equity, the NFL and big-time athletic department budgets.
Here are the best 10 modern recruiting classes:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2008
Rank: 1st (Athlon Sports), 32 signees
Key Players: Mark Barron, Julio Jones, Terrence Cody, Marcel Dareus, Don’ta Hightower, Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Courtney Upshaw, Damion Square, Michael Williams, Robert Lester, Brad Smelley
Nowhere is the impact of recruiting rankings more apparent that in Tuscaloosa, Ala. On the verge of signing yet another No. 1 class, Nick Saban began his domination of the recruiting trail back in 2008 when he signed Athlon Sports’ No. 1 class. This group was a huge part of the 2009 national championship and obviously was featured in both the '11 and '12 title runs. This group includes five first-round picks and two second-rounders while Brad Smelley was a seventh-rounder. Barrett Jones, Robert Lester, Damion Square and Michael Williams could all be drafted as well. It is hard to argue that a group that won three BCS titles and features double-digit NFL draft picks isn’t the best modern collection of talent ever assembled.
2. USC Trojans, 2003
Rank: 3rd (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: Reggie Bush, Sam Baker, Sedrick Ellis, Lawrence Jackson, Ryan Kalil, Terrell Thomas, Steve Smith, LenDale White, Fili Moala, John David Booty, Eric Wright, Brandon Ting, Ryan Ting, Drean Rucker, Chauncey Washington
Much like the ’08 Alabama group, this team experienced three national championship runs. Only two ended in victory — it lost to Texas in 2005, but more on that in a second — but this class was the foundation of USC's Pac-10 dynasty. Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy and is one of four first-round picks from this class. Steve Smith, Terrell Thomas, Ryan Kalil and LenDale White were second-round picks while still others went later in the draft. USC dominated recruiting for nearly a decade and it led to seven conference championships from 2002-08.
3. Florida Gators, 2006
Rank: 2nd (Rivals), 27 signees
Key Players: Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, Maurice Hurt, Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Lawrence Marsh, Brandon James, Marcus Gilbert, Terron Sanders, Dustin Doe, AJ Jones, Carl Johnson
At one point or another, 16 of the 27 recruits in this class went on to start a game for the Gators. But this class was led at the top by elite superstars Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes. Jermaine Cunningham and Spikes were second-rounders while Maurice Hurt and Riley Cooper went later in the draft. Tebow alone makes this class a gem for Florida and it led directly to two BCS national championships. The depth in the middle and at the bottom are nearly as impressive as the elite-level talent of the top names.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009
Rank: 3rd (Athlon Sports), 28 signees
Key Players: AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, Eddie Lacy, Quinton Dial, Nico Johnson, Ed Stinson, Anthony Steen, Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, Tana Patrick
This group was a big part of three national championships at the Capstone and played a much bigger role in the 2012 title than the '08 haul. This class has already featured three first-round picks and could boast as many as three more come April (Fluker, Warmack, Lacy). AJ McCarron is putting together one of the greatest college careers in history and others like Dial, Johnson, Stinson and Norwood have been contributors for most of their careers at Alabama. An interesting thing to note about this class is the offensive line. It was the best OL in the nation last season and three-fifths of the starters signed in this class.
5. Texas Longhorns, 2002
Rank: 1st (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: Vince Young, Kasey Studdard, Rod Wright, Brian Robison, Aaron Ross, Chase Pittman, Justin Blalock, Aaron Harris, David Thomas, Selvin Young
This group was the core of the 2005 national championship run led by superstar quarterback and five-star recruit Vince Young. He was the gem of the nation’s No. 1 class that eventually featured numerous NFL Draft picks. Ross, Studdard, Wright, Robison, Pittman, Thomas and Blalock were all huge pieces to Mack Brown’s championship puzzle and most of them have gone on to excel in the NFL.
6. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002
Rank: 5th (Rivals), 24 signees
Key Players: AJ Hawk, Santonio Holmes, Nick Mangold, Troy Smith, Maurice Clarett, Bobby Carpenter, Mike D’Andrea, Doug Datish, Quinn Pitcock, Nate Salley, Roy Hall
This class was a big part of the 2002 national championship run as just freshman, with Maurice Clarett playing the biggest role. This group features elite offensive firepower and Troy Smith, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who led his team to the national title game in 2006. This group provided four first-round picks in the 2006 NFL Draft and included six other picks from the 2005-07 drafts as well. Three BCS title appearances and four Big Ten titles over a five-year span indicates that Jim Tressell’s ’02 haul was one the best in memory.
7. Oklahoma Sooners, 2006
Rank: 9th (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, Trent Williams, Demarco Murray, Jeremy Beal, Quinton Carter, Chris Brown, Dominique Franks, Mossis Madu, Tim Johnson, Brandon Caleb, Malcolm Williams, Chase Beeler
All four Sooners first-round picks from the 2010 NFL Draft signed with Bob Stoops in the 2006 class and all four NFL draft picks from Oklahoma in 2011 came from this class. Sam Bradford set all types of record, won the Heisman Trophy and led this team to the 2008 BCS National Championship game. Even a guy who ended up transferring (Beeler) went on to star at his second school (Stanford).
8. LSU Tigers, 2009
Rank: 1st (Athlon Sports), 24 signees
Key Players: Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Kevin Minter, Rueben Randle, Chris Faulk, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Chris Davenport, Bennio Logan, Michael Ford, Craig Loston, Josh Downs, Stavion Lowe, Lamin Barrow, Russell Shepard
This group was the foundation of the 13-0 regular season run to the title game in 2011. And had it finished the job against Alabama, it might be considered the better group. The potential of this class is astounding. It already claims three first-round picks in Brockers, Claiborne and Randle and as many as half-a-dozen players could be drafted this spring. Three-fourths of the 2012 defensive line signed in this group as well as star linebacker Kevin Minter. The star power is obvious but the supporting cast is impressive as well.
9. Oregon Ducks, 2008
Rank: 16th (Athlon Sports), 22 signees
Key Players: LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, Darron Thomas, Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, John Boyett, Nick Cody, Hamani Stevens, LeGarrette Blount, Josh Kaddu, DeWitt Stuckey, Jeremiah Masoli
There have only been two NFL picks from this class thus far but a host of players should hear their named called this spring (Jordan, Barner, Alonso) and Blount has proven to be a productive player even though he went undrafted. Darron Thomas was the most productive quarterback in school history over two years and led his team to the BCS National Championship game. Two starting offensive lineman helped pave the way for a trio of running backs any school would covet in one class (Barner, James, Blount). The defense is also well represented with steady leaders (Boyett) as well as athletic freaks of nature (Jordan, Alonso). This class went 40-5 in Pac-12 play over a five-year period of time from 2008-12.
10. LSU Tigers, 2004
Rank: 2nd (Rivals), 26 signees
Key Players: Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Jacob Hester, Early Doucet, Chevis Jackson, Herman Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Craig Steltz, Claude Wroten, Tremaine Johnson, Curtis Taylor, Brett Helms, Lavelle Hawkins, Mit Cole
The 2004 class set the foundation for the run at the 2007 BCS national championship. Dorsey and Hester were the primary leaders on both sides of the ball and eventually hoisted the crystal football. Five players were selected in the 2008 NFL Draft and four more were taken in the '09 draft. Three star defensive lineman, including two first-round picks in Dorsey and Tyson Jackson led this defense when it dominated Ohio State in the title game. Hawkins was a big time player but did it for Cal after transferring.
The Best of the Rest:
Florida Gators, 2007
Rank: 1st (Rivals), 27 signees
Key Players: Ahmad Black, Carlos Dunlap, Joe Haden, Chas Henry, Aaron Hernandez, Cam Newton, Chris Rainey, Maurkice Pouncey, Michael Pouncey, Major Wright, John Brantley
Georgia Bulldogs, 2006
Rank: 4th (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: Asher Allen, Geno Atkins, Shaun Chapas, Akeem Dent, Kris Durham, Akeem Hebron, Reshad Jones, Knowshon Moreno, Matthew Stafford, Kiante Tripp, Clifton Geathers, Prince Miller
Ohio State Buckeyes, 2008
Rank: 2nd (Athlon Sports), 20 signees
Key Players: Mike Adams, Terrelle Pryor, Travis Howard, DeVier Posey, Michael Brewster, Nathan Williams, Garrett Goebel, Etienne Sabino, JB Shurgarts, Andrew Sweat
LSU Tigers, 2003
Rank: 1st (Rivals), 28 signees
Key Players: LaRon Landry, Will Arnold, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Matt Flynn, Alley Broussard,, Anthony Hill, JaMarcus Russell, Jonathon Zenon, Justin Vincent
Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 2008
Rank: 4th (Athlon Sports), 23 signees
Key Players: Kyle Rudolph, Michael Floyd, Braxton Cave, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Jamoris Slaughter, Mike Golic, Robert Blanton, Darius Fleming, John Goodman, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Steven Filer, Sean Cwynar, Dayne Crist, Ethan Johnson
Texas Longhorns, 2005
Rank: 20th (Rivals), 15 signees
Key Players: Colt McCoy, Roddrick Muckelroy, Henry Melton, Jermichael Finley, Quan Cosby, Jamaal Charles, Chris Brown, Aaron Lewis, Roy Miller
USC Trojans, 2005
Rank: 1st (Rivals), 19 signees
Key Players: Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga, Mark Sanchez, Kevin Ellison, Charles Brown, Patrick Turner, Kyle Moore, Kaluka Maiava, Will Harris, Cary Harris
Another week, another No. 1 in the Athlon Sports college basketball power rankings.
For the third week in a row, we have a new team in the top spot following Duke two weeks ago, then Michigan. We return to an old friend at No. 1 in Indiana, who defeated the Wolverines 81-73 on Saturday.
Illustrating how closely matched the two Big Ten giants seem to be, Michigan dropped just one spot to No. 2 this week. In the marquee game of the week, the Wolverines fell behind by a wide margin early in Bloomington, but battled back to tie the Hoosiers in the second half before Michigan’s eventual loss.
Indiana may have been the No. 1 team regardless of other movement around the country, but Kansas’ stunning home loss to Oklahoma State made the decision an easy one.
Meanwhile, the Sunshine State is enjoying unparalleled success with both Florida and Miami in our top five this week. The Gators keep steamrolling through the SEC with their 14-point win over Ole Miss qualifying as a squeaker for Billy Donovan these days.
But the bigger story is in Miami, where Jim Larranaga continues to prove his credentials as a miracle worker. The Hurricanes used a late 8-2 run and a Reggie Johnson tip-in against NC State to remain undefeated in the ACC and two games ahead of Duke for the conference lead.
Related: Key stats from Jan. 28-Feb. 3
COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS: FEB. 5
1. Indiana (20-2, 8-1 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 3
Last week’s results: Defeated Purdue 97-60, defeated Michigan 81-73
This week: at Illinois, at Ohio State
Buzz: Indiana’s starters hit 23-of-38 from field vs. Michigan.
2. Michigan (20-2, 7-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 1
Last week’s results: Defeated Northwestern 68-46, lost to Indiana 81-73
This week: Ohio State, at Wisconsin
Buzz: Trey Burke needed 24 shots to score 25 points vs Indiana.
3. Florida (18-2, 8-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Last week’s results: Defeated South Carolina 75-36, defeated Ole Miss 78-64
This week: at Arkansas, Mississippi State
Buzz: The Gators are shooting 51.4 percent from the floor in SEC games.
4. Kansas (19-2, 7-1 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 2
Last week’s results: Lost to Oklahoma State 85-80
This week: at TCU, at Oklahoma
Buzz: Oklahoma State ended Jayhawks’ 33-game home winning streak.
5. Miami (17-3, 8-0 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Last week’s results: Defeated Virginia Tech 73-64, defeated NC State 79-78
This week: Boston College, North Carolina
Buzz: First-place Hurricanes are 5-0 on the road in the ACC.
6. Duke (19-2, 6-2 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Last week’s results: Defeated Wake Forest 75-70, defeated Florida State 79-60
This week: NC State, at Boston College
Buzz: The Blue Devils struggling from line in ACC games (61.9 percent).
7. Syracuse (19-3, 7-2 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 4
Last week’s results: Lost to Pittsburgh 65-55, defeated Notre Dame 63-47
This week: St. John's
Buzz: Orange only had three points from bench in loss to Pitt and seven in win over Notre Dame.
8. Gonzaga (21-2, 8-0 West Coast Conference)
Last week’s rank: 7
Last week’s results: Defeated Loyola Marymount 88-43, defeated San Diego 65-63
This week: Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount
Buzz: Zags play five of final eight games at home.
9. Arizona (19-2, 7-2 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 8
Last week’s results: Defeated Washington 57-53, defeated Washington State 79-65
This week: Stanford, Cal
Buzz: Wildcats back in race after sweep of Washington schools on the road.
10. Louisville (18-4, 6-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 9
Last week’s results: Defeated Marquette 70-51
This week: at Rutgers, at Notre Dame
Buzz: Despite recent struggles, Cardinals only one game back in the loss column in Big East.
11. Michigan State (14-3, 7-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 12
Last week’s results: Defeated Illinois 80-75
This week: Minnesota, at Purdue
Buzz: Michigan State has three players averaging more than six boards.
12. Ohio State (17-4, 7-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 13
Last week’s results: Defeated Wisconsin 58-49, defeated Nebraska 63-56
This week: at Michigan, Indiana
Buzz: The Buckeyes are hanging around in Big Ten title chase. Will they still be after this week?
13. Kansas State (17-4, 6-2 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 18
Last week’s results: Defeated Texas 83-57, defeated Oklahoma 52-50
This week: at Texas Tech, Iowa State
Buzz: The Wildcats’ padded NCAA Tournament resume with win at Oklahoma.
14. New Mexico (19-3, 6-1 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 20
Last week’s results: Defeated Wyoming 63-59, defeated Nevada 75-62
This week: Air Force, at UNLV
Buzz: The Lobos are emerging as the team to beat in deep MWC.
15. Cincinnati (18-4, 6-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 21
Last week’s results: Defeated Rutgers 62-54, Seton Hall 65-59
This week: at Providence, Pittsburgh
Buzz: The Bearcats' four losses have come by a total of 10 points.
16. Butler (18-4, 5-2 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 11
Last week’s results: Lost to Saint Louis 75-58, defeated Rhode Island 75-68
This week: St. Bonaventure, at George Washington
Buzz: The Road in the A-10 has not been kind to Butler with losses to La Salle and Saint Louis.
17. Minnesota (17-5, 5-4 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 19
Last week’s results: Defeated Nebraska 84-65, defeated Iowa 62-59
This week: at Michigan State, Illinois
Buzz: Hollins and Hollins pulled Gophers out of a four-game losing streak.
18. Pittsburgh (19-5, 7-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Syracuse 65-55, defeated Seton Hall 56-46
This week: at Cincinnati
Buzz: Pitt has won seven of eight, with only loss by 3 at Louisville.
19. Georgetown (16-4, 6-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Seton Hall 74-52, defeated St. John's 68-56
This week: at Rutgers
Buzz: Hoyas' opponents are shooting only 41.2 percent from two.
20. Marquette (15-5, 6-2 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 22
Last week’s results: Lost to Louisville 70-51
This week: at Wyoming, Nevada
Buzz: Eagles have already played three overtime games in Big East.
21. Oregon (18-4, 7-2 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 14
Last week’s results: Lost to Stanford 76-52, lost to Cal 58-54
This week: Colorado, Utah
Buzz: Ducks fall down to Earth with Bay Area-sweep
22. Oklahoma State (15-5, 5-3 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Iowa State 78-76, defeated Kansas 85-80
This week: Baylor, at Texas
Buzz: Cowboys were 0-3 on the road in the Big 12 before rare win in Lawrence.
23. Wisconsin (15-7, 6-3 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 23
Last week’s results: Lost to Ohio State 58-49, defeated Illinois 74-68
This week: Iowa, Michigan
Buzz: Wisconsin shot 42 free throws in win at Illinois after shooting none in a loss at Ohio State.
24. Creighton (20-3, 9-2 Missouri Valley)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Missouri State 91-77, defeated Bradley 75-58
This week: at Indiana State, Illinois State
Buzz: Bluejays back on track after two-game slide.
25. Colorado State (18-4, 5-2 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Boise State 77-57, defeated Wyoming 65-46
This week: at Nevada
Buzz: The Rams have won their last three MWC games comfortably in time for stretch against San Diego State, Air Force, UNLV and New Mexico next week.
Out: No. 15 NC State, No. 16 Wichita State, No. 17 Ole Miss, No. 24 Missouri, No. 25 San Diego State
National Signing Day 2013 is here!
It’s college football’s version of Christmas morning when millions of dollars, thousands of man-hours traveling and countless phone calls come to fruition in the form of a single sheet of faxed paper. Nowhere in sports are grown adults held captive by the musings of teenagers like the first Wednesday in February.
Bizarre flip-flops, surprise press conferences, unique props and wacky storylines all make NSD one of the more intriguing days in all of sports. And 2013 should have its fair share of teams, players, coaches and recruits to watch:
All eyes on Oxford, Miss.
The Ole Miss Rebels are the top college football recruiting storyline for the 2013 cycle. Hugh Freeze is coaching a team that has won four SEC games over the last three years but is hotter than any team in the nation on the recruiting trail. With the additions of the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver, Laquon Treadwell, and Athlon Consensus 100 defensive lineman Elijah Daniel joining the fold in recent weeks and rumors swirling that four-star lineman Austin Golson will switch from Florida State to Ole Miss, Freeze is pushing for a top 10 class nationally. Needless to say, NSD ’13 could be historic for Ole Miss football.
Robert Nkemdiche is the nation’s No. 1 player and his older brother, Denzel, plays in Oxford. Ever since decommitting from Clemson, the Rebels have long been the favorite for the elite defensive end. LSU made a strong push, but it would be an upset if Nkemdiche signed anywhere but with Ole Miss. He is a game-changer who will make an immediate impact, however, the nation’s No. 1 prospect isn’t the only highly-coveted name on Freeze’s recruiting board.
Ole Miss has put the full-court press on the nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman, Laremy Tunsil (AC100 No. 4), fast-rising star defensive end and longtime Mississippi State commitment Chris Jones (No. 18) and elite defensive backs Mackensie Alexander (No. 30) and Antonio Conner (No. 32). If the Rebs can land just one of these names in addition to Nkemdiche, National Signing Day 2013 would be considered a massive success and would make Freeze the toast of Oxford.
But Nick Saban still owns college football
The Crimson Tide has three national championships in four years and is the No. 1 name brand on the recruiting trail. Saban has landed five top-five classes in a row after finishing No. 1 in 2012 and '08, No. 3 in '11 and '09 and No. 5 in '10. Entering Wednesday, 247Sports has the Tide at No. 1 in the team rankings, ESPN lists Alabama at No. 2, Rivals has the BCS champs at No. 3. Scout is the lone outlier with “just” a ninth-place ranking nationally.
What is scary, however, is how Saban and Alabama could finish on Wednesday. Rumors are that the Tide have already flipped long-time Texas Longhorns commitment A’Shawn Robinson (No. 34) and the nation's No. 1 linebacker, Reuben Foster (No. 7), announced his intentions to join the Tide on Monday evening. The star AC100 duo could be just the tip of the what might be a devastating iceberg.
Six of the top ten players in the nation are still uncommitted and Alabama is a finalist for five of them. There are 15 players left uncommitted in the AC100 and 10 of them list the Crimson Tide as a finalist. Other national recruits like Kylie Fitts, Jordan Cunningham and Keith Bryant have Bama figured heavily into the mix as well. Certainly, there is no chance that Saban lands all or even a majority of these names. However, if four or five sign with Alabama, the Crimson Tide is all but assured their third recruiting national championship in six seasons. And while Ole Miss might be a bigger story, Alabama would still have the best players.
What happens out West?
Lane Kiffin has watched his consensus No. 1 overall recruiting class take a major step back of late. Losing commitments left and right has hurt the Trojans and Kiffin needs to stop the bleeding immediately. Jalen Ramsey (No. 15) is rumored to be looking around and could be off to the state of Florida while former commitments Eddie Vanderdoes (No. 6) and Kylie Fitts appear to be headed to crosstown rival UCLA. This class isn’t very big in the first place due to sanctions, but still has some room to grow. Four-star prospects Quinton Powell, Nico Flash and Torrodney Prevot might be the Trojans' only hope at a top-ten class this year. With Tosh Lupoi excelling on the trail in Washington, Jim Mora constructing a top-ten class of his own in L.A. and new coaching staffs up and down the west coast gaining steam, the pressure is on the Men of Troy to finish well. This program is accustomed to winning the first Wednesday in February virtually every season so a slow NSD ’13 would only increase the temperature beneath Kiffin’s hind-quarters.
Ohio State vs. Michigan
Urban Meyer jumped head-first into Big Ten recruiting last year and made no friends among his coaching brethren. He swiped commitments from Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan State en route to the No. 4 class in the nation. Michigan and Brady Hoke were No. 6 last season and many believe that a new Ten-Year War has begun not only on the field but on the recruiting trail.
Scout has Michigan and Ohio State ranked No. 1 and 2 nationally in the team rankings. 247Sports and ESPN have both teams in the top five nationally while Rivals has them both in the top six. These two programs don’t like each other, will do anything to land elite players and should distance themselves from the rest of the conference in terms of talent.
Both classes are fairly stable on the eve of National Signing Day with just a few names left for either team. Vonn Bell (No. 26) is the top prize for the Buckeyes while Ezekiel Elliott, Cornelius Elder, James Clark and Dontre Wilson (No. 71) could still be in the mix as well. Michigan is waiting on word from Henry Poggi and Cameron Hunt. While it is unlikely that either wins the recruiting national championship, both are safely in the top five nationally and either could win the Big Ten recruiting championship on Wednesday.
Channel your inner Bobby Bowden
The Hall of Fame icon in Tallahassee made a living dominating National Signing Day by closing strong each and every season. Now, it’s Jimbo Fisher’s turn. Two of the top ten players in the nation, Tunsil and Matthew Thomas (No. 8), have the Seminoles listed as a finalist while three other AC100 talents, Mackensie Alexander, Alex Collins (No. 41) and Stacy Coley (No. 64) are possibilities as well. Collins is a longshot and Tunsil appears to be down to Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss, but landing Thomas, Coley and/or Alexander is well within the realm of possibility.
If Fisher can somehow lure five-star USC commit Jalen Ramsey to Tallahassee and finish strong with names like Denver Kirkland, E.J. Levenberry, Jermaine Grace or Yannick Ngakoue, this class has a chance to work its way up the rankings and into the top ten nationally.
New coaching staffs offer plenty to watch
Major college football powerhouses at Oregon, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Tennessee and Auburn are all installing new coaching staffs and each has to capitalize on the renewed energy that comes with a coaching change. Bret Bielema landed star tailback Alex Collins on Monday night, so what can he do for an encore on Wednesday? Will Gus Malzahn convince Mackensie Alexander Auburn is the right place for him? Can Mark Helfrich keep the Robinson twins (Tyrell, Tyree) in Eugene while appealing to Dontre Wilson? Will Butch Jones convince Vonn Bell that Knoxville is the right place for him? Even Mark Stoops at Kentucky has seen a small recruiting surge of late as his first NSD approaches. All of these staffs and many other new coaches have their first tangible chance to prove they belong as the 2013 cycle comes to a close.
Who needs a strong finish?
Depending on which recruiting service you prefer, Tennessee, Louisville, Stanford and Miami are four programs that stand out as needing to finish strong to salvage the year. All four are ranked outside of the top 20 by every service and many have these teams ranked outside of the top 50 nationally. Each program has plenty of talent left on the board but small miracles will have to be done to get the Cardinal or Cardinals into the top 50. Should the Vols land Vonn Bell, many will be pleased with Butch Jones’ finish to the ’13 cycle. It is the Hurricanes, however, that have most upside of the bunch. Matthew Thomas, Stacy Coley, Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland, Jordan Cunningham and Jermaince Grace all still have Miami very much in the mix and all could land in South Beach. Al Golden has his work cut out for him, but the payoff could be one of the best NSD’s in the nation. Look for at least two or three of above names to sign with The U.
Johnny Heisman’s ripple effect
Ricky Seals-Jean (No. 25), Justin Manning (No. 75) and Sebastian LaRue are all elite prospects who have recently cast their lot with the Texas A&M Aggies. Few programs have as much going for them right now as Kevin Sumlin’s squad. A new home in the SEC, a Heisman Trophy-winning redshirt freshman quarterback and a highly effective, electric offensive scheme that is irresistible to elite prospects have all made TAMU one of the hottest brand names on the trail. This class is one of the biggest in the nation (32 verbals) and doesn’t have a ton of space to grow, but it will be fun to watch what type of NSD drama the Aggies deal with on Wednesday. Kenny Hill and Torrodney Prevot are just two names to keep an eye on in College Station.
The first Wednesday in February is essentially Christmas for every college football head coach. After months of hard work on the recruiting trail, coaches will hit the offices bright and early on Wednesday for National Signing Day to welcome a new class full of freshmen and maybe a few junior college transfers to chase a national championship. With a new crop of players joining the program on National Signing Day, each coach now has a good idea about how their roster looks for the upcoming season and beyond. While National Signing Day is an important moment in building a national title contender, it also signifies the official start of next year’s recruiting class.
With most college football teams signing over 20 prospects on Wednesday, there’s over 2,000 players coming to the FBS ranks next season. And it’s no surprise there are some rather entertaining names among the new group of college players. Athlon combed through the recruits for the 2013 signing class by using the databases at Rivals, Scout and ESPN and rounded up the best (and most interesting) names joining an FBS roster next season.
2013 College Football Recruiting All-Name Team
Lars Blix, Wahkiakum (Cathlamet, Washington)
Boeing Brown, Brookfield (Brookfield Connecticut)
Quade Coward, Cleburne (Cleburne, Texas)
Bucky Hodges, Salem (Virginia Beach, Virginia) – Virginia Tech
Brogan Roback, St. John’s (Toledo, Ohio) – Eastern Michigan
E.J. Speed, North Crowley (Fort Worth, Texas)
Quinterris Toppings, Blount (Eight Mile, Alabama)
Skyler Windmiller, Mill Valley (Shawnee, Kansas)
Shermand Badie, John Curtis (New Orleans, Louisiana) – Tulane
Kamari Cotton-Moya, Ridgeview (Bakersfield, California) – Iowa State
Miguel Hermosillo, Ottawa Township (Ottawa, Illinois) - Illinois
Jabo Lee, Dillon (Dillon, South Carolina) – East Carolina
Manusamoa Luuga, Polytechnic (Long Beach, California)
RJihaad Pretlow, Blair Academy (Blairstown, New Jersey) – Temple
L.A. Ramsby, Colerain (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Superiorr Reid, Mount San Jacinto C.C. (San Jacinto, California)
Dishan Romine, DuPont Manual (Louisville, Kentucky)
Diocemy Saint Juste, Santaluces (Lantana, Florida) - Hawaii
Dreamius Smith, Butler County C.C. (El Dorado, Kansas) – West Virginia
Altee Tenpenny, North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Arkansas) - Alabama
Quanties Armand, West Jefferson (Harvey, Louisiana)
Beau Artist, Logan (Logan, Utah)
Dazz Bush, Austin (Decatur, Alabama)
River Cracraft, Santa Margarita Catholic (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) – Washington State
Andre Cumberbatch, Oak Harbor (Oak Harbor, Washington)
Christian Cumberlander, Jireh Prep (Matthews, North Carolina)
Corn Elder, Ensworth (Nashville, Tennessee)
Brisly Estime, Atlantic (Delray Beach, Florida)
Dameon Gamblin, Mesquite (Mesquite, Texas)
Pharoah McKever, South Columbus (Tabor City, North Carolina) – NC State
Jazz Peavy, Kenosha Tremper (Kenosha, Wisconsin) - Wisconsin
James Quick, Trinity (Louisville, Kentucky) – Louisville
Ladarious Spearman, West Brook Senior High (Beaumont, Texas)
Hunter Bull, Southhaven (Southhaven, Mississippi)
Jake Butt, Pickerington North (Pickerington, Ohio) – Michigan
Standish Dobard, Edna Karr (New Orleans, Louisiana) – Miami
Durham Smythe, Belton (Belton, Texas) – Notre Dame
Nicholas Bonaparte, Dunbar (Baltimore, Maryland) – Coastal Carolina)
Eric Bonenberger, Pottsgrove (Pottstown, Pennsylvania)
Dane Crane, Santa Margarita Catholic (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) - Washington
Emerald Faletuipapai, Junipero Serra (Gardena, California) – Houston
Gardner Fish, Pelham (Pelham, Alabama)
Grant Hill, Huntsville (Huntsville, Alabama) – Alabama
Dallas Hinkhouse, Iowa Western C.C. (Council Bluffs, Iowa) - Illinois
Chongo Kondolo, Fresno City C.C. (Fresno, California) - Nebraska
Grant Lingafelter, Chagrin Falls (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) – West Virginia
Karl Malone, Cedar Creek (Ruston, Louisiana) – LSU
Chuddy Nwachukwu, Dighton Rehboth Regional (North Dighton, Massachusetts)
Sunny Odogwu, Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Virginia) - Miami
JonRyheem Peoples, Rigby (Rigby, Idaho) – BYU
Bailey Pepper, Madison (Madison Central)
Buster Posey, Gadsden City (Gadsden, Alabama)
Kenneth Santa Marina, McDonogh 35 (New Orleans, Louisiana) – Tulane
Dan Skipper, Ralston Valley (Arvada, Colorado) - Arkansas
Stone Underwood, Copiah-Lincoln C.C. (Wesson, Mississippi) – West Virginia
Wolfgang Zacheri, Broughton (Raleigh, North Carolina) – UNC Charlotte
Taco Charlton, Central (Pickerington, Ohio) – Michigan
Rashaad Coward, Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn, New York) – Old Dominion
Bear Cummings, East Mississippi C.C. (Scooba, Mississippi) – Florida
Carmine Goldsack, Bergen Catholic (Oradell, New Jersey)
Dee Liner, Muscle Shoals (Muscle Shoals, Alabama)
Finesse Middleton, Gadsden City (Gadsden, Alabama) - Louisville
Naim Mustafaa, Alpharetta (Alpharetta, Georgia) – Oklahoma State
Roc-m Nesbitt, Carver (Atlanta, Georgia)
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Alief Taylor (Houston, Texas) - Oklahoma
Kingsley Opara, Mandarin (Jacksonville, Florida) - Maryland
Jock Petree, West Orange (Winter Garden, Florida)
Stone Sander, Placer (Auburn, California)
Buddy Shutlock, Dallas SHS (Dallas, PA)
Junius Smalls, West Jefferson (Harvey, Louisiana)
Wyatt Teller, Liberty (Bealeton, Virginia) – Virginia Tech
Wa’Keem Whipper, Atlantic (Port Orange, Florida)
Buddy Brown, Williamstown (Williamstown, New Jersey) – Temple
Dance Estes, Bay (Panama City, Florida)
Holland Fisher, Manchester (Midlothian, Virginia) – Virginia Tech
Pierre Gee-Tucker, Belleville (Belleville, Illinois)
Courtney Love, Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown, Ohio) – Nebraska
Ebenezer Ogundeko, Thomas Jefferson (Brooklyn, New York) – Clemson
Money Peterson, Wilmer-Hutchins (Dallas, Texas)
Johnny Ragin III, Wilsonville (Wilsonville, Oregon) - California
Matt Smallbone, St. Joseph’s (South Bend, Indiana) – Miami (Ohio)
Eli Apple, Eastern (Voorhees, New Jersey) – Ohio State
Will Barrow, Skyline (Dallas, Texas) – Tulsa
Stormy Butler, College of the Sequoias (Visalia, California)
Money Hunter, Prosper (Prosper, Texas)
William Likely, Glades Central (Belle Glade, Florida) – Maryland
Montrel Meander, Palo Duro (Amarillo, Texas) - Texas
Atem Ntantang, Woodgrove (Purcellville, Virginia) – Boston College
Montavious Smoke, Stanhope Elmore (Millbrook, Alabama)
Weston Steelhammer, Calvary Academy (Shreveport, Louisiana)
Mason Stone, Mountlake Terrace (Mountlake-Terrace, Washington)
Mike Tyson, Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Virginia) – Cincinnati
Priest Willis, Marcos De Niza (Tempe, Arizona) – UCLA
Chocolate Wilson, Myrtle Beach (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) – Marshall
Diquon Woodhouse, Altus (Altus, Oklahoma) – Navy
Related Recruiting Content
Baltimore won the Super Bowl, but as it relates to Athlon Sports’ early ranking of NFL teams for next season, not ALL of the spoils go to the victor. San Francisco, who came up short against the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday night in New Orleans, comes in at No. 1, while the newly crowned world champions slot in at No. 4.
Note: 2012 Record includes playoffs, if applicable.
1. San Francisco 49ers (13-5-1)
San Francisco’s second-half rally comes up short against Baltimore, but the 49ers are well positioned to make another title run this fall.
2. Denver Broncos (13-4)
Even though Denver’s roster as a whole is relatively young, Peyton Manning (37 in March) is not, so the Broncos’ window may be closing sooner rather than later.
3. Green Bay Packers (12-6)
Greg Jennings may have played his last game in a Packers’ uniform, but the defense will get linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring) back. A better running game certainly wouldn’t hurt either.
4. Baltimore Ravens (14-6)
Baltimore’s roster will look quite different for the Ravens’ championship defense this fall. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco will cash in handsomely, but his new contract will only add to team’s cap woes.
Related: Early Super Bowl XLVIII Contenders
5. Houston Texans (13-5)
Houston stumbled at the finish, but this team still has a bright future and the Texans' defense will get a big boost from the healthy return of linebacker Brian Cushing (ACL).
6. Atlanta Falcons (14-4)
Atlanta finally got that long-sought first playoff win for Mike Smith, Matt Ryan and company. First order of business this offseason is convincing Tony Gonzalez to come back for another run.
7. Seattle Seahawks (12-6)
Seattle and San Francisco going head-to-head in the NFC West should be a lot of fun to watch in the coming seasons.
8. New England Patriots (13-5)
Free agent Wes Welker is just one of several key Patriots who could be in a different uniform next season. Is this the end of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s run in the AFC?
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
Pittsburgh would like nothing more than to knock defending Super Bowl champion Ravens from their perch atop the AFC North. Steelers will need to do some savvy cap maneuvering and draft picks to increase their chances of doing so, however.
10. New York Giants (9-7)
Focus will be on keeping enough pieces in the fold to make another run in the fall. Several key free agents and contract situations will dominate front office’s attention this offseason.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
Coming off of back-to-back playoff appearances, Cincinnati is out to prove it is ready to challenge Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the AFC North. Bengals have lots of cap space (reported $55 million) and an extra second-round pick in April to improve the roster and address areas of need.
12. Washington Redskins (10-7)
Washington’s 2013 season hinges on the healthy return of Robert Griffin III and when he gets back on the field. Next area of concern has to be improving NFL’s 28th-ranked defense.
13. Chicago Bears (10-6)
First-year NFL head coach Marc Trestman’s goal is to keep Chicago in playoff contention. The Bears’ offseason priorities are to fix the offensive line, help Jay Cutler take that next step and keep league’s No. 5 defense intact (Brian Urlacher?) and on the same page with new coordinator Mel Tucker.
14. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
New Orleans is happy to finally put BountyGate behind it. Reinstated and re-signed head coach Sean Payton ready to lead Saints back to Super Bowl contention.
15. Indianapolis Colts (11-6)
Indianapolis is hoping to build on this past season’s remarkable turnaround and has the plenty of cap space ($46 million) to help improve roster. Andrew Luck loses Bruce Arians, but gets to replace him with Pep Hamilton, his offensive coordinator his senior year at Stanford.
16. Minnesota Vikings (10-7)
Minnesota basking in Adrian Peterson’s MVP season, playoff berth, but the jury is still out on Christian Ponder at quarterback and a decision has to be made about Percy Harvin’s future with the Vikings
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
Jason Garrett’s seat is only getting hotter in Dallas, as he brings Monte Kiffin back to the NFL to reinvent the Cowboys’ defense. Kiffin’s “Tampa 2” scheme probably means new personnel, but team’s cap situation ($18 million over) will hinder roster changes.
18. San Diego Chargers (7-9)
Mike McCoy may be a first-year head coach, but he’s already made wise decisions in retaining defensive coordinator John Pagano and bringing in Ken Whisenhunt to run the offense. If McCoy can do for Philip Rivers what he did for Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in Denver, watch out for these Chargers.
19. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)
Jeff Fisher changes his mind about hiring Rob Ryan to run the defense. Besides finding a defensive coordinator, the team also must decide on whether free agent wide receiver Danny Amendola will be back in a Rams uniform or not.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
Tampa Bay was quite competitive in first season under Greg Schiano. Can Doug Martin and Lavonte David avoid a sophomore slump and will Josh Johnson show that he’s the long-term answer at quarterback are a few key things to watch next season.
21. Carolina Panthers (7-9)
Carolina finished the season with four straight wins, but lost offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to Cleveland. Cam Newton’s continued development with new OC David Shula, sorting out a crowded backfield and getting under the salary cap headline the Panthers’ offseason to do list.
22. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
Miami needs to give Ryan Tannehill a bona fide wide receiver and the Dolphins have enough cap room ($35.8 million) to go shopping in fairly deep free agent class. Reggie Bush, Brian Hartline, Jake Long and Randy Starks are key free agents that either need to re-signed or replaced.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12)
All eyes will be on Chip Kelly to see if he can make the jump from Oregon to the NFL, as well as how his up-tempo, high-octane offense fares in the pros. Michael Vick may have played his last game in an Eagles uniform, but Kelly has other weapons to work with and the defense was not the team’s biggest problem this past season.
24. Detroit Lions (4-12)
Detroit was unable to build off of its 2011 postseason appearance, as the Lions tumbled into the NFC North basement. This offseason is critical not only for the Lions, but also head coach Jim Schwartz, who could be headed to unemployment if he doesn’t turn things around in the fall.
25. Cleveland Browns (5-11)
Ohio native Rob Chudzinksi lands dream job in taking over hometown team. The first-year head coach has some appealing pieces, including a young defense, in place; but he has several question marks (Brandon Weeden? wide receiver depth?) too.
26. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Doug Marrone jumps from Syracuse to Buffalo, as he will try and end the Bills’ 13-season playoff drought, the longest active one in the NFL.
27. New York Jets (6-10)
It’s put up or shut up time for Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez as Tim Tebow won’t be around next season to serve as a “distraction” or take the fall should things go wrong.
28. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
Mike Munchak has already made several coaching changes (Gregg Williams next?) in an attempt to start turning things around. Coaching changes aside, the Titans’ 2013 season, and most likely Munchak’s job, hinges on the development of quarterback Jake Locker and marked improvement on defense.
29. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
Arizona replaced Ken Whisenhunt with Bruce Arians, this past season’s NFL Coach of the Year recipient. Unfortunately for Arians, he wasn’t able to bring Andrew Luck, or Indianapolis’ offensive line for that matter, with him. It doesn’t help Arians that he wasn’t able to keep Ray Horton on board as defensive coordinator either.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)
Kansas City got its man when the Chiefs hired Andy Reid following his dismissal in Philadelphia. Now Reid will set to work on remaking the roster to his liking, and he has the No. 1 overall pick in April to help him do that.
31. Oakland Raiders (4-12)
Not much went right for head coach Dennis Allen in his first season in Oakland. Given that the Raiders are already over the cap, any improvement will have to be fueled by its young impact players and this April’s draft, minus the second-round pick they traded to Cincinnati in the Carson Palmer deal from 2011.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
First-year coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell face league’s toughest task in trying to turnaround the Jacksonville franchise, both on the field and off.
Super Bowl XLVII had it all — a blackout, fireworks, records broken, sex appeal and mass hysteria. The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34–31, at the Superdome in New Orleans. But there was plenty of action, from Alicia Keys' National Anthem to Beyonce's halftime show to Ray Lewis' postgame speech, and every commercial in between. These are the most memorable moments from Super Bowl XLVII.
Zero Dark 47
The CBS telecast of Super Bowl XLVII became the Will Ferrell “Wake Up and Smile” teleprompter skit on SNL when the lights went out at the Superdome in New Orleans.
National Anthem Remix
Alicia Keys took the over on the Vegas line of 2:10, clocking in at a 2:36 after tickling the ivory and repeating the last line of a record-length “Star Spangled Banner.”
Put a Ring On It
Beyonce’s lip-syncing halftime show included a Destiny’s Child reunion but no Jay-Z. But the Ravens’ best omen came pregame, when Jonathan Ogden showed off his Super Bowl XXXV ring during Class of 2013 Hall of Fame introductions.
Ravens quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco sat out 84 minutes of real time during the Beyonce concert, Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return and the Superdome blackout.
When the game was over, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh refused to be interviewed by CBS — after he had the following exchange with older bro and Ravens coach John Harbaugh: “I love you,” said John. “Congratulations,” replied Jim.
Other Worldly Love
Danica Patrick gave us another wreck to watch, with Israeli ubermodel Bar Refaeli making out with some lucky nerd in a gag reflex GoDaddy.com spot.
Jacoby Jones’ Not-Touched-Down Touchdown
“Smokin’ Joe” Flacco hit Jones on a deep ball which he fielded like a punt, fell down untouched, got back up, juked and sprinted into the end zone to cap a 56-yard score.
Jacoby Jones’ 109-turned-108-yard Kick Return
Jim Nantz credited Jones with a record 109-yard kickoff return to open the second half. The eye in the sky took one yard away for a record-tying 108-yard return.
Ravens safety Ed Reed tied the all-time playoff record with his ninth career INT, which was the first-ever INT thrown by a 49ers quarterback in the Super Bowl. Joe Montana and Steve Young threw 17 TDs and zero INTs before Colin Kaepernick’s miscue.
South Korean psuper pop pstar Psy hit the Super Bowl hard, with a neon-green pistachio dance party that clearly was “Gangnam Style.”
Fake FG, Non-Punt
Former special teams coach John Harbaugh called for both a fake field goal with rookie kicker Justin Tucker and an intentional safety with punter Sam Koch.
The second black referee in Super Bowl history was a controversial choice to work the game, which included several shoving matches but no crazy calls. Unless you think there was a…
Botched Holding Call?
On 4th-and-Goal with the game on the line, 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree and Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith tangled as the ball sailed over their heads and hit the ground. No flag was thrown, causing Jim Harbaugh to lose his mind.
Calvin Klein caused plenty of Super Sunday partygoers to freak out Harbaugh style with its creepy black-and-white ad featuring a half-naked male model.
So God Made a Farmer
Ram brought it all back to Earth with an earnest, honest ode to hard work — brilliantly using Paul Harvey’s famed 1978 speech in a spot that played like a short film.
Ray Lewis' Last Words
Ray tried to wrestle the mic from Jim Nantz in the postgame trophy ceremony. But settled for repeating his familiar message: "When God is for you, who can be against you?"
The Commissioner avoided being beat down on Bourbon Street by watching the big game with nine-year-old phenom Samantha Gordon. Because, win or lose, Ravens or 49ers, everyone loves that girl.
This weekend was vintage Phil Mickelson. In winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale,he played as well as he could possibly play, and yet he left us wanting more.
On Thursday, he saw a putt for a 59 cruelly horseshoe out of the cup even as he was walking it in, putter raised, leaving him a tap-in for a 60.
On Friday, he was cruising toward the PGA Tour's 36-hole scoring record until a double-bogey at 18 left him a shot shy.
On Saturday, he came up just short of the Tour's 54-hole scoring record.
On Sunday, he turned back a Brandt Snedeker charge with one of the greatest putts of his career, a 54-footer through the fringe at No. 7 that was barreling along until the cup got in the way. Three back-nine birdies later, he had a four-shot win over Snedeker and a staggering 28-under finish — and yet, the absence of his career nemesis placed an undeserved asterisk next to his 41st career PGA Tour win.
Yes, as Johnny Miller pointed out during Sunday's broadcast, had Phil not had the misfortune of playing in the Tiger Woods era, he would be the undisputed king of golf. As it is, Mickelson has fashioned a career that would be the envy of all but a handful of players in the game's history. In particular, Lefty has towered over the desert Southwest like a smiling Sphinx, winning six times in the state where he played his collegiate golf. Playing for an adoring crowd, the largest of the PGA Tour season, Mickelson tied the tournament scoring record of 256, 28-under par. Only twice in 72 holes did he post an over-par score on a hole.
Mostly, though, he regained a feel for what it's like to win a golf tournament, which could portend a massive year.
"It's an important one for me, because it's been a while since I won, been a while since I've been in contention," Mickelson said. "I was certainly nervous heading into today's final round.
"I think the thing I'm most excited about was the way I was able to regain control of my thoughts after a few shots early on that I didn't care for and come back and hit a number of good shots on the back nine to do what I needed to do to win."
Next up: it's back to Pebble Beach, where Mickelson is the defending champion and has won four times. Snedeker will be there too, hopeful that Lefty left his best scores in Scottsdale.
• Phil offered a tip of the hat to two key contributors — Butch Harmon, who conducted an emergency session with Lefty prior to the tournament to correct what Mickelson called a "small thing on the takeaway," and his new driver, a Callaway RAZR Fit Xtreme that helped him post 29 birdies and an eagle and lead the field in greens in regulation.
• This marked the ninth different time that Tiger Woods and Mickelson have won in back-to-back weeks.
• Of Mickelson's 41 career wins, 19 have come on the Tour's West Coast Swing.
• Snedeker vaulted to the top of the FedExCup standings with his third top-3 finish of the young season. He also moves to a career-high 6th in the World Golf Rankings. A week after finishing second to Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines, he ran into the Mickelson buzzsaw at TPC Scottsdale, although he made Phil work for his win with a final-round 65. "I'm running into Hall of Famers every week," Snedeker said.
• Snedeker's 260 total would have been good enough to win the previous 11 Waste Management Phoenix Opens and has been bested only three times in the tournament's history.
Throughout the final months of the college basketball season, Athlon Sports will take a quick snapshot of key movers in the potential NCAA field. Who's moving up? Who's moving down? Who's on the bubble and who's off? What can we expect in the coming days from these teams?
Our next installment assesses Villanova, a perennial NCAA Tournament team under Jay Wright before a down season in 2011-12. The Wildcats have one of the most difficult resumes among bubble teams. They started the season with lopsided losses to teams that may struggle to reach the NCAA Tournament if they make it at all.
Yet Villanova has started to pull its season together with two wins over top-five wins a week ago, followed by two more losses.
Here’s how Villanova looks with six weeks to Selection Sunday.
|By the numbers|
Record: 13-9, 4-5 Big East
Strength of schedule: 40
Best wins: No. 10 Louisville, No. 11 Syracuse
Worst losses: No. 232 Columbia, No. 107 Providence (twice)
Reasons for optimism
In the numbers game: Villanova put itself into the NCAA Tournament conversation by defeating Louisville 73-64 on Jan. 22 and Syracuse 75-71 on Jan. 26. Both were ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll at the time, but the Cardinals and Orange have slipped to merely the top 15 in the RPI in the first week in February.
In the real game: JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard attack the basket, leading a team that’s one of the best in the country in getting to the free throw line. When forward Mouphtaou Yarou and guard Ryan Arcidiacoco are both playing well, Villanova can be tough to beat. However, both can be streaky at times, putting more on the shoulders of Pinkston and Hilliard.
Reasons for concern
In the numbers game: Two of Villanova’s early losses don’t look nearly as bad as they did back in November: La Salle and Alabama defeated Villanova early, but now the Explorers are in NCAA contention while Alabama is flirting with the top 60 of the RPI. The 75-57 loss to Columbia, though, is as bad as it was back on Nov. 20. Villanova’s main concern is two losses to Providence, including 55-52 at home Sunday. Villanova’s RPI of 71 and middling conference record will be tough to overcome.
In the real game:
Villanova was torched from three-point range in its two losses following the wins over Louisville and Syracuse. Notre Dame shot 9 of 21 from beyond the arc, while Providence went 10 of 15. A three from Bryce Cotton ended a 9-0 run for Villanova and won the game for the Friars. Meanwhile, Villanova is 5 of 26 from long range during that span.
Villanova does not have much wiggle room after Sunday’s loss to Providence, meaning the Wildcats can’t afford a lapse this week against DePaul and Rutgers. For the Wildcats to recover its NCAA Tournament momentum, they may need to sweep two teams on the road in two weeks when they visit Cincinnati on Feb. 12 and Connecticut on Feb. 16. Villanova’s best road win is over USF on Jan. 9.
The verdict: NIT
Villanova’s road loss to Notre Dame was excusable. The Wildcats may have been playing above their heads in the wins over Louisville and Syracuse, and Notre Dame is tough to defeat in South Bend. Being swept by Providence is a different matter. Villanova is an improved team, but the Wildcats’ margin of error is too slim to afford home losses like Sunday’s to the Friars.
Even though the celebration in Baltimore will go on throughout the week and beyond, it’s never too early to look ahead to the 2013 season, right? With that in mind, here’s Athlon Sports’ early look at which teams could be playing in Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium in New York City on Feb. 2, 2014.
By the way, the temperature in the Big Apple as of game time on Sunday night was a brisk 31 degrees. Whichever two teams do make it to next season’s Super Bowl will want to be sure and pack their cold-weather gear.
The Reigning Champions
2102 Record: (10-6 — AFC North, AFC, Super Bowl XLVII champions)
Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to dampen the euphoria in Baltimore this week and probably for a little while longer. To the victor go the spoils, which is why the Ravens lead off our list of next season's contenders. That said, Baltimore's title defense in the 2013 season will be handled by a roster that will look quite different. Besides Ray Lewis retiring, the Ravens have some serious cap issues that must be addressed. Their work begins with Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco, who is a free agent and reportedly looking for a new contract that will pay him as much as $20 million per year. Needless to say he pretty much earned it with his performance in New Orleans, but that doesn't change the fact that his new deal will only make the Ravens' cap situation worse. And unfortunately, Flacco isn’t the only key free agent the Ravens have to worry about, as Ed Reed, Cary Williams, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger are also in the same category, along with several others. As it stands right now, the Ravens will have to cut some players and/or restructure several contracts before they can even be in a position to talk with any of their free agents not named Flacco. So soak it in Ravens fans, celebrate and enjoy this special, unforgettable season because it’s almost a certainty that Lewis wasn’t the only who has played his last game in a Ravens uniform.
San Francisco 49ers
2012 Record: (11-4-1 — NFC West, NFC champions, lost to Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII)
They say experience is the best teacher and as tough as the coming weeks are going to be for this San Francisco team, the future still looks incredibly bright. With Colin Kaepernick now entrenched as the starting quarterback, the team’s most important pending free agent is All-Pro free safety Dashon Goldson. A decision will have to be made about Alex Smith’s future, and should defensive end Justin Smith decide to retire some work will need to be done along the defensive line. Otherwise the 49ers’ core remains intact and is still relatively young. This team is not only in great shape to make it back to the Super Bowl next season, but remain a championship contender for years to come.
2012 Record: (13-3 – NFC South champions, lost to San Francisco in NFC Championship)
No doubt blowing a second-half lead at home to San Francisco in the NFC Championship game is going to sting for a while, but there’s no reason to think that Atlanta won’t at least make it back to the playoffs next season. Matt Ryan appears to be entering his prime and the Falcons have plenty of weapons on offense to help, especially if tight end Tony Gonzalez decides to come back for one more season. The team does have key free agents on both the offensive line (Sam Baker) and in the secondary (Brent Grimes, William Moore), but there should be enough cap space to keep the roster mostly intact.
2012 Record: (13-3 — AFC West champions, lost to Baltimore in AFC Divisional round)
The pieces (MVP-worthy season from Peyton Manning, one of the league’s best defenses, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs) were seemingly in place for Denver, but the Broncos couldn’t make the plays they needed to the most in their double overtime loss to the Ravens in the AFC Divisional round. Manning may not be getting any younger (he’ll turn 37 in March), but he has young weapons around him and the defense should continue to get better. Right now, the Broncos’ most pressing need is to re-sign free agent All-Pro offensive tackle Ryan Clady and then use their remaining cap space and the draft to shore up other areas of weakness. The secondary could go through some changes as well, especially based on how poorly it performed in the playoff loss.
Green Bay Packers
2012 Record: (11-5 — NFC North champions, lost to San Francisco in NFC Divisional round)
San Francisco took it to Green Bay in the NFC Divisional round, but as long as Aaron Rodgers is under center, this team can’t be counted out. Whether the Packers re-sign wide receiver Greg Jennings or not remains to be seen, but Rodgers still has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in the fold. Also it’s a fairly deep free agent class at receiver, so the Packers should be able to find a replacement for Jennings there or through the draft if need be. Running back has to be another area of concern on offense, but the defense will get an immediate boost with the healthy return of starting linebacker Desmond Bishop. Bishop, who led the team in tackles in 2011, missed all of this past season after tearing his hamstring in a preseason game.
2012 Record: (12-4 — AFC South champions, lost to New England in AFC Divisional round)
After starting the season 11-1, Houston stumbled down the stretch, losing four of its final six games, including getting dispatched by New England, 41-28, in the AFC Divisional round. The future, however, remains bright for the Texans who have Pro Bowl-caliber players on offense in quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson, along with one of the best offensive lines in the entire league. Finding a more reliable and productive second option at wide receiver would only make this offense even more dangerous. On defense, the secondary will probably undergo several changes, but it still has playmaker J.J. Watt up front. The defense also will get linebacker Brian Cushing back next season. Cushing tore his ACL in Week 5, and the Texans’ defense wasn’t quite the same after he was sidelined.
New England Patriots
2012 Record: (12-4 — AFC East champions, lost to Baltimore in AFC Championship)
As good as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been together, the reality is that New England’s window may be starting to close. For one, Tom Brady will be 36 before the start of next season and this roster is sure to look somewhat different this fall. No fewer than nine key players are pending free agents, the biggest being wide receiver Wes Welker. The secondary, which was victimized often last season (NFL-high 74 passing plays of 20 yards or more), will undergo changes as well, and there’s only so much cap space to go around. The Patriots are among the best in the league at working the cap and the draft, but there appear to be a lot of potential holes to fill here. With so many “new” players coming to a relatively veteran team, you can’t help but wonder if the end of an era is upon us.
2012 Record: (8-8, 3rd in AFC North)
Similar to New England, Pittsburgh is facing some difficult decisions related to the future of its franchise as well. The Steelers were decimated by key injuries last year, especially along the offensive line and on defense. On top of that, the team has several core players either getting older or are free agents. One of those free agents is wide receiver Mike Wallace, who will more than likely have to be replaced, and he’s not the only Pittsburgh starter on that list. Complicating the Steelers’ makeover plans is identifying its lead running back (if they even have one on the roster) and the fact that they are going to have to do some work to get under the cap. The pieces are still in place for the Steelers to contend, but it’s critical that they bring in reinforcements and some new blood this offseason if they want to hang around beyond next season.
2012 Record: (11-5 — Wild Card berth, lost to Atlanta in NFC Divisional round)
If not for San Francisco, Seattle could have potentially topped this list of contenders, as the Seahawks were just a last-second field goal away from playing the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. As it is, these two NFC West foes could be on the verge of establishing a divisional rivalry similar to that of the Steelers and Ravens from recent years. The Seahawks are strikingly similar to their NFC West counterparts in that they both are led by former Pac-12 coaches, like to run the ball, have one of the league’s best defenses, and found their franchise quarterbacks this season because of injuries. There really appear to be no glaring weaknesses on Seattle’s roster, so the mission now is to work on getting better, building depth and look for ways to keep its core intact. Sound familiar? That’s also San Francisco’s game plan this offseason.
Teams to Watch
2012 Record: (10-6, 3rd in NFC North)
Of the eight new head coaches, Marc Trestman is the only one taking over a team that finished with a winning record this season. The Bears won 10 games, but still missed the playoffs, mainly due to a lack of offensive production. Trestman’s main job is to fix the offense, starting with the offensive line, along with helping quarterback Jay Cutler make that next step in his development. The defense was one of the league’s best, but it will undergo some changes as well, starting with a new coordinator in Mel Tucker. Still, if this team can adjust to the new coaching staff and system changes, and the front office can make some shrewd moves in free agency and the draft, there are enough pieces already in place for it to remain competitive in the NFC North.
2012 Record: (10-6 — Wild Card berth, lost to Houston in Wild Card round)
For the second year in a row, Cincinnati watched its season come to an end with a Wild Card loss in Houston. Now it’s time to see if the Bengals can take that next step and challenge the Ravens and Steelers for supremacy in the AFC North. The offensive cornerstones are in place with quarterback Andy Dalton, wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham. The defense made huge strides this season and only should get better. The Bengals do have several free agents to worry about, especially on defense, but with a reported $55.1 million in cap space, the most of any team, there should be more than enough to keep their core intact as well as address other areas of need (running back? wide receiver?).
New York Giants
2012 Record: (9-7, 2nd in NFC East)
The Giants missed out on a chance to defend their Super Bowl title primarily due to a December road loss to Washington. Whether or not the Giants’ window has closed will be determined somewhat by the decisions made this offseason. The Giants have key players entering free agency, namely Victor Cruz, Osi Umenyiora, Martellus Bennett and Will Beatty, and are already up against the cap as it is. That said, unless the front office decides to blow it all up, the Giants should be able to put the pieces together for one more run next season. Their margin of error, however, will be razor-thin.
Potential Dark Horses
2012 Record: (11-5 – AFC Wild Card berth, lost to Baltimore in AFC Wild Card round)
Yes, Indianapolis improved from 2-14 in 2011 to a remarkable 11-5 this season and made the playoffs, and did so with a rookie quarterback and an interim head coach for most of the season. However, this also is a team that walked a fine line between winning and losing. The Colts finished with a point differential of -30 and won eight games by seven or fewer points. This is a young team that should get better and one that has nearly $50 million in projected cap space to help with that. Development and improvement will be necessary to maintain this momentum, however, because it’s too much to ask for the Colts to get all of the breaks on the field again.
New Orleans Saints
2012 Record: (7-9, 2nd in NFC South)
No team will be happier to see the beginning of the new league year come in March than New Orleans, as the Saints will finally be able to put BountyGate and the rest of the distractions behind them. Regardless of the moves the Saints make in free agency or the draft, they have already brought in their biggest “new” acquisition with the reinstatement and re-signing of head coach Sean Payton. The team has some work to do in regards to the cap and one key player to re-sign in offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, but more than anything the Saints are just looking forward to a return to normalcy. Don’t forget, the last time Payton coached this team the Saints went 13-3 in the 2011 regular season and lost at San Francisco by just four points in the NFC Divisional round.
San Diego Chargers
2012 Record: (7-9, 2nd in AFC West)
San Diego won just seven games, had the second-to-worst offense in the NFL and fired its head coach. So what’s to like, you ask? For starters, how about the fact that the Chargers scored as many points as they allowed, lost five games by seven or fewer points and finished as the league’s ninth-ranked defense? Injuries were certainly not this team’s friend either as they wrecked the offensive line as well as running back Ryan Mathews’ season. There’s no question this team has work to do this offseason, but new coach Mike McCoy has already got things started in the right direction by retaining defensive coordinator John Pagano and bringing in former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator to help turn quarterback Philip Rivers around. The cupboard is far from bare in San Diego and with the right moves, some good health and a few breaks; the Chargers could be one of next season's turnaround teams.
The Wild Cards
Fittingly, the three “wild cards” all reside in the same division, the NFC East. Right now, there is no division in the NFL that is harder to put a finger on than the one the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins call home. Consider that for all of the questions facing the Giants and decisions that will have to be made (see above); they still appear to the most “stable” team in the East.
2012 Record: (8-8, 3rd in NFC East)
Jason Garrett’s seat continues to get warm as the Cowboys missed the playoffs for the third straight season. Expectations in Big D always remain high, at least as long as Jerry Jones is calling the shots, and Garrett’s job may very well be decided by how well the Cowboys adjust to a new defensive system and philosophy that will be installed by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. New scheme or not, the Cowboys’ roster will look different next year if not for the simple fact the team is already projected to be nearly $20 million over the cap. So new defense, new personnel and a need to win and quickly. Buckle up Cowboys fans, because it may be a bumpy ride.
2012 Record: (4-12, 4th in NFC East)
Pretty much everything is “new” in Philadelphia starting with head coach Chip Kelly. Besides replacing Andy Reid, who led the Eagles for 14 seasons, Kelly will be the latest college coach trying to prove he can be successful on the next level. The Eagles don’t have many key free agents to worry about re-signing (other than cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), but in many ways this team is basically starting over from scratch. Remember, quarterback Nick Foles took over as the starter late last season, and now he has to learn a new system with a new head coach and offensive coordinator (Pat Shurmur). At this point, the defense doesn’t even now who will be calling the shots as Kelly has yet to name a coordinator. At least Kelly is coaching in a city known for patient fans, right?
2012 Record: (10-6 – NFC East champions, lost to Seattle in NFC Wild Card round)
Wait a minute, Washington, the defending division champions, should have nowhere to go but up, right? Perhaps, but that seemed much more likely up until the point in the Wild Card game against Seattle when quarterback Robert Griffin III’s right knee buckled trying to field a bad shotgun snap. Griffin left the game, the Redskins lost to the Seahawks, and everyone’s attention shifted to the severity of the No. 2 overall pick’s injury.
A few days later those fears were realized when Griffin underwent surgery to repair the LCL and ACL in his right knee, the same knee in which he tore the ACL during his sophomore year at Baylor. Griffin was reportedly walking without a noticeable limp on Saturday when he accepted the 2012 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but he will more than likely open training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to give him more time to heal and get ready.
There is no mistaking Griffin’s value to this team, so now the Redskins go into what should have been an offseason brimming with optimism with plenty of questions surrounding the immediate and long-term future of the man who is supposed to be their franchise quarterback. Even with Griffin, this is still a team that has room for improvement, especially on defense, but since the Redskins gave up so much in the first place to draft Griffin, they can’t expect a lot of help to come in this April’s draft. Washington probably won’t be able to do much in free agency either, even though that’s been owner Daniel Snyder’s preferred method of improving the roster, since they are already projected to be over the cap.
Barring a serious setback, Griffin should return at some point next season. Backup and fellow 2012 draft pick Kirk Cousins showed that he’s capable of holding the fort down, but that one game he started this season also is the only game he has started. Washington should be fine once it gets Griffin back. When that is exactly and where will the Redskins be in the divisional chase and playoff hunt when he returns are anyone’s guess right now.
Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.
Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).
But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is an interesting and illuminating practice.
For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.
So what did we learn about under- and over-achieving?
Shockingly, the SEC dominates
Alabama has the best roster in America and has won three of the last four national titles. Additionally, four of the top seven, five of the top 10 and eight of the top 19 rosters in the nation reside in the SEC. Within the SEC, the rankings go chalk. Bama has the best players and has won the most games. Florida ranks No. 2 in talent and is No. 2 in wins. LSU is third in both and Georgia is fourth in both. But after that is where things get interesting…
Bigger they are, heavier they fall
Despite the SEC dominance on the field, the SEC also features some of the largest disappointments as well. Tennessee is ranked ahead of Oregon, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Virginia Tech in terms of talent, but is the first team in the rankings with a losing overall record (28-34). Auburn is the first team in the rankings with a losing conference record (17-23) and claims a top 10 roster nationally. There is a reason these two programs have combined for seven head coaches in the last four seasons. Ole Miss also features top 25 talent but has a hideous 13-27 SEC record in the last five years. National Championship or not, expectations are high in Knoxville and Auburn for a reason.
Concerning struggles for major powers
USC, the second-most talented roster, has lost an average of three Pac-12 games per year over the last five seasons. Texas (No. 3) has averaged more than three losses per season over that span — and that includes a 15-1 mark in 2008-09. The ACC’s two most talented teams, Florida State (No. 5) and Miami (No. 13), have a combined 31 conference losses and one ACC title between them over the last five seasons. And Georgia’s (No. 7) record isn’t all that pretty either (27-13), although it is skewed by one really bad season in 2009 (6-7, 3-5). Lane Kiffin, Mack Brown and Jimbo Fisher need to show improvement, growth and stability and do so quickly.
The little guy has some growing up to do
UCF, Memphis and Houston should all be able to recruit and subsequently compete at a comparable level in the Big East rather quickly. Pitt (ACC), Maryland and Rutgers (Big Ten) are all making semi-parallel moves and should be fine. But TCU, Utah and Boise State will all have to prove they can increase their ability to recruit in order to win with the big boys. The Broncos have the best record of any of the 75 teams in this study but are 68th in talent. TCU and Utah have impressive win-loss records — prior to entering the Big 12 and Pac-12. All three will have to take the next step on the recruiting trail to continue long-term big-time success.
Bill Snyder, Pat Fitzgerald, Bret Bielema and Butch Jones have done the most with the least of any coaches in the nation. Each of their rosters rank outside of the top 50 nationally in terms of talent and the group has a combined seven conference championships and their four teams have made 17 bowl appearances (in 20 potential tries). There is a reason that the Badgers and Bearcats had to find new coaches when the SEC came calling in Madison and Cincinnati. Mike Riley, Paul Johnson, Jim Grobe and James Franklin have all proven that their teams win more than their talent indicates as well.
Who has the biggest upside?
Oklahoma State, Washington and Penn State are three extremely intriguing programs. All are unique programs with unique histories and unique hurdles to overcome, but all are poised to enter the upper echelon of college football. Mike Gundy and the Pokes have an elite record and are increasing their ability to recruit with Texas and Oklahoma. Penn State has an equally impressive win-loss record and appears to have locked-up a good one in Bill O’Brien. Washington’s rebuild has been slow but with near-top 25 talent, an excellent set of assistant coaches and a new stadium, the Huskies' upward mobility should have fans in Seattle excited about the near future. Others with new and intriguing upside are Maryland, Rutgers and West Virginia.
|School||Avg. Nat'l Rank||2008||2009||2010||2011||2012||Record||Conf.|