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Path: /nascar/25-funny-fantasy-nascar-team-names

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh hi, Ingrid.

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

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

RELATED: 50 Funny Fantasy Football Team Names

<p> Twenty-five of the funniest Fantasy NASCAR team names you're likely to find.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 11:23
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-power-rankings-indiana-splits-week-stays-top

The fun water cooler debate of the top teams in college basketball keeps going.

Each of Athlon’s top four teams from last week took a loss last week. Kansas took two. Our No. 6 team from last week, Duke, had a near-miss against lowly Boston College. The changes at the top each week make rankings these teams difficult -- never mind the teams in the No. 20-25 range.

In other words, the NCAA Tournament selection committee will have some tough work ahead.

But we have to take a stand this week in our power rankings.

We kept Indiana and Michigan at Nos. 1-2 despite their losses last week. The Hoosiers lost on a broken defensive play at Illinois, and the Wolverines lost to Wisconsin in overtime thanks to a miracle shot at the end of regulation from Ben Brust.

Miami, which we ranked third, has a compelling case to be No. 1, but the Hurricanes aren’t rolling through the typical North Carolina teams. The Big Ten gauntlet is a bit of an equalizer between Miami and the top-ranked teams in the Big Ten.

Related: Key stats from Feb. 4-10


1. Indiana (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 1
Last week’s results: Lost to Illinois 74-72, defeated Ohio State 81-68
This week: Nebraska, Purdue
Buzz: Convincing win at Buckeyes counters late collapse at Illinois to keep Hoosiers at No. 1.

2. Michigan (21-3, 8-3 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 2
Last week’s results: Defeated Ohio State 76-74 (OT), lost to Wisconsin 65-62
This week: Ohio State, at Wisconsin
Buzz: Michigan is 0-2 when Trey Burke takes 20 or more shots from the field (Indiana, Wisconsin).

3. Miami (19-3, 10-0 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Last week’s results: Defeated Boston College 72-50, North Carolina 87-61
This week: at Florida State, at Clemson
Buzz: The Hurricanes’ undefeated start against ACC foes includes 4-0 mark against North Carolina, Duke and NC State.

4. Duke (21-2, 8-2 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Last week’s results: Defeated NC State 98-85, defeated Boston College 62-61
This week: North Carolina, at Maryland
Buzz: The Blue Devils dodged an embarrassing loss to Boston College to maintain five-game winning streak.

5. Syracuse (20-3, 8-2 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 7
Last week’s results: Defeated Notre Dame 63-47, defeated St. John’s 77-58
This week: at Connecticut, at Seton Hall
Buzz: James Southerland’s return (13 points) boosts Orange past St. John’s.

6. Arizona (20-3, 8-3 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 9
Last week’s results: Defeated Stanford 73-66, lost to Cal 77-69
This week: at Colorado, at Utah
Buzz: The Wildcats had a case to be No. 1 … before losing to Cal.

7. Gonzaga (23-2, 10-0 West Coast Conference)
Last week’s rank: 8
Last week’s results: Defeated Pepperdine 82-56, defeated Loyola Marymount
This week: at Saint Mary’s, at San Francisco
Buzz: Regular season West Coast Conference title will be easier to win if Zags defeat the Gaels on Thursday.

8. Florida (19-3, 9-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Last week’s results: Lost to Arkansas 80-69, defeated Mississippi State 83-58
This week: Kentucky, at Auburn
Buzz: The Gators won’t get through the SEC unscathed, but is the door open for a hot Kentucky team to swipe the conference title?

9. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 11
Last week’s results: Defeated Minnesota 61-50, defeated Purdue 78-65
This week: Michigan, at Nebraska
Buzz: Guess who’s tied for first in the Big Ten? Sparty.

10. Kansas (19-4, 7-3 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 4
Last week’s results: Lost to TCU 62-55, lost to Oklahoma 72-66, defeated Kansas State 83-62
This week: Texas
Buzz: KU displaying serious point guard issues during three-game losing streak that ended with rout of K-State on Monday.

11. Louisville (19-5, 7-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 10
Last week’s results: Defeated Rutgers 68-48, lost to Notre Dame 104-101 (5OT)
This week: St. John’s, at USF
Buzz: After home date with St. John’s, Louisville faces easy part of Big East schedule against USF, Seton Hall and DePaul.

12. Kansas State (19-5, 8-3 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 13
Last week’s results: Defeated Texas Tech 68-59, defeated Iowa State 79-70, lost to Kansas 83-62
This week: Baylor
Buzz: The Wildcats lost sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with Kansas, but final stretch is manageable before regular season final Oklahoma State.

13. Ohio State (17-6, 7-4 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 12
Last week’s results: Lost to Michigan 76-74 (OT), lost to Indiana 81-68
This week: Northwestern, at Wisconsin
Buzz: No shame in losing to Michigan and Indiana.

14. Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 18
Last week’s results: Defeated Cincinnati 62-52
This week: at Marquette
Buzz: Pittsburgh making a nice run in the Big East. Road trip to Marquette will show if Panthers can contend for title.

15. Butler (20-4, 7-2 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 16
Last week’s results: Defeated St. Bonaventure 77-58, defeated George Washington 59-56
This week: Charlotte, at Fordham
Buzz: Rotnei Clarke averaging 19 points per game since return from injury.

16. Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 22
Last week’s results: Defeated Baylor 69-67 (OT), defeated Texas 72-59
This week: at Texas Tech, Oklahoma
Buzz: Freshman Marcus Smart leading red-hot Cowboys, who have won five in a row.

17. Georgetown (18-4, 8-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 19
Last week’s results: Defeated Rutgers 69-63, defeated Marquette 63-55
This week: at Cincinnati
Buzz: Otto Porter is averaging 17.8 points and 8.7 rebounds during the Hoyas' six-game win streak.

18. Wisconsin (17-7, 8-3 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 23
Last week’s results: Defeated Iowa 74-70 (2OT), defeated Michigan 62-62 (OT)
This week: at Minnesota, Ohio State
Buzz: Wisconsin’s homecourt magic works wonders in two overtime wins last week. Badgers have shot at Big Ten title.

19. Notre Dame (19-5, 7-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Louisville 104-101 (5OT)
This week: DePaul, at Providence
Buzz: Little-used Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman was the hero in OT against Louisville.

20. Marquette (17-6, 8-2 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 20
Last week’s results: Defeated USF 70-47, defeated DePaul 89-78, Lost to Georgetown 63-55
This week: Pittsburgh
Buzz: Marquette's last five wins are over teams not likely to make the NCAA Tournament: Seton Hall, Providence, USF (twice) and DePaul.

21. New Mexico (20-4, 7-2 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 14
Last week’s results: Defeated Air Force 81-58, lost to UNLV 64-55
This week: at Fresno State, Boise State
Buzz: The Lobos have averaged 44.5 points in two MWC losses.

22. Colorado State (19-4, 6-2 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 25
Last week’s results: Defeated Nevada 73-69
This week: San Diego State, at Air Force
Buzz: The Rams are making a run at the Mountain West title. The two league losses are both on the road (San Diego State in overtime, New Mexico).

23. Cincinnati (18-6, 6-5 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 15
Last week’s results: Lost to Providence 54-50, lost to Pittsburgh 62-52
This week: Villanova, Georgetown
Buzz: The Bearcats a puzzling 2-3 at home in the Big East.

24. Memphis (20-3, 9-0 Conference USA)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated SMU 60-52, defeated Southern Miss 89-76
This week: UCF, at Marshall
Buzz: Memphis is 9-0 in C-USA for the first time since John Calipari’s last season after key win over Southern Miss.

25. San Diego State (18-5, 6-3 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Boise State 63-62, defeated 75-53
This week: at Colorado State, at UNLV
Buzz: The Aztecs can get back into MWC contention with strong showing on the road this week.

Out: No. 17 Minnesota, No. 21 Oregon, No. 24 Creighton

<p> Top teams are falling all across the country, but Big Ten giants and Miami stay the course in the power rankings.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-4-florida-gators

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 best classes in the nation.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp was not happy on National Signing Day. It had nothing to do with his elite top-five class ranking or deep collection of future Gators stars. No, he was worn out from a hard season on the recruiting trail and was ready for the process to be over. But all that hard work paid off in spades and Florida landed one of best classes in the nation.

No. 4: Florida Gators

SEC: Second
Athlon Consensus 100
National Signees: 11
Total Signees: 30

Where They Got 'Em:

The state of Florida will be and always should be the primary focus of any head coach in Gainesville. More top-flight prospects come out of The Sunshine State each season than anywhere else in the nation. It shouldn't be a surprise then that Muschamp landed 19 in-state signees, including eight nationally ranked players. Florida can recruit nationally, but the foundation for every Gator class should come from within its borders.

Georgia has quickly become the No. 4 (Fla., Texas, Calif.) state for talent nationally and the Gators took advantage here as well. Six players signed with Florida from The Peach State, giving this class 25 players from either Georgia or Florida. Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina and Tennessee provided one signee each.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

It seems impossible, but Florida has lacked big-time playmakers on offense since Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper and Louis Murphy departed campus. This offense has been desperate for a star on the outside and Muschamp hopes that he has found one with five highly rated wide receiver signees. Three of the top 15 wideout prospects in the nation are headed to Gainesville. Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 195) and Almad Fulwood (6-4, 200) bring size and vertical ability to the outside while Alvin Bailey (5-11, 175) and Chris Thompson (6-0, 170) should be featured in the slot. 

With Mike Gillislee running out of eligibility, this team also needed to find a workhorse. Gators' legacy prospect Kelvin Taylor should be the guy. He is the No. 2 running back in the nation and is the son of NFL great Fred Taylor. He has been a prep star in The Sunshine State since starting for Glades Central as a middle schooler and should compete for carries right away. He is already on campus working in the offense.

Helping to make all of these stars successful on offense are five offensive line signees. None are nationally ranked but depth shouldn't be an issue along the front line.

The defense is getting loads of help in this class. The defensive line class is one of the best in the nation as seven new faces show up along the defensive front. Caleb Brantley is the only nationally ranked player in this deep and versatile group. He can play inside or out along with early enrollee Joey Ivie and Antonio Riles. Darious Cummings, Jay-nard Bostwick and Jarran Reed will land at tackle while Jordan Sherit will come off of the edge. Muschamp and company will have to develop this haul, but the upside is remarkable.

The star power of this recruiting class resides in the back seven on defense, however. Six of the 11 nationally rated prospects will play either defensive back or linebacker. Four of the top five players in this class will play there are well. Vernon Hargreaves III is the top coverman in the nation and a pair of electric linebackers in Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian restock a position that lost Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic this winter. Both highly touted players enrolled early and both are listed at an impressive 6-3 and 220 pounds. Three of the top 20 linebackers in the nation signed with Florida.

Along with Hargreaves III, AC100 safety Marcel Harris, an jumbo prospect who could be special at 6-2, 220, and nationally rated Keanu Neal bolster the back end of the Gators defense with elite talent.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 5, TE: 0, OL: 5
Defense: DL: 7, LB: 4, DB: 4, ATH: 1, P: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rank Hometown Ht Wt
3. Vernon Hargreaves III DB No. 1 Tampa, Fla. 5-11 180
22. Kelvin Taylor RB No. 2 Belle Glade, Fla. 5-10 205
54. Alexander Anzalone LB No. 5 Wyomissing, Pa. 6-3 220
56. Daniel McMillian LB No. 6 Jacksonville, Fla. 6-3 220
78. Marcel Harris DB No. 15 Orlando, Fla. 6-2 220
81. Demarcus Robinson WR No. 11 Ft. Valley, Ga. 6-2 195
104. Keanu Neal DB No. 19 Bushnell, Fla. 6-0 205
106. Alvin Bailey WR No. 13 Seffner, Fla. 5-11 175
119. Caleb Brantley DL No. 22 Crescent City, Fla. 6-3 295
127. Ahmad Fulwood WR No. 14 Jacksonville, Fla. 6-4 200
153. Matt Rolin LB No. 20 Ashburn, Va. 6-4 205

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht. Wt. AC100
Alex Anzalone LB Wyomissing, Pa. 6-3 220 No. 54
Darious Cummings DL Scooba, Miss. 6-2 305 JUCO
Joey Ivie DL Dade City, Fla. 6-4 270 --
Daniel McMillian LB Jacksonville, Fla. 6-3 220 No. 56
Tyler Moore OL Clearwater, Fla. 6-5 312 --
Demarcus Robinson WR Ft. Valley, Ga. 6-2 195 No. 81
Matt Rolin LB Ashburn, Va. 6-4 205 No. 153
Kelvin Taylor RB Belle Glade, Fla. 5-10 205 No. 22

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators

<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 4: Florida Gators</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-college-football-basketball-coach-tandems-sec

With college football’s spring practice and basketball’s postseason around the corner, Athlon Sports decided this would be a good time to evaluate each school’s coaching tandem.

In this ranking, we aimed to reward balance. In short, which school’s fanbase is most likely to be satisfied from September to March? A handful of schools may have an accomplished football coach while the basketball coach is looking to keep his job, or vice versa. We did not grade on a curve in those cases.

In evaluating coaches, we examined past performance, with more focus on current and recent results and future expectations. We also considered how good a fit a particular coach is for a particular school.

In the SEC, Alabama’s Nick Saban looms over every football coach in the country, but is his dominance on the field and in recruiting enough to give the Tide the best two-fer of coaches in the league?

We say yes. Alabama’s Anthony Grant is not the top basketball coach in the league. He may have trouble cracking most people’s top five. But for a non-traditional basketball power, he’s holding his own in the SEC through his first four seasons.

Winning titles in football and staying competitive in basketball is enough to take the top tandem in the league.

Other coach tandem rankings:
ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12


1. Alabama
Nick Saban | Basketball: Anthony Grant

There’s not much more we can say about Nick Saban that hasn’t been said since Alabama won its second consecutive national title and third in four seasons. Yet again, he reeled in the nation’s No. 1 signing class, and he's continued to change the face of the SEC. After the SEC was remade by the Fun ‘n’ Gun and the spread, Saban has brought the league back to a combination a punishing run game and physical defense. On the basketball side, Grant hasn’t had the same success as he did at VCU, but hoops isn’t the focus in Tuscaloosa. After a 6-10 SEC season in his first year, Grant has gone 28-14 in conference play since.

2. South Carolina
Steve Spurrier | Basketball: Frank Martin

What Spurrier has accomplished really is quite extraordinary: He brought two SEC programs to national prominence using different approaches at each spot. At South Carolina, he’s abandoned the high-flying pass offense in favor of a standout run game and stout defense (the Gamecocks have ranked in the top four of the SEC in total defense in four of the last five seasons). Before Spurrier, South Carolina had never finished a season in the AP top 10. Spurrier has done it in back-to-back seasons. The Gamecocks’ basketball program now is the one needing a turnaround. Martin is enduring a dismal first season in Columbia as expected, but the fiery former Kansas State coach has a track record of winning at a place others have not.

3. Florida
Will Muschamp | Basketball: Billy Donovan

Billy the Kid is the longest-tenured SEC basketball coach, landing at Florida in 1996-97. He’s turned the Gators into one of the most consistent programs in the country with 14 consecutive 20-win seasons, two national championships, and three Final Fours and two more Elite Eights. Though a highly coveted assistant, Muschamp was a curious hire for the Gators, whose last coach without previous head coaching experience (Ron Zook) didn’t pan out. After a 7-6 first season, Muschamp returned Florida to top-10 status last season. The Gators’ 2012 was flawed but still managed to win four one-score games against one of the nation’s toughest schedules.

4. Vanderbilt
James Franklin | Basketball: Kevin Stallings

When was the last time Vanderbilt was a factor in both football and basketball? Since 1974, Vanderbilt has reached the NCAA Tournament and a bowl game in the same calendar year only four times. Kevin Stallings was the basketball coach for three of them. James Franklin was the football coach for two of those years. Vanderbilt is the most unique job in the league as the SEC’s toughest academic school and the only private university in the league. Stallings built his program (six NCAA Tournaments in the last nine seasons) on player development. And Franklin has proven to have the recruiting zeal and enthusiasm to keep the Commodores competitive.

5. LSU
Les Miles | Basketball: Johnny Jones

The SEC just wouldn’t be the same without Les Miles, whose unpredictability as a gameday coach is matched by eccentricity as a communicator. But he’s had some darn good results at LSU, too. In addition to the 2007 national title, LSU has finished in the top 10 five times under Miles and spent at least one week in the top five in each of his eight seasons in Baton Rouge. In basketball, LSU won’t make the NCAA Tournament in Jones’ first season, but the Tigers could have their best win total since 2008-09. A player on LSU’s Final Four team in 1986, Jones was one of the best coaches in the Sun Belt at North Texas.

6. Arkansas
Bret Bielema | Basketball: Mike Anderson

Few tandems in the SEC took their current jobs with resumes as accomplished as Bielema and Anderson. Bielema led Wisconsin to three consecutive Rose Bowls and won at least 10 games four times in seven seasons. Anderson won at UAB, including an upset of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, and Missouri, where he won 31 games and reached the Elite Eight in 2008-09. The question is how they will fare at Arkansas. Anderson’s road woes may cost the Razorbacks another Tournament bid, and Bielema is entering his first season coaching and recruiting in the SEC.

7. Kentucky
Mark Stoops | Basketball: John Calipari

Calipari may be the top coach in the game right now. Even one of his down teams this season will make a run at an SEC regular season title. From 2005-12, his average record each season was 34-5. And in the outlier (29-9 in 2010-11), Kentucky still reached the Final Four. His strategy of cycling through one-and-dones isn’t everyone’s favorite vision for college basketball, but he proved last season he can win a national title doing it. Football is a second priority at Kentucky, but they’ll hope first-time head coach Mark Stoops is more like Bob than Mike. He impressed on the recruiting trail with the nation’s No. 36 class. Still, in the SEC, that ranks only 13th.

8. Texas A&M
Kevin Sumlin | Basketball: Billy Kennedy

Sumlin’s teams at Texas A&M and Houston have finished in the top three nationally in total offense in four of the last five seasons. The exception was 2010 when Houston quarterback Case Keenum was injured (Houston still finished 11th nationally). With a Cotton Bowl victory, a win over Alabama and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel, Sumlin rode that wave to a top-10 signing class, outpacing former recruiting rivals Texas and Oklahoma. The basketball program isn’t where Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie had it, but the Aggies have already matched last season’s win total (14). Billy Kennedy built Southeastern Louisiana and Murray State over the course of a few years, so his upcoming seasons will be worth watching.

9. Georgia
Mark Richt | Basketball: Mark Fox

The hot seat talk form when Georgia went 14-12 and 7-9 in the SEC in 2009-10 has cooled. Richt’s 14-2 record in the SEC the last two seasons is his best in any two-year span at Georgia, though Georgia has been the beneficiary of some fortunate scheduling. Still, the Bulldogs were a play away from reaching the national title game before losing the SEC Championship Game. The hire of Georgia’s other Mark from Nevada was greeted with skepticism as Fox hadn’t coached anywhere near the Southeast. At 12-11, Fox is trying to avoid his third losing season in four years at Georgia.

10. Missouri
Gary Pinkel | Basketball: Frank Haith

Missouri’s run of six consecutive bowl games came to a halt during the Tigers’ first season in the SEC. Mizzou has won at least 10 games in three of the last six years, but they’re five years removed from the magical 2007 season. The Tigers also had the lowest-ranked signing class in the SEC on national signing day only a year after signing the nation’s top prospect, Dorial Green-Beckham. In basketball, Haith exceeded expectations after his hire was lampooned two years ago. The Tigers are 47-11 under Haith, though the NCAA investigation stemming from his time at Miami looms over the program.

11. Mississippi State
Dan Mullen | Basketball: Rick Ray

Mississippi State may not have been as good as its record indicated early last season, but the Bulldogs reached their third consecutive bowl game under Mullen. That tied the longest postseason streak in Starkville, matching Jackie Sherrill’s run from 1998-2000. In basketball, Rick Ray took over for longtime coach Rick Stansbury, and he’ll need some time to rebuild. Mississippi State has one of the most undermanned rosters in the SEC, and it shows.

12. Ole Miss
Hugh Freeze | Basketball: Andy Kennedy

Hard to believe Freeze has only been a Division I head coach for two seasons. In that time, he won a Sun Belt title at Arkansas, won more SEC games in his first season (three) than his predecessor won his last two combined (one), and signed a top-10 recruiting class out of nowhere. Now the pressure will be on for Ole Miss to produce. The basketball program is also enjoying a bit of a comeback under Kennedy. An NIT regular the past six seasons, the Rebels may reach their first NCAA Tournament since 2002.

13. Tennessee
Butch Jones | Basketball: Cuonzo Martin

Tennessee fans seem to be in a perpetual state of angst regarding their coaches, so they’re not going to like seeing Tennessee this low in the league. But relax: There’s plenty of upside in Knoxville. Jones will be criticized for riding Brian Kelly’s coattails at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, but he upgraded a defense shredded by Florida in the 2010 Sugar Bowl and turned in one of the Big East’s best coaching jobs with a 10-3 season last year. In basketball, Martin has never reached the NCAA Tournament in Knoxville or at MIssouri State, but he hasn’t had a full deck since landing at Tennessee. He didn’t have Jarnell Stokes until midseason last year and has been without Jeronne Maymon for all of 2012-13.

14. Auburn
Gus Malzahn | Basketball: Tony Barbee

When we graded the coaching hires for 2013, we liked Malzahn’s return to Auburn. But considering the coaching heft elsewhere in the SEC, it’s tough to rank Malzahn ahead of more proven commodities. Even as an assistant, Malzahn hasn’t stayed at a place than three seasons (his first stint at Auburn as offensive coordinator). His offensive acumen is unquestioned. His ability to serve as CEO of program is undetermined. In basketball, Barbee may be on his way to his third losing season at Auburn, a feat that’s pretty tough for a power conference program.

<p> With Nick Saban and Anthony Grant, Alabama takes the No. 1 spot in our rankings of the top football/basketball coaching tandems in the SEC</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-recruiting-pac-12-team-consensus-rankings-2013

Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. The Pac-12 has watched its league and programs grow substantially in the past few years. Commissioner Larry Scott, the Pac-12 Network, a new media rights contract, six new coaches in the last two seasons and a variety of major facilities upgrades give Pac-12 schools plenty to sell to recruits.

Same Ol' Bruins
UCLA has never had an issue with recruiting. Under Rick Neuheisel, the Bruins were a national power on the trail, landing the No. 13- (2008), No. 14- (2009), No. 8- (2010) and No. 13-rated (2012) classes in the nation over the last five years. So a top-ten class following a Pac-12 South Division crown shouldn't come as a surprise. That said, USC has won the league's recruiting championship in every one of those cycles. So Jim Mora clearly capitalized on a Pac-12 South Division title and the Trojans' late struggles to claim the best class in the conference.

Don't be too concerned for USC
Yes, Lane Kiffin struggled on the field in 2012. Yes, he had to make coaching changes. Yes, he is entering a key season as the head coach in Los Angeles. Yes, USC limped to the finish on the recruiting trail and had the worst National Signing Day in the school's recent memory. However, in the face of 10 fewer scholarships than everyone else, Kiffin signed four more Athlon Consensus 100 prospects (9) than the rest of the Pac-12 combined (5). This group includes the nation's No. 1 QB, No. 1 safety and No. 2 defensive tackle. USC's nine AC100 signees trailed only Alabama (15) and Ohio State (10) nationally.

Mark Helfrich saved the day
When Chip Kelly pulled his own flip-flop and took the Eagles job, many were concerned with the continuity of the Ducks' 2013 signing class. Oregon did lose AC100 running back Dontre Wilson to Ohio State but the rest of the cycle ended well. Mark Helfrich kept twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson in the fold and also lured Torrodney Prevot from a host of Pac-12 rivals. This group wasn't extremely deep but it could have been much worse than 20th nationally. The new head coach passed his first test as the head coach of the Nike Empire.

Best Supporting Cast
Steve Sarkisian has revamped his coaching staff significantly since taking over in Seattle. The moves he made on defense following the 2011 season (Justin Wilcox, Peter Sirmon, Tosh Lupoi) not only buoyed the Huskies' brand on the recruiting trail immediately but also worked wonders on the field during the 2012 campaign. This group once again excelled at landing elite talent by claiming the Pac-12's second-rated class. This was a top-15 group and features deep talent at wide receiver and defensive line — where Lupoi likely deserves a lot of credit.

What happened to Stanford?
This wasn't going to be a large class for David Shaw's bunch in Palo Alto, but barely cracking the top 50 has to be disappointing. Rivals and 247 both ranked the class 61st nationally while Scout had the Cardinal's class at 59th in the nation. Only ESPN's ranking (40th) kept this group inside the top 50 nationally. After four straight top 25 classes, including the fifth-ranked class last year, finishing 11th in the Pac-12 is not what fans expected. Next year's class will either return Stanford to recruiting relevance after what was simply a small class or could indicate a concerning developing trend.

Mike Leach turning things around?
In-fighting and one of the worst rushing offenses in the history of the sport wasn't exactly what Mike Leach planned in his first year at Washington State. Yet, there might be a hint of optimism in Pullman following signing day. The Cougars have averaged a 79.6 national recruiting ranking over the last five cycles, ranking ahead of only UConn and Temple among BCS teams (73rd). Therefore a national ranking of 47th should be something to be celebrated. One would think that Leach's high-flying offensive scheme will once again be attractive to West Coast prospects.

Related: Ranking the nation's most talented rosters

2013 Athlon Sports Pac-12 Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team Nat'l Rk AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. UCLA 9th 3 23 11th 11th 5th 12th
2. Washington 15th 1 22 18th 17th 14th 18th
3. USC 16th 9 13 13th 25th 18th 14th
4. Oregon 20th 1 19 21st 16th 17th 26th
5. Cal 32nd 0 25 29th 43rd 29th 30th
6. Arizona 37th 0 22 36th 58th 27th 39th
7. Arizona State 41st 0 27 32nd 38th 31st --
8. Oregon State 43rd 0 23 37th 41st 36th --
9. Utah 45th 0 23 42nd 42nd 47th --
10. Washington State 47th 0 24 54th 46th 39th --
11. Stanford 49th 0 12 61st 61st 59th 40th
12. Colorado 67th 0 20 68th 67th 66th --

<p> How did recruiting shake out for the Pac-12 in 2013.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 06:20
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/college-baseballs-preseason-top-25-teams-2013

The 2013 college baseball season will soon be underway. To prep readers, Athlon Sports looks at college baseball's preseason Top 25. 

1. North Carolina (46–16 overall, 22–8 ACC)The talent is always there, but this time the Tar Heels will get the breaks, too. Coach Mike Fox has lots of star power in his roster, including All-Americans in beast-like 3B Colin Moran (.365-3-35) and Friday ace Kent Emanuel (8–4, 1.96), who is part of an intact weekend rotation. The No. 8-ranked recruiting class will keep things rolling, led by aptly named OF Skye Bolt.
2. Oregon State (40–20, 18–12 Pac-12) The term “embarrassment of riches” best describes the Beavers pitching corps. LHP Jace Fry (5–3, 2.45), LHP Ben Wetzler (8–2, 3.10) and RHP Dan Child (6–4, 2.95) combined for 45 starts, and relievers Matt Boyd (4–0, 3.41) and Tony Bryant (6–2, 3.82, 9 saves) have All-America potential. Sophomore Michael Conforto hit .349-13-76 as a freshman, and he leads seven returning field starters, three of whom hit .300-plus.
3. Vanderbilt (35–28, 16–14 SEC) Only Vanderbilt can boast having 18 MLB draftees on its roster. Plus, there are still 2011 CWS holdovers in 2B Tony Kemp (.261, 21 SBs), OF Connor Harrell (.241, 7 HRs), OF Mike Yastrzemski (.286, 14 SBs) and 1B Conrad Gregor (.328, 10 SBs). Pitchers Tyler Beede (1–5, 4.52), Kevin Ziomek (5–6, 5.22) and T.J. Pecoraro (2–4, 3.40) should improve their numbers, and the No. 1-ranked recruiting class will fill in the blanks.
4. Arkansas (46–22, 16–14 SEC) All you have to do is look at the numbers that potential All-America righties Ryne Stanek (8–4, 2.82), Colby Suggs (7–1, 1.38) and Barrett Astin (3–5, 1.99, 11 saves) posted to know the Razorbacks could be dominant. Add freshman LHP Colin Poche, a fifth-round draft pick last June, and the staff’s upside is scary. But offensively, Arkansas must improve a .271 team batting average. The Hogs will lean on SS Dominic Ficcocielo (.290-6-41).
5. NC State (43–20, 19–11 ACC) The high-ceiling talent of RHP Carlos Rodon (9–0, 1.57), C/OF Brett Austin (.284, 17 doubles) and 3B Trea Turner (.336-5-43, Division I-best 57 SBs), all sophomores, could have this program Omaha-bound soon. Ten of the 11 pitchers used last year come back, including senior weekend starters Ethan Ogburn (5–4, 3.38) and Anthony Tzamtzis (5–5, 4.38). Combative head coach Elliott Avent will have the best team of his tenure.
6. UCLA (48–16, 20–10 Pac-12) Like 2011, when the Bruins were pitching-heavy with Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, UCLA is well-armed in 2013 with Friday ace Adam Plutko (12–3, 2.48), Saturday stud Nick Vander Tuig (10–4, 4.43) and closer extraordinaire David Berg (5–3, 1.46, 50 appearances). All four infielders return, led by 2B Kevin Williams (.302) and SS Pat Valaika (.266), and the incoming freshman class was ranked second nationally.
7. Stanford (41–18, 18–12 Pac-12) The Cardinal got a pleasant surprise when first-round draftee Mark Appel (10–2, 2.56) — picked No. 8 overall by the Pirates — didn’t sign, assuring Stanford of another stout pitching corps. Monstrous OF Austin Wilson (.285-10-54), stealth 1B Brian Ragira (.329-6-50) and smooth SS Lonnie Kauppila (.280) all return. Also keep an eye on Freshman All-America 3B Alex Blandino, who hit .294 with eight home runs in 29 starts last season.
8. TCU (40–22, 18–6 MWC) The Frogs finally get their wish to play in the Big 12, and they’re loaded for the challenge. Plenty of young talent returns. Sophomores 1B Kevin Cron (.338–6-34), RHP Preston Morrison (9–2, 2.08), 2B Derek Odell (.276-4-26) and OF Jerrick Suiter (.310) can play with anyone in the country. All three weekend starters — Morrison, Stefan Crichton (9–2, 3.41) and Andrew Mitchell (5–3, 3.74) — return as well.
9. LSU (47–18, 19–11 SEC) You going to let losing to Stony Brook last June in the Super Regionals sway you? Pshaw! The Tigers will be fine with new ace Aaron Nola (7–4, 3.61) and seven other pitchers with 25-plus innings coming back. And get this — national batting leader Raph Rhymes (.431) and the top returning SEC home run hitter, Mason Katz (.320-13-52), also return to haunt the conference. 
10. Kentucky (45–18, 18–12 SEC) The Wildcat coaching staff believes they’ve got a national contender on their hands for 2013. Not a lot to argue about, as 15 former MLB draftees dot the Kentucky roster. Two big difference-makers are CF Austin Cousino (.319-9-41) and dual-threat LHP/1B A.J. Reed, an intimidator at the dish or on the mound. RHP Trevor Gott recorded a school-record nine saves last season and struck out 38 batters in 25.0 innings. 
11. Florida State (50-17, 24-6 ACC) Let's quit doubting the Seminoles, especially since last year's "rebuilding season" ended in Omaha. Freshmen All American LHP Brandon Leibrandt (8-3, 2.82) pitched beyond his years in 2012 and senior Scott Sitz (4-3, 3.72) rejoins the rotation, along with six of the top eight relievers as well. But the offense was decimated as OF Josh Delph's .267 and SS Justin Gonzalez's .256 are the best returning averages.
12. South Carolina (49–20, 18–11 SEC) For those looking for a huge dip after South Carolina lost the core of a team that played in three straight national title series — as well as coach Ray Tanner — prepare to be disappointed. There’s lots of talent still at hand. Sophomores OF Tanner English (.298), SS Joey Pankake (.264), C Grayson Greiner (.222-6-32), LHP Jordan Montgomery (6–1, 3.62) and RHP Evan Beal (4–4, 3.81, 5 saves) are all primed for big things, as is the 10th-ranked recruiting class.
13. Oregon (46–19, 19–11 Pac-12) The George Horton Factor is beginning to take full effect, as the Ducks narrowly missed a trip to Omaha in 2012. Six starters and six of the top eight pitchers return from the best fielding and pitching team in the conference. Eight-game winners Jake Reed and Jeff Gold have All-Pac-12 ability, and reliever Jimmie Sherfy (5–3, 2.20) saved 19 games last year.
14. Arizona (48–17, 20–10 Pac-12) The defending national champs return seven of the top eight pitchers from 2012, including starters Konner Wade (11–3, 3.96) and James Farris (7–3, 3.97), as well as Mathew Troupe (6–1, 3.47, 6 saves), who closed down the title game in Omaha. But five of the top nine sticks are gone, so OF Johnny Field (.370) and C Riley Moore (.301) will have to step into leadership roles.
15. Louisville (41–22,18–9 Big East) A disappointing 10–9 finish should light a fire under these guys for 2013, especially with a chock-full cupboard. RHPs Jeff Thompson (9–4, 4.00) and Jared Ruxer (8–3, 3.38) are big time, as is 100 mph hurler Nick Burdi (1–2, 5.56), who could be a difference-maker. Eight of nine starters return to the order, led by sonic speedsters Adam Engel (.308, 37 SBs) and Ty Young (.344, 15 SBs).
16. Coastal Carolina (42–19, 18–5 Big South) The new perennial mid-major monsters, the Chanticleers are always ready to knock off the big boys. Most of what was an elite pitching staff returns, led by 17-game starter Tyler Herb (9–2, 2.98) and a pair of intriguing seniors in Aaron Burke and Ryan Connolly, who had 70 appearances, 15 wins, 18 saves but no starts between them. CCU stole 91 bases last year.
17. Cal State Fullerton (36–21, 17–7 Big West) Last year, the Titans had almost no pitching back, yet still finished with a stellar 3.18 team ERA using mostly freshmen. This year, All-America dual-threat Michael Lorenzen (.297/2–0, 1.23, 16 saves) leads a potentially intimidating murderers’ row with J.D. Davis (.229) and Carlos Lopez (.317). Defense is always a Titan staple and will feature SS Richy Pedroza (.324) and 3B Matt Chapman (.286).
18. San Diego (40–17, 15–9 West Coast) Rich Hill’s 2013 Toreros will go as far as his three-pronged trio of stars take them in RHP Michael Wagner (19 saves), 3B Kris Bryant (best power hitter in Division I) and RHP Dylan Covey (former first-round draftee). The remainder of the pitching staff will be young, but seven field starters return, including Bryant’s partners-in-crime OF/LHP Louie Lechich (.311) and C Dillon Haupt (.279-5-31).
19. Arizona State (36–20, 18–12 Pac-12) The dark skies have parted. Sun Devils baseball is free from sanctions. Opponents have been warned. Coach Tim Esmay will have the battery of Team USA member Trevor Williams (12–2, 2.05) and C Max Rossiter (.326), plus six incoming freshmen who were MLB draftees — including Canadian LHP Ryan Kellogg (12th round) and LHP Brett Lilek (37th round), who threw the best of any pitcher in fall camp.
20. Georgia Tech (38–26, 12–18 ACC) The Georgia Tech campus must have some kind of centrifugal force to it, because three MLB draftees turned down big pro money — RHP Buck Farmer (8–4, 3.54, 115 Ks), OF Kyle Wren (.256, 16 SBs) and OF Brandon Thomas (.360-5-44), who was a fourth-round pick. All three weekend starting pitchers return, as do seven starters in the field, including C/RHP Zane Evans, who had seven saves in relief.
21. UC Irvine (31–25, 13–11 Big West) If the injury-riddled Anteaters stay healthy, this could be a top-10 team. Opponents hit just .235 against 2012’s patchwork staff, which gets Matt Whitehouse (4–0, 2.12 in 2011) back, along with RHP Andrew Thurman (8–3, 2.66) and RHP Kyle Hooper (3-1, 1.30). 3B Taylor Sparks (.202) needs to reach his high-round potential, and newcomer Dominique Taylor is an absolute blur in center field.
22. Florida (47–20, 18–12 SEC) Possibly the most interesting team to keep an eye on, the Gators were ravaged by the draft, losing a ton of MLB talent. But this program is used to reloading. RHPs Jonathon Crawford (6–2, 3.13) and former first-round draft pick Karsten Whitson (4–0, 3.51) are in their draft-eligible years and will be building blocks for the pitching staff. Three-fourths of the infield is back, led by 2B Casey Turgeon (.281-4-30).
23. Rice (41–19, 17–7 Conference USA) Yep, we’re not used to seeing the Owls this far from the top 10, so there’s plenty of work ahead. For now veteran coach Wayne Graham will lean on returning starters in 2B Christian Stringer (.343), SS Ford Stainback (.289) and 3B Shane Hoelscher (.244-4-30). RHP Austin Kubitza (6–5, 2.69) has All-America potential, and freshman RHP Kevin McCanna should make a big impact right away.
24. New Mexico (37–24, 18–6 Mountain West) Energetic head coach Ray Birmingham has a trio of legit All-America candidates in 3B DJ Peterson (.419-17-78), who finished fifth nationally in hitting, OF Ryan Padilla (.353-5-49), a Freshman All-American in 2012, and C Mitch Garver (.377-10-57), a Johnny Bench Award finalist. RHP Josh Walker (8–3, 4.19) leads a re-worked pitching staff that will feature some stout transfers from the junior college ranks, headed by mid-90s hurler Tyler Spencer.
25. UCF (45–17, 16–8 Conference USA) Coach Terry Rooney has built a monster next to Disney World as the Knights continue to climb. Staff horse Ben Lively (9–2, 3.00) has a brigade of lefties with him, including starters Chris Matulis (7–0, 3.68) and Brian Adkins (3–6, 4.78). Though big sticks D.J. Hicks and Ronnie Richardson are gone, senior Chris Taladay (.298-5-49) and OF Eric Hempe (.307-7-29 in 2011) are good building blocks.
By Eric Sorenson, founder of and contributor to
<p> College Baseball's Preseason Top 25 Teams for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-3-notre-dame-fighting-irish

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 best classes in the nation.

Brian Kelly has always recruited well during his three seasons (four cycles) of recruiting in South Bend. But this season, he capitalized on an unbeaten regular season and BCS championship game bid by finishing extremely well on the trail. This group could be special for Notre Dame as many of the recruits have already bonded and have developed connections prior to even showing up on campus.

No. 3: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 5
National Signees: 15
Total Signees: 24

Where They Got 'Em:

With a powerful national brand to sell, Brian Kelly went all over the country to land one of the best classes in the nation. He used 16 different states to land his 24 new players with no more than four players coming from any one state. He invested heavily in the talent-rich waters of the South with four signees from Florida and one nationally ranked prospect from Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia each. Out West, he landed the No. 2- and No. 3-rated players in the state of California and another nationally ranked star from Arizona. He went into the Northeast to pull talent from D.C., New Jersey and Massachusetts. Kelly also had a presence in Texas, the best state for talent in the nation, as he signed three players from The Lone Star State.

Otherwise, local recruiting yielded some rare players as well. Indiana sent one of the best players the state has ever seen to South Bend in Jaylon Smith. Michigan, Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (2), Illinois and Minnesota also are represented in this year's class.

Areas of Focus:

No one can accuse Kelly of not capitalizing on the recruiting trail after a run to the BCS National Championship game. The first thing that stands out about this class is the talent and the depth of the offensive line. Five elite, nationally ranked prospects signed with Notre Dame this cycle, including three of the top 13 blocking recruits in the nation. It might be the best O-line haul of any team in the nation. Kelly and the Irish got a wake-up call against Alabama's immovable linebacking corps and he addressed it with the Class of 2013.

The pass-catchers are the next area of the roster that appears to be set for the future. Four talented wide receivers and two quality tight ends join the roster this year. Torii Hunter Jr. leads a versatile group of wideouts. This group isn't as highly touted as the offensive linemen, but it still features some big-time upside (See early enrollee Corey Robinson).

The defensive front seven also got abused in the national title game and Kelly addressed this area as well. The No. 1 hybrid linebacker-defensive end Jaylon Smith is a special player who is a leader and a winner. He has a chance to be a taller version of Georgia's Jarvis Jones. He is joined by the No. 2 defensive lineman in the nation Eddie Vanderdoes. The No. 1 tackle prospect decommitted from USC and instead is headed to South Bend where he will continue what is developing into one of the better defensive line traditions in the nation. Versatile inside-outside defensive lineman Isaac Rochell and linebacker Doug Randolph were both nationally ranked as well. 

Future star safety Max Redfield is cut from the exact same cloth as current Minnesota Viking Harrison Smith. He is big, rangy and will bring physicality to the back end. He is an immediate contributor in nickel packages and can play near the line of scrimmage. Nationally ranked Cole Luke as well as two others make up this excellent secondary class.

The offensive backfield features only three names, but they were all nationally ranked. Greg Bryant was an AC100 prospect while both quarterback Malik Zaire and running back Tarean Folston landed in the top 200 nationally. Zaire is a similar player to current starter Everett Golson.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 4, TE: 2, OL: 5
Defense: DL: 3, LB: 3, DB: 4, ATH: 0 

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rank Hometown Ht Wt
2. Jaylon Smith LB No. 1 Ft. Wayne, Ind. 6-3 230
6. Eddie Vanderdoes DL No. 2 Auburn, Calif. 6-3 285
29. Max Redfield DB No. 6 Mission Viejo, Calif. 6-2 195
46. Greg Bryant RB No. 8 Delray Beach, Fla. 5-11 200
97. Steve Elmer OL No. 11 Midland, Mich. 6-5 300
101. John Montelus OL No. 12 Everett, Mass. 6-5 305
102. Hunter Bivin OL No. 13 Owensboro, Ky. 6-6 290
112. Tarean Folston RB No. 17 Cocoa, Fla. 5-10 190
133. Cole Luke DB No. 23 Chandler, Ariz. 6-0 180
140. Mike McGlinchey OL No. 20 Philadelphia, Pa. 6-7 280
158. Isaac Rochell DL No. 28 McDonough, Ga. 6-5 265
168. Torii Hunter Jr WR No. 17 Prosper, Texas 6-0 180
181. Colin McGovern OL No. 26 New Lenox, Ill. 6-5 280
199. Malik Zaire QB No. 21 Kettering, Ohio 6-1 190
203. Doug Randolph LB No. 27 Richmond, Va. 6-3 230

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht. Wt. AC100
Steve Elmer OL Midland, Mich. 6-5 300 No. 97
Mike Heuerman TE Naples, Fla. 6-4 225 --
James Onwualu CB St. Paul, Minn. 6-1 210 --
Corey Robinson WR San Antonio, Texas 6-5 190 --
Malik Zaire QB Kettering, Ohio 6-1 190 No. 199

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 2: Notre Dame Fighting Irish</p>
Post date: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 06:35
Path: /college-football/football-recruiting-2013s-consensus-team-big-12-rankings

Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. Recruiting in the Big 12 has its major advantages and major disadvantages. First, the state of Texas is a built in feeder system for all 10 teams in the league, even West Virginia.

With a couple of small exceptions, there is a reason Oklahoma and Texas have dominated the league for so long. They claim the top two classes in each of the last six seasons. That said, the last two conference winners have come from Stillwater and Manhattan, not Norman or Austin. But it all starts on the recruiting trail.

Across-the-board struggles
No Big 12 team ranked in the top ten nationally in the team rankings. No nationally rated recruit (approx. 240) announced on National Signing Day that he would be attending a Big 12 school. Only four players in the Athlon Consensus 100 signed with the Big 12 while the SEC signed 41 total AC100 prospects and Alabama inked 15 alone. Oklahoma had a solid 14th-ranked class but Texas had one of its worst classes in recent memory and only Baylor managed to land in the top 25 nationally. Sooners signee Keith Ford is the lone five-star prospect to sign with the entire conference. Needless to say, it has to be one of the worst years for the conference on the trail. 

Kansas State was last again
And that's just how Bill Snyder likes it. While they still signed a healthy number of junior college players (6), he went heavier on high school talent in 2013 than usual. The Wildcats signed 26 prep athletes in this class. This team has overachieved more than any other team in the nation so who is to argue with Snyder's judgment. He signed 13 defensive front seven players and should be able to rebuild his defense — with two- and three-star players — as quickly as anyone in the nation.

Pressure mounting in Austin
Mack Brown is 11-15 in Big 12 play over the last three seasons and has had plenty of coaching turnover on his staff. So with the doubters in Austin speaking out louder than ever before, 2013 was not the time for one of the worst classes in Brown's tenure at Texas. He signed 15 names this year, only two were ranked in the AC100, and didn't win any of the big battles down the stretch. He has long pointed to the '13 season as his national title chance, but it doesn't look like too many freshmen will contributing.

Waco is the place to be for offense
One of the four AC100 prospects to sign with the Big 12 was superstar wide receiver Robbie Rhodes. His tape is loaded with long touchdown catches, crazy weaves through traffic and explosiveness that even Randy Moss would be proud of. The talented wideout is just one of the names that makes Art Briles' 2013 haul one of the best in Bears' history. Baylor has an average national recruiting ranking of 47.1 over the last five cycles with a high-water mark of 39th back in 2010. He signed a top 25 class this season and the offensive talent, in particular, is very impressive. 

TCU acquitted itself nicely
Gary Patterson has elevated TCU recruiting over the last half-decade and after its first season in the Big 12, the program seems to be yielding nice returns in the transition. Ranking 44th nationally is nothing to write home about, but with major facility upgrades coming and a young team returning, this team could be poised for big things in the near future, both on and off the field. There are worse places to be than just behind Oklahoma State in the rankings midway through the Big 12 for a team one year removed from the Mountain West.

Which direction is Texas Tech heading?
Mike Leach left a mess in Lubbock but one thing he didn't do was lose. Tommy Tuberville had his fair share of issues but recruited very well while at Tech — 20th- and 26th-rated classes in the nation. So what about Kliff Kingsbury? He has the name, the flashy offensive resume both as a player and coach and should gain the trust of the fans and high school coaches quickly as a fellow alum. He picked up eight new recruits in the month of February to elevate the class to a 51st ranking. However, eighth in the Big 12 isn't getting it done if the Red Raiders want to compete like it did in 2008. Only time will tell if Kingsbury has what it takes to lure the top in-state athletes to West Texas.

2013 Athlon Sports Big 12 Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team Nat' Rk AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. Oklahoma 14th 1 24 15th 13th 15th 16th
2. Texas 19th 2 15 23rd 18th 23rd 15th
3. Baylor 24th 1 23 28th 24th 25th 28th
4. West Virginia 27th 0 25 24th 30th 26th 32nd
5. Oklahoma State 30th 0 23 34th 37th 24th 27th
6. TCU 44th 0 22 35th 36th 48th --
7. Kansas 50th 0 26 45th 48th 55th --
8. Texas Tech 51st 0 23 51st 44th 54th --
9. Iowa State 62nd 0 25 59th 64th 64th --
10. Kansas State 64th 0 32 64th 56th 68th --

<p> Football Recruiting: 2013's Consensus Team Big 12 Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/football-basketball-coach-tandem-rankings-pac-12

With college football’s spring practice and basketball’s postseason around the corner, Athlon Sports decided this would be a good time to evaluate each school’s coaching tandem.

In this ranking, we aimed to reward balance. In short, which school’s fanbase is most likely to be satisfied from September to March? A handful of schools may have an accomplished football coach while the basketball coach is looking to keep his job, or vice versa. We did not grade on a curve in those cases.

In evaluating coaches, we examined past performance, with more focus on current and recent results and future expectations. We also considered how good a fit a particular coach is for a particular school.

Our first in the series presented a challenge. The Pac-12 is the only one of the major conferences that has neither a football nor a basketball coach who has won a national title. Converseley, even the bottom of the Pac-12 rankings features tandems many schools would be happy to have.

Our top pick in the Pac-12, though, includes new faces with Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez in his first season and basketball coach Sean Miller in his fourth in Tucson.

Other coach tandem rankings:
ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC

1. Arizona
Rich Rodriguez | Basketball: Sean Miller

In his first season at Arizona, Rodriguez won winning five of his last seven games as the Wildcats ranked in the top 25 nationally in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring offense. The 8-5 season was a good indication Rodriguez may put up results more similar to his tenure at West Virginia (60-26) than his tenure at Michigan (15-22). In basketball, Sean Miller has restored stability to a program that had two one-season coaches after Lute Olson’s legendary run. Arizona’s not back to level of prominence it enjoyed through the '90s and into the early 2000s, but Miller has already taken Arizona to an Elite Eight and has the Wildcats in contention for its second conference title in his tenure.

Jim L. Mora | Basketball: Ben Howland

UCLA may have the toughest tandem to judge in the Pac-12. Howland has three consecutive Final Fours on his resume, but the program now looks little like the one Howland coached from 2006-08. The Bruins are having their best season of the last four thanks to a signing class that has finally delivered on its promise. But UCLA isn’t immune to puzzling losses (Cal Poly, USC) or criticism from one of its greatest players. On the football side, Mora resuscitated the program with a 9-5 season and a Pac-12 South title, but a three-game losing streak (including two to Stanford) indicates the Bruins still have a way to go to return to national prominence. Still, Howland’s track record and Mora’s quick rebuild is enough to make UCLA’s tandem No. 2 in the league.

3. Cal
Sonny Dykes | Basketball: Mike Montgomery

Prior to the season, we rated Montgomery as the Pac-12’s top basketball coach.  At Stanford, Montgomery never finished lower than second in the conference from 1996-2004. Then, he raised the profile at Cal, reaching the NCAA Tournament three times in his first four seasons at Berkeley. In football, Cal will hope Dykes can restore some excitement to a program that had grown stale under predecessor Jeff Tedford. Dykes is a spread offense guru who coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and has experience in the Pac-12 at Arizona. He improved his win total each season at Louisiana Tech.

4. Colorado
Mike MacIntyre | Basketball: Tad Boyle

Has any major program improved its football/basketball coaching situation more in the last few years than Colorado? The Buffaloes have hired two overachievers from lower-tier conferences to take over struggling programs. Boyle led the Buffs to a Pac-12 Tournament title in his second season and has them in contention for a third consecutive postseason bid, something Colorado has never done. MacIntyre went 1-12 in his first season at San Jose State and led the Spartans to an 11-2 season three years later. Both coaches have proven track records at tough jobs. That’s good news, since Colorado is one of the toughest in the league on both fronts.

5. Oregon State
Mike Riley | Basketball: Craig Robinson

After Oregon State missed the postseason in 2010-11, Riley proved again why it’s never a great idea to underestimate the Beavers. Oregon State won nine games and finished the season ranked for the fourth time in seven seasons. (Athlon picked Oregon State last in the Pac-12 North heading into the season.) In basketball, Robinson has improved one of the worst programs in the league, but he’s topped out at the College Basketball Invitational so far.

6. Stanford
David Shaw | Basketball: Johnny Dawkins

Shaw may be the best football coach in the Pac-12 after picking up where Jim Harbaugh left off. Shaw’s 2012 effort was the best coaching job in the league last season as the Cardinal, minus Andrew Luck, still won the conference, defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and finished the season in the top 10 for the second consecutive year. On the basketball side, this appeared to be a make-or-break season for Johnny Dawkins, whose tenure halted more than a decade’s worth of success under Montgomery and Trent Johnson. Dawkins is on his way to second consecutive winning season, but the Cardinal may need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to avoid the NIT.

7. Arizona State
Todd Graham | Basketball: Herb Sendek

Jokes aside about Graham’s wandering eye for open coaching jobs, he’s proven himself as a winning coach. He ended a bowl drought at Rice, won at least 10 games three times in four seasons at Tulsa and exceeded expectations with an 8-5 season and 5-4 record in the Pac-12 for the Sun Devils’ best season since 2007. After two losing seasons, Sendek has Arizona State back in NCAA Tournament contention this season. He entered the season on the hot seat, but at least for a season, he’s showing he can win in Tempe without James Harden.

8. Washington
Steve Sarkisian | Basketball: Lorenzo Romar

Another tough tandem to evaluate in the Pac-12: On the one hand, Sarkisian has done an admirable job in reviving a program that went 0-12 the year before he arrived. After three consecutive 7-6 seasons and a major boost in recruiting, Sarkisian will be under the microscope to take the next step in 2013. On the court, Romar is the longest-tenured coach in the league. The Huskies recruit as well as any team in the league outside of UCLA or Arizona, but they’ve been up-and-down. Romar’s teams have reached the Sweet 16 three times, won the conference regular season title twice and the tournament three times. This season, however, may be the third time in the last seven seasons Washington fails to win 20 games.

9. Oregon
Mark Helfrich | Basketball: Dana Altman

Altman has not missed the postseason since 1997-98, though his last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2007 at Creighton. That could end this season as Oregon is one of the country’s surprise teams at 19-5 overall and 8-3 in the Pac-12. After going 7-11 in the league his first season, Oregon is 21-8 in conference in the last two. In football, Helfrich is a major unknown for a program that has been a regular on the national title scene for the last three seasons. The career assistant may not have been a strong candidate for other programs, but Oregon has a nice track record of promoting its offensive coordinators (Chip Kelly, Mike Bellotti).

10. Washington State
Mike Leach | Basketball: Ken Bone

A 31-28 win over Washington in the Apple Cup salvaged an otherwise dismal first season for Leach at Washington State. The offense never materialized, star wide receiver Marquess Wilson left the team midseason, and the Cougars lost eight in a row before the win in the season finale. Leach eventually turned Texas Tech into a consistent bowl team, and there’s little reason to doubt he won’t do the same eventually in Pullman. In basketball, Bone built programs at Seattle Pacific and Portland State, but he’s struggled in four seasons in the Pac-12. The Cougars are 24-41 in the conference under Bone, including a 2-9 effort so far this season.

11. Utah
Kyle Whittingham | Basketball: Larry Krystkowiak

File Utah under the tandems we might regret ranking this low in a few years. Whittingham’s 33 wins from 2008-10, including an undefeated season in 2008, can’t be ignored. But at the same time, Whittingham and Utah are unproven on the Pac-12 level. The Utes are 7-11 in two seasons in the league, and they’re coming off a losing season. A former NBA assistant, Krystkowiak inherited a mess of player departures at Utah. He’s 5-24 in the league, but those wins have included eventual NIT champion Stanford last season and Washington on the road and NCAA contender Colorado this year.

12. USC
Lane Kiffin | Basketball: Bob Cantu

Kiffin led the nation’s most disappointing team last season as the Trojans started as a preseason No. 1 and finished 7-6. With Matt Barkley gone, a coaching staff shakeup and a recruiting class that fell apart in the weeks before national signing day (but still finished in the top 15 nationally), Kiffin will be watched closely in 2013. In basketball, Cantu is an interim coach who replaced Kevin O’Neill midseason.

<p> Arizona lands top spot in the football/basketball coaching tandem rankings in the Pac-12.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-college-basketball-stats-week-feb-4-10

The most important number of the week may as well be five: As in five overtimes to settle Notre Dame’s win over Louisville in the longest game since UConn and Syracuse played six OTs in the Big East quarterfinals in 2009.

The first 40 minutes crawled along with only 120 points in regulation before Notre Dame walked away with a 104-101 win in the final 25 minutes.

But the key number of the week could just as well be six if there is a change atop the Associated Press top 25. Five consecutive polls have featured a new No. 1 from Duke to Louisville back to Duke to Michigan and Indiana. If the Hoosiers remain No. 1, they will be the first team to stay at that spot since Duke did it from Dec. 17-Jan. 7.

The Hoosiers defeated Ohio State on the road Sunday but lost in the final seconds to Illinois, putting Indiana’s ranking at stake. If not Indiana, Miami could claim the No. 1 spot. Led by guard Shane Larkin, the Hurricanes are one of nine teams with an unblemished conference record and the only one from a power conference.

Here’s a look at the other key numbers from the past week in college basketball:

22. Minutes Notre Dame’s Garrick Sherman played in overtime after sitting all of regulation
A senior center from Kenton, Ohio, who had played 275 total minutes in the last two seasons, ended up being one of the difference makers in Notre Dame’s five-overtime win over Louisville on Saturday night. Garrick Sherman entered the game with 1:57 left in overtime and scored 17 points and adding six rebounds in 22 minutes. Four players for Notre Dame, including starting forwards Jack Cooley and Tom Knight fouled out, giving Sherman his break. After sitting all of 2011-12 after his transfer from Michigan State, Sherman averaged 15.3 minutes per game and hadn’t even played in four of the last six games entering overtime against Louisville.

12. Points Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant scored in the final 45 seconds of regulation
If Sherman’s out-of-nowhere 17 points against Louisville isn’t the most telling stat of the wild five-overtime Irish win, may be this one is. Grant started the game 0 of 6 from the field before scoring 12 points in the final 45 seconds. Grant went 3 for 3 from three-point range and added a layup and a free throw in the three-point play to tie the game at 60 to force OT.

1.1. An upsetting number and a crazy coincidence
Two of the most important developments of the week were Indiana’s collapse against Illinois for a 74-72 loss on Thursday and Kansas' loss to RPI No. 213 TCU on Wednesday. According to tempo-free stat guru Ken Pomeroy, Illinois had a 1.1 percent chance of defeating Indiana when the Hoosiers held a 70-62 lead with three minutes left. Of course, Illinois won. Elsewhere, Kansas entered the week with a 1.1 percent chance, according to Pomeroy’s numbers, to lose to both TCU and Oklahoma this week. The 98.9 percent odds went against KU the same way they went against IU. Creepy.

1. Team since the start of ACC in 1953-54 play to defeat Duke and North Carolina by 25 points in the same season.
Before this year, Miami spent eight mostly undistinguished seasons in the ACC. Now, the Hurricanes have set a historic mark. Miami is the first team to defeat Duke and North Carolina by at least 25 points in the same season since ACC play began in 1953-54. Keep in mind: Miami didn’t even have a basketball team from 1971-85, a time when Dean Smith won the national title and Duke hired Mike Krzyzewski. Miami defeated Duke 90-63 on Jan. 23 and North Carolina 87-61 on Saturday.

82.7. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo’s combined true shooting percentage against Ohio State
Indiana center Cody Zeller and guard Victor Oladipo were perhaps the most efficient pair of the weekend. Zeller was 8 of 11 from the field and 8 of 11 from the free throw line for 24 points in the 81-68 win over Ohio State in Columbus. Oladpio was even better, going 8 of 10 from the field and 9 of 10 from the free throw line for 26 points. Combined, the Indiana pair had a true shooting percentage of 82.7 percent. True shooting percentage is a statistic used to measure a player’s efficiency from the field combined with the free throw line. For reference, Belmont’s Ian Clark leads the nation in true shooting percentage at 73.2 percent. Only six players nationally -- including Oladipo -- have a true shooting percentage of greater than 70 percent.

0.894. Michigan’s points per possession against Wisconsin
Michigan is among the most efficient offensive teams in the country, but Wisconsin befuddled Trey Burke and Co. on Saturday. Michigan averages 1.167 points per possession this season -- second only to Indiana -- but the Wolverines managed only 0.894 points per possession in the 65-62 loss in overtime to the Badgers. Michigan’s 62 points tied for its second-lowest total of the season.

3. Losses in a row for Kansas, its longest streak since 2005
Kansas lost 72-66 to Oklahoma on Saturday, giving the Jayhawks a three-game losing streak with a home loss to Oklahoma State and a shocking upset to TCU. Kansas hasn’t lost three in a row since Feb. 14-21, 2005 when Bill Self’s second team in Lawrence lost to Texas Tech in double overtime, Iowa State in overtime and Oklahoma in regulation. Not that a losing streak is a bad omen: Kansas’ last four-game losing streak was in 1987-88 when the Jayhawks and Danny Manning went on to win the national title. Kansas faces Kansas State on Monday.

4,493. Career points for Stephen and Seth Curry, a record for brothers.
With 18 points from Duke’s Seth Curry against Boston College, the Currys became the highest scoring set of brothers in Division I history. Seth (Liberty/Duke) has 1,858 career points and Stephen Curry (Davidson) had 2,635. Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina) and Ben Hansbrough (Mississippi State/Notre Dame) held the previous record with 4,485 career points.

10-3, 1-12. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson’s home/road splits in the SEC
Nothing illustrated Arkansas home/road split identity than the Razorbacks’ last week. On Tuesday, Arkansas defeated Florida 80-69 in Fayetteville. The Gators had defeated every other SEC opponent by at least 14 points. The Hogs followed the upset by losing 67-49 on the road to Vanderbilt, one of the worst teams in the SEC. In a season and a half, Anderson is 10-3 at home in SEC play and 1-12 on the road. This is not an isolated record: Anderson was 29-11 at home in Big 12 play at Missouri and 14-26 on the road.

158. Points scored by Virginia last week
Tony Bennett’s teams aren’t the most fun to watch play on offense, but for at least a week, Virginia looked like an offensive juggernaut. The Cavaliers, who entered the week averaging 63.2 points per game, defeated Clemson 78-41 on Thursday and defeated Maryland 80-69 on Sunday. The 158 points in a two game span is the most for a Bennett-coached team since Washington State scored a combined 160 points against Boise State and Idaho on Nov. 13-16, 2007.

<p> Amazing College Basketball Stats of the Week: Feb. 4-10</p>
Post date: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: 2013, Daytona, schedule, Speedweeks, times, TV, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2013-nascar-speedweeks-daytona-schedule


The 2013 NASCAR Speedweeks at Daytona schedule with start times for races, qualifying sessions and practices, as well as TV listings:

<p> The complete 2013 NASCAR Speedweeks at Daytona schedule.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 11:45
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascars-jimmie-johnson-recreates-bob-dylan-album-cover

Jimmie Johnson and his wife, Chandra, recreated Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin' iconic album cover for ESPN The Magazine's first edition of "The Music Issue." The issue features top sports standouts recreating album covers of their favorite artists. "The Music Issue" hits newsstands today.

Check out more of ESPN's Music Issue

Credit: ESPN The Magazine

<p> NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson Recreates Bob Dylan Album Cover</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 11:38
Path: /college-football/football-recruiting-2013s-consensus-team-sec-rankings

Recruiting in the SEC is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. Recruiting in the SEC is unlike recruiting in any other league. And the team rankings bare that out in painful clarity. Well, painful if you are coaching in any other major conference.

That said, one recruiting class does not define a new coaching staff or guarantee future success or failure on the field. But the rankings in the SEC hold truer than in any other league. The four best teams in recruiting the last five years — Alabama, Florida, LSU and Georgia — have the four best win-loss records.

In the toughest, back-stabbing-est conference in the nation, one man is standing above the rest:

Nick Saban’s reign isn’t ending anytime soon
Saban once again is the czar of the recruiting trail. He picked a handful of stars from the Northeast, got an elite QB from Utah, landed the top five players in the state of Alabama and dipped into border states in every direction to land 25 more athletes. He broke an Athlon Sports record with 15 Athlon Consensus 100 recruits and it landed him his third No. 1-rated class in the last six cycles. He has been no lower than fifth in the nation rankings since 2008 and all it has netted him is three BCS national titles. Sorry folks, the Crimson Tide “ain’t going nowhere”.

Related: Alabama Claims the Nation's No. 1 Class in 2013

Perception has changed in Oxford
Ole Miss has won four SEC games in the last three seasons. After landing a historic nationally ranked top 10 class — a group ranked ahead of LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn more importantly — Hugh Freeze now has the burden of expectations. All eyes will be focused on Oxford, Miss., for more reasons than one from now on. Fellow recruiting coordinators at rival schools now see a bullseye on the back of Colonel Reb. The media coverage will be heightened and fans will expect results on the field. It's an exciting time to be a Rebel but no doubt the pressure to win is now through the roof.

The Lone Star Sleeping Giant
Kevin Sumlin and that small patch on the Texas A&M Aggies' shoulder pads were the missing pieces. College Station, Texas has long been a sleeping giant of college football. Consistent underachieving has plagued the 12th Man for decades. But that all could be changing now as what appears to be a great leader is running the ship in Sumlin. The with added cachet of the SEC brand behind him, he is establishing a new TAMU image on the recruiting trail. He dominated in state while his rival Mack Brown at Texas struggled this year. The upside is immeasurable for this program. It does help to have a rock star Heisman Trophy winner playing quarterback as well.

Bittersweet Signing Day for new coaches
Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, Tennessee Butch Jones and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema all finished very well on National Signing Day. The Hogs landed a pair of elite stars, the Vols finished with a flurry and Kentucky had one of its best classes in recent memory. Optimism should be running high in Lexington, Knoxville and Fayetteville. So how depressing is it that Tennessee was 11th in the league, Arkansas was 12th in the league and Kentucky was 13th in the SEC rankings? Can you beat Saban, Miles, Sumlin, Spurrier, Richt and Muschamp with the 12th best class in the conference?

Has anything actually changed at Auburn?
Unlike his newbie counterparts, Gus Malzahn built an elite top-10 recruiting class nationally. He closed strong and rebuilt his roster —the defensive linemen in particular — with some super star talent. But so did Gene Chizik every season. So the question for fans on The Plains will be the same it has been asking itself for decades: How do we get all of these great athletes to live up to their potential? In the SEC West, the new head man at Auburn has his work cut out for him, but he is giving himself a great chance with some of the nation’s top prospects.

Missouri can’t survive like this
The Tigers’ class would have ranked sixth in the Big 12 at No. 35 nationally. However, they finished dead last in the SEC. After struggling in their first trip through SEC play, Gary Pinkel didn’t do that much to help his longterm case of success in the nation’s toughest conference. This team is much closer to Vanderbilt — well, the Vandy of old — in terms of upside and potential than Alabama or Texas A&M. This one class means very little to the direct success of Mizzou in the SEC, however, consistently finishing last in the league in recruiting will not be sustainable for the current coaching staff.

The marvelous James Franklin
Vanderbilt put together arguably the greatest recruiting class in school history this fall. Increased talent in the state of Tennessee and back-to-back bowl seasons for the first time is certainly an explanation for the Dores’ current recruiting success. However, the coaching staff led by Franklin is the main the reason. They have a built an exciting, fun and hard-working atmosphere on West End and it is permeating the recruiting trail.

2013 Athlon Sports SEC Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team Nat'l Rk AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. Alabama 1st 15 25 1st 1st 3rd 1st
2. Florida 4th 6 28 4th 4th 8th 2nd
3. Ole Miss 6th 4 28 7th 2nd 10th 5th
4. LSU 7th 5 27 6th 7th 6th 7th
5. Texas A&M 8th 3 32 10th 7th 7th 8th
6. Auburn 10th 3 23 8th 10th 13th 11th
7. Georgia 12th 2 32 12th 12th 9th 10th
8. South Carolina 18th 2 21 16th 20th 21st 17th
9. Mississippi State 22nd 1 20 25th 22nd 20th 25th
10. Vanderbilt 23rd 0 26 19th 35th 19th 22nd
11. Tennessee 25th 1 21 20th 27th 32nd 29th
12. Arkansas 29th 2 22 31st 23rd 34th 31st
13. Kentucky 34th 0 22 27th 39th 40th 36th
14. Missouri 35th 0 20 48th 33rd 37th 38th

<p> Football Recruiting: 2013's Consensus Team SEC Rankings</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/10-greatest-accomplishments-sports

Sports are filled with statistics that uber-nerds and casual fans alike can enjoy. Numbers and records help fans define greatness and settle arguments on talk radio and at the local watering holes on a daily basis.

Who is the greatest quarterback of all-time? What about running back? How about Jordan vs. Kobe? Ruth vs. Aaron? Tiger vs. Jack?

The discussions are endless and many have no right or wrong answer. But arguing about sports’ greatest players, coaches or teams is part of why competitive athletics are so popular. And with decades of numbers to call upon, fans have more information at their fingertips than ever before.

Exclusivity is a huge part of measuring any elite athlete. Did he do something no one — or in this case, very few people — has ever accomplished? Some “sports clubs” are more obvious than others and can clearly define the game’s greatest players. Others are less obvious but no less intriguing.

Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorite sports clubs and rarest accomplishments:

2,000-yard Club (7 members):
This one is pretty obvious and pretty exclusive. There are only seven players in the history of the NFL to have rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. Adrian Peterson became the latest when he rushed for 2,097 yards last fall, all while returning from a torn-up knee. Eric Dickerson owns the all-time record with 2,105 while Jamal Lewis (2,066), Barry Sanders (2,053), Terrell Davis (2,008), Chris Johnson (2,006) and O.J. Simpson (2,003) are the only other members of the 2K Club. Interestingly enough, only one other player has ever topped 1,900 yards and that was Earl Campbell in 1980 (1,934). And with the proliferation of high-flying passing offenses, the 2,000-yard running back is that much more impressive.

30,000-point Club (6 members):
Scoring points is the only way to win basketball games and only six players in the history of either the NBA or ABA have ever topped 30,000 points in their career. And this club's membership might just also represent the six best players of all-time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is basketball’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and no one has ever really come close to catching him. Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) and Kobe Bryant (30,834*) are the only other players to score at least 30,000 points in the NBA. Julius Erving reached the benchmark but needed 11,662 points in the ABA to reach the plateau.

* - number prior to Thur., Feb. 7 game against Boston

80-Goal Club (3 members):
Only eight players in the history of the NHL have ever scored 70 goals in a season much less 80. Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Mario Lemieux are arguably the three greatest goal scorers in the history of the sport and their membership in the 80-goal club only confirms this. Gretzky is the only member of the 90-goal club and is the only player to top 80 goals twice (he topped 70 four times). Hull is No. 2 with 86 goals in 1990-91 and he has topped 70 goals three times. Super Mario is fourth all-time with 85 goals in 1988-89 and he also has also topped 70 more than once (2).

Quarterbacks with four Super Bowl starts (6 members):
Names like Troy Aikman (3-0), Bart Starr (2-0) and Eli Manning (2-0) might take offense to this club, but leading your team to four Super Bowls is an extremely rare accomplishment. Tom Brady (3-2) and John Elway (2-3) are the only two NFL quarterbacks with five Super Bowl starts. Terry Bradshaw (4-0) and Joe Montana (4-0) are the only two with perfect records in four starts. And Roger Staubach (2-2) and Jim Kelly (0-4) are both in Canton after taking their teams to the big game four times. No one in the history of the sport other than Kelly has gone to four straight Super Bowls. Aikman, Montana, Bradshaw and Brady are the only four players to ever win three Super Bowl starts.

Reached base 5,000 times (7 members):
No Major League Baseball player has ever gotten on base 6,000 times in his career, but seven players reached first at least 5,000 times. And they are seven of the greatest names to ever step onto a diamond. Pete Rose (5,929), Barry Bonds (5,599), Ty Cobb (5,532), Rickey Henderson (5,343), Carl Yastrzemski (5,304), Stan Musial (5,282) and Hank Aaron (5,205) are the only such players in MLB history. All topped the 5,200 mark as well, setting themselves apart even further from Tris Speaker (8th) and Babe Ruth (9th). What makes this club so great is its simplicity. The first and foremost goal when one steps to the plate — certainly the sabermetrics guys would agree — is to not get out and no one reached base more than these seven men.

6,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing (4 members):
The modern era of college football has watched electric athletes take control of the quarterback position. In fact, the pistol, zone read and option attacks are even starting to take hold of the NFL game as well. But the term dual-threat is reserved for the only four quarterbacks in NCAA history to pass for at least 6,000 yards through the air while gobbling up at least 4,000 yards on the ground. Missouri’s Brad Smith (8,799 passing, 4,289 rushing) was the first to join the club in the early 2000s. He would soon be joined by West Virginia’s Pat White (6,049 passing, 4,480 rushing), Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick (10,098 passing, 4,112 rushing) and Michigan’s Denard Robinson (6,250 passing, 4,495 rushing). They are the only four college quarterbacks to rush for 4,000 yards in their career and one look at Kaepernick’s numbers and fans should understand how he led San Francisco to the Super Bowl.

Five-time NASCAR Champion (3 members):
No one really argues that Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty aren’t the best two stock car drivers of all-time. So it is appropriate that the duo is tied for the most NASCAR championships with seven each. But they could be joined by another steely-eyed wheelman in Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is the only other driver with five points titles and he is the only driver to win five straight. Jeff Gordon is the only other driver with four championships, and should he win another title in the twilight of his career, he could join what many consider the three greatest drivers all-time with five trophies.

Golf’s Career Grand Slam (5 members):
Golf’s Mt. Rushmore has five names on it, not four. Only five players in the history of golf have won all four majors — aka the career Grand Slam — in their career. Jack Nicklaus leads the way with 18 major championships followed closely by Tiger Woods with 14, as each has won the career Grand Slam three times. Ben Hogan (9), Gary Player (8) and Gene Sarazen (7) are the only other pro golfers to accomplish the career foursome. In the pre-Masters Era which included The Amateur Open, Bobby Jones accomplished the career Grand Slam — and did it all in the same year (1930).

MLB’s Triple Crown (*5 members):
There are many lines of demarcation for one of America's oldest sports. Many begin counting at 1900 or consider the post-Black Sox (1919) era the “modern” era. Still others consider World War II or the expansion era (1962) as the best way to define baseball. However, the biggest and most influential time stamp came in 1947 when Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier. Since that time, only five men have won the Triple Crown of baseball — i.e., leading the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.330, 44 HR, 139 RBI) broke a 45-year triple crown drought when he led the AL in all three categories last season. Prior to Cabrera's remarkable season, Carl Yastrzemski (.326, 44 HR, 121 RBI) in 1967 had been the last to capture the Triple Crown. Frank Robinson (.316, 49 HR, 122 RBI) did it in 1966, Mickey Mantle (.353, 52 HR, 130 RBI) in '56 and Ted Williams (.343, 32 HR, 114 RBI) pulled of the rare feat in '47.

* - since integration

2,000 points and 900 assists (2 members):
Oregon State’s Gary Payton and Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas are the only two players to score at least 2,000 points and dish out at least 900 assists in their college basketball careers. Douglas, nicknamed “The General,” left Syracuse with what was then the all-time NCAA lead in assists (960). When Payton, nicknamed “The Glove,” left school one year later, he was No. 2 all-time with 939 dimes. They are now sixth and 11th all-time. These two could soon be joined by another in this distinction, as current Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper is on pace to pass both benchmarks before this season is over. He has 1,905 career points and is averaging 13.5 per game this year, to go along with his 866 career assists and a 5.9 per game rate this season. He should easily become the third such player in NCAA hoops history to reach 2,000 points and 900 assists. If Cooper does reach these milestones he also will join Payton as the only two players with 2,000 points, 900 assists and 300 steals in their college careers.

<p> The 10 Greatest Accomplishments in Sports</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 10:55
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-report-card-illinois-or-out

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 Illinois in its first season John Groce. The former Ohio coach has proven he can win the big game, advancing the Bobcats to the round of 32 in 2010 and the Sweet 16 in 2012. That continued in Champaign.

Illinois started the season hot, going 12-0 and winning the Maui Invitational behind stellar play by Brandon Paul. By mid-December, the Illini struggled. Groce’s team lost to rival Missouri and started 2-7 in the Big Ten. Illinois’ NCAA Tournament resume was in question before a 74-72 win over Indiana when Tyler Griffey took an inbounds pass for an uncontested layup to defeat the top-ranked Hoosiers.

Here’s how Illinois looks with less than six weeks before Selection Sunday.

By the numbers
Record: 16-8, 3-7 Big Ten
RPI: 32
Strength of schedule: 5
Best wins: No. 12 Gonzaga, No. 13 Indiana, No. 15 Butler
Worst losses:No. 115 Purdue, No. 88 Northwestern

Reasons for optimism

In the numbers game: Illinois’ RPI (No. 32), strength of schedule (No. 5) and overall record (16-8) all check out as an NCAA Tournament team. Few teams have the quality wins Illinois has with four in the top 20 (Butler in Maui, Gonzaga on the road, Ohio State and Indiana). Despite eight losses, none of them are egregious. Illinois’ only loss outside the top 100 is on the road to Purdue.

On the court: Brandon Paul has played All-American-caliber basketball for stretches this season, including 21 points against Indiana on Thursday. D.J. Richardson has flourished as well in Groce’s up-tempo, three-point oriented offense, scoring 23 against the Hoosiers.

Related: Indiana-Ohio State a key game this weekend

Reasons for concern

In the numbers game: Those four big wins look great, but that conference record (3-7) does not. Illinois should be able to overcome a losing Big Ten record to make the field, but how bad can that league mark be before it eliminates Illinois? UConn made the field a year ago with an 8-10 record out of the Big East. Illinois could be in the same situation on Selection Sunday.

On the court:
Notice we mentioned Paul plays All-American-caliber basketball “for stretches.” The veteran guard can be one of the most frustrating guards in the country thanks to his inconsistency. When Illinois is making shots from three-point range, the Illini are tough to beat, but when they don’t, Illinois doesn’t have much of a backup plan. Illinois has shot 37.1 percent from three-point range in wins and 23.9 percent in losses.

Related: Feb. 7 NCAA Tournament projections and bubble watch

Looking ahead
The Big Ten is the toughest conference, and Illinois will have to play five of its last eight on the road. Three of those road trips are against Tournament locks Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio State. Win one of those, and Groce may sleep a little better before the Big Ten Tournament. Defeating Northwestern, who beat Illinois 68-54 in Champaign earlier this season, would be a nice statement, too. One thing Illinois perhaps can’t afford is a home loss. The remaining home slate will be against three of the bottom four teams in the league (Purdue, Penn State and Nebraska).

The verdict: NCAA Tournament
The conference record is ugly, but the rest of Illinois’ resume is strong enough to make the field. Four top-20 wins combined with no bad losses should be good enough to make the field. As long as Illinois sweeps its final home games and holds its own on the road, Illinois should be a Tournament team.

<p> NCAA Touranment Report Card: Did Illinois' upset of Indiana on Thursday push the Illini off the bubble and into the field?</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 10:36
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-preview-indiana-ohio-state-square-big-ten-showdown

The Big Ten has set up quite the round robin in the last week. First came a top-three match up between Indiana and Michigan, then a high-level rivalry game between Ohio State and Michigan.

On Sunday, we’ll have the Part III of the series when Indiana visits Ohio State. The Hoosiers last Sunday defeated the Wolverines, who turned around to defeat the Buckeyes. Both games were among the best of the season involving players in the mix for national hardware at the end of the season.

The tip in Columbus could be the same. Despite the 76-74 overtime loss to Michigan, Ohio State has shown steady improvement through the Big Ten season. The same team that was pounded by Illinois in early January went toe-to-toe with Michigan on the Wolverines home court.

If Ohio State is going to challenge for a Big Ten title, the Buckeyes need to recover quickly from a heartbreaking loss. Ohio State (7-3 Big Ten) has already split the season series with Michigan and has two games against conference leader Indiana (8-2) in the next month.

Indiana, the No. 1 ranking and Big Ten lead notwithstanding, is as vulnerable as any team. The Hoosiers lost 74-72 on a last-second shot by the Illini as Indiana turned the ball over 14 times.

Indiana at Ohio State
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Value City Arena,

Columbus, Ohio (cap. 18,809)

G Yogi Ferrell (6-0/178, Fr.)
G Jordan Hulls (6-0/182, Sr.)
G Victor Oladipo (6-5/214, Jr.)
F Christian Watford (6-9/232, Sr.)
C Cody Zeller (7-0/240, So.)
G Aaron Craft (6-2/190, Jr.)
G Lenzelle Smith Jr. (6-4/205, Jr.)
F Sam Thompson (6-7/190, So.)
F Deshaun Thomas (6-7/225, Jr.)
C Amir Williams (6-11/250, So.)


Related: Feb. 7 NCAA Touranment and Bubble Watch

Game-defining matchup: Ohio State’s Aaron Craft vs. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo
Two debates are opening up for Craft and Oladipo: The Hoosiers guard is sneaking into National Player of the Year discussion thanks to his stat-sheet stuffing efforts. On the other side, Craft’s not going to be a National Player of the Year, but he could be the Defensive Player of the Year. Oladipo’s in that mix, too, along with Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Kansas’ Jeff Withey. Whether or not Craft draws the assignment to guard Oladipo, both will have a chance to shine as on-ball defenders.

Player we’re watching: Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross.
Ohio State has been on a season-long mission to find a secondary scorer to complement Deshaun Thomas. That person may be talented guard LaQuinton Rossin the short term. His playing time has picked up recently as he’s replaced Shannon Scott as one of Thad Matta’s top options off the bench. Ross has topped at least 11 minutes in each of the last six games, including three games of at least 20 minutes. In the overtime loss to Michigan on Tuesday, Ross had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting for his best effort in conference play.

Stat that matters: Indiana’s offensive rebounding.
Indiana can score a variety of ways, so it’s best not to give the Hoosiers second-chance points. Indiana is fifth nationally in grabbing 39.9 percent of its own rebounds. Cody Zeller is the leader here with 2.9 offensive boards per game, including 3.2 in Big Ten play. Both are second to Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe. Ohio State’s no slouch on the defensive glass, ranking 24th nationally in defensive rebound rate.

Related: Who's rising and who's sinking?

How Indiana can win: Make Deshaun Thomas do it alone.
Indiana limited Michigan’s supporting cast last week, putting more on the Wolverines’ secondary options. Trey Burke scored 25 points on 24 shots, and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18 points on 16 shots. Meanwhile, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III struggled mightily against the Hoosiers. Indiana might be OK with Thomas scoring 20 points or more as long as the rest of the Buckeyes aren’t much of a factor.

How Ohio State can win: Contain Indiana in transition.
Ohio State can’t afford to let Indiana get easy points in transition, something the Hoosiers do as well as anyone. Ohio State’s best hope of defeating Indiana may be to confine Tom Crean’s team to the halfcourt.

Prediction: Indiana 78, Ohio State 70

Related: Indiana returns to top spot in power rankings

All times Eastern.

Michigan at Wisconsin (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
Wisconsin has a chance to make a big move in the Big Ten after Wednesday’s double overtime win over Iowa for a 7-3 league record. The Badgers enter the week two games behind Indiana — a team Wisconsin beat on the road — and one game behind Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. The Badgers will try to slow the tempo and prevent Michigan from scoring in transition.

Ole Miss at Missouri (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Both teams looking to recapture glory from earlier this season. Ole Miss defeated talent-deprived Mississippi State 93-75 on Wednesday. Is this game for No. 2 in the SEC or is it for No. 3 given the push the last few weeks by Kentucky?

North Carolina at Miami (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
Miami is in command in the ACC with an 9–0 record in league play. The Canes have already defeated Duke at home and NC State and North Carolina on the road. Completing the season sweep over the Tar Heels — even in a down year for UNC — would be another significant accomplishment in what has been a breakthrough season for Jim Larranaga’s program. North Carolina could ease its fears of landing on the NCAA bubble by handing Miami its first loss since Christmas.

Kansas at Oklahoma (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
Is it time to panic in Lawrence? Kansas’ loss at home to Oklahoma State was surprising. Losing to TCU, previously winless in the Big 12, was one of the biggest regular season upsets of the last few years. “It was the worst team Kansas has ever put on the floor,” KU coach Bill Self said. Oklahoma really needs a big win after losing at home to Kansas State on Saturday and at Iowa State on Monday.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN)
A meaningful game in the Big East lost some luster as Cincinnati lost 54-50 at Providence on Wednesday. The Bearcats will look to recover against a Pitt team that’s won six of seven. Panthers freshman center Steven Adams may give Cincinnati trouble in the frontcourt.

Iowa State at Kansas State (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
Cyclones guard Korie Lucious, a Michigan State transfer, has 28 assists in his last four games, including three Iowa State wins against NCAA Tournament contenders Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State, all at home. This weekend, Lucious will face Kansas State’s guard oriented lineup.

Louisville at Notre Dame (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Notre Dame has already lost two home games in Big East play (UConn, Georgetown), but the Joyce Center is usually a tough place to play. Louisville  snapped its three-game slide by beating Pittsburgh and Marquette last week. Those are two solid wins, but both came at home. The Cards need to prove they can get the job done on the road in conference games.

New Mexico at UNLV (Saturday, 9 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
New Mexico is alone in the first place in the Mountain West with a 6–1 record after the Lobos beat Wyoming on the road and Nevada at home last week. UNLV is perhaps the most disappointing team in the nation. The Runnin’ Rebels feature Final Four talent yet are struggling to remain over .500 in league play. The Rebels’ 64-55 loss at Fresno State was their most troubling defeat of the season.

St. John’s at Syracuse (Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN)
Syracuse is stumbling a bit with two losses in the last three games as James Southerland’s scoring absence seems to have caught up with the Orange. Syracuse has topped 70 points once in the last four games, and that was with 71 points in an overtime loss to Villanova. St. John’s has put together a sneaky-good resume in the Big East at 7-4.

Illinois at Minnesota (Sunday, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Oh, how times have changed since the last time these teams met. When Minnesota defeated Illinois 84-67 on Jan. 9, it was a signature win for the Gophers. Since then, Illinois has gone into a tailspin, going 1-6 since then. Minnesota hasn’t fared much better, but at lest the Gophers have pulled out of their four-game losing streak.

<p> College Basketball Weekend Preview: Indiana, Ohio State square for Big Ten showdown</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NBA
Path: /college-basketball/athlons-essential-11-links-day-0

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Feb. 8.

• We all tend to dismiss the National Enquirer as a slanderous gossip rag, but they've been right plenty of times, as in the case of Tiger and Elin. Here's a rundown of that and other notable investigative home runs from the Enquirer.

• An overlooked story from Signing Day: A 25-year-old ex-Marine will be playing football at Youngstown State.

The No. 1 college basketball team in the land suffered a shocking defensive breakdown in the final seconds, and lost. In a nutshell, the Illini caught the Hoosiers watchin' the paint dry.

There's a Twitter debate raging over just what the Cameron Crazies were chanting last night. Depending on your feelings about Duke, you'll probably hear what you want to hear.

• On the positive side of the Dookies' ledger, here's a classy letter from 1980 that Coach K wrote to Michael Jordan after MJ decided to look elsewhere.

• While you were watching Indiana lose, Nate Wolters was getting off for 53 points last night, a season high in college basketball.

• On a night of fantastic finishes, the best may have come in the MAAC.

• I probably don't have to tell him this, but Chris Rix may want to avoid former Florida State teammate Darnell Dockett from here on.

• Here's a rundown of NBA greats who lack rings and are running out of time to get them.

• Now that the dust has settled, just how did things shake out in SEC recruiting? Here's a hint: Pretty well. All 14 SEC teams are in the top 39 classes in the nation.

• Dustin Johnson was proud of his facial hair until he ran into Bill Murray at Pebble Beach.

• Profiles in courage: A sideline hockey reporter took a puck to the face and kept reporting with blood gushing from the wound.


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

Feb. 7

• It's almost SI Swimsuit time. In anticipation, Coed runs down the 15 sexiest SI Swimsuit rookies of the last 15 years. Not surprisingly, Brooklyn Decker (right) made the list.

• Best story of Signing Day: Top recruit Alex Collins wanted to commit to Arkansas, but his mom absconded with his papers. As someone pointed out on Twitter, if the guy couldn't catch his mom, he doesn't have SEC speed anyway.

Bama recruit Reuben Foster dressed up like Nick Saban to sign his letter of intent. I hope he knows what he's doing; apparently, nobody told him that St. Nick has no detectable sense of humor.

• Tennessee Sports Radio came up with a fool-proof way to draw people to their Signing Day event: They hired a lingerie model to be their Fax Cam Girl.

• Before you get all hyped up on your team's 5-star prospects, remember that recruiting is an inexact science. ESPN chronicles SEC booms and busts from four short years ago. Darren Rovell reminds us also that on NSD 2008, Andrew Luck was rated the 68th-best player in the country. Hey, at least he cracked the top 100.

• Last Signing Day link: Athlon's Braden Gall runs down the day's winners and losers.

Deadspin ranked all 47 Super Bowls according to watchability. Extra points given for close games, upsets, shootouts and games that went to the last play. Nice list, although I still contend that XIV (Steelers 31, Rams 19) is an underrated gem.

• Proposing by text, mailing the engagement ring: Jay Cutler is truly the last of the romantics.

• Ray Rice couldn't hang on to the ball in the Super Bowl, and he couldn't hang on to the float in the celebration parade, either.

• Longtime Rockies slugger Todd Helton got popped for DUI, and his mugshot immediately joined the Gallery of the Greats.

• College basketball's taking a lot of heat this year for the poor quality of play, but hoops doesn't get much better than the ending of last night's Baylor-Oklahoma State game.

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

Feb. 6

ESPN The Magazine persuaded soccer star Alex Morgan to dress up as Katy Perry for a photo shoot. Alex doesn't share all of Katy's most obvious assets, but it's a pretty good approximation nonetheless.

• It's the fax machine's last day in the sun — National Signing Day, an unofficial holiday in SEC country (people may be at work, but no one's getting any work done). The nation's No. 1 prospect has signed with Ole Miss, part of a stunning haul for the Rebels. You can follow the big announcements here. The guys at Saturday Down South offer a tasty assortment of Signing Day links as well. Finally, here's a slideshow of top quarterbacks and their destinations.

Click here for a scathing look at the Miami-NCAA mess.

This kid's going places. He just needs a growth spurt.

Lance Armstrong: the Nixon White House of sports. Obstruction of justice? Check. Intimidation? Check. Witness tampering? Check.

The 100 Greatest Wrestlers of the 1990s. Those were the days — the economy was booming, it was peacetime, The Rock was just The Rock and Ric Flair's "Wooos" weren't embarrassing yet.

• Last night in answered prayers: Danilo Gallinari's circus shot somehow goes down.

• Appropriately enough, a one-handed safety made a one-handed interception at the International Bowl prep all-star game.

• In today's featured video, Kobe gives us two posterizations for the price of one.

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

Feb. 5

Laura McKeeman, the reigning Miss Florida, is dating Colorado Rockie Josh Rutledge, and she's also a sideline reporter for the Pac-12 Network/Fox Sports. Seems like a good excuse to run her photo.

• In case you just can't let go of football, here are 10 moments from Super Bowl weekend worth reliving.

• In this age of viral videos, one way to keep score of popularity is the amount of sharing over social media. Here's a rundown of the six most shared Super Bowl ads.

A Pixar animator spent the season making matchup-based sketches. Some of them are pretty awesome.

• Tomorrow is National Kids and Hats Day. Here's a handy schedule of Signing Day announcements. And here's a rundown of everything you need to know to get ready to have your heart broken by a bunch of 17-year-olds.

• What? Soccer is dirty? Color me shocked.

• On a serious note, skier Lindsey Vonn was injured during a crash and airlifted to a hospital. Video footage here. No word yet on her condition.

Krispy Kreme is unveiling an Oreo-filled donut. I can feel my arteries harden in anticipation.

Last night in JR Smith: He airballed a free throw, then joined a kids' game at halftime.

• Happy 79th birthday to the great Hank Aaron. 755 homers, all of them legit. Here's one guy's argument that he's now our Greatest Living Hitter. I'm convinced.

• Today's video: A key moment in Super Bowl 47 — Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones — re-created in Lego. Enjoy.

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

Feb. 4

• In case you were at the fridge, Beyonce rocked the halftime stage. The guys at Bleacher compiled the reactions from the Twitterverse. Les Miles called the performance "very athletic."

• The interwebs were made for mornings like this. Here are the funniest Super Bowl GIFs, pics and tweets, from our friends at Mandatory.

• Deadspin compiled the best, eeriest images from the night the lights went out in New Orleans.

Sportswriter Robert Klemko went partying with Joe Flacco after the game. Flacco's living the life: He's the Super Bowl MVP, and he announced last night that his wife is pregnant. And he capped off the CBS broadcast with a clear, well-placed F-bomb.

Eight amazing stats from last night. Here's a sample: San Fran outscored Baltimore 25-6 following the power outage.

John Harbaugh's devastated for little bro Jim. Something tells me he'll get over it.

• There were some decent commercials last night. I liked the Montana Miracle Stain and Leon Sandcastle. But people seem to be talking the most about the Paul Harvey farmer shout-out from Ram this morning.

• We don't often link to GIFs of missed dunks, but in Victor Oladipo's case, we'll make an exception. If it had gone down, it might have brought Assembly Hall down with it.

• What happens when you edit together the drama of the movie "Apollo 13" with Alabama's national championship game? One awesome video. Well, unless your a Notre Dame fan.

• There were many compelling moments from last night's game, but for our video of the day, we gotta go with Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return. Turns out, the Ravens needed those points when it was over.

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

<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 09:26
Path: /college-football/10-college-football-true-freshmen-likely-make-impact-2013

The first Wednesday in February for college football coaches is almost like Christmas morning. With national signing day in the books, each coach can officially talk about their recruiting class after months of hard work, which includes anywhere from 10-30 prospects. While no coach will admit they aren’t happy with their signing class, there are plenty of clear winners. Alabama brought in another loaded class, which includes standouts Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, Reuben Foster, Dee Liner and O.J. Howard. In addition to Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Ole Miss and Notre Dame reeled in some of the nation’s top classes.

It’s never easy to predict which freshmen could make an early impact in 2013 but here’s an early look at 10 players that can make a big splash on the gridiron next season.

10 True Freshmen Likely to Make an Impact in 2013

Max Browne, QB, USC
Lane Kiffin’s 2013 signing class suffered some late hits, but Browne never waivered in his commitment to the Trojans and will be in the mix to win the starting job this season. Matt Barkley missed the last two games of the season due to a shoulder injury, which allowed redshirt freshman Max Wittek to get an early start on the starting quarterback competition. However, Wittek’s two-game trial was a mixed bag of results. He threw for 388 yards and three touchdowns but also tossed five picks and completed just 52.2 percent of his throws. Browne enrolled early and has an opportunity to surpass Wittek and sophomore Cody Kessler on the depth chart. The Washington native ranked as the No. 1 quarterback recruit by Athlon Sports in the 2013 signing class. 

Greg Bryant, RB, Notre Dame
With Theo Riddick out of eligibility and Cierre Wood leaving for the NFL, the Fighting Irish are counting on Bryant to play right away. George Atkinson III rushed for 365 yards last season but is best suited to play in a change of pace role. Bryant ranked as the No. 46 overall prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and brings a good blend of power and elusiveness to South Bend. Atkinson and Amir Carlisle will start ahead of Bryant in spring practice, but Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will find it difficult to keep Bryant on the sidelines. 

Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Fuller’s commitment to Virginia Tech really came as no surprise since he had three older brothers play their collegiate career in Blacksburg. However, his commitment to the Hokies became even more important when Antone Exum suffered a torn ACL during the offseason and is questionable to play in the season opener. Fuller ranked as the No. 4 defensive back in the 2013 recruiting class by Athlon Sports and the No. 16 overall prospect. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Fuller has the size and athleticism to match the top receivers in the ACC. With Exum’s status in doubt, Fuller could join his brother Kyle in the starting lineup.

Derrick Green, RB, Michigan
Although Michigan ranked fifth in the Big Ten in rushing last season, one of the top spring priorities for Brady Hoke and coordinator Al Borges was finding a go-to running back. Quarterback Denard Robinson led the team with 1,266 rushing yards last season, with the top rushing total from a running back being Fitzgerald Toussaint with 514 yards. Toussaint suffered a leg injury late in the year and won’t return to the team in time for spring practice. With Toussaint hobbled and no clear No. 1 option, Green will be awarded an opportunity to play right away. The Virginia native ranked as the No. 5 running back recruit by Athlon Sports and has the size and power to be an every down back. With Devin Gardner entrenched as the starting quarterback, if Green is as good as advertised, the Wolverines could be the favorites to win the Legends Division in 2013.

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
Matt McGloin thrived in his only season under Bill O’Brien, throwing for 3,271 yards and 24 touchdowns to only five interceptions. With all of the turmoil surrounding the program in the offseason, the senior quarterback was a stabilizing force for an offense that lost running back Silas Redd to a transfer and had to break in four new starters on the line. With McGloin out of eligibility, O’Brien is searching for a new No. 1 passer. Sophomore Steven Bench has the most experience on the roster, completing two of eight passes for 12 yards. However, Bench will face plenty of competition in spring ball. Junior college recruit Tyler Ferguson has three seasons of eligibility remaining, while Hackenberg ranked as the No. 2 quarterback by Athlon Sports in the 2013 signing class. In his senior year at Fork Union Military Academy, Hackenberg threw for 2,144 yards and 24 scores. Hackenberg isn’t a lock to see any action in 2013, but if he gets on the field, he should thrive under O’Brien’s tutelage. The Nittany Lions have a tough road to navigate, especially with the loss in scholarships and no postseason appearances over the next few years. However, if Hackenberg is as good as advertised, Penn State may not take as big of a step back as most anticipated after the NCAA sanctions were announced last summer.

Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss
By landing a top-10 recruiting class, the Rebels were the biggest surprise of signing day. And after a 7-6 season under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, the future of Ole Miss football is very bright. The Rebels’ recruiting class has plenty of names that can make an instant impact but none bigger than Nkemdiche. The Georgia native has the potential to be a game-changer for Ole Miss’ defense, similar to South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. Nkemdiche ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and will immediately bolster a defensive line that allowed 129.3 rushing yards and generated 2.9 sacks a game. Even if Nkemdiche doesn’t become an All-SEC player in 2013, he will be a valuable contributor in the rotation.

Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M
The Aggies' high-powered offense took the SEC by storm last year, averaging 44.4 points and 558.5 yards a game and producing a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel. Coordinator Kliff Kingsbury left to be the head coach at Texas Tech, but Texas A&M isn’t expected to miss much of a beat on offense next year. Coach Kevin Sumlin recruited Manziel plenty of help on the recruiting trail, including Seals-Jones and Sebastian Larue at receiver. Seals-Jones is a big target at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds but is still developing as a receiver after playing a variety of positions during his high school career. With the Aggies losing Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, Seals-Jones' size and physical presence will be needed in the red zone and across the middle of the field.

Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
After the Wildcats averaged 526.2 yards and 38.2 points a game last season, it’s safe to say Rich Rodriguez’s debut as Arizona’s head coach wasn’t a disappointment. Now the Wildcats head into 2013 with a question mark under center, as Matt Scott expired his eligibility after the New Mexico Bowl. Former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins will compete with last season’s backup (B.J. Denker) and redshirt freshman Javelle Allen this spring, but the real battle will begin in the fall when Solomon arrives on campus. The Las Vegas native ranked as the No. 17 quarterback in the 2013 signing class by Athlon Sports and has the skill set to thrive in Rodriguez’s offense. Starting a freshman quarterback is nothing new for Rodriguez, as Pat White started after a redshirt season at West Virginia, while Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson saw playing time as true freshmen at Michigan.

Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
Even though Florida finished last season 11-2 and made an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, Will Muschamp has a lot of work to do if the Gators want to remain in the hunt to win the SEC East in 2013. Improving the offense is the top priority, especially a passing attack that finished 114th nationally last season. While quarterback Jeff Driskel remains a work in progress, Florida must find a replacement for Mike Gillislee. The departing senior ran for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and there’s no proven backup on the roster. Matt Jones rushed for 275 yards on 52 attempts last year and will likely open spring practice as the No. 1 back. Taylor is the son of former NFL standout Fred Taylor and ranked as the No. 3 running back in the 2013 signing class by Athlon. Even if Jones starts the opener, look for Taylor to see plenty of action next season.

Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
Even though Chip Kelly bolted for the NFL, the Ducks aren’t expected to miss a beat in 2013. New coach Mark Helfrich spent the last four seasons as Kelly’s offensive coordinator and isn’t expected to change Oregon’s up-tempo attack in 2013. Despite the return of De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall, the Ducks need some help at running back. While Tyner may not handle 25 carries a game, he is expected to contribute significantly in the backfield rotation. The Oregon native has excellent speed and is another big-play threat for the Ducks to use in 2013.

15 More Recruits to Watch:

Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Vernon Hargreaves III, DB, Florida
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Frank Herron, DE, LSU
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Ty Isaac, RB, USC
Dorian Johnson, OL, Pittsburgh
Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Max Redfield, DB, Notre Dame
Robbie Rhodes, WR, Baylor
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Related Recruiting Content

Winners and Losers of 2013 National Signing Day
Ranking the Early Enrollees in the SEC

Alabama Claims the Recruiting Championship in 2013

<p> 10 College Football True Freshmen Likely to Make an Impact in 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 08:05
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-2-ohio-state-buckeyes

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 best classes in the nation.

Ohio State and Michigan are poised for another memorable head-to-head run at Big Ten greatness and it starts with recruiting. Urban Meyer has made no friends in his first two romps through the Big Ten recruiting trail and it has netted him two elite classes. And with 10 Athlon Consensus 100 prospects, good for second nationally, the Buckeyes might be the top challengers to Alabama outside of the SEC.

No. 2: Ohio State Buckeyes

Big Ten Rank: First
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 10
National Signees: 14
Total Signees: 24

Where They Got 'Em:

One thing is for sure, Meyer knows where the good players are. Talent-rich states Ohio (10), Texas (3), Florida (2) and Georgia (2) provided more than 70 percent of this class, including seven of the 10 top 100 recruits. California also shipped an AC100 prospect to Columbus while New Jersey, Missouri, Indiana, North and South Carolina each sent one prospect to Ohio State as well. 

Areas of Focus:

The Buckeyes had a clear plan during this recruiting cycle. Defense, defense and more defense. Of the 24 signees in this class, as many as 16 could end up playing on the defensive side of the ball. Five of the top six players in this class are locked in to the defense. In particular, Meyer focused on his defensive line and secondary.

Three of the top six players in this class are defensive backs. Safety Vonn Bell is the top prospect in the class and will be joined on the backend of the defense by Jayme Thompson and Christopher Worley. This gives Meyer one of the best safety classes in the nation. On the outside, AC100 cornerbacks Eli Apple and Cam Burrows provide elite cover skills. This set of five defensive backs is one of the best in the nation and could also feature more talent should one of the three “athletes” land in the secondary.

Along the defensive front, Ohio State is watching Jonathan Hankins and John Simon leave campus for the bright lights of the NFL. To help combat the losses, the Buckeyes are bringing in six highly rated D-linemen. This group is led by AC100 end Joey Bosa and tackle Michael Hill. Early enrollees Tracy Sprinkle and Tyquan Lewis bring speed to the edge and both could be ready to play quickly with one spring practice under their belts before fall. Billy Price and Donovan Munger bring over 600 pounds of presence to the interior of the line. After the best defensive line class in the nation a year ago, Meyer has made it clear his front line will be a constant area of focus. Especially, if Ohio State wants to win a BCS title game against the SEC.

A pair of elite linebackers in superstar Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson adds great depth to the roster.

The offense wasn’t ignored by any means, however. National recruit J.T. Barrett is the heir apparent to Braxton Miller at quarterback and should fit perfectly in Meyer’s spread scheme. Jalin Marshall, the nation’s No. 5 wide receiver, James Clark and Corey Smith add some much-needed play-making ability on the outside. The No. 4-rated tight end, Marcus Baugh, should also help the passing game as well.

Top 100 signees Evan Lisle and Ezekiel Elliott lead small offensive line (2) and running back (1) classes. This could change when Lone Star State running back and AC100 prospect Dontre Wilson eventually has a position. He should play a Percy Harvin-type of role for Meyer as he can score from anywhere on the field.

Two other athletes, Gareon Conley and Darron Lee, could play a variety of positions. 

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 2
Defense: DL: 6, LB: 2, DB: 5, ATH: 3

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rank Hometown Ht Wt
27. Vonn Bell S No. 5 (DB) Rossville, Ga. 6-1 190
35. Jalin Marshall WR No. 5 Middletown, Ohio 6-0 190
37. Joey Bosa DL No. 9 Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 6-5 270
49. Eli Apple CB No. 11 (DB) Voorhees, N.J. 6-0 184
58. Mike Mitchell LB No. 7 Plano, Texas 6-4 225
61. Cam Burrows CB No. 13 (DB) Trotwood, Ohio 5-11 200
69. Ezekiel Elliott RB No. 14 St. Louis, Mo. 6-0 210
71. Dontre Wilson ATH No. 2 DeSoto, Texas 5-10 174
80. Evan Lisle OL No. 8 Centerville, Ohio 6-6 290
91. Marcus Baugh TE No. 4 Riverside, Calif. 6-4 245
111. Trey Johnson LB No. 13 Lawrenceville, Ga. 6-2 220
116. Gareon Conley ATH No. 6 Massillon, Ohio 6-2 170
174. J.T. Barrett QB No. 18 Wichita Falls, Texas 6-1 225
228. Michael Hill DL No. 43 Pendleton, S.C. 6-2 305

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht. Wt. AC100
Eli Apple CB Voorhees, N.J. 6-0 184 No. 49
J.T. Barrett QB Wichita Falls, Texas 6-1 225 No. 174
Cam Burrows CB Trotwood, Ohio 5-11 200 No. 61
Tyquan Lewis DE Tarboro, N.C. 6-3 223 --
Tracy Sprinkle DE Elyria, Ohio 6-2 241 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 2: Ohio State Buckeyes</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 06:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/five-star-coach-cliches-national-signing-day

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

<p> Five-star coach cliches from National Signing Day</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 14:12
Path: /college-football/footballs-2013-composite-team-recruiting-rankings

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. 

Related: Alabama claims the nation's top class in 2013

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.

Related: National Signing Day's 2013 Winners and Losers

Athlon Sports 2013 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. Alabama 15 25 1st 1st 3rd 1st
2. Ohio State 10 24 2nd 5th 1st 3rd
3. Notre Dame 5 24 3rd 3rd 4th 4th
4. Florida 6 28 4th 4th 8th 2nd
5. Michigan 5 27 5th 5th 2nd 6th
6. Ole Miss 4 28 7th 2nd 10th 5th
7. LSU 5 27 6th 7th 6th 7th
8. Texas A&M 3 32 10th 7th 7th 8th
9. UCLA 3 23 11th 11th 5th 12th
10. Auburn 3 23 8th 10th 13th 11th
11. Florida State 4 22 9th 9th 16th 9th
12. Georgia 2 32 12th 12th 9th 10th
13. Clemson 1 23 14th 15th 12th 13th
14. Oklahoma 1 24 15th 13th 15th 16th
15. Washington 1 22 18th 17th 14th 18th
16. USC 9 13 13th 25th 18th 14th
17. Nebraska 0 26 17th 21st 11th 23rd
18. South Carolina 2 21 16th 20th 21st 17th
19. Texas 2 15 23rd 18th 23rd 15th
20. Oregon 1 19 21st 16th 17th 26th
21. Virginia Tech 2 18 22nd 14th 35th 19th
22. Mississippi State 1 20 25th 22nd 20th 25th
23. Vanderbilt 0 26 19th 35th 19th 22nd
24. Baylor 1 23 28th 24th 25th 28th
25. Tennessee 1 21 20th 27th 32nd 29th

Best of the Rest:

26. Miami, Fla., 27. West Virginia, 28. North Carolina, 29. Arkansas, 30. Oklahoma State

<p> College Football's 2013 Team Recruiting Rankings</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 12:26
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-bracket-projections-and-bubble-watch-jan-31

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.



ACC (4)
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.

Related: Key games with postseason implications to watch this week

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.

Related: This week's college basketball power rankings

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).

Related: NCAA Tournament Report Card: Villanova

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)
In: Memphis
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.

Pac-12 (5)
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.

SEC (4)
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
MAAC Niagara SWAC Southern
MAC Akron WAC Louisiana Tech


<p> With Selection Sunday less than two months away, Athlon Sports projects the field for the NCAA Tournament, conference by conference</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/25-greatest-middle-linebackers-nfl-history

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.

1. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens (1996-2012)
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
<p> 25 Greatest Middle Linebackers in NFL History, including Ray Lewis, Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Ray Nitschke, Bill George, Junior Seau, Brian Urlacher, Patrick Willis, Chuck Bednarik, Nick Buoniconti, Joe Schmidt, Willie Lanier, Harry Carson, Lee Roy Jordan, Ken Norton Jr. and Tedy Bruschi.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 09:47
Path: /college-football/2013-recruiting-rankings-no-1-alabama-crimson-tide

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.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 4, WR: 2, TE: 1, OL: 3, ATH: 2
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 3, DB: 3, LS: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rank Hometown Ht. Wt.
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

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht. Wt. AC100 Misc.
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

<p> 2013 Recruiting Rankings No. 1: Alabama Crimson Tide</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 08:20
Path: /nfl/very-early-2013-fantasy-football-top-200

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.


Rk Player Position Team Comment
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."
3 Marshawn Lynch RB SEA  
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.
13 A.J. Green WR CIN  
14 Brandon Marshall WR CHI If Bears fix OL, watch out.
15 Trent Richardson RB CLE Needs more support from passing game.
16 Julio Jones WR ATL  
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?
20 Cam Newton QB CAR  
21 Maurice Jones-Drew RB JAC If healthy, he should get lots of touches.
22 Stevan Ridley RB NE  
23 Peyton Manning QB DEN  
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.
28 Chris Johnson RB TEN  
29 Matt Forte RB CHI  
30 Roddy White WR ATL  
31 Jimmy Graham TE NO  
32 Frank Gore RB SF Finished with strong postseason.
33 Demarco Murray RB DAL Foot injury plagued him last season.
34 Matt Ryan QB ATL  
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?
39 Eric Decker WR DEN  
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.
48 Tony Romo QB DAL  
49 Russell Wilson QB SEA What can he do for an encore?
50 Colin Kaepernick QB SF  
51 Darren Sproles RB NO Different player in '11 when Payton was HC.
52 Jordy Nelson WR GB  
53 Steve Smith WR CAR  
54 BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB CIN  
55 Pierre Garcon WR WAS Foot injury sidetracked first season in WAS.
56 Greg Jennings WR GB Where will he end up?
57 Reggie Wayne WR IND  
58 Jason Witten TE DAL  
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.
61 Aaron Hernandez TE NE  
62 Steven Jackson RB STL Won't turn 30 until July.
63 Danario Alexander WR SD  
64 Reggie Bush RB MIA Will he be his (new) team's No. 1 back in '13?
65 Willis McGahee RB DEN  
66 Mikel Leshoure RB DET  
67 Cecil Shorts WR JAC  
68 Eli Manning QB NYG  
69 Tony Gonzalez TE ATL Will he back for another year?
70 Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT  
71 Stevie Johnson WR BUF  
72 T.Y. Hilton WR IND  
73 Andy Dalton QB CIN  
74 Torrey Smith WR BAL  
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.
78 Miles Austin WR DAL  
79 James Jones WR GB  
80 Lance Moore WR NO  
81 Mike Williams WR TB  
82 Danny Amendola WR STL Another free agent who could be in new uni.
83 Josh Freeman QB TB  
84 Owen Daniels TE HOU  
85 Kyle Rudolph TE MIN Established himself after Harvin's injury.
86 Greg Olsen TE CAR  
87 Jermaine Gresham TE CIN  
88 Matt Schaub QB HOU  
89 Joe Flacco QB BAL Don't overrate SB MVP's fantasy value.
90 Justin Blackmon WR JAC  
91 Sidney Rice WR SEA  
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?
95 DeSean Jackson WR PHI  
96 Vick Ballard RB IND  
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.
99 Denarius Moore WR OAK  
100 Josh Gordon WR CLE  
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?
104 Dennis Pitta TE BAL  
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.
110 DeAngelo Williams RB CAR  
111 Rashard Mendenhall RB PIT  
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.
115 Mark Ingram RB NO  
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.
118 Seattle DST SEA  
119 Denver DST DEN  
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.
122 Brian Hartline WR MIA  
123 Kendall Wright WR TEN Can he build off of respectable rookie season?
124 Chris Givens WR STL  
125 Sam Bradford QB STL  
126 Heath Miller TE PIT How quickly can be bounce back from ACL injury?
127 Brandon Myers TE OAK  
128 San Francisco DST SF  
129 Jermichael Finley TE GB  
130 Brent Celek TE PHI  
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.
133 Houston DST HOU  
134 Anquan Boldin WR BAL Veteran may have played his last game for Ravens.
135 Santonio Holmes WR NYJ  
136 Brandon LaFell WR CAR  
137 Golden Tate WR SEA  
138 Andre Roberts WR ARI  
139 Chicago DST CHI Don't count on repeat of last year's fantasy output.
140 Michael Floyd WR ARI  
141 Alshon Jeffery WR CHI  
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.
144 Brandon Pettigrew TE DET  
145 Dwayne Allen TE IND  
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.
148 San Diego DST SD  
149 Christian Ponder QB MIN  
150 Pittsburgh DST PIT Veteran unit starting to show its age.
151 New England DST NE  
152 Nick Foles QB PHI Will be he Kelly's guy?
153 Jake Locker QB TEN Can he take that next step in '13?
154 Ryan Tannehill QB MIA  
155 Jared Cook TE TEN Where will he play in '13?
156 Jacob Tamme TE DEN  
157 Mohamed Sanu WR CIN Opportunity knocks for someone to pair w/ Green.
158 Malcom Floyd WR SD  
159 Emmanuel Sanders WR PIT  
160 Darrius Heyward-Bey WR OAK  
161 Jon Baldwin WR KC If Bowe leaves, Baldwin becomes No. 1?
162 Donnie Avery WR IND  
163 Andrew Hawkins WR CIN  
164 Lamar Miller RB MIA  
165 Ben Tate RB HOU  
166 Bryce Brown RB PHI Kelly used two backs at Oregon.
167 Dexter McCluster WR KC  
168 Cleveland Browns DST CLE  
169 LaMichael James RB SF Has he replaced Hunter as 49ers' No. 2?
170 Ronnie Hillman RB DEN  
171 Isaiah Pead RB STL  
172 Nate Washington WR TEN  
173 Scott Chandler TE BUF  
174 Coby Fleener TE IND Somewhat of a disappointment in his rookie season.
175 Atlanta Falcons DST ATL  
176 Joique Bell RB DET  
177 Andre Brown RB NYG Probably been passed by Wilson on depth chart.
178 Lance Kendricks TE STL  
179 Blair Walsh K MIN Rookie's big leg made big first impression.
180 Stephen Gostkowski K NE  
181 Michael Bush RB CHI  
182 Baltimore Ravens DST BAL This unit will look different in '13.
183 Daniel Thomas RB MIA  
184 Shane Vereen RB NE Had big game against Texans in playoffs.
185 Jason Avant WR PHI  
186 Marcel Reece RB OAK  
187 Fred Davis TE WAS His tenure w/ Redskins may be over.
188 Kendall Hunter RB SF  
189 New York Jets DST NYJ  
190 Matt Bryant K ATL  
191 Shayne Graham K HOU  
192 Mark Sanchez QB NYJ No Tebow, no more excuses in '13.
193 St. Louis Rams DST STL  
194 Robert Turbin RB SEA  
195 Donald Brown RB IND  
196 Jason Hanson K DET  
197 Mike Tolbert RB CAR  
198 Matt Flynn QB SEA Will he be with a new team in '13?
199 Arizona Cardinals DST ARI  
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

<p> A Very Early 2013 Fantasy Football Top 200</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 07:30